Clementine Tree: Growing the Cutest Treat

Ed Wike
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Quick Care Guide

The clementine tree (Citrus reticulata) is also known as the Mandarin Orange Tree. It is the unofficial fruit of Israel, and is rich in nutrients. Have you always wanted to grow one of these in your backyard but you didn't know how to do it? A clementine tree is an easy to grow, cold-hardy, low-maintenance citrus tree that grows in hardiness zones 9 to 11.

The clementine tree is a small tree and grows to about 16 to 18 feet tall. As a citrus tree, it requires full sun to thrive and likes to be planted in a warm, frost-free climate. It also needs moist, well-drained soil that is rich in potassium. In return, it will reward you with sweet fruit that will ripen from February to April.

In fact, it will be a while before you see your clementine tree bloom. It will bloom in spring or early summer, with white flowers. The flowers are beautiful and smell sweet, but they don't need to be pollinated. The flowers are followed by small, green fruits that will turn into the fruit that is so recognizable.

About The Clementine Tree

Clementine trees are attractive and perfect to grow if you have limited space. This tree is somewhat of an evergreen, so it is always green, and with proper care, bears fruit each year. Although the flower has a strong citrus smell, the fruit it produces is inedible.

Clementine trees are a small version of Mandarin orange trees. They have small, inedible fruits that are difficult to find in the grocery. They are a source of vitamin C, like lemons and oranges but with less acidity and more sweetness. Some even say these are a sweeter version of the lemon. This fruit tree is easy to grow and can be found in various sizes, but most they will mature to between three and ten feet. This makes them better for small spaces. They are also compact and do not require a lot of maintenance once established. When growing these trees, it is best to plant them in beds that are well drained. This way they do not become susceptible to rot.

Clementines contain Vitamin C and antioxidants, which help promote heart health. As a bonus, the leaves of this tree have a faint lemony scent, which can freshen your room.

Clementine Vs. Mandarin: What’s The Difference?

The clementine and the mandarin are the same citrus fruit. This is in comparison to the orange, which is a different fruit. Many people believe that the clementine are classified as mandarin, or that a mandarin is a type of clementine. Neither is true. The confusion is the result of the history of the fruit and its nomenclature. First, what is a clementine?

The clementine is a variety of mandarin “named” after the saint. In the nineteenth century, Spanish friars brought back small mandarins, that were named “Santine” due to their resemblance to Saint Clement. They were the original seedless fruit, a hybrid mutation of the mysterious Chinese variety. The most notable characteristics of a clementine are the thin peel and the small seed. This makes it the perfect snack, as the peel doesn’t crack or get stuck between one’s teeth. These fruits are usually much smaller than the stereotypical oranges, as they are on the low end of the mandarin family.

The clementine’s thin peel and seed allows the fruit to be packed into a jar and preserved by marinating in a sugary mixture. Eventually, the sugary mixture will ferment, causing the fruit to be preserved in alcohol.

Planting Clementines

Clementine Trees are one of the most versatile and fun small trees on the market. You can keep them in pots as tiny bonsais for easy transplanting or grow them to large sizes. They are cold hardy, requiring only light pruning and watering. They’re incredibly well-behaved, and the fruit is both treat for the eyes and a great snack.

The tree bears fruit in spring and summer. The fruit resembles a tiny orange and is edible. They have a thin skin, similar to that of a mandarin orange. Don’t be fooled, though, you can taste the difference. The skin is less thick and when they are ripe, the seeds are sweet and the inside is fragrant. The small fruits are a great snack or treat. They make lovely additions in salads and garnish to cakes and breads.

Clementine trees can be propagated from seed, softwood cuttings, or hardwood cuttings. Although there are several propagation methods, hardwood cuttings are the recommended method.

Care

Care of a clementine tree is simple. It does not need watering too often. It needs to be placed in a place sunny enough so that you can spend more time enjoying it than keeping it alive.

The most critical part of the care for the clementine tree is care for the fruit. It should never be picked until ripe. The riper it is, the sweeter it is. The first harvest is expected by about January/February, but it can happen anytime between December and March.

Reach up and gently press on the fruit. If it gives just a little bit, it is ready. Identifying the different types of fruit, however, can be tricky. Each fruit has a different feel for ripeness. Some will always be a little bit soft even if they aren’t ready, while others must give a lot before ripening. If you’re not sure, play it safe and leave it on the tree.

