can you grow citrus in north carolina?

kawaiineko_gardener(5a)July 24, 2013

I looked at zone maps and there is zone 8 in north carolina; is it possible to grow citrus without having to to use extensive protection?

The main citrus I'm interested in is oranges, limes, and lemons and the area I'd be looking at would be southern north carolina.

I want a zone that will give me a decent growing season but that isn't really hot and dry like states in the deep south, so zone 8 sounds ideal for that. Would this basically describe the growing zone for north carolina?

I'd also like to be able to direct sow veggies in spring from seed, and have them mature in time before hot weather sets in; is this possible in north carolina?

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I live in Raleigh NC which is zone 7b, or the warmer side of zone 7. There are people growing citrus in this area but not the citrus species you've listed. New hybrids are being developed each year and there are people as far north as Virginia that have grown some of these newer types without much protection. The biggest problem is that citrus fruit take all year to ripen (grapefruit take 14 months!) and most of them ripen in the winter. So even if you can keep your tree alive the fruit will be damaged by freezing nighttime temperatures which can happen as early as late October here. South Carolina has more areas succeeding with citrus and most of them are tangerine or kumquat types of trees, not the standard lemons, limes and oranges you're interested in.

In North Carolina I would think the best areas for citrus would be along the coast but far enough inland to avoid salt spray (salty air travels quite a ways inland from the beach and lots of plants hate it). If you drive along the south coastline you rarely see any citrus in peoples yards or gardens.

In most of zone 8 it gets hot early (not this year). So a lot of the standard garden vegetables are getting ready to pick in June and July which are usually the hottest part of the year.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 10:17AM
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CasaLester RTP, NC (7b)

Even in zone 9a growing citrus is considered problematic:

There is only a small number of 'special' varieties that could grow without protection in zone 8.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cold Hardy Citrus

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 11:08AM
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Ralph Whisnant(z7b-8 NC)

Here in Raleigh we have two Poncirus x Citrus hybrids (one is "Dunstan) at the J C Raulston Arboretum that are about 4 years old and about ten feet tall. They bear fruit heavily and are edible but not close to being as good as their citrus parent. I have a Mandaran orange that is about 6 feet tall but has not yet fruited, but has been hardy outdoors for the past 5 years.
As for growing veggies here, many, many cool weather crops can be started in September and overwintered using frost cloth covers. A few of them may require additional plastic covers on nights that it gets into the low 20's or lower. The past two winters have seen a low of just under 20 F, but lows near 10 used to be common.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 7:59PM
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