Citrus Fruit Information – What Are the Different Types Of Citrus Trees

Citrus Fruit Information – What Are the Different Types Of Citrus Trees

As you’re sitting there at the breakfast table sipping your orange juice, has it ever occurred to you to ask just what citrus trees are? My guess is no but, in fact, there are many different types of citrus, each with their own particular citrus growing requirement and flavor nuances. While you’re drinking your juice, keep reading to find out about different citrus tree varieties and other citrus fruit information.

What are Citrus Trees?

What is the difference between citrus vs. fruit trees? Citrus trees are fruit trees, but fruit trees are not citrus. That is, the fruit is the seed bearing part of the tree that is usually edible, colorful, and fragrant. It is produced from a floral ovary after fertilization. Citrus refers to the shrubs or trees of the family Rutaceae.

Citrus Fruit Information

Citrus cultivars can be found from northeastern India, east through the Malay Archipelago, and south into Australia. Both oranges and pummelos were mentioned in ancient Chinese writings dating from 2,400 BC and lemons were written in Sanskrit around 800 BC.

Of the different types of citrus, sweet oranges are thought to have arisen in India and trifoliate oranges and mandarins in China. Acid citrus varieties most likely derived in Malaysia.

The father of botany, Theophrastus, classified citrus with apple as Malus medica or Malus persicum along with a taxonomic description of citron in 310 BC. Around the time of Christ’s birth, the term “citrus” was erroneously a mispronunciation of the Greek word for cedar cones, ‘Kedros’ or ‘Callistris’, the name for the sandalwood tree.

In the continental United States, citrus was first introduced by the early Spanish explorers in Saint Augustine, Florida in 1565. Citrus production thrived in Florida by the late 1700’s when the first commercial shipments were made. At or around this time, California was introduced to citrus crops, although it was much later that commercial production began there. Today, citrus is grown commercially in Florida, California, Arizona, and Texas.

Citrus Growing Requirements

None of the citrus tree varieties enjoy wet roots. All require excellent drainage and, ideally, sandy loam soil, although citrus can be grown in clay soils if irrigation is managed well. While citrus trees tolerate light shade, they will be more productive when grown in full sun.

Young trees should have suckers pruned out. Mature trees need little to no pruning except to remove diseases or damaged limbs.

Fertilizing citrus trees is important. Fertilize young trees with a product that is specifically for citrus trees throughout the growing season. Apply the fertilizer in a circle that is 3 feet (just under a meter) across around the tree. In the third year of the tree’s life, fertilize 4-5 times per year directly under the tree canopy, all the way to the edge or just a bit beyond.

Citrus Tree Varieties

As mentioned, citrus is a member of the family Rutaceae, sub family Aurantoideae. Citrus is the most economically important genus, but two other genera are included in citriculture, Fortunella and Poncirus.

Kumquats (Fortunella japonica) are small evergreen trees or shrubs native to southern China that can be grown in subtropical regions. Unlike other citrus, kumquats can be eaten in their entirety, including the peel. There are four major cultivars: Nagami, Meiwa, Hong Kong, and Marumi. Once classified as citrus, kumquat is now classified under its own genus and named for the man who introduced them to Europe, Robert Fortune.

Trifoliate orange trees (Poncirus trifoliata) are important for their use as rootstock for citrus, especially in Japan. This deciduous tree thrives in cooler regions and is more frost hardy than other citrus.

There are five commercially important citrus crops:

Sweet orange (C. sinensi) consists of four cultivars: common oranges, blood oranges, navel oranges and acid-less oranges.

Tangerine (C. tangerina) includes tangerines, manadarins, and satsumas as well as any number of hybrids.

Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) is not a true species but it has been granted species status due to its economic importance. Grapefruit is more than likely a naturally occurring hybrid between pommelo and sweet orange and was introduced into Florida in 1809.

Lemon (C. limon) usually lumps together sweet lemons, rough lemons, and Volkamer lemons.

Lime (C. aurantifolia) distinguishes between the two main cultivars, Key and Tahiti, as separate species, although the Kaffir lime, Rangpur lime, and sweet lime may be included under this umbrella.


