You know those little oranges that you buy in big bags at the store? The ones that you can peel into a long strip that taste super sweet? They are called clementines and they are not exclusive to stores. You can grow them at home by having your own clementine!
It sounds too good to be true, but clementines are excellent houseplants that are quite easy to care for. In fact, if you haven’t grown citrus fruits yet, this is a great place to start. Clementines are more durable and forgiving than their parents. In addition, they grow just about the sweetest tangerines on the market!
In this article we will answer all your questions such as “what is a clementine? and how should I grow a tropical fruit in the United States?’. At the end, you are ready to start planting, growing and snacking.
Quick Maintenance Guide
About The Clementine Tree
Clementines are cultivated hybrids that do not grow alone in nature. It is believed that they originated in Southeast Asia, where they are still widely produced. These trees are very suitable for tropical, subtropical and Mediterranean regions.
In the United States, you can grow these tangerines outdoors in growing zones 9-11. If you are not lucky enough to live in such a warm growing area, you can keep the tree indoors and put it out in the summer. Clementines are often grafted, so it is easy to find one with the rootstock of a dwarf tree. These will grow to 6 feet tall instead of 25.
The tree itself is quite ornamental. It has a rounded evergreen canopy of bright green leaves. In the spring, it has fragrant white flowers that turn into 3″ baby tangerines. The fruits ripen from November to February, which gives them the name Christmas orange. They have a thin, loose skin and are usually seedless. This plant usually has thorns, but this is not a decisive factor if you add the fact that it is also known for its high resistance to pests.
Chelsea Vs Chelsea Mandarin: what’s the difference?
They may be similar, but clementines and tangerines are not the same thing. Taxonomically, tangerines are a species of citrus (Citrus reticulata) and clementines are a hybrid variety of this species (Citrus reticulata var. Clementine). The origin of this variety has long been debated, and the current theory is that it is a cross between a mandarin and a sweet orange. So, all clementines are a type of mandarin, but not all tangerines are clementines.
There are tons of other varieties of tangerines-tangerines, Murcotts and satsumas to name just a few. However, of all of them, clementines are the smallest and, in our opinion, one of the sweetest. They are distinguished by their dark yellow-orange peels and stocky oval shape.
Whether by seed or by seed, plant your clementine in spring or autumn. If your growing area allows you to stay outdoors, choose a place with plenty of sun and space. Keep the thorns in mind, because you probably don’t want them to catch you every time you walk around the garden. Give yourself enough space to maneuver easily.
Check the drainage and fertility of the soil, add sand and organic matter if necessary. It should drain well and be filled with nutrients for the new plant. If you plan to grow this tree in a container, choose one that is light enough to move or has wheels.
Planting citrus seeds is quite simple. Remove the starter from the container and dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball. Carefully loosen the roots to bring them into the new soil. Put it in the ground, fill the soil and give it water. You can add a thin layer of mulch on top to retain moisture, especially if it is in the soil.
Sun and temperature
To grow the best citrus fruits, these trees need full sun. Give it the brightest location you have, especially if it is indoors. If you simply do not have a sufficiently sunny indoor place, you may need to supplement it with a grow light. In a pinch, clementine fruit trees tolerate partial shade, but they usually do not produce as well.
This plant can withstand cold temperatures as low as 20°F, but we do not recommend testing this. Exposure to frost can impede fruiting or be life-threatening. Keep your clementines nice and warm at temperatures above 50°F. In extreme heat waves, you want to give them some protection so that they don’t burn.
Outdoors, you need slightly acidic sandy soil. This plant is flexible with other soils, but in order for it to really thrive, these requirements are important. Determine if your soil drains well by watering it and observing how it drains. It should flow out fairly evenly and quickly without puddles. If there is room for improvement, mix sand or perlite.
The best way to determine the pH is to use a home test kit. As mentioned, you need to adjust the soil so that it is slightly acidic or at least balanced. Use commercial acidification of the soil with sulfur and gypsum to gradually bring the soil to a slightly acidic level. Citrus fruits can also grow in neutral soils, but the fruit will often be sweeter if the soil is slightly acidic!
Feed your clementine mandarin every two months of the year (these trees do not sleep). If you prefer to use a slow-release fertilizer, apply it at least in early spring and autumn. We recommend using a citrus fertilizer because they are adapted to the needs of this tree.
You may be wondering how to grow a clementine plant from seeds if the fruit is seedless? Farmers around the world achieve this thanks to a botanical phenomenon – parthenocarpy. Some plants, including clementines, can produce without being fertilized. Since the reproduction process was not triggered by pollination, seeds rarely develop in the fruit.
This mandarin variety requires cross-pollination, so if the tree is isolated or surrounded only by clones of itself, it cannot be pollinated. This allows it to produce in a parthenocarpic way. Likewise, if you keep your plant isolated during flowering, it will produce seedless fruits.
If you come across a clementine with seeds, it means that a brave little bee managed to cross-pollinate it. The plant that grows from this seed may be different from the original tree because it contains DNA from another tree. To prevent the clementine variety from getting lost after multiple cross-pollination, these trees are propagated asexually by grafting.
Harvesting and storage of clementines
You planted, fertilized and cared for your tree like a child. The tree is ready to give something in return.
Your clementines are ready for harvest from the beginning to the middle of winter. Tangerines do not ripen after they are picked, so you need to get them on time. When ripe, the skin turns completely orange without any more green. It will be a little heavy and will give slightly when pressed. Choose it by hand or with a trimmer.
These tangerines do not ripen easily and will last on the tree for months. However, we advise you to pick them before the end of winter to avoid rotting.
A fresh clementine orange lasts about a week in the pantry. Store it in an open container in a dry and cool place for best results. For a longer shelf life, refrigerate your tangerines in an open plastic bag, a mesh bag or simply in the crisper. As they age, tangerines shrivel up and lose their flavor. Remove the overripe tangerines before they spoil the others.
Tangerines can also be dehydrated to be used as tasty and healthy snacks. Place each corner on a dehydrator tray and dry them at 125°F for 10 to 12 hours. Store dried treats in a vacuum-sealed bag.
Yellow leaves are a common but solvable problem. The usual culprit is a lack of sunlight, which is eliminated by moving the location of the tree. If the leaves turn yellow only in the center of the canopy, you need to thin it out so that the sun can reach each leaf.
If your trees are exposed to cold temperatures, even rarely, they may not bear fruit. Avoid this by moving them inside in time. If you don’t think the temperature is the problem, check that your fruit trees are getting enough sunlight.