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Citrus fruit trees are very appreciated around the world. Most varieties are native to southern parts of Asia and their fruits come in multiple kinds of shapes and colors. Even though lemons, oranges, and grapefruits are usually the first option when you think of a citrus tree, there are actually many other types worth some attention. If you’re interested in growing citrus trees, consider trying out a more exotic variety that’s commonly cultivated around the world.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some common varieties of citrus fruit trees. Aside from exploring their particular characteristics and special qualities, we’ll also note the best growing conditions to enjoy them in your garden or home. Keep in mind that you will most likely have difficulties growing citrus fruit trees outside hardiness zones 9 to 11. Those living in cooler areas should opt for growing the tree in a container to increase the chances of success.
Citron is an old type of citrus tree that produces large fruits reaching up to 12 inches in length. While the flesh of the citron is not very appealing, the thick rind has a tangy flavor that can be incorporated in cooking. The citron is a native of India so it’s more frequently used as food in Asian cuisine. The lack of taste and juiciness of the fruit’s flesh is compensated by the use of the rind which can be delicious in desserts.
Citron trees grow quite slowly and their leaves resemble the texture of leather. The irregular fruits are mostly made up of rind while the tree blooms with white or purple flowers. Most citrons can be grown as small trees or shrubs. They’re sensitive trees as they don’t perform well in extreme temperatures. Both drought and frost can seriously damage a citron tree. It can be grown successfully only in zones 10 to 11 with adequate full sun exposure.
2. Blood Orange
Shaped similar to sweet oranges, blood oranges get their name from the characteristic red look of the flesh. The blood orange tree is a native to Mediterranean areas such as Spain and Italy. Thanks to the high content of anthocyanin, this type of citrus fruit shows off quite a vibrant appearance. Its taste can resemble raspberries but in all other regards, such as glossy leaves and twisted branches, blood oranges are virtually identical to regular oranges.
To grow blood orange trees successfully, it’s essential to take into account the climate. This plant needs warm temperatures between 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You can try growing a small blood orange indoors but it needs plenty of light to develop. One of the most important aspects of caring for blood orange trees involves frost protection. Depending on the climate conditions, it’s often recommended to take the tree indoors in the winter season. Mulching is required if you opt to leave it outdoors during that time.
3. Persian Lime
This is a hybrid citrus tree that offers seedless fruits appreciated for their juice. The Persian lime tree can be grown in the garden but many people choose to plant it in large containers. Its size can be easily controlled through pruning so you can also take advantage of the nice aesthetics of a small tree. The limes of this citrus variety are frequently used in cooking or as a garnish for cocktails.
A great advantage of the Persian lime hybrid is the lack of thorns that can be found on other citrus trees. This variety shows off dense foliage with attractive glossy leaves. Flowers tend to appear in early spring but the fruits will take some time to develop. The limes are usually ready for harvest throughout the summer season. Similar to Key limes, Persian varieties are some of the most common limes you can find. Their taste boasts increased sourness compared to lemons.
While other citrus trees have fruits that require peeling to eat raw, kumquats are a bit different. You can enjoy the flavorful taste of this small citrus variety complete with the thin rind. Tiny kumquats have a comparable taste to oranges but there’s a distinctive sourness that sets them apart. Native to South Asia, the kumquat is considered the smallest orange variety. There are different kumquat species out there with some shape variations but they all have dimensions similar to large olives or grapes.
Kumquat is a parent species for many hybrids like limequat and calamondin. The tree that bears kumquats has a vase-growing habit while producing pleasantly-scented white flowers. As opposed to other types of citrus fruit trees, the kumquat offers superior cold tolerance. With proper protection and care, you can grow kumquat successfully in zone 8. They can face low temperatures of around 18-20 degrees Fahrenheit. Just make sure you provide this tree with well-drained soil and sufficient sunlight exposure.
5. Mandarin Orange
Mandarin oranges can grow as small trees or shrubs. There aren’t notable differences with regular orange trees. The fruit of this variety has a juicier flavor that makes mandarins ideal for snacking. Some people like to incorporate sweet mandarins in salads. There are many hybrids that have been created from mandarin oranges. While they look quite similar to tangerines, mandarins are a bit different. The taste of mandarin oranges is notably sweeter when comparing to other types of oranges. The size of the fruit is smaller while the peel has a particularly zesty appeal.
