When I was a kid, growing fruit from pips was a great passion of mine – and the results were sometimes as spectacular as they were varied. Early experiments with unwieldy avocado plants and spindly apples gradually gave way to some real treasures such as a beautiful loquat tree, clothed in shiny, foot-long evergreen leaves that grew to over 10ft tall.
One of my favourite pip-grown progeny, however, was a mandarin tree (Citrus reticulata) that lived in a terracotta pot in the porch in winter, and on the patio in summer. Its smart evergreen leaves and sweetly-scented flowers made it a much-loved plant. If you’ve got somewhere to keep them in winter, such as an cool room (a porch will do, in sheltered areas), then all kinds of citrus are really rewarding to grow.
In my opinion, the best ones to grow are kumquats, calamondin oranges, lemons and mandarins. They are among the hardiest and most compact of the citrus tribe. What’s more, they can flower almost year-round, and often have a flush of blooms in late winter, just when you need a boost.
But how do you grow these fragrant, tasty beauties? Easy, if you follow a few simple rules.
How to grow citrus plants
5 tips for success with mandarins, kumquats, oranges and lemons
- Keep them away from radiators when they’re indoors in the winter. Give them the coolest, brightest spot you can. A windowsill in an unheated spare room is ideal.
- If your kettle has limescale in it, water them with rainwater. They don’t like limy conditions.
- Watch out for pests – critters like mealy bugs, scale insects and aphids will occasionally attack citrus – if you catch infestations early, most can simply be squished or treated easily with an organic insecticide.
- Don’t overwater – wait for the surface of the compost to go dry between waterings.
- Put them outside over the summer. They appreciate a break from indoor life between June and September.
**Don’t forget Bakker Spalding are giving away a FREE mandarin tree with every order when you quote order code IQ.