Help me with a lemon and orange tree

DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)October 1, 2012

I want to plant 2 citrus trees (one orange and one lemon) that will be able to be maintained in tree-form and at about 15 feet tall. Hardiness, rapid growth rate, eating quality are hopeful considerations. Home is in central Tucson, AZ. Eastern exposure, but next to a 7 foot stucco wall. This will likey create somewhat of a warmer micro climate in the winter. Noticed a row of citrus near Beyond Bread on Campbell in Tucson that are of the physical look I would like. I dont know how to identify the species, but I would guess they were orange trees. I will attach a picture of the grouping. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I will be purchasing the largest container size I can find and would like to get this done during the next 6 weeks to take advantage of the planting season. Any sources for large citrus would also be appreciated.

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cayden(9)

DocHollywood, glad to see another Tucsonan in the forum.

Regarding your list of desires, the hardiness and growth rate are going to heavily depend on the rootstock your trees are on. In much of tucson we have heavy, relatively poor draining soil with high pH -- not citrus' favorite conditions. Sour orange root stocks work very well here. Carrizo is also a decent choice. Unfortunately most of the nurseries and big box stores like mesquite valley growers, home depot, lowes, etc. all carry citrus imported from California so C-35 is the main rootstock you can easily get. This rootstock can work in tucson but it takes extra attention and is not ideal. You can get trees on sour orange rootstock from Sunset Nurseries in Yuma, Greenfield Citrus in Phoenix, or RSI Growers. At least RSI will ship but it's still a bit painful and means you'll be starting with a smaller tree.

With respect to tree size start with something that's a bit younger. The older trees are more expensive and take longer to get established in their new home; the end result is the younger trees catch up with the older trees making it something of a wash.

Finally, something that tastes good; you have a lot of options here. Personally, I am quite fond of the Cara Cara oranges, they grow well here and taste something like a navel orange but better. Trovita, Hamlin and Washington Parent are also decent choices. For something a bit more exotic you could try a blood orange, Moro and Tarocco do just fine here. Moro is said to get more of that deep crimson red and Tarocco is said to taste better. I've only tried the Moro; and I think it is a good tasting orange. Mandarins tend to produce a bit more bushy plant and are somewhat smaller but they are delicious. I'm a fan of the Tango Tangerine because it tastes delicious and is seedless. Sweet Kishu is also amazing but it's something of a smaller tree. Golden Nugget is also another good mandarin choice. If you'd rather do lemons the Lisbon lemon does exceptionally well here. Many people on this forum are also great fans of the Meyer Lemon it's sweeter and is a prolific producer (Mind you, Lisbon is also prolific, you'll have enough lemons for the whole neighborhood). Not to start a flame war; but my personal opinion is that the Meyer is vastly overrated.

Citrus isn't the fastest growing plant in the world but it can achieve a decent size in 5-10 years. In my limited experience, getting them established through one of our hot summers is challenging but once they get going they do great here!

Good luck and let us know what you decide to get!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 4:17AM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

Thanks cayden for the great information. Anyone else want to comment or add to this? Thanks all.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 11:42PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Page mandarin (hybrid) is a great choice. Very vigorous and taller. Not as bushy as other mandarins (like Satsumas), as it's a hybrid of a Clementine mandarin and a Minneola tangelo. It is also one of the best tasting mandarins out there. Meyer lemons, which are my favorite lemon (each to our own, which is why it's so nice to have so many options) grows like a bush, much harder to get a single trunk, but with a good young tree selection, and trimming away lower limbs, you can get a single trunk Meyer. Getting your trees on standard rootstocks will give you a bigger, more vigorous tree. Cayden, I had to laugh - I can't hardly get any C35 rootstock trees here. Most of what we see at nurseries is on Carrizo, which is problematic for me as I have issues with Phytophthora. Not sure how trees on Volkameriana will do, but it is very vigorous and will get you a bigger tree, faster. I agree with the Cara Cara navel orange, one of my very favorite fruits, and the tree will grow in the shape you're looking for. Another good mandarin choice besides Seedless Kishu, which is my most favorite of all citrus varieties, are any of the 3 "Golds", Shasta Gold, Yosemite Gold or Tahoe Gold. Very vigorous, but does tend to be more spreading. Another nice choice would be a Oroblanco or Melogold pummelo hybrid. Tarocco blood oranges are very tasty and the tree is a bit more vigorous than a Moro, but you can't beat the deep pigmentation of a Moro, and I think they taste great, too. Lastly, you can get just about any shape you want with a citrus, with some more or perhaps less pruning. What you're seeing in the photo are most likely orange trees, based on their natural form. And, by the size of the trunks, I'd say they're at least 10 to 15 years old, and most likely on standard rootstock. So, you'll need to be patient to get trees this large. Less patience needed if you put them on Volkameriana or Sour Orange (standard rootstocks).