Although mandarin orange trees are often grown in various regions of Asia, they’re also popular in Central and South America. The tree is native to the Philippines. Despite the specific tenderness of its fruit, the mandarin orange tree is actually quite tolerant of more extreme temperatures compared to the common orange. Mandarin orange trees can be grown in containers but it’s important to be careful with the watering process. Although the plant has decent drought resistance, it’s vulnerable to inundation.
Closely related to mandarin oranges, clementine trees bear small fruits that don’t have seeds. It may be a bit difficult to distinguish them from tangerines but you can notice the color difference. A clementine’s color tends to be of a deeper shade of orange. There are minimal notes of sourness for the taste of this variety. This is a very sweet citrus fruit that’s considered a cross between a sweet orange and willowleaf mandarin.
Clementine trees aren’t difficult to grow directly in the garden as long as you live in hardiness zones 9 to 11. Gardeners in other areas should opt for keeping the tree as a patio plant while those from particularly cold areas should keep the clementine indoors. You can enjoy a bountiful harvest regardless of the planting method. Just make sure the tree can take its daily dose of sunlight which is required to produce the juicy and sweet citrus fruits. Clementines don’t feel as acidic as oranges and they’re often simpler to peel.
7. Kaffir Lime
Another recommended type of lime is the Kaffir variety. It has a distinctive taste with a strong level of bitterness. Kaffir lime trees are appreciated for their fruits but the leaves are also valued in Asia cuisine. This is thanks to the specific lemon-like taste and great aromatic potential brought to various dishes. The Kaffir lime tree is a dwarf citrus tree that can be grown better indoors. It’s able to thrive when planted in a container on the patio as long as it provides proper soil drainage.
The main highlight of the Kaffir lime tree is the glossy, dark green foliage. The fruit doesn’t have a lot of juice and there’s not much use for the flesh. Many soups and curries can benefit from the flavoring power of Kaffir lime leaves. While they work best fresh from the tree, they can be incorporated in dried form as well. It’s actually a good idea to pick the leaves from time to time because the tree will be encouraged to develop more. To release the fragrant oils of the lime leaves, it works best to crush them.
A variety of mandarin orange, the satsuma tree is appreciated for its sweet fruits lacking in seeds. This type of citrus fruit tree comes from China but has become popular in Japan and the West as well. Satsumas are easy to peel and offer a delicate flesh. The skin is thinner compared to mandarin oranges despite the similar looks. As opposed to other types of citrus trees, satsumas can handle colder temperatures better. Only kumquats can be considered more tolerant to cold.
The satsuma tree can be planted in a container but you can also bring it into your garden. Its characteristic orange fruit appears in the fall and the tree can reach a maximum height of 20 feet. You can train it to be smaller with a reduced spread by using a container. The best hardiness areas to plant satsuma trees are 8b to 11. Besides its delicious fruits, the satsuma tree is also known for its vibrant dark-green foliage that can add some visual interest anywhere.
A cross between sweet orange and pomelo, the grapefruit has become one of the most popular citrus fruits. There are different tree varieties that bear these distinctive fruits. While most grapefruits show off pink or red flesh colors, there are also some varieties with shades of yellow. Similar to other citrus fruit trees, the grapefruit has typical dark-green leaves with a nice glossy appearance. Beautiful white flowers emerge before the tree starts producing fruits.
Native to Caribbean regions, this accidental hybrid plant has some important growing requirements to consider. It needs adequate levels of moisture and thrives in rich soils full of organic matter. Grapefruit trees can tolerate cold temperatures but only to some degree. They should be grown in USDA zones 9 to 11 for the best results. Full sun exposure is pretty much mandatory for healthy fruit production. Those looking for the sweetest grapefruits should consider red varieties.
Pomelos are originated from Southeast Asia and are one of the largest citrus fruits. This one lacks the characteristic bitterness hints found in other citrus species. The fruit has a thick rind with a flesh that tastes very sweet. Pomelos are considered natural citrus fruits together with citron. Although it’s an interesting citrus fruit tree, it’s not really practical to grow a pomelo tree for fruits because maturation takes a very long time.
