How To Care For Tangerine Trees

The Tangerine tree, is known by the botanical names Citrus Reticula L. var and Citrus Tangerina, is a type of Citrus Reticulata (SIT-rus, reh-tick-yoo-LAY-tuh), commonly known as the mandarin orange. 

A member of the Rutaceae or citrus family, the species is named after its fruit – tangerine.

Fruit of the tangerine tree up close

The name tangerine was initially used to refer to the mandarin variety which came from Tangier, a city in northwestern Morocco. 

But, over the years, it became generalized and is now used for all reddish-orange mandarin varieties, regardless of which part of the world they grow in.

Try growing the other dwarf citrus called the Calamondin orange tree.

Tangerine Tree Care

Size & Growth

Tangerines are evergreen perennial citrus species with an average height of about 10’ to 15’ feet, but rarely reaching 25’ feet tall.

Several dwarf varieties of tangerine plants are also available, which will grow as houseplants in small spaces and even containers.

Featuring small deep green leaves and fragrant flowers, tangerine trees form attractive foliage. 

However, they are cultivated and prized for their citrus fruits.

Flowering and Fragrance

Tangerine trees produce small white flowers in early spring. 

Sometimes, however, they may undergo another blooming period during the fruiting season. 

The flower has five petals and a beautiful fragrance. Flowering is followed by the production of delicious tangerine fruit. 

The tender and juicy fruits are similar to oranges, but are generally sweeter and have thinner rinds. 

Fruits typically start appearing in October or November. 

However, some varieties start producing fruits as early as August while a few may not bear fruits until December.

New tangerine plants take about 2 to 3 years to start producing fruits.

Light & Temperature

Tangerine trees are best suited from warm tropical and sub-tropical climates. 

They need full sun to grow, but can tolerate partial shade. However, sunlight is critical to the production of fruits. 

If a tangerine tree doesn’t get adequate sunlight, it won’t be able to produce many fruits. 

When grown indoors, make sure to keep the plant in front of a sun facing window.

Although tangerine trees have more winter tolerance than most citrus species, they do not generally survive through freezing cold weather. 

Hence, they will need protection during the winter months. In the United States, they are hardy to USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.

Watering and Feeding

Young tangerine plants need plenty of water to establish. 

Water them regularly and adequately for the first two years – about twice a week. 

But, be careful to not overwater as they cannot tolerate soggy or water-logged soils.

Reduce watering when the plant reaches maturity and let the top 2” inches of the soil to dry out between waterings.

Feed the newly planted c. tangerina trees with citrus fertilizer in the first spring. 

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to feed the young plants, but divide the suggested yearly quantity into three. 

Apply each of the one-third amounts on the root area (and not at the base of the trunk) in March, May, and June.

Also, apply a 2” to 3” inches thick layer of compost, every spring.

Soil & Transplanting

Tangerine plants will grow in most potting soil mixes. But, they need well-draining soil with a neutral pH.

Tangerines grown in containers need to be repotted every 3 to 4 years.  

When transplanting, make sure to leave a space of about 2” inches around the root ball, so the roots have room to expand. 

Also, make sure to remove the peat from around the roots when moving to another pot or location. 

This is to prevent soil pH disturbance – the addition of peat to a potting soil (which have neutral pH) will make the soil pH to turn acidic.

Add soil around the roots and keep the newly transplanted plants in a sunny location. 

Keep the soil consistently moist for at least about two weeks and return to normal plant care.

Grooming and Maintenance

Tangerine trees aren’t high-maintenance. However, you may need to prune them to remove the dead and damaged leaves, branches, or suckers. 

When needed, prune the trees in early spring, before the new growth starts to emerge.

Are Tangelos and Tangerines The Same?

Tangerines and Tangelos are not the same. Tangelos are fruits resulting from crossing the grapefruit and tangerine. The old name for – grapefruit – was pomelo, hence the name “Tangelo.”

They grow the same as oranges, requiring identical care, and produce delicious, tangy fruits in winter. Several varieties are on the market which have fruiting periods from November till early summer.

How To Propagate A Tangerine Tree

While tangerine plants will grow from seeds, the trees grown this way either fail to produce fruit or produce less fruit, in most cases. 

Therefore, the best way to enjoy homegrown tangerines is to get one to two year old tangerine tree from a nursery.

Tangerine Tree Pest or Diseases

Provided the right care, tangerines trees remain healthy without any disease or pest issue. 

However, like most other citrus trees, they may develop brown spots on leaves, greasy spot, citrus scab, or winter root rot (called phytophthora rot).

The white, citrus-scented blooms of this orange tree attract birds and bees, which also act as their pollinator.

Tangerine Tree Uses

Tangerine trees are grown for their delicious fruits, which are widely consumed in different parts of the world in both raw form and for making different food products.  

Over the years, several varieties of these fruit trees have also been developed, including some seedless varieties. 

Some of the popular ones include:

  • Clementine
  • Pixie
  • Encore
  • Kara (a cross between King Tagor and Owari satsuma)
  • Florida Murcott Honey
  • Dancy tangerines – The fruit is available from December through February, the zipper skin peels easily and is loosely segmented.

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