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 12:24AM
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cayden(9)

Yeah, Volkameriana does well here too. It's crazy vigorous but fruit tends to be slightly less sweet. See: http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/crops/az1275/10.pdf if you are interested in the rootstock studies for Arizona.

If you end up with C-35 make sure you pickup some Kerex, chelated iron. Trees on C-35 tend to struggle with iron chlorosis here.

If you would like a tree on Volkmeriana as your rootstock and want a cara cara orange, Mesquite Valley Growers has a bunch of them in stock. Look for the ones labelled standard from sunset nursery (the rootstock is not on the label).

Patty, I think I am in the minority with respect to my feelings about Meyer Lemons. Maybe it's the rebel in me :)

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 1:32AM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

Thanks again everyone. Curious, I was reading a University of Arizona Cooperative Extension publication (Publication AZ 1001) titled "Low Desert Citrus Varieties", dated April 1998. The following statement was included under the section on lemons. " 'Meyer' is illegal (and thefore not available) in the State of Arizona. This variety is known to harbor the Citrus Tristeza Virus (CTV), which is a devastating disease of citrus. Meyer is not a true lemon, but likely a hybrid of a sweet orange and lemon."
Any coments on this statement? Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 7:56PM
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cayden(9)

The Meyer Lemon was found to be a symptomless carrier of tristeza and nearly all the trees in the United States were destroyed in the 40's. In the 50's Don Dillon from Four Wind's growers discovered a tristeza free selection and the University of California Riverside released it as the 'Improved Meyer Lemon' in the 70's. Whenever anyone speaks of the Meyer Lemon they almost always mean the improved meyer. The improved meyer lemon is the only one you can legally buy in Arizona.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 10:59PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Hey, it's okay, Cayden. I am in the minority with the Minneola, which everyone loves but me :-) I want my mandarins and my oranges to be nice and sweet. Like the Cara Cara. The Minneola has too much of a bite for my liking. Which I suppose is odd, because I love the Wekiwa, the Chironja and the Ortanique. Regular lemons have a bit too much acid for me. I do use them in cooking of course, but for making lemonade, I use Meyer lemons. Even using Meyers, I can sometimes get a bit of a stomach ache. I know it's from the higher acid. And for sure, that's the trade off for me with the micronutrient absorption issue. My soil isn't as alkaline as you have in AZ, so I'm really not seeing any chlorisis with my citrus on C35. But oh boy, I have 2 trees that are simply not going to make it due to the Phytophthora. I finally put all the pieces together, here: Our housing development was built in an old avocado orchard. The developer left as many avocados as possible, but they were all dying. Not just from lack of water. Many of the original residents relayed stories of the failing avos and it was known they were "diseased". Well, in looking at old photos of them, and then talking to our local farm supply store here, it was quite obvious that they were suffering from Phytophthora, which is a known issue here. Avo growers simply treat prophylactically with both a fungicide (Ridomil or Aliete) and phosphorus acid. So, that will be my strategy. That, and C35 rootstock.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 10:59PM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

Thanks cayden, that explains it well.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 11:37PM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

Will the Improved Meyer Lemon grow to the 13-15 foot height that I am trying to achieve?

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 11:44PM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

OK, I think I am narrowing it down. Leaning towards the Trovita orange and the Lisbon lemon for what I am trying to accomplish. The Trovita apparantly is a larger and faster grower than the Cara Cara. Somewhat concerned about the thorns on the Lisbon. Is there a thornless variety? And if so, is it as good as the thorned? From what I have read, both the Trovita and Lisbon are rapid growing and have "showy" foliage. Any comments on my choices? Any input from the experienced on this site would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 2:39PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Yes, the Meyer will definitely grow that tall, mine is about 12' tall right now. VERY prolific, small thorns. The Lison is terribly thorny and no, no "thornless" varieties. I would add a few more varieties so you have more than just lemons and oranges. You could plant an Oroblanco or Melogold pummelo hybrid, and a Moro orange. Both also have nice foliage and are pretty vigorous, upright trees. And, definitely a Page mandarin, also grows more upright than just about any other mandarin variety. That way, you'd have a very nice selection of citrus. Two are just boring :-)

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 3:25PM
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cayden(9)

I don't know of any thornless Lisbon selections. I have a lisbon and don't find the thorns to be that bad at all though.

You could also consider the Pink Variegated Eureka lemon. It's less thorny and has somewhat unique foliage and fruit. The fruit is striped until mature and then it pretty much looks like a normal lemon. Eureka lemons are almost indistinguishable from Lisbon in terms of taste.

