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.
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. This article talks about 30 different varieties of citrus. 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.
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.
2. Should I plant a standard size or a dwarf variety?
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.
3. When do I want to harvest?
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 – Prized for its unusual shape and beautiful aroma, this is definitely a conversation starter.
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.
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.