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CITRUS

Image of Citrus

James Burghardt

Family

Rutaceae

Botanical Name

CITRUS

Plant Common Name

Citrus

General Description

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.

Characteristics

  • Plant Type

    Fruit

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Native To

    Southern Asia, India, Melanesia, Australia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Purple, Ivory

  • Fruit Color

    Yellow, Red, Green, Orange

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan, Brown, Sandy Brown

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Feature Plant, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Houseplant, Shade Trees, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds, Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes