The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Dwarf citrus

Trifoliate orange is the most cold hardy citrus.What do you do if you want to grow as much of your own food as possible but you love oranges?  If you live in the Deep South, of course, you can plant oranges, lemons, and grapefruits in your yard and laugh at us northerners.  Even in zone 8, citrus grafted onto particularly cold hardy rootstocks (usually trifoliate orange) can survive outdoors with a little care.  Here in zone 6, though, our only outdoors choice is to plant trifoliate orange with nothing grafted onto it, and the fruits just aren't worth it.

Luckily, there is another way to grow your own citrus even in cold climates --- dwarf trees in pots that live inside over the winter.  Dwarf citrus trees stay just small enough that you can manhandle them inside for the winter, then you enjoy their color, scent, and fruits in a sunny window until spring.  The trees are naturally somewhat cold hardy, so you don't end up losing  your plants when you leave the door open for an hour on a winter day the way we did with our dwarf bananas.

The rest of this week's lunchtime series will explain the biology and care of dwarf citrus trees.  Be careful, though --- once you read about them, you'll want your own.  And it's hard to stop with just one.

Learn the basics of planting more cold hardy fruit trees in my 99 cent ebook.

This post is part of our Dwarf Citrus lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Looking forward to this series, especially since I just inherited a Meyer lemon (with five ripe lemons on it). I've had a lime tree for three years and it's full of fruit right now.
Comment by Debbi Mon Dec 5 18:10:28 2011
Ooooo, thank you for doing an entire lunchtime series on dwarf citrus. I have a feeling I'll be bookmarking a lot of these to come back to as I start making decisions about purchasing dwarf citrus trees for our home! :)
Comment by Ikwig Mon Dec 5 21:11:56 2011

I really have no idea what zone I am in here. We get the first frost around Dec. 1, and last at the equinox. The coldest night of the year is usually around -6C... But to me it is paradise! I have cherry trees in the same orchard as my satsumas!

I know most people are interested in lemons, limes, and oranges, but there are dozens of different citrus out there that will grow good fruit pretty far north.

Maybe the most famous is Yuzu. Yuzu is hardy to -9C (15F) and has many uses. The thorny tree for a hedge, and the intense aroma for aromatherapy. It tastes a lot like grapefruit (the old fashioned sour ones, not the super sweet ones you see today). The rind is thick and can be used for zest.

I use my three sour citrus (kabosu, sudachi, and yuzu) in place of lemons and limes in any recipe. It may not be a lime margarita, but sudachi margarita is pretty good too (and most of my friends didn't know the difference!)

If you can grow trifoliates, you can probably grow these outdoors (If you can find them).

Comment by Eric in Japan Tue Dec 6 10:23:14 2011

Anna can you email me about where you suggest getting a dwarf citrus tree? I think I'd like to get one started in the house over winter and put it out this spring if you think that's a good idea. I know I could Google it, but thought maybe you have some favorite places already.


Comment by Everett Tue Dec 6 10:58:46 2011

Sounds like folks are very interested in citrus. :-)

Debbi --- It sounds like you're an expert with two types of dwarf citrus already! I hope I can tell you something you don't already know.

Ikwig --- I hope the posts help! The very short summary of the whole series is that you absolutely can't go wrong with dwarf Meyer lemons....

Eric --- I didn't realize you were so warm over there! If your coldest temperature is really only 21 Fahrenheit, that means you're in the equivalent of our zone 9 or so. Down there (Florida for us), you can grow just about any citrus you want....

Unfortunately, hardy to 15 degrees Fahrenheit isn't going to cut it around here. The USDA zone map divides areas up by the average annual minimum temperature, and for our zone, that's between -5 and 0 Fahrenheit. To make sure you won't drop below 15, you'd need to go to zone 8b, which is the part of the US where people start planting the more hardy citrus in the ground.

Everett --- I'll drop you an email, but I haven't really decided on the best nursery yet. I've actually gotten dwarf citrus from three places --- ebay, Springhill Nursery, and ???, and all have been about on a par. My neighbor got his tree from Lowes. The trick seems to be choosing the best variety --- the plants I've been unhappy with have been experimental varieties, but all of the dwarf Meyer lemons we've gotten have been awesome.

Comment by anna Tue Dec 6 11:32:20 2011


Nevermind I went ahead and ordered from Spring Hill:

Dwarf Citrus Key Lime Kit Item # 66244

Northland Blueberry Item # 71625

Improved Meyer Dwarf Lemon Kit Item # 16543

Navel Orange Dwarf Citrus Kit Item # 16550


Comment by Everett Tue Dec 6 16:01:42 2011

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