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From Root to Fruit: How to Care for a Mandarin Tree

How to Care for a Mandarin Tree

As far as citrus trees go, the Mandarin tree is relatively easy to maintain. Continue reading below for more info about how to care for a mandarin tree.

Mandarin oranges are the sweetest members of the orange family. We love them!

They boast many health benefits. You can also make plenty of zesty citrus recipes with them. And they are just so cute!

If you love mandarins as much as we do, you might decide to grow a mandarin tree. But how exactly can you maintain a mandarin orange tree?

Read on for a juicy guide on how to care for a mandarin tree and turn your garden into a citrus wonderland.

Mandarin Orange Tree Maintenance

Mandarin orange trees are low-maintenance. You don't have to spend a lot of time pruning and caring for them. But they may need some help in those chilly winter months.

Follow these 3 simple tips and you can start growing mandarin oranges.

1. General Care for Mandarin Plants

At least three feet around the tree you need to make sure there are no weeds, grass or mulch. This is because mandarin trees are susceptible to tree rot.

You don't need to prune your mandarin tree until it's more than three years old. Only remove dead or diseased limbs. After a hard winter, you may need to cut back frost-damaged branches.

As the tree grows, you may also need to provide support for the branches. Because mandarin trees tend to grow in an erect shape, the branches may droop and even break. Prop them up with boards or poles to keep them upright.

2. Make Sure it's Fed and Watered

You need to water mandarin plants a few times a month. In dry climates, you should water the mandarin tree once or twice a week.

When your tree is in its early stages, build a "watering ring" around the tree to help keep it hydrated. This should be about 2 feet across and 3-4 inches deep. Slowly fill the water ring slowly and allow the young tree to soak up the water.

But, when building a water basin, do not remove the soil directly around the tree. This could cause foot rot and other diseases.

Use fertilizer three times year. February, May, and September.

For young mandarin trees, use one cup of fertilizer. In the second year, use two cups, then in the third year, use three cups. From the fourth year onwards use only one cup per year.

Keep Your Mandarin Tree Cozy

Mandarin trees are the most cold-tolerant of all the citrus trees. This means they can make it through harsh winters. But they may need a little help.

Make sure you plant your tree on the southeast or south side of a building. According to research, this is the best place for a citrus tree. The plant is more likely to survive and thrive.

Protect your mandarin tree from frost by wrapping a blanket or tarp around it overnight. If the weather is unusually harsh you could use a portable heater to give it some warmth. Or create a frame around three trees, drape a tarp and hang in a lightbulb.

If the weather warms up in the day take off the cover to let it breathe.

Time to Try Your Green Thumb

As you can see, caring for a mandarin tree doesn't take a lot of work. If you want to start growing mandarin oranges, you've come to the right place.

No, you don't have to scrape out the seeds from a mandarin! We've already started the process for you. Check out our selection of trees here.

Eight Steps to Growing Mandarin Oranges in Containers

How to Grow Mandarin oranges in 8 Steps

The mandarin orange tree grows well-known, delicious citrus fruits also referred and closely related to “tangerines” and “clementines”. The subvariety we use is the Satsuma, a sweet and seedless variety. There are dozens of cultivars of mandarins.

Mandarin Orange Fruit:

  • These citrus fruits are characterized by small round fruits with a loose-peeling skin
  • The fruit is usually medium in size with a thin, smooth rind that is reddish-orange at maturity and easily peeled
  • The flesh is a deep orange color, with a rich flavor
  • The mandarin orange variety is perfect for those with a sweet tooth and children
  • The subvariety we ship is the Satsuma mandarin, a seedless variety, as long as there is not another mandarin within 50 yards

Mandarin Orange Tree:

  • The slow-growing mandarin orange tree is also very cold-hardy and drought-resistant 
  • Year-round fruit production, with the peak season being autumn to spring
  • The tree is a large, vigorous, densely foliated tree
  • It has a tendency to alternate bearing with high fruit yield one year, then lower yield the next

Where Will Citrus Grow?

With proper citrus tree care, having your own citrus fruit trees such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, mandarin, mandarin or orange tree will produce decades of delicious fruit. However, the growing regions in the United States where citrus can be planted into the ground are California, Arizona, South Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

If you do not live in those regions, we do not recommend planting citrus in the ground. However, we consider this a good thing, because it's going to make your citrus growing a lot easier.

Growing Citrus Outside of Growing Zones

So how do you grow citrus outside of these growing zones? You do so by planting and growing your citrus tree in a container. You can use a plastic barrel, a wooden planter, a nice decorative pot, or really any sort of container that has adequate holes on the bottom for drainage.

Another option, which we enjoy, are fabric smart pots which do not have holes, however, the entire container is made of a fabric mesh which allows proper drainage and aeration of the soil.

The Planting Process for Growing Citrus Trees in Pots

The actual planting process of our trees in pots is very straightforward, with standardized use of potting soil and watering and fertilizing schedules.

You can keep any citrus tree pruned back, but the Mandarin is naturally a smaller dwarf type variety which gets to be about 4 to 6 feet, but it will still produce an abundant harvest.

