Need to learn about Citrus, what and where to buy in Tucson

tednruthyNovember 21, 2012

I am new to citrus since I was born and raised up north. I am taking out 4 mature trees, 2 damaged badly by freeze 2 winters ago and 2 that are to old and large and over their prime I am told. I want to replace these with a grapefruit and a lemon and an orange or maybe tangelo. I would like small compact variety, maybe dwarf if available. I live in Tucson and have looked for good websites for nurseries in the area but not impressed. Where can I go to get god trees locally? If I buy from Lowes or Home Depot how long will it be before I get some decent amount of fruits? I suspect I would have trouble finding the best varieties in these stores also. I am a senior and would rather spend a little more and see quicker results than planting a tiny tree and waiting many years. ALL pointers and suggestions welcome. THANKS TED

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I have had good luck with some of the trees I have purchased at the large national retailers. The trees I purchased were all of fruiting age and produced well the first full season I had them. I would suppose that the stores will carry varieties that do well in your area. In central Arkansas, they carried mostly Satsuma which tends to be one of the most cold hardy citrus. You may want to look at the website for Four Winds Growers. I have never purchased from them, but I have seen many pictures of plants purchased from them by other members on the board. They are very knowledge and kind and helped me save a potted citrus that I bought locally. If they can not help you, I am sure they can put you in contact with someone in the state of Arizona that can.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 3:14PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Good nurseries in the Tuscon area: Mesquite Valley Growers (18 acres)on far East side; Catalina Heights Nursery and Harlow gardens, more east/central; Desert Survivors, west of U of A campus; Moon Valley Nursery, 3775 W Chandler Blvd, Chandler.

Links for you about growing citrus in your special triangle (Tuscon, Phoenix, Yuma triangle).

A very good reference book to have on your shelf for growing citrus. A little biased toward Florida, but still very good for us here in S. Calif. and AZ (again, copy and paste this link, as GW breaks the link at the first hyphen):

Attend the Arizona Cooperative Extension Citrus Day, a great educational opportunity for you in your area (we have a similar function at UC Riverside here in S. California, in February). Here is the main page for U of AZ Extension and Citrus (copy and paste this link, as GW breaks the link at the hyphen):

Be sure to check out their "Event Calendar" for future citrus classes and presentations. They hold Citrus Clinics in various areas in January

And, Pima County's extension site:

You have a great citrus fertilizer available to you, that is especially formulated for your soil and citrus, Arizona's Best Citrus Fertilizer.

Many, many great cultivars for you to choose from. Any mandarin is going to probably do just fine for you. Satsumas are famous for handling low winter temps in stride. Gold Nugget is even more cold tolerant and produces ripe mandarins at a different time than the satsumas, so you can extend your mandarin season. Several grapefruits also do well, Rio Red, Oroblanco/Melogold pummelo hybrid (my favorite, as they as sweeter and less bitter), and Cocktail pummelo hybrid (yet even sweeter, and one of my top 5 fav citrus). Lemons tend to be less cold tolerant. Eureka is the standard, but I would the Improved Meyer which has some orange or mandarin in its genetics. It is more cold tolerant and is a little less acidic than the Eureka. Extremely prolific fruit producer as well. Tangelos, Minneola is the standard, but you might want to consider the Page mandarin. It's not really a mandarin, but a cross between the Minneola and the Clementine mandarin, so that makes it 3/4 mandarin and 1/4 grapefruit. It is an absolutely outstanding citrus cultivar. Just meltingly delicious. Worthy of a spot in everyone's citrus collection.

You can buy anything on semi-dwarfing rootstock. In fact, most citrus comes on semi-dwarfing rootstock, harder to find it on standard rootstocks. I would recommend that over truly dwarfing rootstock (really only two, Poncirus trifoliata 'Flying Dragon' or Cuban Shaddock), as the trees will mature more slowly on dwarfing rootstock, than on semi-dwarfing, and be slower to produce fruit for you. You can keep the trees crotch pruned to a managable size very easily. I have a "No Ladders" rule in my orchard :-) No climbing a ladder to pick a piece of fruit. Too old and bones are not up to that kind of tumble anymore. My rule is no tree can be taller than what I can reach up and pick. And, I'm only 5'5", so that's not very tall :-) Semi-dwarfing trees will only grow to about 10'-15' anyways, so very little pruning is needed with citrus. Do learn how to crotch prune correctly, though, as citrus produce fruit on new wood, at the tips, so if you go at your tree with shears and not pruners, you'll have a lovely, round tree with zero fruit :-) Here is a decent article about pruning citrus trees in AZ, with the exception of leaving dead wood. That is absurd. Always prune out dead wood, as it is a source for infestation and infection. Just protect the branches and trunk from too much sun. Very easy to do. Just paint exposed branches with the cheapest flat latex paint cut in half with water. All evergreen trees need to have protection from the sun on their branches and trunks, especially when very young:

An excellent article on how to correctly prune all fruit trees, including citrus. This is how to crotch prune fruit trees:

Good luck, definitely reach out to your local extension folks to get to their Citrus Day/Clinics, or any classes put on by your local Master Gardeners about citrus. Let us know what you end up with, and how you fare!

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Wow, Patty! What a lot of good information. You must have a close relative or very good friend who lives in that area. BTW, check my last posts on the Tonya Bell mandarins.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 6:43PM
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Patty & All, Thank you very much for the information.


    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 8:20AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

I do, John. And, I'm not that far from AZ, either, really. I'll check out your info on that Tonya Bell as well. Ted, glad I could help, have fun, and let us know how your citrus growing goes!

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 12:37PM
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Since you are senior you don't want to plant a seedling and wait 10 years. From my experience I bought trees like Apricots and peches from a nursery in North Carolina called Pam fast growing trees. They ship it in pots about 6 feet tall and lots of brances. I bought trees from them in the fall and had fruits in the next summer. The trees are not cheap very expensive but they ship free. I just ordered some citrus trees from them I just got one orange 6 feet tall. I don't know if they allowed to ship to Arizona you have to check with them.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 9:06PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Mesquite Valley Growers! GREAT place! Several greenhouses of citrus, and acres of goodies to look at! Plants, tree's flowers, shrubs, cactus , succulents.....

Desert Survivors is good too.. But they wont have a very large selection. they offer a lot of drought tolerant. I have seen some nice figs there.


    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 9:31PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

foolishpleasure, you cannot ship citrus into Arizona. Most of the citrus producing states are on quarantine for various pests and diseases, Arizona is included in that quarantine. AZ, CA, TX, and FL are restricted to purchasing citrus from within their own states.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 11:13PM
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pgde(Tucson Zone 9)

You could also try Magic Garden over here on the east side. That is where my trees came from. Search on my username and you can find a number of pictures.

Where in Tucson are you located and what is your elevation? I'm over by Saguaro NP east at an elevation of 2982 feet. Don't forget that we have a ton of micro-climates and if you live above a wash, the temperature difference can be several degrees (i.e. the wash can be several degrees cooler). Doesn't sound like much, but it can be crucial in a cold winter. Since we are higher than the downtown, we can be 2 to 5 degrees warmer due to the sinking of cold air. So, placement decisions are crucial.

Happy holidays!


Here is a link that might be useful: Magic Garden Web Site

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 7:04PM
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