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Calamondin orange trees are small citrus fruit trees popular for their delicious, tangy fruits that are a cross or a hybrid between a mandarin and a kumquat. They’re great for adding color and fragrance to your garden or indoor space, and their fragrant blossoms attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Calamondin oranges are rich in vitamin C and other nutrients and are easy to grow and maintain, making them perfect for both novice and experienced gardeners.
If you’re looking for a beautiful and practical addition to your garden or home, consider growing a calamondin orange tree with all the helpful tips in this beginner’s guide.
About Calamondin Oranges
Calamondin orange (Citrus microcarpa or Citrus × microcarpa) are small, evergreen trees that can grow up to 6-10 feet tall. They’ve glossy, dark green leaves and fragrant white flowers that bloom throughout the year.
These trees are believed to have originated in China and were later introduced to the Philippines, where they became popular in the 19th century. They were brought to the United States in the early 1900s and have since been cultivated in Florida and other warm regions.
The calamondin orange is about the size of a golf ball and has thin, smooth, orange-red skin. The fruit is very acidic and has a tart flavor that’s like a lime or a sour orange.
Calamondin oranges are versatile and flavorful fruit that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. They’re commonly used in cooking and are often used to make marmalades, jams, and marinades, and in Asian cuisine where they’re used in stir-fries and noodle dishes. The juice from calamondin oranges can be used in cocktails and other beverages.
Today, calamondin orange trees are grown not only for their fruit, but also for their ornamental value. They’re a popular choice for home gardens and indoor spaces, and their fragrant blossoms and colorful fruit make them a beloved addition to any space.
How to Propagate Calamondin Orange Trees
There are two ways to propagate calamondin orange trees, from stem cuttings and from seeds.
You can grow Calamondin orange trees from two types of cuttings:
- Hardwood cutting taken when the plant is entering dormancy in the fall.
- Softwood cuttings taken when the plant is growing actively in the spring.
Whichever stage you choose, follow these steps when propagating from cuttings:
- Select a branch that doesn’t have flowers or fruit on it and make an 8-inch cutting. If you cut a branch with flowers or fruit, the plant focuses its energy on growing fruit, rather than growing roots.
- Take a rooting hormone and dip the cut end of the cutting it after removing leaves from the bottom half.
- Then fill a pot with pre-moistened acidic soil and gently press the cutting in it. Create a mini greenhouse by placing a straw next to the plant and covering the whole thing with a plastic bag. The growing seedlings stay safe from squashing as the straw keeps the plastic bag upright.
- Put this container on a sunny windowsill and moisten the soil from time to time. It takes about 2-4 weeks for roots to start growing. When you notice new leaves growing on the cutting, this is a sign that roots are growing, as when the plant is without roots, no new leaves can grow.
- When roots and shoots start growing, remove the plastic bag and wait for the plant to start fruiting in approximately a couple of hours.
It’s easy to grow calamondin orange trees from seed. Just take fresh seeds from recently harvested fruit and follow these steps:
- Prepare a container with pre-moistened and slightly acidic soil and sow the seed ½ inches deep.
- Create a mini greenhouse by covering the container with a plastic bag.
- Keep the soil moist and place the container in a sunny windowsill.
- Keep the environment warm, around 70F as the germination is faster in warmer conditions. You can use a heat mat to provide warmth.
- It can take about 3-6 weeks for the seeds to germinate, and when you see shoots growing, you can remove the plastic and grow the plant normally.
How to Care for Calamondin Orange Trees
Here are some areas to consider when growing a calamondin orange tree.
The calamondin orange trees should get as much sunlight as is possible with at least 4 hours of direct sunlight every day. The plant tends to grow towards the light source, so turn it a quarter turn each week to keep it growing upright rather than curving towards the light. To give your plant a boost, place it outdoors for some warm months.
These plants grow in humid conditions, with moderate 40-50% humidity. If the air is too dry, then the flowers may start to drop off. To keep the air humid, mist the leaves during morning, but never mist it when hot, direct sunlight is falling on the leaves as it can burn the leaves. You can also use a room humidifier or place the plant pot in a pebble tray to increase the humidity.
A citrus tree dies out is the soil is soggy as this would cause root rot. Water the plant thoroughly and allow the soil to be dry to touch before next watering.
Citrus trees don’t like to grow in soggy soil, so use well-draining soil with a potting mix based on peat moss that has added vermiculite and/or perlite to drain faster.
All through the year, calamondin orange trees grow at temperatures 65-75F (18-24C). In winters, they can tolerate temperature as low as 50°F/10°C and in summers, as high as 80°F/27°C. The plants don’t like blasts of cold air, so keep them away from the doorways in winter and heat vents.
