CITRUS

FAMILY: Rutaceae

TYPE
  • Evergreen
  • Shrubs
  • Trees
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
WATER
  • Regular Water
PLANTING ZONES
  • LS (Lower South) / Zone 8
  • CS (Coastal South) / Zone 9
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 10
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 11

Plant Details

Citrus plants offer year-round attractive form and glossy deep green foliage. They also produce fragrant flowers and brightly colored, decorative fruit in season. If you want quality fruit, your choice of plants will largely depend on the amount of winter cold in your area.

Hardiness. Citrus plants of one type or another are grown outdoors year-round in the Tropical South and mildest parts of the Coastal South. Lemons and limes are most sensitive to freezes. Sweet oranges, grapefruit, and most mandarins and their hybrids are intermediate. Kumquats, satsuma mandarins, and cala- mondins are cold resistant, withstanding temperatures in the high teens. Hardy citrus (see page 242) is available to gardeners just beyond the citrus belt.

Other factors affecting a tree's cold tolerance include preconditioning to cold (it will have more endurance if exposed to cold slowly and if first freeze comes late), type of rootstock, and location in garden (planting on the south side of the house is preferred). Prolonged exposure to freezing weather is more damaging than a brief plunge in temperature. All citrus fruit is damaged at several degrees below freezing, so if you live in a freeze-prone area, choose early-ripening types.

Anatomy. Almost all commercially grown citrus trees are grafted, consisting of two parts: scion (upper part of tree producing desirable fruit) and rootstock (lower few inches of trunk and the roots). These are joined at the bud union. Grafted trees begin bearing fruit in just a few years, contrasted with 10 to 15 years for seedling trees. Most kinds produce a single crop in fall or winter, but everbearing types (lemons, limes, calamondins) can produce throughout the year, though they fruit most heavily in spring. Plants don't go completely dormant, but their growth does slow in winter. Citrus fruit ripens only on the tree.

Tree size depends on the category of citrus and on the selection within that category. Standard trees (the norm in Florida, Texas, and along the Gulf Coast) grow full sizetypically 2030 ft. tall and wide. Dwarf trees are grafted onto a rootstock that reduces the size of the tree but not that of the fruit; they are sold through mail-order suppliers (these cannot ship to commercial citrus-producing states) and at some nurseries in Florida.

SWEET ORANGE. Dense globes to about 25 ft. tall. Fruit usually stores on the tree for a few months. The orange blossom is Florida's state flower.

'Cara Cara'. First rosy-fleshed navel, bearing at about same time as 'Washington'. Red flesh in Florida.

'Hamlin'. Nearly seedless juice orange. Matures early, fall into winter. Best in South Texas, Florida.

'Jaffa' ('Shamouti'). Midseason (ripens winter into spring), nearly seedless eating orange from Israel. Grown in South Texas.

'Marrs'. Low-acid fruit with few seeds, ripening fall into winter. Grows well in South Texas.

'Parson Brown'. Early-ripening, small, seedy juice orange. Best in Florida.

'Pineapple'. Leading midseason orange in Florida; also grown in South Texas. Fairly seedy but excellent for juicing. Fruit tends to drop from tree after ripening.

'Republic of Texas'. Early, sweet, cold-hardy selection for Texas. Seedy.

'Valencia'. This is the premier juice orange. Widely adapted, bearing nearly seedless fruit in midwinter and spring. 'Delta' and 'Midknight' are seedless selections ripening a little earlier. If grown in Florida, 'Rhode Red' has more highly colored flesh than 'Valencia'.

'Washington'. Original navel selection from which the other navels developed. Seedless eating orange ripens early, fall into winter. In Texas and Florida, local selections sold simply as navel have better flavor.

Blood orange. These are characterized by red pigmentation in flesh, juice, and (to a lesser degree) rind. Flavor has raspberry overtones. Need chilly nights during ripening. Main kinds grown are 'Moro', 'Sanguinelli', and 'Tarocco'.

MANDARIN. Small to medium-size trees (1020 ft. tall and wide) bearing juicy, loose-skinned, and often slightly flattened-looking fruit; most produce in winter. Selections with red-orange peel are usually called tangerines. Many mandarins tend to bear heavily in alternate years.

'Clementine' (Algerian tangerine). Sweet, variably seedy flesh. Ripens early (from fall into winter), holds well on tree. Light crop without a pollenizer. Good for Texas Gulf Coast.

'Dancy'. Small, seedy fruit is traditional Christmas tangerine; ripens late fall into winter. Needs high heat; best in Florida. Also grows in hot, dry regions. Alternate bearer.

'Encore'. Ripens very late (spring into summer) and holds on tree until fall. Sweet-tart, seedy fruit. Alternate bearer. Good for South Texas.

