Clementine Seedling

dutchgirl_z7(z5 Ontario)March 20, 2008

Hi All-

I never watch this forum, but have a question for you experts.

My 7-year old daughter wanted to plant her clementine seed and I thought it would be a good learning experience for her. I didn't think it would actually sprout, but it did. Now she has a seedling with nice form, looks to be getting its first set of true leaves. However, it looks albino to me! Does it need more sun? Fertilizer? Or is this just a normal stage for a clementine? I'd hate to lose it now that its up and looking so good. Advice?

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Hi Dutchgirl..I'm NO expert, but if the leaves are all white, it 'might' be lack of light..albino..I've never sowed Clementine seed so this isn't a definate..
Is your little seedling getting sun? Toni

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 12:46PM
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Hello Dutchgirl,

Citrus trees do not necessarily produce seeds that grow true to type: they often cross-pollinate, and even if they are self-pollinated (since a tree has flowers of both sexes) the seeds can produce a very different fruit if planted and grown. For this reason, commercial citrus trees are typically produced by grafting pieces of known types to rootstocks (often of different types--as a grapefruit cutting will be grafted onto a sour orange rootstock).

Albinism is a very common mutation in citrus seedlings, and commercial growers of rootstock from seeds have to get rid of albino seedlings as a regular part of the process of starting new plants.

I would say that any normal citrus seed that sprouts in a room with even rather dim indoor lighting will show green from the very beginning. In fact, citrus seeds will often sprout within the fruit, if overripe, and those sprouts will have green stems and leaves when the fruit is cut open. If your seedling is truly white, and has received even a moderate amount of light, I think you have a mutation.

If the leaves in the seedling have some chlorophyll you may get it to grow (different types of chlorophyll exist in most leaves, as far as I recall), but it will probably never be a very robust plant.

If the seedling is merely pale green, more light should green it up.

Seedlings usually don't need fertilizer for the first couple of weeks (and an albino seedling will also fit into this category) since the seed will supply nutrients, and if you plant a healthy seedling in fresh potting soil that will often provide some initial fertilizer (the bag will tell you it is something like 1-1-1).

A true albino plant is not going to survive.

After several weeks, if your seedling is normal, you can fertilize with an acid-loving plants fertilizer like Miracid (other posters can and probably will tell you about other options, but this one is easy to use). A very small amount is all that you need--something like a quarter teaspoon in a quart of water. I fertilize actively growing and flowering citrus every 2 to 4 weeks with a teaspoon per gallon.

Even with a seedling, bright direct light (a south or west-facing window) is important for good growth, and you should not allow the soil to dry completely out between waterings, but you should never let the plant sit in water. If the soil looks dry on the surface, I usually water, but a finger pushed into the soil just a quarter of an inch or so will also tell you quite a bit: if it does not feel at all moist, water!

A seedling should be planted first in a very small pot (a three or even two-inch wide plastic pot is fine). When roots begin to grow out of the bottom of the pot or about the time the plant is 8 inches tall, you can move it into a 4 or 5 inch pot. Choosing too large a container too soon will create problems. The most obvious is that the plant is not ready to put roots into the far corners of the container, and thus it will be very hard to keep it properly watered.

If this first plant does not make it, and your daughter decides to try again, tell her it is worth it: I have a sour orange (I planted a seed from a sweet juice orange) tree that is in a 20 inch wide plastic pot and is about 5 feet tall with a two and a quarter inch thick trunk. It flowers and fruits ever year here in Connecticut (I keep it outside during the summer and in the living room in the winter, where it flowers from November or so through February. It will flower again in May when I put it outside. Some years it gets as many as 100 oranges which can be used for cooking or for sour juice in various drinks. I planted the seed when I was about 9 years old, and I am now 43.

I hope this helps,


    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 2:34PM
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dutchgirl_z7(z5 Ontario)

Thanks so much for the information. Don, your last paragraph about your tree that you planted when you were 9 was so encouraging to me! I hope I am helping instill a love for all growing things in my daughter!

I think we do have a little mutant. I've had the little guy by a southern window for several weeks, and I haven't seen any change in color. I do have one sunnier window in the house that I may try yet. It's such a sturdy little thing, though. I'm going to encourage her to try again and see what comes up.

Thanks so much for your help!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 9:11PM
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I believe that Clementine is one of only a few familiar citrus that does NOT grow mainly true from seed (e.g., 90+% of seeds). Clementine, Temple, pummelo are the main ones I think. Your seedling could be anything. But that can be fun too.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 9:49AM
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Don, What is 1-1-1?
I realize this is much after other people have posted,
but i was still wondering.

Thanks! Especially Don and also DutchGirl!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 6:14PM
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