Organic fruit fertilizer is best for calamondin orange trees as it contains all the necessary nutrients for healthy root growth and for promoting flowers and fruits.
Harvesting and Storing Calamondin Oranges
These oranges may take almost a year to fully ripen and turn orange, and that’s when they become the sweetest. If you wish to use them in place of lemon or limes, for a sour flavor, then harvest the fruit when half-ripe, when they have developed just a tint of orange color.
Use scissors or small pruners to harvest the oranges carefully by cutting the stem from the branch as the fruits are very thin and fragile. If you attempt to pluck them by hand, then the fruit may burst as the rind tears.
The oranges start decaying just when you cut them from the tree, which means they need to be used within a week as they don’t stay for long. If storing in the refrigerator, store them in the crisper drawer where they should last for up to 3 weeks.
Tips for Growing Calamondin Orange Tree
Always keep in mind the following tips when growing calamondin orange trees:
Prune The Plant
When you see new growth starting in spring, prune the plant to prevent it from becoming leggy. If you prune the plant in spring, new branches will start growing just below the cut. For effective pruning, carefully using scissors or a knife, cut at the place where a leaf attaches to the stem, just after a leaf node.
Re-pot The Plant Every Two Years
If the plant becomes overpotted, it stops blooming. Until the plants become 3 or 4 years old, keep them in a 6 in (15 cm) diameter pot. Then re-pot it to a container with an 8 in (20 cm) diameter. Keep in mind that you should not bury the plant deeper into the soil when repotting as the buried stems will rot. To grow calamondin trees, always use a pot with proper drainage.
Hand-Pollinate the Plants
When calamondin orange trees are grown indoors, you need to pollinate them yourself to start fruit production. This is easily done by wiggling a brush around the center of every flower and moving the brush from flower to flower. This process imitates the bees carrying pollen from male to female flowers.
Common Problems with Calamondin Orange Trees
Even with the best of care provided, your calamondin orange tree might still have other problems you will need to solve. Let’s look at some problems that indoor gardeners often face while growing calamondin orange trees and some tips to solve these.
1. Insect Problems
Scale insects are the common small, round-shaped, brown-colored insects that are attracted to the leaves and stems of all citrus trees. You can scrape off scales by hand to prevent them from damaging the edible fruits.
You can dip a cotton swab in vegetable oil and dab the scale insects to loosen them if you find it difficult to remove them by hand.
2. No Blooms
There are two problems that might be the reason for the tree not producing blooms: the plant is over-fertilized, or the pot is very big. To solve the first problem, just feed it once every couple of weeks during spring and summer and once each month during winter and fall. To solve the second problem, keep the young plants in a pot with no bigger diameter than 15 cm or 6 inches.
3. No Fruits
Lack of pollination and dry air may be the reason for the calamondin orange tree not producing fruit or if the flowers start to drop before they set fruits. Carry out pollination yourself by the method mentioned above and increase the humidity level near your plant by spraying it with water or using a pebble tray.
4. Leggy Tree
You need to prune back the tree if it becomes leggy. The best time for pruning is during the spring, when you can cut back the long branches before new branches start going to keep the plant compact and bushy. When you clip the old branches, new branches start growing.
FAQs on Growing Calamondin Orange Trees
Yes, calamondin oranges are edible and can be used in cooking and baking.
Another name for calamondin orange is the Philippine lime.
Calamondin oranges are not the same as kumquats, but they’re often compared to them because of their small size and tart flavor.
Australian calamondin is a variety of calamondin orange, but it’s not the same as calamansi, which is a different type of citrus fruit commonly used in Filipino cuisine.
Calamondin orange trees typically take 2-3 years to begin producing fruit and will continue to produce fruit for up to 20 years with proper care.
The best place to plant calamondin is in a warm, sunny location with well-draining soil. They can be planted outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9-11 or grown indoors in containers.
To grow calamondin oranges, plant them in well-draining soil and keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Fertilize regularly and provide plenty of sunlight and warmth.
Calamondin oranges prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. A well-draining soil mix with added organic matter, such as compost or peat moss, can help provide the best growing conditions for your tree.
Calamondin orange trees are easy to grow and maintain and the small, tangy fruits that are perfect for cooking and making beverages are a bonus.
Beyond their delicious fruit, calamondin orange trees have ornamental value and add beauty and fragrance to any indoor or outdoor space.
If you’re looking for a versatile and low-maintenance fruit tree that adds both aesthetic and culinary value to your home, consider growing a calamondin orange tree.