9 Common Citrus Trees That Are Actually Evergreens
Citrus trees are often associated with warm, tropical climates like Florida, Hawaii, and California. In these areas, winter isn’t some cold, dark season where trees lose their leaves and go dormant. Most citrus trees are evergreens and keep producing fruits all year!
Some of the most common citrus trees that are evergreens include orange, lime, lemon, mandarin, calamondin, grapefruit, kumquat, tangerine, and pummelo. Within’ each of those broad citrus tree categories are specific types of citrus trees such as Valencia oranges or Meyer lemons.
Below we’ll go over the 9 most common citrus trees that are evergreens and where they grow. Let’s get to it!
How Can Citrus Trees Be Evergreen?
Before we get into the specific types of citrus trees that are evergreen, let’s answer the question of why they are evergreen?
Citrus trees are evergreen because they grow in warm climates. Trees that drop their leaves do so because cold conditions make keeping the tree alive more difficult.
Dropping leaves is a way to conserve energy so they do not need to deliver nutrients to each leaf and can keep that food and energy for the main part of the tree – the trunk and branches.
Because most citrus trees never see snow, they can keep their leaves throughout the year and don’t have to worry too much about conserving energy.
However, one minor adaptation that citrus trees have is that their leaves are typically smaller than those on deciduous trees. This conserves energy and is just one more reason why citrus trees are evergreen.
According to Clemson University, the satsuma mandarin, kumquats, and grapefruit are some of the most cold-hardy citrus fruits.
But wait, what about the evergreen trees that grow in cold climates? Not all evergreen trees live in tropical climates. Some have special adaptations that allow them to survive cold conditions AND keep their leaves.
Citrus trees are not so lucky and must live in warm tropical or subtropical climates to keep their leaves all year.
Evergreen Orange Trees
Like most citrus trees, oranges feel at home in sunny, warm, tropical climates. They originated from Asia but are now grown in many different countries including the United States.
In the US, oranges can grow in portions of California, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, and Florida. Florida produces the most oranges, which comes as no surprise since Florida’s state fruit is the orange!
But when we say ‘orange’ we’re not referring to just one single fruit. There are tons of varieties of oranges. Some of the most common orange variates include:
- Sweet orange
- Bitter orange
- Blood orange
- Valencia orange
- Navel orange
According to the University of Florida, navel oranges are the most popular orange cultivated in Florida because they can be eaten fresh or used for orange juice. Valencia oranges are used extensively for orange juice.
Orange trees can grow up to around 50 feet but typically reach around 25 feet. They prefer temperatures to be between close to 55℉ and 100℉.
These subtropical trees can survive brief cold periods but are often injured and damaged if exposed for too long. They thrive in hardiness zones 9-11.
Indoor planting is possible for orange trees, but don’t expect the fruit to develop very fast. It can take up to a year for an orange to fully develop. However, the benefit of planting indoors is that you can live in the cold north and still grow fresh oranges!
There are a few different suggestions on how often you should water oranges, but many people (including us) suggest to water them every few days!
Lime Trees Are Evergreen
Limes are used in a ton of different stuff. Of course, key limes are used in pies, but limes are also used in beverages, food dishes, and as a cleaning agent.
These versatile fruits are thought to have originated in southeast Asia, but their origin is not 100% known. The most common lime is the Tahitian lime (also known as Persian lime), which is what you will find in grocery stores. Kaffir and Key Lime are two more common lime varieties.
Most lime trees thrive in hardiness zones 9-11, similar to orange trees. However, unlike oranges, limes are not commercially grown in the United States. At least, not in numbers significant enough to report.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Florida used to be a major commercial lime producer. An unfortunate combination of canker afflictions, tropical storms, and population increases created a trifecta that halted commercial lime production in Florida for good.
Now, lime trees grow in places like Mexico, Brazil, and Australia. Growing in such warm climates means there’s no need to drop leaves to go into a dormant period. This is the main reason why lime trees are evergreens.
That being said, homeowners can still grow lime trees in their yards if the conditions are right. Limes can also be planted indoors in pots.
Lime trees typically grow to about 20 feet. They love soaking up the sun and should be planted in well-drained soils. Lime trees can produce limes after their first year but produce more limes the older they are!
Lemon Trees Are Surprisingly Evergreen
Lemon trees like their environment the same way I do – never cold! They are one of the most cold-sensitive citrus trees and will not do well in any place that sees temperatures below freezing for more than a few hours.
A study published by ISHS looked at comparative cold tolerances between lemon trees, grapefruit trees, orange trees, and mandarin trees. When exposed to freezing temperatures for 10 hours, they found that lemon damage was the most severe of any other citrus tree.
Lemon trees originated in India and were brought to the United States around the late 1400s. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lemon trees were first cultivated in Florida and California in the US.
There are a few different varieties of lemon, some of the most popular including:
- Meyer lemon
- Ponderosa lemon
- Eureka lemon
Meyer lemons are the most cold-hardy of the lemons as they are thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a sweet orange. No matter what kind of lemon tree you have, you’ll want to make sure it’s protected in cold weather.