Kumquats produce fruit that looks similar to oranges but much smaller in round or oval shape. One more different aspect of kumquats is you don’t need to peel off their skin to eat them. The skin is sweet, and pulp is tart.

No need to select a variety growing on dwarf rootstock because these citrus trees are naturally short. Kumquats do best in areas with warm summers and chilly fall/winter nights. They’re hardy down to 10 F (-12 C) for some time, especially the round kumquats. In a really cool climate, bring this fruit tree indoors in winters.

  • ‘Fukushu’ produces sweeter-than-normal fruit and the tree is thornless
  • ‘Meiwa’ is the sweetest, and least-seedy variety of kumquat. Trees are nearly thornless.
  • ‘Tavares Limequat’ is a cross between a kumquat and Mexican lime. The tree is attractive and compact (less than 6 feet tall at maturity)

Citrus Choices for the Panhandle

The panhandle of Florida is a great place to grow citrus with our plentiful sunshine and sandy soil. But some varieties do better than others. Here are some that thrive in the more northerly climes of Florida:

Nagami kumquat. Photo credit: UF/IFAS.

  • Satsuma mandarin is cold hardy to 15°F once established. There are a few different available cultivars with fruit ripening October through December. Fruit needs to be picked promptly when ripe.
  • Kumquat is cold hardy to 10°F once established. ‘Nagami’ and ‘Meiwa’ are the two common cultivars of the small tart fruits. Fruit matures in fall and winter and holds fairly well on the trees.
  • Calamondin is a lesser known variety that bears small fruit that resemble tangerines. The tart fruit is great for jams and chutneys. Fruit is borne all year.
  • Some of the sweet oranges that do well in the panhandle are Navel, Hamlin and Parson Brown. They are cold hardy to 14°F once established and are harvested November through January.
  • Minneola or Honeybell tangelo is also hardy to 14°F and harvested in January. This is a cross between a Duncan grapefruit and a Darcy tangerine. This bell-shaped fruit is very juicy and sweet. Unlike the other citrus varieties, it needs another citrus nearby for cross-pollination in order to produce an abundant crop.
  • Meyer Lemon is the choice to make if you would like to grow lemons in the panhandle. Other lemons may be damaged by our occasional freezes.

Grapefruit and lime can be grown – although unreliably – on the coast with protection from northwestern winter winds. They are much more susceptible to freezes in more northerly panhandle locations.

In order to have the healthiest and most productive trees, learn about how to properly care for citrus and how to recognize and combat the pests and diseases that occur.

Citrus canker symptoms on leaves, fruit and stem. Photo by Timothy Schubert, FDACS

There are threats to our dooryard and commercial citrus from pests and disease. Only vigilance will help to combat the challenges so that we may continue to grow and enjoy our citrus. What can we do to protect our citrus?

  • Report any serious diseases like suspected citrus canker or citrus greening to the Division of Plant Industry by calling toll-free 1-888-397-1517. Inspections and diagnosis are free. Citrus canker has been confirmed in south Santa Rosa County in the past 3 years.
  • Purchase citrus trees only from registered nurseries – they may cost a little more but they have gone through an extensive process to remain disease and pest free. That will save you $ in the long run!
  • Don’t bring plants or fruit back into Florida – they may be harboring a pest!
  • Citrus trees or fruit cannot move in or out of the State of Florida without a permit. This applies to homeowners as well as to the industry. This rule protects our vital dooryard trees and citrus industry.

The tart fruits of the lemon tree (Citrus limon) are damaged when temperatures drop below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Blossoms and young fruit die at 29 degrees. When temperatures reach 22 to 24 degrees, the tree's leaves are damaged and will drop. Lemon trees do not go into dormancy, so freezing temperatures affect them more than other citrus trees. Well-known varieties include 'Eureka' and 'Lisbon.'

The Meyer lemon (Citrus x meyeri) is a hybrid lemon tree from China. Frank Meyer, who found the tree near Peking in 1908, introduced it to the U.S. When temperatures drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the tree may go dormant. It only tolerates short exposures to temperatures of 32 degrees before suffering frost damage. Meyer lemons may be grown as houseplants.

Watch the video: 10 Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits. List of Citrus Fruit and their health benefits. Femina