Citrus, Japanese Hardy Orange, Bitter Orange 'Flying Dragon'

Citrus trifoliata

Family: Rutaceae (roo-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Citrus (SIT-rus) (Info)
Species: trifoliata (try-foh-lee-AY-tuh) (Info)
Cultivar: Flying Dragon
Synonym:Poncirus trifoliata
View this plant in a garden



Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade



Provides Winter Interest

Foliage Color:

Dark Green

Light Green


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)


USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual


Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds


Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Midland City, Alabama

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Camden, Arkansas

North Little Rock, Arkansas

Citrus Heights, California

Lafayette, California

Oakland, California

San Jose, California(2 reports)

Wilmington, Delaware(2 reports)

Archer, Florida

West Palm Beach, Florida

Alto, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia

Lawrenceville, Georgia

Chicago, Illinois

Indianapolis, Indiana

Crestwood, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky

Lafayette, Louisiana

Ventress, Louisiana

South Bristol, Maine

Stevensville, Maryland

Amherst, Massachusetts

Danvers, Massachusetts

Halifax, Massachusetts

Westford, Massachusetts

Marietta, Mississippi

Natchez, Mississippi

Waynesboro, Mississippi

Columbia, Missouri

Helena, Montana

Riverton, New Jersey

Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Bronx, New York

Coram, New York

Roslyn, New York

Charlotte, North Carolina

Clayton, North Carolina

Durham, North Carolina

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Fayetteville, North Carolina

Henderson, North Carolina

Hillsborough, North Carolina

Kure Beach, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina(2 reports)

Stanley, North Carolina

Statesville, North Carolina

Cincinnati, Ohio

Lynchburg, Ohio

Mason, Ohio

Oxford, Ohio

Portland, Oregon

Birchrunville, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Fountain Inn, South Carolina

Hartsville, South Carolina

Lexington, South Carolina

North Charleston, South Carolina

Okatie, South Carolina

Trenton, South Carolina

Ardmore, Tennessee

Gates, Tennessee

Hendersonville, Tennessee

Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Austin, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

Houston, Texas

Palestine, Texas

Spring, Texas(2 reports)

North Salt Lake, Utah

Orem, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

Afton, Virginia

Hanover, Virginia

Montpelier, Virginia

Roanoke, Virginia

Tacoma, Washington

Vancouver, Washington

Weirton, West Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Feb 2, 2014, jv123 from Chehalis, WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have had my Flying Dragon in the ground underneath a very large Doug Fir for a year now, and it has sailed through the coldest temps we ever get in my zone (Vancouver WA 8b). The leaves turned a nice golden yellow in the fall, and have already started poking out this year. I'm glad this form of Poncirus stays dwarf, otherwise the twisted branches and thorns would be a little dangerous for people walking up my driveway. This will keep 'em outta my garden! Even small, it is vicious.


On Jan 27, 2014, DocTerra from San Diego, CA wrote:

I saw this plant for the first time in Margate, NJ on the Atlantic City coastline. It took a while to figure out what it was. It was a bit more zig-zaggy and in fruit, which smell great, very thorny.

I've also observed this plant outside in the NY Botanical garden in the Bronx, toward the back, inside a fenced nursery area.


On Jan 27, 2014, boxwood4 from Rancocas, NJ wrote:

My next door neighbor had one next to my fence in Burlington, NJ. It was given to her and was about 5-foot at the time in the 1980s and early 1990s. She had a tiny yard and was always getting cut on the branches. I never saw any fruit on this plant, perhaps because they kept it lower. I wanted it out so that it would not get in my gardens. Finally, they cut that down before selling the home. Too invasive and dangerous of a plant for just having a 'curiosity' . Go see it in an arboretum instead.


On Jan 27, 2014, mlml from Penngrove, CA wrote:

If this plant gets out of control it will be a nightmare for restoration workers: Here's an article explaining the problem:

An Asian Invasian Imminent?

In addition to commanding respect because of its spines, Poncirus "has become extremely invasive" under certain conditions, according to horticulturalist and noted azalea hybridist Bob Head of Seneca, South Carolina-based Head Selects and Head Ornamentals (a plant marketing and licensing company).

Having observed entire thickets of Poncirus in out-of-the-way places while hunting in locales throughout the South Carolina Piedmont, Head says, "One of the major concerns with Poncirus is that many river bottoms in national forests and other places where land would have been under cultivation at one ... read more


On Jan 27, 2014, maternut from Gates, TN wrote:

I found one growing beside a railroad track several years ago. Planted the seed from one of the oranges and now I have two very nice trees. I gave several plants away at plant swaps I attend.


On May 28, 2012, Southernyard from Commerce, GA wrote:

I also live in the North Georgia area. It appears the subdivision I live in was built on an old homeplace. The woods have lots of various sizes of the plants. From new seedlings that come up every year to plants that are over 15 ft. in length. The thorns on the adult plants can be 4 or more inches long. I have transplanted these with very good success.


