Dr. Eddie Seagle

Dr. Eddie Seagle

A healthy outside starts from the inside.” -Robert Urich.

“A little lemon juice makes everything taste better.” -Virginia Danbar.

Even though celebrations will continue throughout the weekend, another holiday has come and gone. The heat of the summer is upon us as we experience the middle of the trifecta of June, July and August. Next holiday is Labor Day which officially ends the beach season and the heat trifecta months. Let’s talk citrus in south Georgia!

Citrus fills many functions in your landscape, both edible and ornamental. Full-size citrus grows about 20 feet in height, while dwarf varieties can be maintained under 6 feet in height. Citrus need sunlight with 6 hours being ideal; however, lemons and limes can survive with less. Temperature is very important. Most varieties tolerate light frosts; kumquats and calamondins are the hardiest and lemons and limes are the most susceptible. High temperatures promote sweet grapefruits, oranges, and tangerines.

Consider citrus for hedges along the driveway or across the lawn. Placement near a patio or bedroom window provides an immediate sweet aroma in the spring. The smell of citrus flowers is intensely divine! And, citrus flowers are also a haven for butterflies.

Shrubs and trees (such as the grapefruit, lemon, and orange) in the genus Citrus are evergreen, flowering plants usually with spines, leathery and aromatic leaves, and juicy edible fruits surrounded by a leathery aromatic rind. Citrus is a common term for these plants and there are two types (sweet and acid) that can be grown in our landscapes for fruit and aesthetics. Environmental conditions, cultural practices, and pest activity can dictate the degree of success achieved in growing citrus in this area.

The sweet types of citrus include grapefruit, mandarins and sweet oranges which grow into appealing, medium to large trees. Grapefruit do not withstand cooler temperatures very well. The farther the site is from the warm coastal areas, the more difficult they are to grow and survive. Redblush and Star Ruby (red fruit) and Marsh (white fruit) are seedless cultivars which are often planted with favorable success.  Royal and Triumph (white fruit) are seedy varieties that offer good fruit quality.

The mandarin class of citrus has loose skin (easily peeled), deep coloration and good flavor. Such citrus include the mandarins, satsumas, and tangerines. The terms mandarin and tangerine are often used to identify the same loose-skinned fruit depending on where you are. What is called a mandarin in California may be called a tangerine in Florida. Cross pollination is necessary for best fruiting of most tangerine varieties.

The satsuma which is self-fruitful will tolerate colder temperatures and produce more consistent fruits than other types of sweet citrus. Thus, these fruits grow very well in south Georgia. Cultivars include Owari, Silverhill and Changsha. With satsumas, the fruits may be fully ripened while the peel is still green.

The tangerine is also another good type of citrus to plant because of its cold tolerance. The satsumas and tangerines are more cold tolerant than grapefruit and sweet oranges. Cultivars of tangerine include Dancy (self-fruitful), Ponkan (self-fruitful), and Clementine (cross pollination).

The tangelos are tangerine-grapefruit hybrids that produce loose-skinned, tangerine-like fruits. Cultivars include Orlando, Lee, Robinson, Osceola, Nova and Page. However, plant alongside Dancy or Clementine for cross pollination for best fruiting.

If an effort is made to grow sweet oranges, then cold protection will also be needed (cold damage occurs at or below 20 degrees F). Cultivars include Hamlin and Ambersweet. The naval orange is also a good choice to grow. Cultivars include Washington, Dream and Summerfield.

The acid types of citrus provide favorable fruits and make effective ornamental specimens. They are self-fruitful and do not require cross pollination. The kumquats are the most cold tolerant of this group. They will withstand temperatures as low as 15 degrees F. The small orange-like fruit is about one inch in diameter and can be eaten fresh (peel and all) or used in making jellies, marmalade and candies. Cultivars include Nagami (oblong to pear-shaped fruit with acid pulp), Marumi (round and sweet) and Meiwa (round and sweet).

The calamondins have small, round fruits with acid pulp and look like a tangerine. These can be grown as a container planting, either indoors or outdoors, and have good cold tolerance (low 20’s degrees F). The fruits are yellow to orange in color and can be used as lemon or lime substitutes.

The lemon is another good choice of citrus for the landscape and will tolerate temperatures in the mid 20’s degrees F. Meyer is a good cold-tolerant cultivar. The limequat is a very cold tolerant (low 20’s degrees F) lime-kumquat hybrid which makes a very attractive container plant. They produce fruit resembling the lime in looks and quality. Eustis, Lakeland and Tavares are cultivars of the limequat.

The Thomasville citrangequat is a cold hardy citrus tree with good fruit and makes a great lime substitute with a kumquat/orange flavor. The tree is named for Thomasville, Georgia where it first fruited and will tolerate temperatures to 5 degrees F once established.

Citrus trees are self-fruitful and do not require cross-pollination, excepting Clementine tangerines and Orlando tangelos. The self-fruitful types of citrus may be grown as single trees in the landscape for aesthetics and fruit. They produce fruit best when grown in full sun, but large tree canopies can provide some degree of winter protection. Do not plant these trees near septic tanks or drain fields. Citrus trees do best in sandy loam soils with good drainage.

Ten health benefits of lemons and limes include assisting the nervous system, promoting a healthy heart, detoxifying your body, introducing anti-oxidants, relieving constipation, lowering blood pressure, inducing good sleep, alkalizing your body, introducing anti-viral compounds, and relieving heartburn (eathealthylivefit.com).

The benefits of oranges include fiber to promote healthy digestion, folate to help the body form red blood cells, good source of immune-boosting vitamin C, potassium to insure healthy heart, vitamin A to keep vision clear and eyes healthy, calcium for hrealthy and strong bones, and vitamin B1 to aid in energy production, especially in the muscles (www.authenticselfwellness.com).

If you elect to grow citrus in your home landscape, research your choice before purchasing in order to fully understand what is needed to keep the plants healthy and attractive. Look for citrus that are cold tolerant and do well in the south Georgia environment.

“In Him [Jesus our Lord] and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12.

Seagle is a Sustainability Associate, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland), Agronomist and Horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International), Professor Emeritus and Honorary Alumnus (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), Distinguished Professor for Teaching and Learning (University System of Georgia) and Short Term Missionary (Heritage Church, Moultrie). Direct inquiries to csi_seagle @yahoo.com.

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