The sweet-smelling blossoms, year-round greenery and tasty fruit of citrus trees are easy to love. If you live in an area warm enough to plant citrus (normally USDA Zones 8-11), the hard part is deciding which citrus tree to plant.

4 Questions to ask when planting citrus

1. Do I want to eat this for the next 20 years?

Citrus trees are long lived. Before you plant the tree, spend time choosing the right variety to meet your needs. Some oranges are best for juicing and others are best eaten fresh. Citrus trees (even dwarf varieties) produce a lot of fruit. Try to sample the type of fruit you are considering planting. Many nurseries offer tasting events.

In Arizona, Greenfield Citrus Nursery hosts a citrus clinic each January put on by the Maricopa County Master Gardeners. There is a citrus tasting table as a part of this event each year.

Additionally, if you visit a grower during citrus harvesting season, many will allow you to sample fruit right off the tree.

Growing conditions can affect fruit’s taste but it’s important to like the variety you plant so the fruit is not wasted. 

Meyer Lemon
Lemons

2. Should I plant a standard size or a dwarf variety?

Clementines

It is important to plant citrus trees in an area which will allow them to reach maturity without obstruction or excessive pruning. Mature adult citrus trees average 20-25 feet tall and 15-18 feet wide. Dwarf types grow to 10-12 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide. Consider if your location has enough room for either type of tree.

Poor soil conditions or limited growing area? No problem! Grow citrus in containers. Citrus grown in containers have different watering and fertilization needs. Read the helpful tips and things to keep in mind when growing citrus in containers. 

Check out my article on Kellogggarden.com, “8 Tips for Growing Citrus in Containers.”

 

3. When do I want to harvest?

If planting several trees, choose varieties that ripen at different times to space harvests throughout the year. This helpful chart “Citrus Harvesting Calendar for the Low Desert” from the University of Arizona Extension Office shows when different varieties are harvested. 

4. Do I want fruit I can’t easily buy at the store?

There are many unusual varieties of citrus that are easily grown but difficult to find or expensive to buy in stores.

Buddha's Hand

Buddha’s Hand – Prized for its unusual shape and beautiful aroma, this is definitely a conversation starter.

Kumquat

Kumquats – These trees are cold-hardy to 18-20 degrees and the small orange fruit can be consumed whole, peel and all. They are beautiful landscape trees with dark green leaves.

Blood Orange

Pigmented or “Blood” Orange Varieties – The color in these develops best after a hot dry summer followed by a cold winter. Varieties such as Tarocco and Sanguinelli are a tasty choice.

Have questions about planting, watering or fertilizing citrus? Listen to this Encyclopedia Botanica podcast I was a guest expert on with Hillary from Seattleurbanfarmco.com.