When picking the fruit, if you need to do it by hand, the fruit should feel dry to the touch. The ideal harvest time is before the fruit dries. If there is too much wetness, it will spoil. If left too long on the tree, it will spoil as well. Use a dry paper towel to wipe off any excess moisture from the stem.

Sun and Temperature

Clementine trees like moderate temperatures. If you live in an area with intense summer heat, you should grow your tree in partial shade. Clementine trees do well in soil, in raised beds, or potted.

Most oranges are sun lovers, including Clementines. They can survive in partial shade, but the fruit will not be as large as they would be if they receive full sun. Also, if Clementines receive less than four hours of full sun, they may produce fewer flowers and fruits than they would otherwise.

Because of their low acidity, Clementine trees are not frost tolerant. If you live in an area that experiences frost, you will need to winterize your tree.

Watering & Humidity

Clementine trees prefer a lot of water. Keep the soil moist at all times.

A little trick that is not much of a hassle, but makes watering a lot easier, is grouping the trees all together in one area.

So you can just water all the trees at once from underneath by aid of a watering can or hose, rather than having to do it individually.

In comparison with other citrus plants, this fruit tree does not need very much sunlight. So it does not need a separate place in your garden. They do nicely in partly shady areas.

However your clementine tree must be protected from strong winds coming from the northwest.

If winds come from this direction, it will dry out the tree and it might even cause damages.

Your clementine tree must also be protected from direct sunlight in the afternoon. Place it in such a way that your tree can hide behind a smaller tree or a wooden fence.

Be sure to give your clementine tree the right amount of water, at the right time. It needs a lot of water, but during dry winter-times, it can lack moisture and therefore freeze.

If this happens, some of the leaves will die.

Another thing you need to know is that this plant loves humidity. So make sure that you provide your afternoon. Be sure to provide your clementine tree with humidity.

Soil

Most citrus rootstock is not actually a citrus tree. Rather, it is a thick, large, and slow-growing woody bush that resembles a Tang or Starburst citrus fruit. These are usually grafted onto the rootstock and become, in essence, the true plant-based citrus fruit.

The clementine tree is among the most suited rootstock. It is fast growing, low-odor, and immune to many of the citrus diseases and pests so prevalent in Florida's humid orange groves.

Finding the right location for the clementine tree is very important. It is a low-odor variety of citrus, making it good for those living in suburban areas, and it thrives in full sunshine and frost-free zones.

As with any citrus tree, the ideal spot for a clementine tree is in acidic soil that is mulched with compost. This will also help regulate its temperature.

The tree should be placed in a lot that is at least 6 feet wide, so the young clementine tree has plenty of space to grow. These dwarf trees are not likely to grow more than 8 feet tall before the first year. After that, it will continue to grow anywhere from a few feet to 3 feet each year after that.

Fertilizing

The trick, of course, is that clementines don't grow on trees. They grow on shrubs.

As with many citrus trees, the most desirable fruit of a clementine comes from its woody canopy, not the sweet flowers on the ground.

Citrus trees like clementines were selectively bred for centuries to produce uniform results. This also means that some of the rogue plants that pop up around the yard can turn out a very different kind of fruit.

To be able to grow a tree that produces the same trees that you're used to, you'll want to fertilize it using the same blend that your local nurseries use.

That's exactly what you'll find inside of Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food.

Being one of the most trusted names in gardens, Miracle-Gro is sure to produce a superior flowering shrub.

Fertilizing clementines can be a bit tricky. You don't want to feed them too much fertilizer or they'll quite literally explode from ripe. You also want to avoid feeding them too little because that will keep them from flowering (and producing fruit).

Pruning

Don't be fooled by the small size of the fruit; it makes big demands on its support. Clementines require a lot of water and a cool temperature. They are extremely sensitive to frost. When temperatures are below freezing, the trees will be in peril.

The trees can be pruned in the winter or in the early spring. Pruning is necessary for two reasons. The first being that the fruits need to freeze before harvest. In other words, the trees actually use cold temperatures to break down the cells of the fruit. Secondly, the trees need to be pruned back to one or two-year-old branches when pruning. This induces new growth for next year.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is an easy process. Simply prune out all the twigs and small branches (over the 2-year-old age) on the main stem that are 6″ long or shorter, and keep all the branches that are longer that that. This makes for a very easy pruning job that you can do in ten minutes.