'Fremont'. Ripens from late fall into winter; seedy, richly sweet fruit. Alternate bearer. Does well along Upper Gulf Coast.

'Honey'. Seedy, very sweet fruit from winter into spring. Different from 'Murcott' tangor (see Mandarin hybrids below), which is marketed as Honey tangerine. Alternate bearer. Does well in South Texas, Gulf Coast.

'Mediterranean' ('Willow Leaf'). Springtime crop of sweet, aromatic, very juicy fruit gets puffy soon after ripening. Needs high heat. Alternate bearer. Good for South Texas, Gulf Coast.

'Pixie'. Late selection with seedless, mild, sweet fruit. Alternate bearer. Recommended for South Texas.

'Ponkan' (Chinese honey mandarin). Early crop of seedy, very sweet fruit. Alternate bearer. Good for South Texas, Gulf Coast, Florida.

Satsuma. Group of mandarins with mild, sweet fruit that ripens early (beginning in fall). Succeeds in areas too cold for most citrus; mature trees can withstand 15F. Ripe fruit deteriorates quickly on tree but keeps well in cool storage. Selections include 'Arctic Frost', 'Brown's Select', 'Dobashi Beni', 'Kimbrough', 'Okitsu Wase', and 'Owari'. Does well in South Texas, Gulf Coast, north Florida. 'Miho' and 'Seto' are large-fruited, good-tasting selections for Texas.

'Seedless Kishu'. Very small, loose skinned, easy to peel; exceptionally rich flavor. Ripens late fall to winter.

'Wilking'. Midseason selection with rich, distinctive flavor. Juicy fruit holds fairly well on tree. Alternate bearer. Recommended for South Texas.

MANDARIN HYBRIDS. These hybrids generally perform best in hot weather. Many were developed in Florida, where they produce outstanding crops.

Tangelo. Hybrid between mandarin and grapefruit. Best with a pollenizer like 'Dancy' or 'Clementine' (both mandarins) or another tangelo. In winter, 'Minneola' bears bright orange-red fruit (often with a noticeable neck) with rich, tart flavor and some seeds. 'Orlando' produces mild, sweet, fairly seedy fruit about a month earlier than 'Minneola'.

Tangor. Hybrid between mandarin and sweet orange. Especially well adapted to sweet orangegrowing areas of Florida. 'Murcott' is an alternate bearer with very sweet, seedy, yellowish orange fruit winter into spring; it's marketed under the name Honey tangerine. 'Ortanique' has sweet, juicy, variably seedy fruit ripening spring to summer. 'Temple' bears a winter-to- spring crop of sweet-to-tart, seedy fruit; needs high heat and is more cold sensitive than other tangors.

Other mandarin hybrids include the following.

'Ambersweet'. Result of crossing a hybrid of 'Clementine' mandarin and 'Orlando' tangelo with a midseason orange. Juicy fruit, borne fall to winter, is classified as an orange by fresh fruit marketers. Very seedy when grown near another selection.

'Fairchild'. Hybrid of 'Clementine' mandarin and 'Orlando' tangelo. Juicy, sweet fruit in winter. Bigger crop with a pollenizer.

'Fallglo'. Somewhat cold sensitive, like its 'Temple' tangor parent. Juicy, tart, very seedy fruit ripens in fall.

'Lee'. Hybrid between 'Clementine' and an unknown pollen parent. Fairly seedy fruit matures fall to winter. Has best flavor if grown in Florida.

'Nova'. Cross between 'Clementine' mandarin and 'Orlando' tangelo. Juicy, richly sweet fruit fall to winter. Needs a pollenizer.

'Osceola'. Hybrid of 'Clementine' mandarin and 'Orlando' tangelo. Medium-size, seedy fruit ripens in November. Best flavor in Florida. Pollinate with 'Lee' or 'Orlando'.

'Page'. Parents are 'Clementine' mandarin and 'Minneola' tangelo. Many small, juicy, sweet fruits fall into winter. Few seeds, even with a pollenizer to improve fruit set.

'Robinson'. Hybrid between 'Clementine' mandarin and 'Orlando' tangelo. Very sweet fruit in fall. Quite seedy with a pollenizer. Best flavor if grown in Florida.

'Sunburst'. Cross between 'Robinson' and 'Osceola'. Big, sweet red-orange fruit in late fall. Nearly seedless without a pollenizer. Best flavor in Florida.

'Wekiwa' (pink tangelo, 'Lavender Gem'). A cross between a tangelo and a grapefruit; looks like a small grapefruit but is eaten like a mandarin. Juicy, mild, sweet flesh is purplish rose in hot climates. Ripens late fall into winter.

SOUR-ACID MANDARIN. Both of the following bear throughout the year in mild-winter climates; they also fruit well indoors.