Step 1: Container for Mandarin trees

The keys to an appropriate container are having sufficient drainage through the material either being some sort of mesh cloth (SmartPots) or having a few holes on the bottom of your planter.

Secondly, the size of the pot should be at least 5 gallons, with our favorite size recommend being 15 gallons. We find that anything above 25 gallons is quite difficult to physically move with only one person. so we recommend 15 gallons as the sweet spot.

Step 2: Soil for Mandarin Trees

Choosing soil for your Mandarin trees is simple. All you need is any sort of potting soil. We do not recommend gardening soil or topsoil to use for container gardening. This is advantageous because even if you lived in a citrus growing region, you would have to take into consideration the type of soil.

For example, US Citrus is based in the Rio Grande Valley, and we have a wonderful sandy loam type soil which drains very well. Other types of soil such as different types of clay soils especially with limestone mixed in will have a very difficult time draining and this will adversely affect the root health of your tree.

With a standard potting soil for your container gardening, you do not need to worry about any of these factors. You also don't have to worry about the pH balance of the soil. We have just removed a large part of the headache of growing citrus by having all customers grow their citrus in containers and using any standard potting soil which is available at your local nursery garden center supply store.

Step 3: Watering for Mandarin Trees

Watering is crucial, typically when citrus is planted into the ground there is a worry of proper drainage and overwatering your tree. Citrus trees planted in the ground prefer to have their roots a bit on the dry side. We have found that if there is proper drainage in container gardening it is difficult to overwater citrus trees.

See our watering schedule for our citrus trees based on their size and the outside conditions.

The best way to figure out how much water your citrus tree needs is to actually look at the tree. If the leaves are wilted and dry, your tree needs more water. After watering, the tree’s leaves should perk up.

Overwatering Your Potted Citrus Tree

Overwatering is a possibility and we find that this especially happens when the trees are indoor and there's a garden saucer used underneath the pot. When there's a garden saucer there is impeded drainage, which is helpful while you're on vacation and cannot water your tree for a week, or when you have your trees indoors to prevent water seeping onto the floors and causing damage.

However, if trees are over-watered, the plant leaves will wilt and may turn a bit yellow and look sad. Watering more will not improve the condition of the tree obviously, and you will likely notice that the soil is waterlogged at this point.

Giving your tree a break by taking it outside if possible or letting the soil drain without a garden saucer in the bathtub for a day is a good solution. Afterward, you can adjust your watering schedule appropriately. Our watering schedule also has a section for indoor planting.

Step 4: Fertilizer for Mandarin Trees

Your Mandarin tree will need both macro and micronutrients, just like a human. The macronutrients that all plants need are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. You have likely seen fertilizers and soil which state three numbers together, this is the N – P – K system which shows the concentration and relative amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium respectively.

These machinations are very important for the development of the root system, the color of the leaves, appropriate photosynthesis, the growth of the trunk of the tree, proper flowering, fruiting, and taste of the fruit. See our blog article on nutrition for more information.

Micronutrients are also very important - think of these as vitamins for humans. They are needed much in smaller quantities and plants can have characteristic symptoms if they have a micronutrient deficiency. We will detail out micronutrients and symptoms of deficiencies in later articles.

However, our promise to you is that we make this simple. Between regular potting soil and the fertilizer we recommend, you will have all the macronutrients and micronutrients that your tree needs and a simple fertilizing schedule for easy and effective fertilizing when you get your tree and for every February, May, and August. See our fertilizer schedule below for amounts that we recommend.

Fertilizer Schedule

Ounces to use every Feb, May, and Aug

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3+

 

 

 

Miracle-Gro for Citrus, Avocado and Mango (13-7-13)

5

7

9

 Espoma Citrus (5-2-6)

10

14

18

Step 5: Sunlight for Mandarin Trees

Sunlight is crucial to citrus trees, especially citrus being a tropical plant. In most areas of the United States, you want to maximize sunlight with full sun exposure. If you are planting indoors, make sure that it has full sun next to the window, but we would also recommend having a grow light.

Citrus does best when it has six hours of sunlight a day. If the temperature is consistently above 90° especially for younger trees, there may be some wilting of the leaves. This wilting will reverse however and at this point, it would be advantageous to keep your tree by elementary and partial shade. 

Step 6: Winter Protection for Mandarin Trees

We recommend that under freezing temperatures, you move your citrus tree into a warmer area such as a garage or indoors for the entire winter. This point you can utilize grow lights for continued growth.

There is nothing more frustrating than losing years of work and future decades of fruit than losing your citrus tree to a freak cold-snap which occurred while you were vacationing out of town! Citrus can die with exposure to temperatures in the teens for even up to 12 hours. 

Step 7: Where Do I Buy My Mandarin Tree?

First of all, if you live in the states of California, Arizona, Louisiana, or Florida, you will need to purchase your citrus tree locally as citrus cannot be imported into your state because of USDA regulations.

Otherwise, go to uscitrus.com to buy your tree today!

Step 8: Harvesting your Mandarins

This harvest is late fall to early spring for Mandarin oranges.