On Mar 28, 2012, Omegatop from Hampton, VA wrote:

Got this plant as a birthday gift about four years ago. It is in an area that gets dappled sunlight and finally bloomed this year. It is a very nice evergreen specimen and is over 6 feet tall.


On Jan 3, 2012, historichillsborough wrote:

There are several large and old Flying Dragons in historic Hillsborough NC, one being at the Burwell School Historic Site. This New Year's Day I also saw one at a long abandoned house site along the old Eno-Hawfields wagon road in part of Duke Forest west of Hillsborough, near a ford on the Eno River.


On Apr 7, 2011, rockmanwss from Wilmington, DE wrote:

Be careful if you have a sensitivity to poison ivy with this plant. Poncirus in in the Rue family and can cause dermatitis just like poison ivy. I got stuck fairly badly by a thorn and my finger swelled up like a sausage and was very painful. I still love it though!


On Nov 22, 2010, shetay from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:

I moved in to this house in 2008 and it contains a Japanese bitter orange tree on the side of the house. I never seen one before and didnt know what it was until I did research on it. It is a very old tree. The people who owned the house came her in the late 30's so you can imagine how old it is. There are a lot of dead areas on it. It was not taken care of. So this year I trimmed it back a lot. It was very bushy. It hurt a lot to trim it even with gloves. But it looks a lot better and is still producing fruit. The birds like it a lot to keep away from my cats. I dont think it would be a good plant for small children to be around. It can put a eye out. One lady I talked to said if you fell into one you might not live through it. But overall I think it is a great converaional piece.


On Apr 25, 2010, MollyMc from Archer/Bronson, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

Darius left one here for me 4 years ago. It finally bloomed last month. I wonder if that means it will make fruit this year?


On Dec 13, 2008, Phrederica_VA from Montpelier, VA wrote:

I have the species plant, not the cultivar 'Flying Dragon'. I have 3 trees that are 15 feet tall or so, and this year produced about 6 five-gallon buckets full of mini-oranges! Yes, they are edible. We made kind of a lemonade out of them one year. It tasted kind of like lemon and kind of like grapefruit. The only problem is the peels are kind of gummy and make your knife and cutting board VERY difficult to clean. I love these trees, and get many compliments on them. The foliage is beautiful, and they look pretty amazing covered with oranges way up in Virginia!


On Nov 17, 2008, Acemoose from Arlington, VA wrote:

So this is an orange fruit plant that has thorns....?

Several years ago I planted GRAPEFRUIT seeds and the resulting trees grew to be about 3 feet tall (they eventually died -- the pots were on my windowsill). The stems and leaves were greeen and glossy.

BOTH trees had LOOONG thorns -- I've been to Florida a number of times and have NEVER seen a grapefruit tree with thorns-- so, in my case, what happened with my grapefruit trees -- were they related to this thorny orange tree, or did they have recessive grapefruit genes???


On Nov 17, 2008, agronomist from West Point, NY wrote:

I planted a hedge of the Hardy Orange about twenty years ago and for the first decade kept it sheared at about four feet high. My mistake was that I missed a couple shearings and it has become so intertwined it's nearly impossible to cut without getting stabbed in the process. This plant could truely stop a vehicle from penetrating a boundary line, if that was your intent. Incidentally, the fruit is great for holiday decorations and the mild citrus scent given off when brought in the home is real plus. Also, these fruit self seed very easily.


On Nov 18, 2005, Silphion from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

Could there be a better plant for Citrus buffs with an eye for the bizarre? A cold hardy orange who's contorted form comes true to seed (even the thorns are curved) and also has spectacular fall color (here in OR Z8b I get bold reds and yellows) If the standard Poncirus is too intimidating for you this twisted little dwarf might be just right! As yet, I have had no problems with them.


On Jan 19, 2005, Badseed from Hillsboro, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Although a slow grower for me, it is a really neat plant. Just be careful of those thorns!

This plant is very often used as the root stock to keep other citrus plants smaller.


On Oct 26, 2004, tcfromky from Mercer, PA (Zone 5a) wrote:

This plant is not poisonous. In fact, juice can be made from the fruits - be sure to add sweetener and some extra water. Thorns are long and curved and the branches tend to grow in a corkscrew habit. Fruits are very aromatic. Great in zones 6 - 9.


On Oct 21, 2003, stricksgirl wrote:

I found one of these growing behind my fenceline. I live in northern Georgia and was a bit surprised to find what I thought was a wild orange growing in my woods. It has huge thorns. The fruit appears to grow on branches which have no leaves or have lost their leaves. Branches with leaves have no fruit and have smaller thorns that the fruited branches. I cut one of the fruits and found lemon like pulp and seeds. The aroma made me want to eat it! It smelled very citrusy and sweet. It has a soft fuzz on the rind, somewhat like a peach. I have no idea where it came from, but I think there may have been one of these growing in the yard of a neighbor when I was in my early teens (more than 20 years ago!). I have done a web search and found several articles on this plant. Some say it ... read more