Salt Resistant Citrus – Are Citrus Trees Salt Tolerant

Lemon Tree Branch Hanging Over A White Rope
lemons by sea
(Image credit: gsermek)

If you are a seaside resident and wish to experience the joys of freshly plucked citrus from your very own tree, you may be wondering, “Are citrus trees salt tolerant?”. The salt tolerance of citrus trees is notoriously low. That said, are there any salt-resistant citrus varieties and/or are there any ways of managing salinity in citrus trees?

Are Citrus Trees Salt Tolerant?

As previously mentioned, citrus trees vary in their salt tolerance but most rank rather sensitive to salinity, particularly on their foliage. Citrus can tolerate up to 2,200 to 2,300 ppm of salt on their root systems, but a moderate 1,500 ppm of salt sprayed on their leaves can kill them. Scientists are, however, working on developing salt-resistant citrus trees but, at this juncture, there are none on the market. The key then is managing salinity in citrus trees.

Managing Salinity in Citrus

Coastal residents or people irrigating with well water or reclaimed water with a high salt content are limited in what they can plant in the landscape. What causes soil salinity? A number of factors, including water evaporation, heavy irrigation, and chemical fertilization, cause salt to build up naturally in soil. Coastal denizens have the added problem of salt spray, which can destroy foliage and potential fruit. Salt in soil inhibits the growth of many plants or kills them. Since salt ions attract water, there is less water available to the plants. This results in drought stress even if the plant is well watered, as well as leaf burn and chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves). So how can you mitigate the effects of saline on plants? Add plenty of compost, mulch, or manure to the soil. This will provide a buffering effect from the salt. This process may take a few years to come to fruition but is well worth the effort. Also, don’t overfertilize, which only compounds the problem, and irrigate regularly yet moderately. Planting atop ridges is beneficial as well. If you are not directly on the beach, citrus can be container grown as well, which can help you manage the salinity in the soil. If this all seems too much and you decide to wash your hands of growing citrus, switch gears. There are a number of salt-tolerant plants available, including many fruiting trees, so instead of having fresh squeezed O.J. in the morning, go for something a little more exotic like Cherimoya, Guava, Pineapple, or Mango juice.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.