Citrus ichangensis (Wilson lemon). (Photo by: Richard Hartlage)

I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of citrus as ornamental plants. Most can be big and gawky, some are wickedly thorny, and they must be schlepped in and out of winter storage here in New Jersey. Of course the scent of their blossoms sends me to olfactory nirvana, and I enjoy the fruit. Normally, they are large but not-so-showy players in the garden scene.

Not so the Citrus ichangensis (Wilson lemon). Small, barely thorny, and contained in an easily moved pot, it’s the one citrus to have if you have only one. Large numbers of scented flowers portend an abundant crop of medium-sized, bright-yellow fruit that causes the branches to arch.

Given well-drained, moist soil, or potting mix in the garden, or in a roomy pot in full sun, a foot-high cutting will become a 3- to 4-foot specimen in a couple of years (up to 15 feet in time). You can grow it as a shrub or gradually remove the side branches and prune the top for a handsome topiary. Provide a balanced fertilizer during the growing season, and a shot of chelated iron if the foliage begins to yellow. Watch for mealybugs and scale insects. Outside of areas where it can grow outdoors year-round (Zone 8 and warmer), keep your plant happy during cold weather in a greenhouse, sun porch, conservatory, or very bright window. Enjoy it during frost-free weather outdoors as a specimen in a garden bed or on a patio. And every now and then squeeze one of those balloons into your favorite drink.

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