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Growing Mandarin Oranges / Tangerines: Citrus reticulata

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A member of the Rue family. Modern citrus fruits, according to genetic analysis, are complex hybrids arising from mandarin, pummelo, citron and pepeda ancestors, refined by more than four thousand years of cultivation. Mandarins, known for their thin, loose peels and sweet flavor, are often classified into groups based on where they were developed, such as Mediterranean, King (Indonesia and the Philippines) and Satsuma (Japan). There are hundreds, if not thousands of mandarin cultivars. The word tangerine, originally designating mandarins from Tangiers, Morocco, is used now to describe all mandarins or just selected cultivars.

Form: Tree.
Lifespan: 20-30 productive years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Moderate.
Mature Size: 9-15' high and as wide.
Flowers: Five narrow, white petals, long white, yellow-tipped stamens, fragrant, from red-tinged buds.
Bloom: Late winter and/or spring. Some cultivars tend to bloom more in alternate years.
Self-fruitful: Yes, except for Clementine and Minneola which need a second compatible cultivar nearby for pollination.
Years before fruiting: 3-4 for trees with grafted rootstocks.
Fruit: Orange, thin peel often loose or easily removed, smaller and less round, sweeter, less acidic and stronger flavor than the typical orange.
Months for fruit to ripen: 12. Mandarins do not ripen further once picked and must be left on the tree until ripe. Some cultivars must be fully colored to be ripe, others can be light green (especially Satsumas). To tell if the fruit are ripe, one must be removed from the tree and tasted. It is ripe when sweet. If sour, they need to stay on the tree longer. Rainfall and temperature determine ripening times and will vary from year to year. Leaving the fruit on the tree after ripening will cause it to become sweeter as acidity is reduced. Remove fruit from the tree using clippers, cutting the stem close to the fruit. Pulling a fruit from the stem will tear a gap in the skin.
Storage after harvest: Mandarins can be refrigerated up to six weeks. They can be kept at room temperature one week.
Leaves: Dark green, glossy, lance-shaped.
Stems: Slender, sometimes thorny.
Roots: Usually grafted onto a hardy rootstock appropriate for a particular region's soil and climate.
Cultivars of Note:
'Clementine' a small hybrid of mandarin and sweet orange.
'Changsha' one of the most cold-hardy of all sweet citrus.
'Dancy' a commercially grown tangerine, seedy.
'Gold Nugget' seedless, excellent flavor, medium-sized tree, fairly vigorous.
'Ortanique' / 'Tangor' a mandarin and sweet orange cross with a unique flavor. Also known as Temple Orange.
'Owari' a Satsuma type originating in Japan, cold-hardy, productive, vigorous.
'Ponkan' most widely grown throughout world, seedy, mild flavor, medium-sized tree, vigorous, less cold-hardy.
'Tangelo / Minneola / Honeybell' a cross between a mandarin and either a grapefruit or a pummelo. Not self-pollinating.
Wildlife: Attracts bees and birds.
Toxic / Danger: Thorns on some cultivars.
Origin: China and Southeast Asia.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 8b-11 after three years in the ground. 7b-10 for 'Changsha' after three years.
Sunset climate zones:
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Yes for Owari. Most cultivars prefer temperatures below 90°F.
Sun: Full sun. Tolerates part shade. Afternoon shade needed when temperatures are over 90°F.
Drought tolerant: Somewhat, after three years, but not without damage to fruit crop.
Water after becoming established: Weekly between June and September, allowing for rain. The top one inch of soil should dry out, but do not allow soil to become completely dry. Water may be needed more frequently in the hottest months of the year. Young trees need water more often than older trees even though older trees need more water in total.
Soil: Well drained, low salinity, pH 6-7.5 (slightly acidic to neutral). A pH of 6.5 is ideal. Alkaline soil may result in iron deficiency. Poorly draining soil results in root rot and poor performance.
Fertilize: Apply a citrus fertilizer mid-February, May, and early October. Follow directions on package. Or, if using organic fertilizer, apply every month from mid-February to early October. Do not fertilize after October to keep the plant from producing new growth that will be harmed by early frost.
Mulch: In spring, remove previous year's mulch and put down a new layer of organic mulch to reduce water loss and reduce weeds. Keep at least 6" away from trunk to avoid collar rot.
Planting: May be grown in large containers.
First Year Care: Remove all fruit, if any, when first planted. Remove all fruit developing in first three years so plant will direct energy to growing roots, branches and leaves. Water weekly between June and September, allowing for rain. The top few inches of soil can dry out, but do not allow soil to become completely dry.
Prune: Do not prune until spring because leaves store their maximum food in mid winter and pruning then will reduce flowering and fruit set. In spring, remove excess young fruit during heavy set years. Remove weeds above roots by hand-pulling, not with tools that can damage shallow roots. When shaping into a tree, unshaded trunks and branches should be painted with white tree trunk paint to protect against sunscald.
Litter: Leaves throughout the year, mostly during flowering. Flower and fruit drop in spring and summer as tree self-regulates the number of fruit it can bear.
Propagation: Seed, cuttings.
Uses: Fruit, ornamental, shade.

Seedless cultivars are available.

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