Garden Plant of the Month for March: Citrus trees


A lasting holiday feeling on your patio
Beautiful colours, sweet scents and – if you’re lucky – a modest harvest of fruit; all those on their own are enough to make a citrus tree a lovely addition to the garden. But this Mediterranean beauty is also evergreen, So you can enjoy it all year long. The trees of the mandarin, lemon, lime, orange, kumquat and grapefruit each look slightly different, but they all have a sturdy trunk with a green crown. Another similarity is that they produce lots of blossom, like a warm and sunny spot, and lend an exotic note to your patio or balcony. They’re classic container plants that need lots of light in both summer and winter.


The origin of the citrus trees

Most citrus trees originate from South-East Asia. The Romans planted the trees in their gardens in 200 AD. The first trees came to Western Europe in around 1200. Initially the plants were protected from frost in sheds using a fire. Later orangeries were built in which the ‘orange trees’ could spend the winter. Their orange fruit means that the trees give you a lasting holiday feeling in the garden or on the patio,  but also when the plants are placed indoors in the living room.

Citrofortunella microcarpa (Calamondin) is a cross between the genuses of citrus and fortunella. The other citrus species are virtually all imported from countries around the Mediterranean nowadays. Examples include: Citrus limon (lemon), Citrus reticulata (mandarin), Citrus sinensis (orange) and the genus Fortunella (kumquat) containing the species Fortunella japonica (small round fruit) and Fortunella margarita (oval orange fruit).


Citrofortunella: mini-oranges

The genus Citrus includes fruit such as oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit and kumquats. There is also a mini orange tree: Citrofortunella microcarpa. The name ‘microcarpa’ indicates that the plant bears a small fruit. It’s an evergreen tree, and the white flowers produce a delectable jasmine fragrance. The plants often bear buds, flowers and fruit at the same time. The plants come in various sizes, from small handy ‘table trees’ to sizeable trees with small orange fruit. You can make jam or marmalade from the fruit.


Caring for Citrofortunella

Citrofortunella likes a light, sunny spot and moderate (rain) watering. It also needs regular feeding. The plants like a slightly acid soil, so it’s a good idea to mix potting soil with some garden turf. You can pollinate the flowers yourself with your thumb or a brush in order to ensure that the plant produces enough fruit. It takes about a year for the fruit to ripen.

The plants can be placed in the garden or on the balcony or patio in full sun from mid-March to October. You should keep an eye on the night-time temperature, since the plants don’t like night frosts. And allow the plant to acclimatise to bright sunlight in the first few weeks, otherwise it will scorch. The orange tree can be brought indoors in October before the first night frost, and overwinter in a frost-free spot. This can be in the living room, or in a conservatory or greenhouse.


Citrofortunella training tips

These orange trees can be grown as a standard or as a bush. It’s best to prune in the spring to keep plants growing vigorously and healthy. After pruning the plant will produce more shoots, but it will then take a little while before it starts flowering and producing fruit again. You should therefore limit pruning to shaping the plant or removing stray shoots.  Do trim off the side shoots on a standard product, in order to achieve and retain an attractive trunk.


More information about Citrofortunella and other garden plants can be found at


Garden Plant of the Month

Citrofortunella is in the spotlight in March as the Garden Plant of the Month. ‘Garden Plant of the Month’ is an initiative by Growers and horticultural specialists from the floriculture sector select a garden plant every month at the request of in order to inspire and enthuse. Because a garden isn’t a garden without plants.