Plant Common Name
The origin of Citrus is uncertain. It is believed that most species are from northeastern India eastward through the Malay Archipelago and south to Australia. There are between 20 and 25 species and hundreds of hybrids, varieties and cultivars. Several hybrids are naturally occurring. Citrus exists in sub-tropical areas with the exception of the pumelo which is more tropical in nature.
All members of this genus are large shrubs or trees. They are commonly evergreen (rarely deciduous) and have sharp thorns on their branches. The fragrant, oil gland dotted leaves are elliptical, oval or lance-shaped and often have winged petioles (leaf stems). Some species bear flowers throughout the year while others only flower in the winter or spring. The flowers may be solitary or in groups and the buds cream, red or purple-hued. These open to reveal white, fragrant blooms in almost all species. The acidic, fragrant fruit is highly variable. Generally, it has leathery skin dotted with oil glands and juicy flesh that is partitioned into wedges and may have few or many seeds.
Most prefer areas with warm dry winters with light frosts and cool summers. Full sun is required and average soil is sufficient as long as it’s well-drained. The trees are somewhat drought tolerant once established, but must have regular applications of water for good fruit production. Citrus trees are heavy feeders and require regular applications of fertilizer.
There are a multitude of varieties available, some best for commercial production and others ideal for backyard orchards. Most modern Citrus is grafted on to rootstocks which impart vigor, size constraints, pest tolerances while preserving the character of the variety. Some cultivars are ideal for container culture. Be sure to provide these plants with a porous soil mix, plant them in a pot with ample space and offer them lots of light if grown indoors. Be watchful for spider mites and scale as well. No backyard orchard in subtropical and tropical zones is complete without at least one variety of a prolific-bearing and long-lived Citrus.
Citrus is great because for most you can use the whole tree. The fruit is used edible, the wood can be used for furniture, pulp or animal feed and the leaf oil is used industrially for cleaning, as a pesticide and to scent everything from soap to perfume.
Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Clay, Loam, Sand
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Container, Edible, Feature Plant, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Houseplant, Shade Trees, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier, Tropical
Sharp or Has Thorns