Patty, I started with just 1 citrus (Moro) and am now up to four ... it's addictive. I wish I had room for a few more.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 5:23PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Although I love the Pink Variegate Eureka, it is a very, very slow growing tree, cayden. It may end up looking puny next to the other ones. It is probably the least vigorous of any lemon tree out there. I love mine, but it's tiny, still, after 2 years. And yes, they are very, very addictive. I think I had about 10 on my property. I'm up to about 50 different citrus varieties, and about 80 citrus trees total.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 5:53PM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

Thanks everyone for your help and suggestions. I have uploaded a photo of the 7 foot tall wall that the two citrus will be planted in front of. You can see what I am up against as far as trying to soften the view to the east of the new home being constructed. I planted a rio red grapefruit to the right side of the picture about a year ago that is doing well, but now I need to plant 2 more citrus. So I will have 3 and counting.......

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 10:53PM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

Grapefruit planted about a year ago

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 10:55PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Oh boy. That's a pretty daunting view. Well, I would probably go with a Eureka or a Lisbon lemon because they do grow very quickly and can get very tall very quick. My Page Mandarin is also one of my taller trees and is very, very vigorous. It's actually not a mandarin, but a hybrid of a Minneola tangelo and a clementine mandarin, so it have orange and grapefruit in its background, hence the different growth habit. And, my Cara Cara navel orange is also one of the more vigorous tress along with the Moro orange. You look like you have enough room to plant 5 trees along that wall to me. It's okay to plant them fairly close together. You'll get a nice solid green barrier full of lovely fruit. Your Rio Red looks fantastic, btw. What size pot did it come in, 15 gal?

Patty s.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 12:20AM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

Thanks Pattty.
The table in front of the wall is 6 feet long, so the planting area is about 20 linear feet. There is a gate that needs access on the left and the grapefruit on the right will need some space. There is also a small amount of mountain view still present on the left side that we want to preserve. The grapefruit came in a 24" container, so I think that likely corresponds to a 15 gal container, don't know for sure. I was leaning towards the Cara Cara ealier, now considering the Trovita. Care to compare the two for me? I will have to give the My Page mandarin a second look. If you had to choose between the Cara Cara, the Trovita, or the My Page, which would you consider the better option? I guess I will have to flip a coin as far as the choice of lemon. Which lemon is a better specimen/foliage tree? Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:34AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Okay, so you have enough room for 4 trees total. I would select a lemon, and orange and the Page mandarin. For the lemon, I would say the Lisbon will probably give you the shape you're after. It is more upright and dense than the Eureka. But, downside is, that is really is much more thorny than a Eureka, and the fruit tends to be inside the tree, as opposed to a Eureka, which bears its fruit on the outside of the tree. The Eureka tends to be more open in its growth habit, the Lisbon more upright. But shape can be changed by pruning. So, maybe rose gloves are in order :-) Both are very prolific producers, so you'll have lovely yellow lemons on your tree year round. For the orange, I would go with the Cara Cara because it's a navel for one, and because the flesh is pink, which is kind of cool. The Trovita is a nice juice orange, however, so it really depends on what you want for eating as well as for looks. The Cara Cara is better for eating out of hand. The Trovita better for juicing. Take into consideration what you want to eat, as well as for looks. You would then have a very nice citrus collection, and trees that will provide a nice, dense screening for you.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 4:26PM
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eahamel(9a)

You may be able to get some good info from the link below. Some of these types of citrus will be available where you are, and there's good info on planting and fertilizing, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Urban Harvest Fruitgardening

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 8:33PM
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pgde(Tucson Zone 9)

Hey Doc and Cayden: Welcome and greetings from another Tucsonian. I am over by Saguaro NP East. Here is a picture of my Pink Lemon:

It has taken off since the freeze of 2 years ago. And below is my Meyer Lemon -- loaded with lemons. It was planted in ground after the big freeze.

Do a search on my name and you will see many more pictures and discussions about citrus here in Tucson. There are a number of us on this forum!

Any questions, don't hesitate to ask. I have a lot of different fruit trees and plants.

Peter

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 12:36AM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

Pulled the trigger...
Lisbon lemon and Trovita orange. 15 gallon containers. Thanks everyone for your feedback.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 8:31PM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

Done.......................

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:06PM
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cayden(9)

Doc, they look excellent! Thanks for sharing the pics. May I ask what rootstock you ended up with?

Peter, I've seen a few of your posts. Your trees look nice. How did they do through the summer?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 12:10AM
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DocHollywood 9b Central Tucson(USDA 9b)

The trees were purchased (after variety consultation) and planted by our landscaper/gardener. A couple of tags are on the trees, but none of them mention the rootstock. So, I don't know which rootstock they are on. I guess I should have been more tuned into that.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 12:10PM
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