Mandarin Orange Tree Care: Planting A Mandarin Orange Tree
The Chinese are known for their love of fruit trees. They have been cultivating them since ancient times. Mandarins (or mandarins) are one of the most popular fruit trees in China because they’re easy to grow and produce large quantities of juicy fruits year after year. There’s no better time than now to plant a mandarin tree!
A mandarin tree needs a lot of space to grow and thrive. You’ll need at least four feet of space around your new tree so it doesn’t get too crowded. If you don’t have enough room, consider planting it outdoors or in a pot.
You may want to choose a variety with red flesh instead of green flesh, if you like the color better. Red fruits tend to ripen earlier than green ones do and make for sweeter tasting fruit when eaten fresh.
How To Grow A Mandarin Orchard?
There are many different ways to grow mandarins. Some prefer to grow them in containers while others prefer to grow them out in the open. Here’s a quick guide on how to go about each method:
Plant Your Mandarin Orchard Indoors – Indoor mandarins require less care than outdoor varieties because they’re not exposed to direct sunlight all day every day. This is the preferred method for those that live in colder areas. To grow an orchard indoors, follow these steps:
Find a spot in your home that gets around 5 to 6 hours of sunlight a day
Buy a well-draining pot and mix about 1 part peat and 1 part perlite together to form the base of your potting soil. Or you can simply use regular potting soil
Carefully remove your mandarin tree from its pot. Gently shake off any excess soil and remove as many weeds as you can
Place your mandarin tree in the middle of its new pot and fill it up with your base potting soil mixture
Water your mandarin tree until the water starts draining out of the bottom of the pot. Overwatering is just as bad as underwatering, so don’t do it!
Place your mandarin tree in an area that gets plenty of sunlight. The more sunlight it gets, the better
Care for your mandarin tree just like you would outdoors. Water it when the soil dries up and feed it once every couple of months
Plant Your Mandarin Orchard Outdoors – If you’d prefer to grow your mandarins in a natural environment, this is the method for you. It requires a bit more attention and care than an indoor orchard, but the results are well worth it. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
Choose a sunny spot in your yard (or a shadier spot if you live in a place that gets extreme sunlight)
Prepare your soil by digging up a square patch of earth roughly 4 feet wide and 5 feet long. Loosen the soil with a pitchfork and remove any stones or twigs you find
Mix 4 inches of soil with 4 inches of organic matter (such as manure or rotten leaves). Add a generous dose of compost ( at least 2 inches). Stir it all in and repeat the process until your hole is about 12 inches deep
Plant your tree and add more soil until it is roughly the same level as the ground
Water the soil and place a few bricks or rocks around your new mandarin tree to give it a little support until it’s strong enough to stand on its own
Care for your mandarin tree just like you would outdoors. Water it when the soil dries up and feed it once every couple of months
With either method, you’ll want to harvest your mandarins when they’re ripe and ready for eating. As soon as you notice your fruit tree beginning to bud and sprout small green fruits, you can start picking them green too if you prefer that taste. If you leave them on the tree, they’ll grow to full size and be ready to eat in late fall or early winter.
Tips For Growing A Mandarin Orchard
While a single mandarin tree is great for those that live in apartments or simply don’t have the space to grow anything bigger, most people that start growing mandarins end up wanting more. Once you experience the joy of fresh mandarin orange juice in the morning, it can be hard to go back to the store-bought alternative!
If you’re only interested in growing one mandarin tree, then a potted plant is definitely the way to go. You have a lot more control over the type of soil, sunlight and water it receives, allowing you to ensure the best quality fruits. However, if you’re looking to add a few trees around your home or yard, then an orchard is definitely the way to go. Not only do you save money by growing them yourself, but there’s something magical about strolling through your backyard and picking fresh mandarins whenever you like!
Taking Care Of Your Mandarin Orchard
As with any other fruit tree or plant, mandarins do require a bit of work in the upkeep department. Once you’ve chosen your growing method and planted your trees, you’ll need to make sure you care for them as they grow. This will ensure that they bear plenty of delicious mandarins for years to come!
Mandarin trees require ample water to flourish. They should receive at least 2-3 gallons of water per week, either from natural rainfall or from you manually watering them.
Your trees should be planted in a location that receives a lot of direct sunlight. If this isn’t the case, then you can add a bit of limestone to the soil to help sunlight permeate the dirt.
Just like with any other fruit tree, mandarins need their branches to be trimmed and pruned to allow for more sunlight to permeate the inner branches. This is done in early spring and again in late summer. If you don’t want as many mandarins, you can trim the tree back a bit to help it focus its energy on a smaller amount of fruits.
Mandarins require a special blend of fertilizer that contains exactly 0.3-0.5% nitrogen (N), 2-4% phosphate (P2O5) and 4-8% potash (K20). You can get this from most gardening centers or online.
The fruits are usually ripe for plucking during the month of October. You’ll know they’re ready when they feel full and heavy, and when they start to loosen from the branches. Pick regularly to encourage the tree to produce more.
Because mandarins tend to be a bit weak when it comes to disease, you should always try to aim for perfect drainage and aeration around the tree. Poor air circulation can make the fruits go bad very quickly, so be sure to give the tree plenty of room to breathe!
If your trees do come down with disease, there’s really only one major one that you need to worry about: citrus blight. This is when the tree is overcome by a fungus that can quickly kill it. You can try to combat this by adding wood ashes and coal dust to the soil, but if it does get the disease there’s not much you can do except remove the tree to prevent it from spreading.
Scale insects are probably the most common pests found on mandarins. They’re small, immobile creatures that latch onto the branches and stems of your trees, feeding on the sap. You can easily pick them off by hand and squish them when you see them.
