Edible Landscape Citrus Trees
Mani Skaria, Ph.D.
Founder & CEO of US Citrus, LLC
Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University-Kingsville (www.uscitrus.com)
Edible landscaping is the design, practice and the use of food-producing plants in the landscape. Fruit and nut producing trees are ideal for this purpose to bring the aesthetic aspects. Landscape architecture has is becoming a well-received area of specialization. Architects and local landscapers together would bring long-lasting beauty and edible fruit and nuts to your front and yard space. Please note that landscape design is not limited to trees only – in addition, there can be berries, vines, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. The plants, designers, and landscapers together bring:
i) Aesthetically pleasing surroundings to your home to enjoy with family and friends
ii) iii) iv)
A fresh food item to the table with control on pesticides used Quality time with family members, bees and birds
Improve the quality of life
fragrance not readily available
Allows you to grow unusual varieties with color, shape, and
1.Landscape citrus trees: Citrus is a family of diverse type of edible trees – big size, small, spreading type, or erect. Our US Citrus nursery maintains over 150-different types of citrus. Your designer and your local landscaper would be additional resources for the best selection of citrus varieties that would fit your growing area. The following are some specialties of an ideal landscape citrus tree based on my experience and subject-matter expertise.
2. Citrus tree size and shape. You do not want huge trees in your yard when planted for edible fruit. You should be able to pluck the fruit and to attend to pruning and tender loving care, without the use of a ladder. I am not against a ladder, but I pay more attention to safety aspects.
Ideal height is 5-6 feet tall. You can always maintain the height and shape of the tree with proper pruning. When pruning, practice the art to get enough sunlight into the tree. Always keep sharp pruning shears. It can be used to cut off and physically remove leaves and small branches with pest or disease symptoms. Larger branches would require heavy duty tools.
3. Citrus fruit type. Note that the family of citrus include the types: i) Limes and lemons
The above would cover the most widely-known types. Remember, there many selections under each type.
Grapefruits and Pommelo
The mandarins (Clementine, Satsuma, Kumquat and kumquat hybrids
Calamondin (Chinese orange) Kaffir lime, Yuzu
Australian finger lime
4. Important considerations to be given.
a) A citrus type that would give fruit year-round (Examples, are limes, lemons, kumquat)
b) Fruit not readily available in your neighborhood store
c) Exotic nature (Australian finger lime, new mandarins)
d) Colors (variegated fruit, pink flowers, variegated leaves)
e) Unique shape, color, and look (Australian finger lime, Chinotto orange, Bouquet de Fleurs sour)
f) Ceremonial (religious ceremonies, example Citron for the Jewish community, Fingered citron for Chinese, Kumquat for the Chinese New Year, and lime for Indian hand washing after lunch/dinner)
g) Cooking (Kaffir lime, Yuzu)
f) Cocktails (Persian lime, Australian finger lime) Juice (limes, lemon, citron)
5. Immediate gratification and planting size.
The size of the plant at planting usually is a consideration for immediate gratification. Large size citrus plants in 25-gallon containers would bring an instant gratification and aesthetic beauty to the landscape if such plants are readily available. State and federal government agencies regulate citrus tree movement in this country. Therefore, check on the local sources for availability. Whether you are in a citrus producing state or not, always get your tree from a certified, credible source. Many nurseries in non-citrus producing states sell plants that are not required by state and federal inspections and certification. They sell citrus plants that do not meet stringent standards. Citrus is a perennial crop; it is expected to last decades – therefore, it’s worth investing time on researching the right source for your trees.
Large container-grown trees would come with a higher price tag. A 4-5 feet tall citrus tree with flowers or fruit could easily coast from $150 to $350, depending on the variety, size, fruit set, and the type of decorative container. Alternatively, a citrus plant in a 5-gallon container would range from $55 to $95, depending on the variety, size, and fruit set. The price of an economically viable alternative as noted blow would be $30-$45 with micro-budded citrus from US Citrus nursery.
Micro-budded citrus from US Citrus (uscitrus.com) is the best alternative one can get in this country to balance cost and time to fruit-set. The early-fruit-bearing attribute of micro- budded plants would be an economically viable alternative to immediate gratifications. A two-year-old, micro-budded lemon at the US Citrus orchard is shown below.
6. Container-grown vs. Ground. You can grow citrus in containers – 25-gallon or above. Container trees can be moved around; however, the size and shape to be maintained. The ground is less maintenance. Many newer subdivisions in Texas have caliche-filled ground – it needs to be altered with topsoil and organic materials.