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Citrus – Choosing What to Grow


Not sure where to start? The best place is to think about your climate and the space you have in the garden or pots.


Kumquats and Meyer lemons are the hardiest of all citrus, followed by mandarins, tangelos, oranges and grapefruit. Limes and other lemons are the most tender.


If you are growing citrus in pots, you may want to select a dwarf rootstock variety. These have been grafted onto a smaller-growing rootstock, which means the tree gets to a maximum of only 1.5–2m, making them ideal for containers. Normal citrus is grafted onto a larger rootstock variety and in the right conditions can reach 4–5m tall.




Even on dwarf rootstocks these normally grow big with large yellow fruit, making them unsuitable for pot growing. Grapefruit need maximum sun to ripen the fruit.


Golden Special – A hybrid grapefruit crossed with a mandarin, which gives a sweeter flavour. This is the major commercial grapefruit grown in New Zealand. The fruit are medium to large size, thin skinned and juicy with a tangy flavour. It is reasonably seedless if no other citrus is growing nearby.


Wheeny – Considered a true grapefruit with large sized, pale lemon coloured fruit, which are juicy and tart. This variety is less cold tolerant than Golden Special and takes longer to begin fruiting. Once established this grapefruit fruits only every second year.


Cutler Red – Like Golden Special except it has deep red coloured skin and orange-yellow flesh. This good bearer ripens July to August. It has a better crop in cold climates and is fairly seedless if there are no other citrus growing nearby.





Lemons are attractive ornamental trees. In cooler climates they will fruit all year round, whereas in warmer climates they will fruit only in spring and autumn. Harvest lemons when the fruit is all yellow. If you leave them on the tree the fruit loses its flavour but will become very juicy.


Meyer – The hardiest and smallest of all lemons, it will fruit from a young age. It is a medium sized tree that has large crops all year round of fruit that is rounder and less acidic than other lemons.


Yen Ben – An improved selection of Lisbon with large oval shaped fruit. The flesh is very juicy and sharply acidic in flavour.


Lemonade – A cross between a lemon and a mandarin with heavy crops of easy to peel pale lemon fruit. They are delicious and refreshing and can be eaten straight from the tree. It crops throughout autumn and winter.





These are reasonably cold hardy and small trees. Small bright green leaves and prolific crops of fruit make a great ornamental shrub in the garden or containers. The fruit is tart but edible and ideal for marmalade.





Tender small trees that need a frost free, hot area to grow. Limes produce thin skinned green fruit through winter and spring. The juice is delicious in drinks, and the zest is often used in cooking.

Tahiti or Bearss – The best lime for the home garden with small to medium sized, thin skinned fruit. The deep green fruit turns lime yellow at maturity and is seedless, juicy and tangy. The fruit ripens in winter but can hold on the tree until November; after that, it will turn yellow.


Kaffir – The leaves and rind from this lime tree are commonly used in Thai cooking. The fruit is rough and bumpy and is hugely aromatic, as are the leaves. Plant this in pots or in the garden as a background plant.





Mandarins are small trees that are thick and lush and fruit prolifically. Their fruit are small compared to other citrus, and the skins are easy to peel. Mandarins are quite hardy but are often overlooked by the home gardener.


Clementine – A superb small ornamental tree with attractive foliage, fragrant flowers and deep orange skinned fruit that are juicy and delicious. Clementine performs well in cooler climates. Avoid planting close to other citrus because cross pollination will lead to seedy fruit.


Encore – Late bearing with fruit that hold on the tree a lot longer than other varieties.

Satsuma – A small, slow growing shrub that is an ideal container plant. The fruit are small, seedless and very easy to peel with a juicy and sweet, mild flavour. Satsuma varieties are cold hardy. Our two favourite varieties of Satsuma mandarins are:


Silverhill – One of the first mandarins to fruit and a great lunchbox variety.


Aoshima - Late-maturing variety of the satsuma mandarin. Large, attractive fruit with a smooth-textured rind. Vigorous grower, precocious and reliable bearer. Hardier than most once established.


Kawano – Easy-peel satsuma mandarin, with sweet, juicy fruit ripening in winter. Heavy cropper. Vigorous, cold tolerant and a good container plant.


Miho - A superior satsuma selection on a medium-sized tree with heavy crops of sweet, juicy, easy-to-peel fruit, generally seedless. A good container plant; fruit ripens early winter.





These are superb container plants with a structured look, decorative fruit and delightfully scented flowers. As a general rule, oranges like a temperature of 15–30°C.

Navel Oranges – The majority of navel oranges fruit in the early part of the season from late winter till early spring. The fruit is seedless and is characterised by a small secondary fruit embedded in the top of the orange. Our two favourite varieties of Navel oranges are:


Washington – Large seedless fruit with excellent flavour. Ripens July to August.


Navelina – Smaller growing with seedless fruit from July through September. Smooth and juicy.


Harwood Late – Excellent New Zealand-raised variety. High yields of juicy, thin skinned fruit and an excellent flavour on a large (up to 4m) tree.





A cross between a grapefruit and a mandarin, the tree is upright and compact. The tangelo is renowned for its juicy, sweet, rich flavour and is wonderful in desserts and excellent for juicing.





Generally citrus are frost tender but will tolerate frosts better as they age. Keep young plants protected from frost.


Many citrus should not be planted close to other citrus, because they will cross-pollinate the fruit, making it seedy.


For growing tips read our article here 


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