anybody growing hardy citrus in abq or nm?

fabaceae_nativeFebruary 9, 2012

As a zone pusher, especially when it comes to fruiting plants, I have been researching hardy citrus hybrids for the last few years, without actually having taken the plunge into purchasing some. I've not found any evidence of anyone experimenting with these plants in NM, even though there are plenty of folks doing it in much colder zones.

Here is what I've discovered:

-- Zone7 growers in Oklahoma, the Carolinas, Maryland, etc., have had success with things like citrumelo (a trifoliate orange x grapefruit hybrid)

-- Citrange, yuzu, and citrumelo varieties are said by some to be subzero hardy.

-- The inedible trifoliate orange should be hardy to Zone6!

-- Some of the best-tasting conventional citrus, such as satsumas and various tangerines are hardy into the teens.

All of this is without protection, so with the kind of assistance some folks in ABQ have been giving their palm trees over the years, outside citrus could be doable. Let's not forget that Zone8 El Paso does have the odd orange tree! Oh, and according to the new 2012 USDA Hardiness Map, there are a few Zone9 spots in NM that should have no trouble with certain of the conventional citrus.

I'd love to hear anyone's anecdotes...

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rdr115

I'm 20 or so miles south of Albuquerque in an infamous frost pocket and have had Poncirus trifoliata for ages. It weathered last February's subzero temps (lowest at -15F) with no apparent problem and as a matter of fact never flowered and fruited better than last summer. (And it's planted in adobe clay.) I have two very large 6-year old citrumelos that are going to have to be planted out this spring as they are too large to be hauled in anymore. Like the trifoliate orange they are deciduous, so I have hopes they'll last, though I won't hold my breath for any fruit.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 6:01PM
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fabaceae_native

Thanks rdr115 for the response. I knew there had to be someone out there growing them. Nice to hear that Poncirus is so hardy, I wasn't sure since some sources put it's hardiness at only -5. Your frost pocket is just about the same zone as Santa Fe (last Feb was -18 in town), although I know you are always warmer in the day, and can grow a whole lot more I'm sure.

That's great you'll be trying the citrumelos outside, any idea how early they will bloom? Is early bloom the reason you're skeptical about fruiting? I know if they bloom late enough to escape frosts then they are not likely to ripen completely, but maybe they could be used as a lime substitute (assuming it's an edible variety of citrumelo).

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 9:31AM
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fabaceae_native

oh yeah, I forgot to ask you if the poncirus is worth growing... is the citrus blossom scent nice, or maybe you like having people ask if you're really growing oranges in NM? There's a guy on the citrus forum who has a specific technique for using the rind in marmalade and the seeds for pectin, maybe you've seen his posts...

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 1:16PM
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rdr115

Fabaceae: I have the trifoliate-orange cultivar 'Flying Dragon'--about 4 ft high so smaller than the regular plant, columnar habit, with very contorted and twisted stems and branches. And savage thorns (citrumelo has inherited those.) The fruit is less than golf-ball size with a thick, hard rind and almost no pulp, just seeds. I'm not into sugary foods so haven't made marmelade, but have grated rinds for zest which is very bitter. Flowers typical for Citrus, highly scented. Ripe fruits are fuzzy yellow, not orange. In my book very worth growing. It flowers fairly late in spring so avoids heavy frosts (so far). For fresh eating I have two Meyer lemon trees and some kumquats. These are outdoors in summer and in the house in winter. Very reliable. I've tried many other citrus with less than satisfactory results.

The citrumelos are in very large containers and have not flowered. Hopefully they will if they can get established in the ground. It'll be a learning experience. What citrumelo might do here is one thing--after 22 years here I have learned not to rely on horticultural information from "authorities" who have never gardened in the middle Rio Grande valley. This place lends new meaning to the whole shtick.

By the way, I see that the new Flora of China has transferred the trifoliate-orange to the genus Citrus, making Poncirus trifoliata a synonym of Citrus trifoliata.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 8:44PM
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guhler

I am also a "zone pusher" here in NJ. In my garden, there is a huge trifoliate orange bush growing. It's about 10' tall and produces hundreds of "oranges" every year. Growing next to it is a nice prickly pear cactus. I get beautiful yellow flowers and some small cactus fruit every year.

My daughter is moving to Alamogordo New Mexico and I was wondering if I could look forward to having edible citrus trees on her property.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 10:35PM
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guhler

I am also a "zone pusher" here in NJ. In my garden, there is a huge trifoliate orange bush growing. It's about 10' tall and produces hundreds of "oranges" every year. Growing next to it is a nice prickly pear cactus. I get beautiful yellow flowers and some small cactus fruit every year.

My daughter is moving to Alamogordo New Mexico and I was wondering if I could look forward to having edible citrus trees on her property.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 10:36PM
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fabaceae_native

While Alamogordo is one of the warmer places in the state, it is still too cold for 'standard' citrus outside without protection. If I'm not mistaken they hit -18 there during our freak record freeze of 2011!

But there are (or were, I've not heard a report on how they weathered that freeze) lots of palm trees. And pomegranates, pistachios, and pecans, among other things, are grown there commercially. The 2012 Hardiness Zone Map calls it a solid 8a.

If I lived in Alamogordo I would totally experiment with hardy citrus a la Stan McKenzie. Anything hardy to around 10 degrees would be worth growing there (and protected during the rare big freezes like we saw in 2011).

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 11:17PM
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rdr115

Follow-up to my message of Spring 2012 re planting two Citrumelos in Los Lunas (20 miles south of Albuquerque). The trees were six years old, each about six feet high. As of this writing, one tree is dead, but one is alive and well and leafing out (as is the Citrus trifoliata, one of the Citrumelo's parents). Actually, the dead tree dropped its leaves and the bark turned brown last November as soon as the nightime temps were pretty consistently in the 20's. The remaining tree also dropped its leaves at the same time, but the bark remained green throughout winter. FYI January this year averaged 29F, daily average high was 42F and daily average low was 15F (seven nights in single digits with lowest at 4F). Three nights ago we had a sudden freeze here down to 24F which seriously scorched the emerging Mulberry and Ailanthus tree leaves, but the new Citrumelo leaves appear unaffected. I can only speculate that cold hardiness for Citrumelos may be variable which I remember was the case in lemon and orange groves in So. California when I lived there.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 1:14AM
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