Calamondin. A mandarin-kumquat hybrid with fruit like a very small orange but a sweet, edible rind. Juicy, tart flesh has some seeds. Variegated form is especially ornamental.

'Rangpur'. Often called Rangpur lime, though it's not a lime and doesn't taste like one. Fruit looks and peels like a mandarin. Less acid than lemon; a good base for punches and mixed drinks. 'Otaheite' (Tahiti orange) is an acidless form sold as a houseplant.

PUMMELO. Forerunner of the grapefruit, it bears clusters of enormous round to pear-shaped fruits with thick rind and pith. Once peeled, fruit is just slightly bigger than a grapefruit. Different selections range in flavor from sweet to fairly acidic. They need a little less heat than grapefruit and ripen starting in winter in warmest areas. To eat, peel fruit; separate segments and remove membrane surrounding them. Because fruit is so heavy, prune pummelo trees to encourage strong branching.

'Chandler'. Most widely grown selection. Pink flesh; flavorful, moderately juicy, usually seedless.

'Hurado Butan'. A hardy Japanese selection with yellow fruit and firm, yellow-pink interior; good flavor. Seedy.

'Tahitian' ('Sarawak'). Greenish white flesh; moderately acidic flavor with lime overtones.

GRAPEFRUIT. Trees to about 30 ft. tall and wide. Best in Florida and South Texas. Heat zones 1210.

'Duncan'. Oldest known grapefruit selection in Florida and the one from which all the others developed. Extremely seedy white flesh with better flavor than modern seedless types. Good for juice.

'Flame'. Red flesh similar to that of 'Star Ruby', slight rind blush, and few to no seeds. Now widely planted in Florida.

'Marsh' ('Marsh Seedless'). Main white-fleshed commercial kind. Seedless offspring of 'Duncan'. A pigmented form, 'Pink Marsh' ('Thompson') tends to lose its pink tones as the season progresses.

'Melogold'. Grapefruit-pummelo hybrid. Seedless white flesh is sweeter than fruit of its sister selection 'Oroblanco'; tree tolerates slightly more cold than 'Oroblanco'.

'Oroblanco'. Grapefruit-pummelo hybrid. Fruit containing few to no seeds has a thicker rind and more sweet-tart flavor than 'Melogold'.

'Ray Ruby' and 'Henderson'. Almost identical seedless types that have good rind blush and flesh pigmentation.

'Redblush' ('Ruby', 'Ruby Red'). Seedless, red-tinted flesh. Red internal color fades to pink, then buff by end of season.

'Rio Red'. Seedless type with good rind blush and flesh nearly as red as that of 'Star Ruby'. More dependable producer than 'Star Ruby'.

'Star Ruby'. Seedless selection with the reddest color. Tree is subject to cold damage, erratic bearing, and other growing problems.

LEMON. Low heat requirement; will even produce indoors. Most grow 2025 ft. tall and wide.

'Bearss'. Selection of a Sicilian lemon grown in Florida; no relation to 'Bearss' lime. Fruit similar to 'Eureka'. Some fruit all year, but main crop comes in fall and winter.

'Eureka'. Familiar lemon sold in grocery stores. Some fruit all year in mild climates. Big, vigorous, nearly thornless tree. Prune regularly to maintain tree shape and make fruit easily accessible for harvest.

'Harvey'. Very much like Eureka but more cold hardy.

'Improved Meyer'. Hybrid between lemon and sweet orange or mandarin. More cold tolerant than true lemon. Bears yellow-orange, juicy fruit with few seeds throughout the year. Can grow to 15 ft. tall but is usually considerably shorter.

'Lisbon'. Fruit is similar to 'Eureka' (and is also sold in markets), but tree is bigger, thornier, and more cold tolerant. 'Lisbon Seedless' is the same, but without seeds. These are the best lemons for hot, dry areas. Bear some fruit all year in mild climates. Prune regularly to maintain tree shape and make fruit easily accessible for harvest.

'Ponderosa' ('American Wonder'). Thorny lemon-citron hybrid, naturally dwarf. Seedy, thick-skinned, moderately juicy fruits weighing up to 2 pounds apiece. Some fruit all year. More susceptible to cold than true lemon. Thrives indoors.

'Variegated Pink' ('Pink Lemonade'). Sport of 'Eureka' with green-and-white leaves and green stripes on immature fruit. Light pink flesh doesn't need heat to develop color. Grows to about 8 ft. tall.

LIME. There's a lime for just about every area of the citrus belt warm enough for sweet oranges. Limes outperform lemons in Florida.

Australian finger lime. This Australian native bears oblong fruit filled with tart, cavierlike juice capsules that burst out of the cut rind when fully ripe. Fruit turns blackish and begins to drop as mature. Wiry, small-leafed tree with nasty thorns (wear gloves when picking). Use the capsules to flavor appetizers, drinks, salads and grilled fish.

