Citrus cheer … in ports Essay

Citrus cheer .

. . in pots Just as fresh citrus fruits brighten our produce markets, so dofruiting citrus trees decorate home gardens in the mild-winter West.While the colorful evidence is all around, you may not have consideredbuying citrus plants in December. Yet dwarf citrus in containers makeliving gifts for gardening friends or holiday ornamentals for your patioor indoors.

Now through February, many nurseries carry a wide variety of dwarfcitrus plants–including oranges, mandarins (tangerines), lemons, limes,kumquats, and others–in 5-, 7-, and 15-gallon cans. Thewinter-ripening citrus we list below should be bearing some fruit invarious stages of color. This report focuses on dwarf citrus– plants that will maintaintheir small form and won’t soon outgrow their containers. By”dwarf,’ we refer both to the few natural dwarfs and to plantsgrafted onto dwarfing rootstocks.

In low elevations of California and Arizona, you can grow citrus inpots outdoors year-round. Where winters are subject to hard freezes,grow dwarf citrus as indoor-outdoor plants. (If you prefer to plant inthe ground, you can still buy now, but it’s safer to wait until thedanger of frost is safer to wait until the danger of frost is pastbefore planting.) Why grow citrus in containers? Containers extend the ornamental range of citrus to decks andpaving, and to areas with poor soils.

You can move the plants aroundthe garden, or bring them under cover if frost threatens. Is the idea of having a high-producing, containerized orchard inyour back yard wishful thinking? Dwarf citrus will produceproportionately as much fruit as standard plants, but being smaller theycan’t match the bigger trees’ crop volume. However, they doallow you to grow several kinds in a compact space. To extend theharvest, you can include kinds that will ripen in spring or summer, suchas blood oranges and some mandarins.

Citrus in containers need as much care as many house plants. Theyrequire diligent watering and regular feeding; for details on outdoorcare, see page 215. Indoors, it’s essential to provide adequatelight and proper humidity. A greenhouse is ideal; or set plants 6 feetor closer to a sunny window, away from heat sources. Water to keep soilconsistently and evenly moist. At the nursery, look for plants with symmetrical branching, goodleaf color, and a graft union about 6 inches above the soil level.Plants in 5-gallon cans cost $15 to $20, in 7-gallon cans $30 to $40,and in 15-gallon cans $50 to $65.

If the variety you want isn’t instock, it can usually be ordered in a week or two. (Quarantines barshipment of citrus plants between certain states and counties,especially in California.) Many citrus fanciers share their knowledge in the quarterlynewsletters of the Indoor Citrus & Rare Fruit Society (176 CoronadoAve., Los Altos, Calif. 94022; annual membership $10). Photo: Fruitful dwarf calamondin is a prize find. Decorative foiland bow cover nursery can for gift giving and holiday display Photo: Ripe and green fruits cluster on “Nippon’orangequat around Christmas. Ripe fruits with edible rind make tangymarmalade.

Green ones will color up in a month or so Photo: Cheery cargo: she helped pick out dwarf”Chinotto’, a sour orange with short myrtle-like leaves Photo: On a sunny patio, “Meiwa’ kumquat will spread itsroots in big clay pot. In midwinter, the sweet-tart fruits aredelicious fresh (rind and all) or made into marmalade

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