Pomelo trees have an exotic look with leaves that create a dense canopy. There are some striking resemblances to the grapefruit which makes sense as pomelo is one of its ancestors. When it comes to growing conditions, it’s safe to say that pomelos are quite sensitive to frost. They can be grown successfully only in zones 10 and 11. Although small pomelo trees can provide some nice level of shade, mature specimens can reach tall heights of up to 50 feet.
With an appearance like a small type of grapefruit, the Yuzu citrus fruit has a distinctive aromatic flavor that’s often found in Japanese and Korean cuisines. Ripe Yuzu fruits show off a yellow skin with a bumpy texture. The flesh isn’t the main highlight of this fruit. The parts that are usually incorporated into foods are the rind and juice. The skin’s intense flavor produces an oil that has some uses for perfumes.
The Yuzu tree has pronounced thorns and doesn’t often grow larger than 10-11 feet. If you choose a container to plant it, the Yuzu will remain under 5 feet tall. One of the best features of this type of citrus fruit tree is the cold hardiness. As opposed to others, the Yuzu tree can thrive in growing zones 7 to 11. Yuzu trees can be grown in the southern US. They can survive temperatures that would usually kill other citrus trees.
Tangerines get their name from Tangier in Morocco where the first hybrids have been created. This type of small orange has lots of things in common with mandarin oranges. The skin peels effortlessly while the taste of the flesh is really sweet. Compared to oranges, tangerines have a more intensely sweet taste and a more irregular shape. Unless you live in tropical or subtropical regions, it’s safe to say that you will only be able to grow a tangerine tree in a container.
Choose a container that can provide the tree with enough room to develop its foliage. Other citrus trees don’t mind the pot limitations but tangerines can only thrive if they have some available space to expand. Caring for tangerine trees will usually involve a combination of regular watering and providing a sunny spot. Tangerine trees don’t require pruning so they can be considered fairly low-maintenance. Letting nature take its course will usually work best with these plants.
13. Key Lime
This is a popular type of lime that offers delicate fruits full of flavor. It’s also known by the name of Mexican lime and tends to have a thorny appearance. The key lime can produce a decent fruit harvest when grown in containers indoors or directly in the ground outdoors. Yellow-green limes are similar in terms of size and shape to golf balls. Getting a healthy tree that you can nurture indoors represents one of the easiest methods to enjoy fresh limes of this type.
Considering the sensitivity of this citrus fruit tree to cold temperatures, you will need to ensure adequate protection during the winter. A minimal of 9-10 hours of full sun are needed for the key lime to thrive. Neutral soils work best for this citrus tree while organic compost can help with fruit development. Watering the Mexican lime once a week should be enough. Bring in a layer of mulch to maintain moisture but make sure you place it correctly, not too close to the tree’s bark.
14. Bitter Orange
As its name suggests, the bitter orange offers a distinctive taste with intense notes of sourness. For this reason, it’s not that enjoyable when eaten fresh but it can taste wonderful in various desserts. This native of Asia prefers very warm climates but with cool nights. The skin of the bitter orange is very rough and can’t be eaten raw. Similar to the flesh of the fruit, you can integrate the pulp into marmalades.
The bitter orange is considered a cross between mandarin orange and pomelo. Some varieties of bitter orange are particularly fragrant so they work great for the production of perfumes and essential oils. The best variety for marmalade is called Seville orange. Some bitter orange extracts can be used as herbal stimulants but there is little evidence to support any positive health effects. Growing the bitter orange tree doesn’t involve special considerations as it has nearly identical requirements to other common citrus trees.
Another popular hybrid citrus fruit is the tangelo. Depending on the variety, tangelos can come in different sizes. Most types resemble standard oranges but there are some that can reach the dimensions of a grapefruit. Distinguishing between tangelos and other types of oranges can be usually done by checking for a bulbous end. That’s a common characteristic of this hybrid citrus fruit.
Tangelo trees have dark-green leaves and grow as expected only in hardiness areas 10 to 11. The fruits of this variety are some of the juiciest among citrus types. Although some tangelos show bitter hints, most fruits taste quite sweet. As the name of this fruit suggests, it’s a cross between a tangerine and a pomelo. Its deep orange rind has a very strong flavor.