What, Where & When to Buy

What Citrus Tree Variety Should I Buy?

This depends mostly on personal preference. For the most part, citrus cultivars are pretty hardy both in terms of drought resistance and cooler temperatures. When growing in containers, citrus trees can thrive indoors, weather the sometimes extreme humidity and prolonged heat of the summer outdoors, and be totally fine in the fall when temperatures bottom out in the 40s.

Do you want a tree that’ll produce the most fragrance in the home while it blooms? Or do you want some fruit from your favorite orange to eat or drink? Do you like really sweet fruit? Something a little tangy? Sour? Seeds fine? Want something to show off to your neighbors?

Probably the most common and successfully grown citrus trees by home gardeners are the Meyer Lemon and the Mexican Key Lime trees. More trendy, culinary trees include the Kaffir Lime and Yuzu Lemon trees.

Research as many citrus varieties before making a purchase. You might find something better suited the more you learn. This website has a lot of great content on many varieties. You can check out each citrus tree I own.

Fun fact: Many varieties of citrus trees have been assigned their species(grapefruit, mandarin, orange, lime, lemon, etc. ) more so from skin color and where a species originated from than some definitive genetic lineage. For example, a lime is a citrus with green skin and a lemon is citrus with yellow skin. A Ponderosa lemon isn’t really even a lemon despite its yellow colored skin. The root of the word ‘tangerine’ gets its name from Tangier, Algeria where it was found.

Until recent decades with genetic testing, we truly didn’t understand how diverse the genetics of one variety compared to a different variety within the same species can be.

How old of a tree?

Grow from seed, a one-foot tree, two feet, four feet? There’s no wrong answer. Here are a few things to consider regarding age:

Growing from seed takes the longest and it may not produce a tree that bears fruit. If you are new to citrus, it’s highly recommended you do not go down this path. Heck, it’s probably an option that should be avoided for nearly everyone. Unless you want a shade tree, skip growing from seed.

I try buying citrus trees that are no more than a year out from blooming. There is no universal age among citrus species as to when this occurs. You’ll need to research each individual species to figure out how old it will be when it blooms. Broadly speaking, a two to a five-year-old tree is what you’ll be aiming for. The rootstock also plays are the role in when a tree can bloom.

Consider the stress of transportation

If your tree is being shipped in the mail then a smaller, more adolescent one will be more vulnerable than a taller, more established one. It is more likely to get physically damaged or experience trauma while traveling and more prone to dying when adjusting to its new environment.

Where Should I Buy Citrus Trees?

Take your pick from hardware stores, nurseries, and shopping around online. You’ll likely need to use multiple channels as you expand your collection.

Buying from a Nursery

This all depends on where you live. Up here in the north, nurseries generally don’t have very many citrus trees and the options are limited. Expect to see your more popular citrus species. This includes your Meyer lemon, Persian lime, key lime, and sweet little mandarin-types among others.

It’s always good to support your local community, businesses, and growers. So if you are looking for a more common citrus variety try shopping around town before buying online.

Ordering Online

Living in Minnesota, there is no possible way I could have gotten as many varieties of trees that I have by shopping at a nursery without extensive special ordering. Even then, it may not have been enough.

As with so many types of products, looking online is the best way to search when selection is key.

Certain states are not allowed to ship to due to USDA restrictions. Minnesota is not one of them, but you’ll see which states are restricted when you visit any reputable seller online.

A delivered shipment of citrus trees from a reputable online citrus retailer.

When Should I Buy Citrus Trees?

You’ll find that citrus tree availability reaches its peak in the Spring with a much smaller peak in the Fall. Most varieties have a very limited window for purchase as they sell out fast. Ideally, buy your citrus trees in the Spring, especially if the trees are young and you’re inexperienced in growing them. It’s fine buying in the Fall but consider how many weeks it’ll be before you’ll bring them indoors. After being shipped across the country they’ll need about two weeks to acclimate to their new environment.

Moving a recently delivered tree from your doorstep to a sun-exposed area in your yard is a very bad idea. Put it in the shade.  It just got out of a completely dark box and it’ll want a slow transition to full sunlight.

Moving them indoors right after during the fall to yet another different environment may be too fast.

Anticipate leaf drop. Minimizing dramatic environment changes mitigates tree stress and subsequent leaf drop. It will ultimately decrease personal stress too since you won’t be panicked when your tree’s condition worsens!