You can use a shrub jacket like Gardaner Plant Covers Freeze Protection & Plant Frost Blanket to keep your lemon trees warm during cold snaps. This product is 85” X 75” (W X H), perfect for small lemon trees!
Depending on the variety of lemon, it will bear fruit at different times of the year. For example, Meyer and Ponderosa lemons bear fruit in the fall and winter, while Eureka lemons bear fruit in the spring and summer.
Along those same lines, the shape of the fruit will depend on when the tree bears fruit. Summer-bearers like Eureka lemons will have a rounder shape while Meyer and Ponderosa will be more oblong because they produce in the winter.
Lemon trees are a little more difficult than other citrus trees to grow indoors, but it can be done! They have a very dependable growth and fruit-bearing timeline. In fact, They will produce fruit after about three years, and once the trees flower, it takes between 4 and 12 months for a lemon to develop.
In the United States, lemon trees are grown commercially in California, Arizona, and to a lesser extent, Florida.
If you’d like to learn more, take a look at our piece and breakdown of the full lemon tree growth timeline!
Yes, Even Mandarin Trees Are Evergreen!
Mandarins are one of the four ‘core’ ancestral citrus species according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. All other citrus fruits were derived from mandarins along with citron, pomelo, and papeda.
Mandarins originated from China and are closely related to satsumas, clementines, and tangerines, all of which appear as small oranges. They were first established in New Orleans and eventually made their way to Florida and California.
According to Purdue University, Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are the main states that grow mandarins. They also grow in Texas, Georgia, and California.
These tiny orange trees grow in similar conditions to their bigger cousins, preferring temperatures between 55℉ and 100℉. They will go through a dormant period and sometimes bear fruit in alternating years.
As with other citrus trees, there are a variety of different mandarines including:
The Changsha mandarin is the most cold-hardy of the mandarins, surviving temperatures as low as 4℉ without perishing.
Other names for mandarin oranges include ‘cuties’ and ‘halo’ oranges, but these aren’t different varieties, just a nickname given to mandarins because of their small appearance and easy-to-peel skin.
Mandarin trees grow in hardiness zones 9 through 11 and will take about four years to bear fruit, depending on the variety. It takes a mandarin tree between six and eight months to develop a mandarin big enough to harvest.
Calamondin Trees Are Considered Evergreen
If you’ve never heard of calamondin fruit, don’t worry, you’re not the only one! Calamondin trees are grown more for their ornamental value than for any fruit they bear.
Calamondin trees grow acidic fruit that can be used similarly to lemons such as:
- Frozen juice
- Beverage flavoring
- Cakes & Pies
- Squeezed over seafood
According to Texas A&M University, these trees will bloom and produce fruit all year long and go through 4 to 5 growth periods per year. In most cases, the tree will bear more fruit than you need.
Homeowners in hardiness zones 8A through 10B can enjoy these fruitful trees in their backyards.
Calamondin trees originated in Southeast Asia and are a cross between a mandarin orange and a kumquat. Just like other citrus trees, calamondin can grow in all of the southern-most states of the United States and California.
However, because they are the most cold-tolerant of any true citrus tree, they can creep up into Arkansas, South and North Carolina, Coastal Virginia, Utah, Oregon, and Washington.
According to an article in the International Society for Horticultural Science, temperatures around 86℉ during the day and 77℉ at night promote the fastest blooming for calamondin trees.
These little trees also reach a full height of only 12 to 14 feet, making them the perfect patio plant if you keep them pruned
They prefer sunny conditions but can tolerate partial shade. Similarly, they prefer warm temperatures but will survive down to 20℉.
Like almost all citrus trees, calamondin trees will self-pollinate, meaning you only need to plant one tree to get fruit! Fruits take about a year to mature, but because the calamondin tree goes through so many different growth periods, you’ll have fruit at all different stages all year long.
When harvesting calamondins, it’s important to clip the twig the fruit is growing on as opposed to picking the fruit off. Picking can damage the calamondin, which can spoil them within a day. Use pruning shears like Fiskar’s Bypass Pruning Shears to get a clean cut and promote future growth!
Evergreen Grapefruit Trees
The grapefruit we see today is not at all what grapefruit looked like in the beginning. This fruit evolved as a mutation from the pummelo fruit and originally had white flesh, not red, and many seeds.
Now, this delicious fruit is near seedless with an orange peel and red flesh and is enjoyed in beverages, fruit cups, fruit salads, and eaten by itself at breakfast.
Grapefruits were first described in Barbados of the Caribbean Islands. In the United States, grapefruits made their first appearance in Florida but quickly moved onto Texas, Arizona, and California.
Just like oranges, grapefruits grow in hardiness zones 9 to 11, meaning only in the extreme southern and southwestern states of the US.
There are several different varieties of grapefruits, some of the more popular being:
- Ruby Red
- Rio Red
According to Texas A&M University, grapefruits grow best during hot days and warm nights as opposed to hot days and cool nights. The secret is in the sugar content, which tends to be higher when grown on hot days and warm nights.
Grapefruit trees need well-drained soil for maximum growth and prefer full sun. They are not very cold tolerant but have been known to bounce back even after below-freezing temperatures.
