Early ripening, cold hardy, citrus

Hello all
I’ve been fiddling around with citrus the last couple of years, that I could get decent fruit off of, growing outside, passively. No greenhouses or electric assist, taking them indoors, etc. I’ve had a few problems ( such as moles) which have made it difficult to verify, but I’m getting a clearer idea of good varieties.
Fresh eating is good, but I also value sour mixing juice for such things as alcohol. I’ve also had success using sour fleshed fruit candied with granulated sugar for kids.
I think I’m in zone eight or nine-ish. We have hot humid summers, with a longish winter where we get a bit of snow. I find most of my citrus do pretty well until mid February. We get a few overcast days in a row, and my theory is that the sun can’t heat the ground up enough to get them through the nights. That’s when most of the leaves will drop off the tree, of course that stunts it for the following season.
I’ve been experimenting a bit with breathable fabric covers, and water tanks next to the trees when possible. But the trees a list here have been able to make it through the snow without. They also all start to ripen in September, well before our first frosts which will damage the fruit quality.
Anyway, my top producers do far:

Mikan ( Will try to find the variety name, as there are many): This is the only real eating fruit I’ve had success with. It’s actually the first one to ripen enough to use this year in august. Last year much larger, but this year due to some issues they all look about the size of golf balls. Very good tree, the only one that lost almost no leaves all winter uncovered. Here’s a picture tonight:

Shikwasa: Hands-down my favorite. Very juicey tropical tasting with a hint of salt.

Yuzu: very stout, perhaps most cold/pest resistant. fruit make good sour juice if picked green.

Sudachi: very good lemon like sour juice, but not abundant producer for me so far.

Kabos: very large beautiful juicy fruit with good aroma, good producer, but I find it too mild for mixer, and not sweet enough for fresh eating.

Those are my favorite so far that I’ve had success with. I have a few more varieties that havent produced yet, and a few that were washouts for me for various reasons.

Eureka lemon: babied with a black 150 gallon water tank for passive warmth. Very pest sensitive, very few lemons, and they take a long time to ripen.

Mikan (Nastu): Very thick skin with the Dry woody fruit. I don’t know why people even bother to grow them.

Navel orange: Even worse than the Eureka lemon. Severe winter dieback to stalk.

Kinkan (kumquat): extremely cold/pest hardy, very big producer, but it flowers so late (last month) none of the fruit get past green before frost.


Thank you for the post. The pictured cut fruit is gorgeous.

What are your lowest temperatures in the winter and how long do they typically last?

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where did you buy your mikan?

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That’s a good question, I haven’t gotten a very clear answer yet. The area they are planted in is a bit of a frost pocket. Weather sites say -2c is lowest temp, but I think it can drop lower. Roughly speaking, we often get frost from November to February, snow Jan to feb. Jan to feb, nights hover around freezing, dip below, days above freezing. Its humid year round, which helps to stabilize temps I think.
But like I said it’s a bit colder where I have the trees. For example, I put all my tomatoe seedlings out in early March and they all died overnight from cold.
I think the biggest issue for citrus here is leaf drop and windburn. January and February it drops below zero, and we get typhoons. They’ll normally lose most of their leaves, and it takes all of their energy the following season to regrow so there’s little left for fruit. These passive protection systems do work, I’m still sorting them out though. I know a guy in zone 5 or 6 who grew citrus successfully with no additional heating by useing covered water tanks.
Citrus only grows from may-aug here though, so it needs to produce and ripen fast. All these varieties I’m having success with ripen around sept.
Mountain-donkey, I bought them all locally at a homecenter store here.

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My new mandarin tree only produced one this year, but the quality was excellent, and it’s ripening around mid October, which is the earliest for me so far. It has a very thick skin, and it’s easy to tell when it’s ripe because it becomes very baggy, despite still being a bit green.

My main tree that’s been in the ground about three years produced one last year, and despite being quite a small tree, about 50 excellent quality mandarins this year. We’ve already eaten about half of them, and they’re a bit tart. I think the peak ripeness should be coming soon. The skin is a lot thinner on these, and tends to stick to the fruit more, at least so far. I’m very pleased with this tree, as it has decent insect resistance, and I’ve given it no special treatment for winter protection.


My mikan tree with most of the fruit gone. Skin is much thinner than the “top batter”.
Also, my favorite juicer, Shikwasa. Reminds me of blueberries, no matter what happens you always get at least some good full-sized fruit.
Middle is a Sudachi, also a good juicer.
Very exotic flavors in before any frost.
Not sure how long juice would last in the fridge from these different varieties.


Are those water bottles for your drip irrigation by poking a tiny hole on the bottom? If it is then low tech but it will work.


No Tony, they are there as passive heaters. I’m experimenting with water as a way to boost heat in the winter. I need much bigger ones.

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Citrus in my garden now survived 3 days of -15c 3 years ago.
Had A couple of mild winters in a row which has allowed my citrus trees to recover.
Yuzu, Kabos, and sudachi have been my main sour juicers every year. Turns out they are all excellent now when the fruit is ripe, and I can freeze it it to last me all through the winter.
Mikan looks like a great year coming. Amazing recovery from near cold death 3 years ago.
Natsu Mikan turns out is not bad eating if left until June to pick. Juice is excellent for drinking. Funny to see next years flowers opening while it’s still ripening fruit. Must cover fruit from frost with cloth or leaves, or it will brown spot and fall off later. Somehow it’s almost as winter hardy as my Yuzu.