One important trick to making these trees bear fruit is to only plant male trees. That is the only way to guarantee that they will bud and flower. If you don't have a gardening friend or family member to give you an extra male tree, just hike a mile or so into the desert and there are bound to be a few growing.

Propagation

Propagation of Clementine is by seeds. They can be planted in pots too. But let it grow inside a frost free greenhouse. An ideal time to plant seed is between August and February. Take a few steps to ensure the seeds germinate successfully.

Prepare the soil. Dig a hole and add the seeds. The hole should be large enough to accommodate for the roots.

Cover with a thin layer of soil and fill in the hole. Make sure the soil is firm around the seeds so that they cannot be dislodged.

Water and wait.

In a few weeks, you would notice the seeds sprouting. Prune them and grow them in warm temperatures.

Cut a half or quarter of the seed and let it dehydrate until it hardens. Then transfer it to a soil-filled pot, loosen the soil and put the cut seed in it.

Keep the soil moist.

The germination period lasts between a few weeks to a few months depending on the seed you are using.

After the seeds germinate, they should be transplanted to bigger pots or containers. Younger seedlings should not be moved.

Container size is crucial. A transplanted seedling would require a bigger container to keep the stem upright. Free root space is preferred. Fill the container with a loose soil and make sure the seedling is not buried.

Harvesting and Storing Clementines

Clementine is the small orange fruit that is the most popular variety of mandarin oranges. This fruit is the fruit of the clementine tree. It is also known as the Malta Mandarin, Menton Mandarin, or just Mandarin.

The small mandarin oranges that are now found on trees in parts of California and the southern Mediterranean coast of France were once only a winter snack in the American states of Arizona, California and Texas. Now, though, many more people are growing these small mandarin oranges, and they're becoming more popular than ever.

To grow this fruit, you need to plant a specific tree variety, known as the San Diego Late Dwarf Mandarin, also known as ¡¡Clementine. This tree is rapidly gaining popularity for the tasty fruit it can produce when given the right conditions and pampering.

These will produce a new crop of fruit that is just the right size for harvesting at the end of the winter, which is the reason the trees are also called "winter mandarins." They are actually more closely related to [non othe oranges than any other mandarin varieties.

Once the fruit matures, you can pick it directly off the tree. Citrus fruits are never as good after they have been picked, so you should try to harvest them as soon as they're ripe.

Harvesting

There are two ways to harvest clementines. You can either pick the fruit off tree before they reach peak taste, or you can leave them on the plant to ripen until they are ready to be picked. Either way, the harvest season is short.

While the fruit is not completely ripe, you should wait for the color to increase and tinge on the ends of the fruit. The expected color at complete ripeness is the color of the fruit's flesh, which is either yellow for Tunepale or reddish orange for Blush.

Try to harvest them at the peak to get the best taste.

Clementines can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or stored at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Storing

As they are cold sensitive, they are not really adapted to the conditions outside, but inside they are a pleasure to grow. A really interesting thing about them is that they are actually the fruit of a kind of cross between a Mandarin orange and a tangerine. What is really interesting about this is that it means that you can grow a really unique and tasty citrus fruit from a Clementine seed.

If you are a fan of tangy citrus fruit, you can grow a citrus tree that can help you grow that in your own home. They are a very easy plant to grow. You can also make use of the amazing fruit they produce and profit from it. Learn how to grow your own Clementine Tree and you can have a great big, juicy fruit to snack on whenever you like. Your kids or the family pet will love them too!

Troubleshooting

Some Damage to Small Fruits

A common problem when growing fruit trees is damage and rot to fruits. The quality of fruits produced by the clementine tree will be the same whether they are eaten fresh, juiced, or made into preserves. Keep in mind that fruits damaged by thrips or bacterial spot may become deformed or never fully ripen, so monitor trees for these problems and remove the damaged fruits as they appear. Let the fruit ripen on the tree as long as possible to ensure the best flavor. Fruits may be picked earlier if they are not fully red.

The dark wedges or marks found on some fruits can be caused by a variety of environmental issues. Weather conditions can cause fruits to burn; excessive sunlight can result in sunscald or sun burning, which often appears as brownish-yellow marks instead of the darker brown, tan, or black irregularly shaped marks of sunburn.