If left unchecked, they can really start to take a toll on your tree. Because of this, many people choose to use an insecticide or pesticide of some sort. If you do decide to go down this route, just be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
Planting Your Trees
If you haven’t picked out a spot for your tree yet, I suggest you do so before you plant it. The best place to plant your tree is in full sun, in fairly dry soil. Loosen the soil around the hole that you dug, and be sure to remove any stones or roots that are in the way.
Plant your tree at the same depth that it was in the nursery. If the roots aren’t contained in a burlap wrap, gently unravel them from the container they were packed in and place the roots into the hole. Spread them out evenly, and be sure the base of the tree is at the same level as it was in the container or slightly above the ground.
Fill in around the roots with soil, but don’t pack it too tightly around them. You want there to be some space for the air to be able to pass through. Water it thoroughly after you finish planting it.
If you choose to start your tree out in a different pot than it was in before, make sure that the pot is at least two or three inches larger in diameter than the current pot your tree is in. The roots need plenty of room to grow and move around in the new soil.
Make sure the container is free of any drainage holes, and put a few small stones at the bottom to help with drainage. You want the tree’s roots to be able to breathe, so don’t fill the pot all the way up to the top with soil. You want there to still be plenty of air for the roots to get what they need.
Planting your tree is very similar to when you planted it in its container. Loosen up the soil with a trowel or hoe, and gently place your tree into the ground. Be sure that you keep the base of the tree at the same height that it was in its container, and fill in around it with soil. Again, don’t pack the soil around the roots too tightly. You can water it after you finish planting it to help settle the soil, and to make sure everything is settled in nicely.
After Your Tree Is Planted
After your tree is planted, the only thing you need to do is water and fertilize. How much and how often you do this will depend on a few factors: the time of year, soil type, and general weather conditions are the most important.
Most people don’t know when their trees need to be watered. One of the biggest reasons for this is that most people water way too much, or way too little. Since trees get most of their water through their leaves, you can tell if your tree needs watering if the leaves start turning a grayish color, or if they start to fall off.
The best way to water your tree is with drip irrigation. With drip irrigation, you place small tubes in the soil that slowly trickle water at the root base of the tree. The most important thing about watering this way is that you have to do it very infrequently and only when necessary since all the water the tree needs comes in such small amounts.
Another good way to water is with a soaker hose. A soaker hose is laid out flat on the soil and has small holes throughout its length. The water seeps out slowly through these holes and waters the roots as it goes. The best thing about a soaker hose is that you can turn it on and off as you please.
The one major downside to using a soaker hose is that you have to keep moving it around the various trees you need to water since the water seeps out in a line instead of all over the tree.
After you’ve watered your tree, the last thing you need to do is fertilize it. There are two schools of thought when it comes to fertilizing a fruit tree: slow-release and quick release.
The slow-release fertilizer is best for trees that are going to be in the ground for a long period of time, since it releases the nutrients slowly over the course of several months. This type of fertilizer doesn’t need to be applied nearly as often, so it doesn’t hurt to space it out a little bit.
Quick-release fertilizer is best for fruit trees that are going to be in the ground for a shorter period of time. This type of fertilizer needs to be applied more often since it releases the nutrients quickly. Quick-release fertilizer needs to be applied once or twice per month, and at the very first signs of your tree starting to produce fruit.
Now that your tree is planted, watered, and fertilized, you can sit back and relish the fruits of your labor. Well, maybe not right away, most fruit trees don’t start producing fruit for a few years after being planted. Regardless, you can rest assured that by following these tips your tree is going to grow to be huge and beautiful!
If you’re interested in growing other types of plants or flowers, take a look at my website where I’ve included links to guides for all types of plants that you can plant in your backyard hobby garden.
› Fruit Trees
Sources & references used in this article:
Exploitation of soil arbuscular mycorrhizal potential for AM-dependent mandarin orange plants by pre-cropping with mycotrophic crops by BN Panja, S Chaudhuri – Applied Soil Ecology, 2004 – Elsevier
Effect of foliar application of magnesium and micro-nutrients on growth, yield and fruit quality of mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata Blanco) by RA Ram, TK Bose – Indian journal of Horticulture, 2000 – indianjournals.com
A somatic hybrid plant obtained by protoplast fusion between navel orange (Citrus sinensis) and satsuma mandarin (C. unshiu) by S Kobayashi, T Ohgawara, E Ohgawara… – Plant cell, tissue and …, 1988 – Springer
Sodium exclusion and potassium-sodium selectivity in salt-treated trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) and Cleopatra mandarin (Citrus reticulata) plants by RR Walker – Functional plant biology, 1986 – CSIRO
Zinc stress induces physiological, ultra-structural and biochemical changes in mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata Blanco) seedlings by P Subba, M Mukhopadhyay, SK Mahato… – … Biology of Plants, 2014 – Springer
Plant growth, yield, and fruit quality of ‘Fallglo’and ‘Sunburst’mandarins on four rootstocks by FAA Mourão Filho, E Espinoza-Núñez, ES Stuchi… – Scientia …, 2007 – Elsevier
Sugar accumulation enhanced by osmoregulation in Satsuma mandarin fruit by H Yakushiji, H Nonami, T Fukuyama… – Journal of the …, 1996 – journals.ashs.org
Boron toxicity in ‘Clementine’mandarin plants grafted on two rootstocks by IE Papadakis, KN Dimassi, AM Bosabalidis, IN Therios… – Plant Science, 2004 – Elsevier
Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of embryogenic calluses of Ponkan mandarin and the regeneration of plants containing the chimeric ribonuclease gene by D Li, W Shi, X Deng – Plant Cell Reports, 2002 – Springer