Sunburst Mandarin

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

I was just at Lowes today because I had to buy a drill. Naturally, I wandered to the garden center...and ended up with a sunburst mandarin tree. It was an impulse buy but I have always wanted a citrus plant. I know I should have researched this first but sometimes I do stupid things. It's about 4' tall. Anyone have experience growing these? I thought it would be great for my kids.

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

Ahhh yes, the fine print. I read online that this tree is "self-infertile" and needs cross-pollination to bear fruit optimally. Does anyone know what this means? I am assuming I need to buy another sunburst mandarin tree?

Saint Petersburg, FL

@John, typically, this means another variety of citrus is best for cross pollination.I believe Minneola is a recommended pollinator for the Sunburst. But usually citrus are not entirely self-infertile, you'll just get disappointing yields without a pollinator.

Ps-You'll wan to watch those impulse buys at Lowes. Next thing you know, the yard will be swimming in fruit trees and there'll be no place to turn around. Trust me, I know. ;)

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

What kind of soil do you have? Those Lowes Mandarins are grafted on Sour Orange which love sandy loam soil but hate clay soil.

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks for the info, Carolyn. I need to do some research on Minneola and other suitable companion trees for my sunburst mandarin. I also need to figure out if a lemon or lime tree will suffice, too.

Juju- I bought a couple of bags of soil formulated for citrus trees, and potted my tree in a 20gal pot.

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

That should keep it happy for a year or two. Those Mandarins tend to flower around the same time so I dont think you need to look for a specific cultivar to pollinate your tree. A Lemon tree would be a good choice since it has the tendency to flower on and off throughout the year. Make sure you get an Improved Meyers Lemon for cold hardiness. You can also try Miho, Seto or Brown Select Mandarins. They are very popular at most garden centers.
Lime trees are very cold sensitive but they produce lots of fruit. I had a Key Lime that just kept cranking out fruit non-stop.

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

So you wouldn't recommend keeping it in the 20gal pot indefinately? Sounds like I may need to scout around for a nice permanent spot in my backyard.

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

You can keep them in pots. I just meant that in two years you might want a bigger pot.

You are zone 9a so you can definitely grow certain citrus in the ground in your backyard.

Most Mandarins are hardy to the upper teens.
Miho and Seto Mandarins are hardy to 14 degrees.
Improved Meyers Lemon should be good to 20 degrees.
Kumquats are hardy from 14-17 degrees.
Calamondin are hardy from 19 -21 degrees.

Now here is the important part.

Citrus is generally grafted on to two types of rootstock here in Texas.

Sour Orange: great for sandy soil, huge trees, only hardy to 24 degrees

Trifoliate Orange: great for heavier soils, dwarfing, hardy to below zero degrees.

Rootstocks can impart their hardiness to the plants that are grafted to them. For instance, I have a Washington Seedless Navel that has grown in my backyard for over 5 years and has repeatedly taken temps in the teens even though it is only hardy to 24 degrees. It is grafted on to Trifoliate and so it is more cold hardy. The older the tree and the more of the Trifoliate that is above ground level will effect this. Also, Trifoliate goes dormant in winter which shuts down the grafted portion which makes it less susceptible to cold damage.

If you have sandy loam soil and want a big tree, you can plant a tree with Sour Orange rootstock but make sure the graft point is very close to the ground and that you mulch over it in very cold weather. If you have clay soil, dont even bother planting a tree on Sour Orange unless you plant it in a raised bed with ammended soil.

How do you know which rootstock you have?

Generally, all big box stores have it on Sour Orange. Call around to local nurseries and ask if they have citrus grafted on Trifoliate or Flying Dragon. I get mine from but he only comes to Austin a few times a year. Otherwise, you have to drive to his place.

This message was edited Oct 4, 2010 11:11 AM

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

Wow, thanks for the info!! I wonder if the folks at Lowe's will know what rootstock is used with the various trees they have in stock. I guess there's only on way to find out.

There's a great nursurie nearby and I am sure they will have more variety, i.e. Trifoliate rootstocks. We have clay gumbo here on the gulfcoast so it is not pretty.

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

We have our 1st freeze warning tonight with temps forecast to reach 31 deg. My sunburst mandarin is in a large pot (20 gal at least) and I just watered it deeply. Any advice to get me through this first freeze?

Based on the info above from Juju, I would not need to worry had I planted this in the ground.

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

I have Mandarin in pots that have already taken 25F twice this year. Just put a blanket over the pot to keep the soil warm and push it up to the south wall of your house. A spot protected from the wind is best.

League City, TX(Zone 9a)

Will do, thanks!

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