Chilling injury to the fruits is often referred to as bitter pit, and it is caused by environmental stress. It causes the flesh of the fruit to turn bitter. To prevent this condition, ensure that the fruits receive adequate sunlight and watering, especially when they are forming, and that the tree is in a location where it receives adequate sunlight. Prune plants so they get maximum sunlight each day, and ensure that the tree has adequate airflow.

Growing Problems

This citrus tree is not only easy to grow but it also bears fruit all year. The 'Tahitian' cultivar of sweet orange is especially suited for home gardens. It bears fruit about 100 days after planting and its flowers are fragrant. Yuma, Arizona has very arid conditions and the sweet orange thrives.

Yuma is the most popular location for growing clementines. While it is considered subtropical, it falls in USDA zone 9-11. Home gardeners in Phoenix should grow the 'Success' sweet orange. It typically requires 85-95 days to fruit. Once harvested, the trees need a relatively low amount of maintenance. Yuma has a Mediterranean climate which keeps the temperatures quite moderate. The average minimum winter temperature is 57°F and the average maximum summer temperatures is 85°F. Yuma, Arizona rarely gets cold enough for the trees to go into dormancy.

An ideal winter freeze will damage the leaves and buds but the cold temperatures will not kill the trees. In the spring when the temperatures warm up, you will see the buds swell and the leaves will begin to come back.

Pests

The most common pests you’ll find on a clementine tree are whitefly, scales, aphids, and thrips. Whiteflies are tiny white insects that cling to the underside of leaves. The best way to control these usually come from below.

Trap them on sticky bandanas laid on the ground lightly around the base of the tree. Any other pesticide usage on clementines is rare, and usually only required because of some extreme infestation.

The more common problem with growing clementines in the ground is diseases. The most common disease affecting clementines are foliar and citrus canker, and root-rot diseases.

Foliar diseases are caused by bacterial infections. They show up as spots and discoloration on the leaves. They are mostly cosmetic, but can make the fruit lesser quality. The only way to control this is to prevent it by good, healthy pruning and supporting the tree as it grows.

Citrus canker shows up as black spots on the older, larger leaves. As the leaves get infected, they start to drop off and the fruit will be unlikable. To prevent this, make sure to have good drainage, so that the tree does not sit in water.

Diseases

Clementines are typically a disease-resistant citrus tree that doesn’t need as much pampering as other citrus trees. However, there are a few dings that can cause the clementine tree to suffer and die. Some of them can be cured, but some are incurable.

The most common diseases you will find on the clementine tree are:

  • Powdery mildew
  • Oidium
  • Fusarium Wilt
  • Citrus Canker

Clementine diseases are fatal once they have become fully established. The only thing you can do is preventative measures, like growing a disease-resistant variety or using a good pruning regimen.

Citrus canker is usually caused by a bacterial infection that causes the leaf—and then the fruit—to die. It’s typically found at the base of the trees and its fruit and leaves turn brown and fall off. It’s incurable.

Fusarium wilt is caused by a fungus that stays in the soil and spreads through contact. It’s deadly, and you can’t cure it.

The best way to prevent it is to avoid planting your trees within hours of previous tree-falls.

Frequently Asked Questions

Best time to plant is Fall so that the tree can get established before the cold winter months.

Does it produce fruit? Yes, it does produce fruit but the flavor is a little tangy, citrus flavor and it's not a sweet fruit. It's also a little high maintenance to grow.

How big does the tree grow? The cilantro is actually a miniature tree. It will grow to about six feet tall, maybe smaller depending on the variety.

How much does the tree produce? The cilantro tree produces the most prolifically in the early months of the garden so that would be December, January, February. It continues to produce and then trail off in the summer months but you still get a nice amount of fruit even in the summer.

How much space does the tree take up? The tree is about four to five feet tall. When you harvest the cilantro it can be trimmed to take up less space.

Secret to a successful cilantro grow: One tip is to take a little pair of sharp scissors and you can get a lot more cilantro out of the plant than you would just pulling with your hands. Just clip the stems. You can actually then pull out the younger growth if you have a little cutting garden. It doesn't take much more effort but it gives you a second life to the plants so that you can get a lot more harvest out of the variety.