'Bearss' ('Persian', 'Tahiti'). Commonly grown in Florida. To 1520 ft. tall and wide (half that size on dwarf rootstock). Thorny and inclined to drop many leaves in winter; quite angular and open when young but forms a dense, round crown when mature. The seedless fruit is almost the size of a lemon; it is green when immature, light yellow when ripe. Main crop comes from winter to late spring, though some fruit ripens all year. Needs less heat for fruiting and tolerates more cold than 'Mexican'.

'Kieffer'. Leaves are used in Thai and Cambodian cooking, as is bumpy, sour fruit. Ripens in spring.

'Mexican' ('Key', West Indian lime, bartender's lime). Very thorny plant to about 15 ft. high and wide, bearing small, rounded, intensely flavored fruit all year. 'Mexican Thornless' is the same, minus the spines. Plants need high heat and are very cold sensitive.

'Palestine Sweet'. Shrubby plant to 1520 ft. tall and wide, with acidless fruit resembling that of 'Bearss' and used in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Latin American cooking. Ripens fall or winter.

KUMQUAT. Shrubby plants 615 ft. or taller (and about as wide as high) bear yellow to reddish orange fruits that look like tiny oranges. Eat whole and unpeeledspongy rind is sweet, pulp is tangy. Best in areas with warm to hot summers and chilly nights during fall or winter, when fruit is ripening. Hardy to at least 12F.

'Marumi'. Slightly thorny plant with round fruit. Peel is sweeter than that of 'Nagami', but slightly seedy flesh is more acidic.

'Meiwa'. Round fruit is sweeter, juicier, and less seedy than that of other forms. Considered the best kumquat for eating fresh. Nearly thornless.

'Nagami'. Main commercial type. Oval-shaped, slightly seedy fruit. The hotter the summer, the more abundant and sweeter the fruit. Thornless.

KUMQUAT HYBRIDS. These were the results of early experiments by the citrus industry to produce cold-tolerant kinds of citrus. Fruit has never been a commercial success, but it's good for home gardens. Plants tend to be fairly small even as standards; on dwarfing rootstocks, they reach only 36 ft.

Limequat. These hybrids of 'Mexican' lime and kumquat are more cold tolerant and need less heat than their lime parent. Good lime substitutes; edible rind like kumquat parent. Some fruit all year, but main crop comes from fall to spring. 'Eustis' bears fruit shaped like a big olive. 'Tavares' has elongated oval fruit on a more compact, better-looking plant than 'Eustis'.

Orangequat. Most commonly grown is 'Nippon', a cross between 'Meiwa' kumquat and satsuma mandarin. It is cold tolerant and has a fairly low heat requirement. Small, round, deep orange fruit with sweet, spongy rind and slightly acidic flesh. Sweeter than kumquat when eaten whole. Ripens winter and spring, but holds on the tree for months.

Other kumquat hybrids occasionally available include pear-shaped 'Indio' mandarinquat and 'Lemondrop' lemonquat. Both are very attractive trees that load up with fruit.

CITRON. Citron was the first type of citrus cultivated. Plant is small, thorny, irregular in shape; grown for its big, fragrant, unusual fruit. Very sensitive to cold.

'Buddha's Hand'. Fruit is divided into fingers that con- tain all rind and no pulp. Bears some fruit all year round. This plant has absolutely no tolerance for frost.

'Etrog'. Fruit resembles a big, warty-skinned lemon with dry pulp; the peel is sometimes candied. Used in Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles.

HARDY CITRUS. For areas beyond citrus belt. Most are good choices for Lower and Coastal South; some can be grown in chillier areas. Hardiness figures apply to established plants conditioned to cold by the time freezes arrive.

'Changsha' mandarin. Can reach 1520 ft. high and wide. Fruit is similar to satsuma mandarin but not as tasty. Ripens from fall into winter. Sometimes grown in regions of Texas, Gulf Coast, and Southwest too cold for regular mandarin selections. Hardy to about 5F.

Citrange. Hybrid between sweet orange and hardy orange. To 1520 ft. tall and wide. 'Morton' has fruit like slightly tart sweet orange. 'US-119' is newer and sweeter. Ripens late fall. Hardy to 510F.

Hardy orange. See Poncirus trifoliata, page 519.

'Thomasville'. Hybrid between citrange and kumquat. Reaches 15 ft. tall and wide. Small, nearly seedless fruit used as lime substitute if picked soon after ripening in fall. Left on tree, may become sweet enough to eat fresh. Hardy to about 0F.

'Yuzu'. An acidic with highly aromatic, bumpy rind. Both juice and peel are prized in Asian recipes, especially for ponzu sauce. Fruit can be used green to yellow stage. Rangy tree has large thorns and is very hardy (at least into the high teens).

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