Citrus in container questions

My wife wants a tree in a container on our driveway in front of one of our kitchen windows. Of course I suggested a fruit tree, specifically a citrus tree. I’d like a mandarin citrus (I have a Gold Nugget in ground already). My wife would like it to be more of an upright tree to cover the window more, not a weeping bush look. Like this tree instead of this bush.

  1. Is that just a matter of pruning or do the mandarins take on different growth styles?

  2. Also, standard or semi-dwarf? Should I just go standard to get quicker growth since the container will do the dwarfing anyways?

  3. 5 gallon or 15 gallon size?

The ones available right now really close to me are Owari Satsuma and Kishu. I can also go elsewhere to find other varieties if needed.

Thanks everyone!

I have an Owari Satsuma in a container. It is pruned more like the tree you linked rather than the bush. I also have a Meyer Lemon that looks very much like the bush you linked. It was a rooted cutting that branched extremely low and grew in a bush-like way. I’ve rooted other Meyer Lemon cuttings that have been pruned as a single trunk tree though.

I’m not an expert on growing citrus outdoors in containers year round because my goals, as someone who is somewhat outside the safe citrus belt, and has to tote trees in and out with the seasons, are different. Also, I don’t have experience with an extensive variety like Patty does. So, give what I say sparse weight.

I believe that most mandarins have the weeping habit. You can do a bit with pruning, but only so much if you actually want it to fruit, because you’ll be cutting off your fruiting wood if you keep cutting off new growth. However, some types do have a more upright habit than others. I believe Ponkan is one. I can assure you that, although I love my Owari’s, they are weepers. Perhaps kishu would be less so, because the fruit is smaller, but I don’t actually know.

Hi Brad, any chance you can post a picture of the Owari? Thanks! @bradkairdolf

Donny, mandarins all have different growth patterns. Some are more compact, others more upright. No matter what rootstock you use, it will be kept smaller due to root compression in a container. Standard roostock might gain you more growth in the beginning, but it will slow down due to root restrictions. I would recommend 5 gal. There have been reliable, repetitive studies showing 5 gal trees actually establish better and faster than larger gallon container trees. That will save your some bucks, as well. Seedless Kishu is probably one of the very best mandarin cultivars going, but the tree tends to be more bush-like in its growth habit. Page mandarin is more upright, and is really a wonderful mandarin (hybrid). Very vigorous grower, and very prolific producer. That is the cultivar I would recommend. I know you’re in S. Calif. If you are in N. San Diego county, I would recommend checking with Clausen’s Nursery in Vista, or Walter Andersen in Poway for Page.

Patty S.

As always, thanks everyone. I really appreciate all the input.

I’ll look for the Page, thanks Patty for the specific recommendation. I was thinking the same thing for getting a 5 gallon vs. 15, so hapoy to hear a similar thought.

@hoosierquilt Do you know if Tango is an upright or a vigorous grower? They had a few close by to me. Otherwise I’ll hit up Clausens.

Tango tends to grow tall and lanky, and may require some pruning to bring down the height, so the canopy fills out. It will also tend to alternate bear as it can be a very precocious bearer, so you’ll want to thin, and also to pick all fruit by March (does hang well on the tree.) It is a later mandarin, which is nice, but I think taste-wise, it is very similar to Gold Nugget. It is excellent, don’t get me wrong, but Page is different tasting, and Page makes probably the very best citrus juice, hands down of any citrus fruit. Nice to have trees that provide different options. Either way, both cultivars are worthy. Both have a spot in my orchard. As does Seedless Kishu.

Patty S.

I’ll try to post a pic of mine this weekend brownmola. Like MuddyMess, I am outside the safe region for growing citrus outdoors year round so I have kept mine fairly small to make it easier to bring indoors. I got caught flat-footed last year and got some cold damage so I’ve had to prune it back quite a bit. It’s about 4 feet tall. It does have a bit of a weeping habit though, as has been said. It is different from the bush pic you linked though.

calamondins assume the most upright growth among citrus, almost tubular(especially when grown from seed), and do quite well potted.