An article in the Journal of Food Chemistry found that chill injury can occur at temperatures as high as 53℉ but the damage was minor. At 35℉, the chill injury was far more severe.
Temperatures play an important role in determining the characteristics of a mature grapefruit. Colder temperatures and arid climates promote a tough peel, while humid, warm temperatures promote a thin peel.
Kumquat Trees Never Lose Their Leaves
Kumquat trees are one of the smallest evergreen citrus trees and are the smallest citrus fruit.
The trees only reach a height of about 8 to 10 feet. They’re used as ornamentals in many tropical and sub-tropical yards but also produce edible fruit!
The kumquat looks like a small orange and is very aromatic. It’s used in beverages and as toppings on food!
Like many citrus trees, the kumquat originated in China. Today, it is grown in hardiness zones 9-10, with most growth being in Florida, California, Alabama, and Louisiana.
Kumquats are a peculiar citrus tree in that they can withstand very cold temperatures, down to 10℉.
According to the University of Arizona, during this time the kumquat tree enters a state of dormancy and will remain in this state even after warm weather resumes for several weeks. That being said, kumquat trees prefer hot temperatures between 80℉ and 100℉.
Just like our other citrus fruits, kumquats have a few varieties with different characteristics:
- Hong Kong
Kumquat trees are great to have as ornamental trees. They can sometimes produce fruit after the first year but in other instances can take 4 to 5 years before fruit can be harvested from the tree.
Tangerine Trees Keep Their Foliage Year Round
We may have misled you a little bit with this one. Tangerines are a type of mandarin, which we already talked about.
To break it down, mandarins include satsumas, tangerines, and hybrids like the tangelo. However, in some cultures, tangerines are a completely different fruit and are considered a different species.
Either way, tangerine trees prefer lots of sun and are slightly tolerant of cold temperatures. They can survive in zone 8 but do best in warmer, subtropical, and tropical climates.
Both the kumquat and the tangerine tree cannot be planted from seed. Instead, you’ll want to purchase one from a nursery that’s already been grafted onto a rootstock. From here, you can plant them in a pot if you live in colder climates or outside in warmer climates.
In the United States, most tangerine trees are located in Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, and Alabama. Because they are hardier than other citrus trees, they have a similar range to calamondins than to mandarins. Tangerines are originally from southeast Asia.
Pummelo Trees Are Evergreen
Opposite of the kumquat, the pummelo is the largest citrus fruit. The pummelo tree itself can grow up to 50ft tall but averages around 20 to 30 feet.
The pummelo tree is originally from Malaysia and Southeast Asia. It grows in hardiness zones 9 through 11 in the United States. Unsurprisingly, it is mostly cultivated in Florida and California. However, it can still thrive in all of the southernmost states of the U.S. as well.
Pummelo trees have a ton of variations, the list being longer than that of any citrus fruit tree. Some of the most well-known variations include:
- Hom Bai Toey
- Red Bantam
According to Purdue University, pummelo trees prefer temperatures in the low 80s and enjoy being at low elevation, close to the sea. Pummelos can even tolerate salty, brackish water that gets pushed in by the tides.
In the United States, pummelo fruits grow ripe from November through February and can be picked in the spring. In more tropical regions, pummelos can produce up to 4 crops per year.
Pummelos can be grown from seed and grown indoors but they are one of the hardest citrus trees to grow indoors and require special lighting or a greenhouse to truly flourish.
Much like the mandarin, pummelos are one of the original citrus fruits that all others are derived from.
That’s All For Now!
There you have it. Nine citrus trees that are evergreens! Citrus trees produce sweet, sour, and sometimes bitter fruit that can be used in many dishes, beverages, and desserts.
Citrus trees are evergreen because they originated from warm, tropical climates where the threat of winter was nonexistent. Dropping leaves is a tree’s way of preserving energy in winter, but citrus trees do not have to do this because they do not experience winter.
Now for a quick recap –
The 9 most common citrus trees that are evergreens include:
Most citrus trees grow in the southern-most states of the U.S., particularly Florida, California, Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana. However, some can be grown in colder regions if grown indoors in pots.
Best of luck on your fruit tree journey!
Conesa, A., Nicolas, J. M., Manera, F. J., & Porras, I. (2015). Frost Damage in Lemon Orchards In The Province of Murcia. International Society for Horticultural Science, 1065, 1417-1422.
Lado, J., Gurrea, A., Zacarias, L., & Rodrigo, M. J. (2019, October 15). Influence of the storage temperature on volatile emission, carotenoid content, and chilling injury development in Star Ruby red grapefruit. Food Chemistry, 295, 72-81.
Lai, Y.-T., & Chen, L.-Z. (2008). Effect Of Temperature On Calamondin (Citrus microcarpa) Flowering And Flower Bud Formation. International Society for Horticultural Science, 773, 111-115.
Pollack, S. L., Lin, B.-H., & Allshouse, J. (2003, August). Characteristics of U.S. Orange Consumption. Electronic Outlook Report from the Economic Research Service, 305(01), 1-17.