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If your backyard is too small, or even if you live in an apartment, you can still enjoy fresh fruit from your own citrus tree. Dwarf citrus trees come in many varieties and though the trees are small, the fruit they produce is full sized. Here are some of the common varieties of dwarf citrus fruit trees available.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, "Citrus plants that are grown in containers may need to be pruned to keep them a manageable size. Selecting a dwarf variety will minimize the need to prune."
Meyer Lemon - The hardy nature and extended blooming time of the Meyer lemon has made it one of the most popular dwarf trees. It is not a true lemon, but rather a hybrid of a sweet orange and lemon. Its fruit looks more like a large yellowish orange and its juice is sweeter than most other lemons. Many of these trees are labeled as "improved" Meyer lemons. The improved refers to the 1975 virus-free version that was developed by the University of California. Meyers usually bloom in the spring and produce fruit in the fall and winter. This is one of the few citrus trees that do not require direct sunlight to ripen its fruit. If maintained, this tree will grow to about 3 to 5 feet tall and about 3 to 4 feet wide.
Variegated Pink Eureka Lemon - Variegated pink eureka lemons are white and pink when young and grow to become green and yellow striped with a pink flesh. Even the leaves are variegated green and white. They produces a larger fruit than the Meyer lemons. Each spring this tree produces fuchsia colored flowers that should ripen into enough fruit to make lemonade the following fall. They like lots of sun and can be grown outdoors in zones 9 through 11. They Grow at a moderate rate, reaching 12 to 15 feet, if not pruned.
Key Lime - The key lime is also known as the Mexican lime, the West Indian lime, and the bartender lime. They need bright, indirect sunlight with at least 4 hours of direct sunlight, preferably from a window with a southern exposure, and will not bloom if kept in lower light levels. Key limes should be allowed to approach dryness before they are watered and only require average humidity levels. Leaves will begin to drop if the soil gets too wet or too dry. They should be fertilized regularly with an acid-balanced fertilizer. Key Lime will grow 6 to 8 feet, but can be kept smaller with pruning.
Kaffir Lime - If you are into Thai cooking, consider growing the key lime's cousin, the Kaffir lime. Its growing conditions are similar to the key limes, and both its fruit and leaves are a common ingredient in most Thai dishes.
TIP: Karen wants you to know, "Kaffir Lime juice makes a fantastic natural cleaning product. It can be used directly on tough stains or be diluted with water. It has great bleaching properties."
Navel Oranges - Dwarf navel oranges produce white blooms about mid spring that ripen into fruit about 7 to 10 months later. They need full-sun exposure and require direct sunlight in order for the fruit to ripen. In a container, they can grow to about 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Young fruit should be removed from this tree the first year it appears to allow the tree to grow stronger. Outdoors, this plant is agreeable in zones 9 through 11.
Mandarin Orange - There are numerous varieties of Mandarin orange. One of the hardest is the Owari Satsuma Mandarin. (Citrus reticulata 'Owari') It will grow to 10 to 12 feet, high and wide. It can be kept small naturally by pruning. It needs lots of light and at least 4 hours of direct sunlight in order for the fruit to ripen.
TIP: Karen says, "The term Mandarin orange refers a group oranges that have thin, loose skin. This group can be broken in to three subgroups, including Clementines, Tangerine and Satsuma. Some plants that are also referred to as Mandarins may actually be actual a hybrid, crossed with a different citrus fruit."
Oro Blanco Grapefruit - The oro blanco is actually a cross between a white grapefruit and a pummelo. It is sweeter than other white grapefruit, and is capable of producing edible fruit without high heat or direct sunlight. It grows only about 3 feet high and blooms in the spring.
Tangerine - Dwarf tangerine trees are much smaller than other citrus trees, only growing to heights of about 2 to 5 feet with similar spreads. They need lots of light with at least 4 hours of direct sunlight, preferably from a window with a southern exposure. They will not bloom unless they receive enough light. Plenty of ventilation and high humidity are essential for these trees during the summer. In the winter, they should be kept dryer and only watered every 10 days. They can be grown outdoors in zones 9 through 10.
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