Citrus Trees

Large orange tree in East Austin

CITRUS FOR AUSTIN

The aspiring gardener can grow pretty much any citrus tree variety in Austin, provided they’re willing to protect certain varieties from winter cold.  The following is a list of varieties and their descriptions, including notes on cold hardiness.

Calamondin

This plant is grown more for its looks than for its fruit edibility. It is hardy to 20°F.  The edible fruit is small and orange, about one inch in diameter, and resembles a small tangerine.

Mandarins

They have a wide range of flavors, but are always delicious. All are easy to peel, many are seedless.  Some mandarins are loosely called tangerines, a name given to reddish orange mandarins like Dancy to market them.  For our purposes, there are two types, the common mandarins like Clementine and Dancy, and the Satsumas, the best citrus for our area.  Mandarins do not hold well on trees and should be picked when ripe.  Mandarins are very cold hardy, taking temperatures of 24ºF with little damage.  Satsumas are considered the most cold hardy of the eaten citrus.

Arctic Frost & Orange Frost—heavily fragrant flowers and extra cold tolerance (10-20°F) make this a popular choice. Seedless, juicy, easy peeling fruit. Zone 8A.

Clementine Mandarin—small, seedy, easy to peel. Spring bloom, Oct/Dec harvest. Very popular. Zone 8b.

Owari –Known for its cold tolerance, with large thick-skinned fruit that’s easy to peel. Flavor is excellent. Best harvested and stored at peak of ripening.  Fruit ripens November to December. Self fertile. Zones 8A-10.

Miho Satsuma—new, fewer seeds, higher production, develops color on fruit in late summer, harvest around Thanksgiving. Get 10-12’ tall. “2010 Texas Superstar”. Its wood survived temps of 16-20°, but should be protected below 25° to keep it looking its best.

Ponkan Mandarin – Its fruit are really large for mandarins, having orange rind and flesh. The flesh is tender and melting, with mild flavor and aroma. Hardy to 18-20°F. Zone 8b-9.

Seto Satsuma – Large reddish orange fruit ripens Nov-Dec. Oblong leaves on drooping branches. Zone 8b.

Sweet Oranges

Oranges are medium in their cold hardiness, though some can be grown here because of their early ripening and cold hardiness.  All are, obviously, sweet. All are zone 9A, but its best to protect them if temperatures drop below 24°F.

Hamlin Orange—one of the earlier ripening and hardier sweet oranges. Can peel, but usually grown for juice

Moro Blood Orange—The most reliably colored blood oranges. The most popular home citrus tree in the country. As it stays on the tree, the flesh changes from deep red to deep purple in hue. Flowers in Spring ripens following Early Spring.

Limes

Limes are very frost tender, but love our summer heat and humidity, so do well as an outdoor plant in summer, indoor plant in winter. Best to protect from any freeze.

Kieffer Lime -The Bay Leaves of Thai cuisine. Leaves have a mysterious & distinctive flavor. Fresh rind/flesh also used in cooking. Zone 9.

Mexican or Key Lime—Medium size tree. heavy producer. Thorny & thornless available. Small, roundish fruit. Very seedy, juicy. Likes our hot summers! Zone 10.

Persian Lime—Medium size tree. Regular sized, greenish-yellow fruit. Almost seedless. Blooms all year, peaks May- September. Zone 9.

Lemon

Lemons are highly prized for cooking and as an addition to beverages.  There are two types, true supermarket lemons like Eureka, and Meyer (Improved Meyer) which is a hybrid between a lemon and mandarin.  True lemons get to be very large without pruning.  New growth and flowers are often tinged with purple. They cannot take prolonged periods below 30ºF.

Meyer is quite different, with thin-skinned, juicier and brighter yellow-orange fruit with a great flowery fragrance and flavor.  Most important, it is MUCH more cold hardy than true lemons, taking temperatures down to the low 20’s.

Improved Meyer—fruits year-round esp. Nov.-March.  Unique flavor, lemony with floral overtones. Cold Hardy. Zone 8b.

Lisbon Lemon – Productive, commercial variety that is more tolerant of heat, cold, wind, and neglect than other lemons. Fruit can be harvested year round in most areas. Grafted. Evergreen. Zone 9b.

Ponderosa Lemon—the largest lemon as big as two pounds.
Primarily grown as an ornamental. Large bumpy fruit. Large citrus scented leaves and larger-than average citrus blossoms. Spring/Fall. Zone 9b.

Eureka Variegated Pink Lemon— Attractive sparkling variegated leaves, pinkish new growth backs bright yellow fruit. Produces flowers and an abundance of juicy, market-quality lemons year round. Evergreen. Gets 12-15’ tall & wide. Full sun. Zone 9b.

Kumquats

Fruits are small and eaten whole, rind & all. They have a sweet skin and sour pulp. Actually a different genus, not Citrus, but Fortunella.  Most important, they are cold-hardy, able to withstand temperatures of 15-20°F with little damage to the foliage.  They make small, compact trees, so they are easier to protect if needed.  They don’t begin to grow until warm weather breaks in spring, don’t bloom till midsummer. Zone 8b.

Meiwa -Fruit is slightly oval to round and bushy. Has a very smooth thick rind, very little juice, & fewer seeds.

Nagami—Fruits abundantly. Most delicious of the kumquats, more sour than Meiwa, but has a great flavor because of our hot humid summers.

Grapefruit

Do well in our hot summer weather.  Make a very large tree, so be prepared to prune to size. Zone 9 though sometimes listed as Zone 8b.

Rio Red – an improved form that is more cold-resistant and faster growing. Sweet, red flesh with very few seeds. The fruit stays on the tree, and the longer you leave it the sweeter it gets, so you don’t have to worry about storage. Just step outside and pick your morning grapefruit straight from the tree. It grows into a large tree up to 20’ tall.

Novelty

There are many weird and wonderful citrus, like the citron.  They generally cannot take freezing temperatures.

Buddha’s Hand -Flesh resembles human hand.  It has fragrant white pith, with no seeds or juice.

Cold Sensitivity

As a general rule, Limes and lemons (except Meyer lemon) are the least cold hardy (they need the most winter protection), followed by pummelo, grapefruit and orange.

Mandarin & kumquat are the most cold-hardy citrus trees and do best outside in Austin.