'mondins also have such tight internodes and have smallish leaves which make them look quite compact and never gangly. The first picture you posted appears to be a standard mondin, btw.

but as with most other plants(and not just citrus), this variety may get a little gangly if not getting enough sunlight.

only problem is that it is not eaten as fresh fruit. The buttony fruits do make excellent lime or lemon adjuncts, or on their own for zests, limeade drinks, punch, etc.

here’s a re-post of our 2 yr old variegated mondin. It has been giving us so much more than it takes. It could easily be shaped into a dense bush/topiary with nothing more than long-bladed shears.

before it turns orange, it assumes a striped fig color combo, most evident at the right side of the photo below.

funny that in one of the recent posts, a variegated pear which looks like a panache fig was featured, and this may well be the citrus equivalent.

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I have an entire row of variegated Calamondin trees in my front yard, they are adorable, and I grow them for their ornamental value. But, they tend to stay rather compact. They make very nice, small, ornamental trees. I don’t care for the fruit, as it is very sour, but it can be used in cooking like lemons and limes, and you can make a nice marmalade from them. I’m not sure the’d be the best choice for a screen, as they do not tend to be larger citrus trees, but you cannot beat them for their lovely ornamental value. Mine are adorable, are about 10 years old, and not over 5 or 6’ tall. I do prune them on rare occasion for shape.

Patty S.

they are quite pretty aren’t they? And being evergreen(or at least they try to even at 16F), they are something to look at when most other trees are snoozing…

kumquats, being close relatives, grow neat and compact as well.

here’s a standard mondin which found on youtube, and has grown into a tree in vegas. The standard is not as dense and compact as the variegated cultivar, but it is just as cold-tolerant(else it wouldn’t have reached ~12ft…

Yes, I actually adore them, Raf. And, I have 4 little kumquats in Italian terra cotta pots in my Parterre garden (2 Meiwa and 2 Nagami) and they also stay small and compact, even more so in pots. Just so darling. All of mine are on semi-dwarfing rootstock.

Patty S.

love those 'quats too. And have an added bonus you could eat them straight from the tree, which is not something would propose for mondins, lol
mondins and quats are the only two cold-tolerant citrus which don’t die back(unsheltered/unheated out in the open) in the lowest of daytime lows we’ve had. Trifoliates are tolerant too, but they are not exactly ornamental…
hopefully the ‘citrus caviar’ just ordered from ogw will be just as heat and cold tolerant

Yes, Raf, they are fun to eat. Funny story about kumquats: When my hubby and I bought our very first house a million years ago :-), we had this very cute little citrus tree in the back yard, planted underneath my middle daughter’s bedroom window. The previous owners told me it was a kumquat tree. I had never heard of a kumquat before, and they told me they were sour and sweet and you could eat them right off the tree, skin and all. You had to eat the skin, as that was the sweet part. So, I thought that was really interesting, and it took me a bit to get used to them, so they weren’t being eaten very often. But, the fruits kept disappearing off the tree. We thought that was just so weird, where on earth were they going!?! One day, when I was changing my daughter on the changing table situated under that window, I happened to glance out. I watched our German Shorthaired Pointer saunter over to the kumquat tree, and very gently pluck off a kumquat and proceed to eat it. She ate 3 more. Astounding. A kumquat-eating dog. Whoda thunk!?! :dog:

I’ve got one of those! He also plucks cherry tomatoes, both green and red, and gobbles them. He harvests ghost peppers to eat as well, but then he’s grouchy the rest of the day. Pekingese can’t reach very high. So, most crops are safe.

intriguing that dogs seem to enjoy fruits just as we do-- and a sour fruit, of all things! Our dogs ate fruit too, from bananas to peaches. Good that researched on it before trying to offer chocolate or avocado which may be toxic to them. Canines are not obligate carnivores, and could thrive for months on rice, beans/lentils and tofu, and even seem to be healthier and leaner with a predominantly vegetarian diet.

ok, ok, i am digressing…

going back to kumquats, my only complaint is that they are relatively slow-growing in desert conditions, which, of course, might be something desirable if intending to grow as potted specimens. Quat blossoms are also not as pleasantly fragrant as 'mondins, which i think are some of the most fragrant among all flowering trees (trees which also bear edible fruit)