16 Common Citrus Fruit Trees

Close-up of orange tree

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When most people think of citrus, the usual varieties first come to mind: lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits. However, there are many different kinds of citrus fruits in the Citrus genus. The fruits, which are modified berries called hesperidia, come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Most citrus plants grow best in full sun and in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, but some can tolerate a little shade, and some are a bit hardier than others. 

The various citrus species will readily cross with one another to form hybrids. A great many popular market fruits are derived from crossing native citrus species.

While most citrus trees are good garden plants in the warm USDA zones 9 to 11, gardeners in cooler zones can also grow them by potting them in large containers and keeping them well pruned to maintain a manageable size. The potting soil needs to be well-drained and kept uniformly moist. Keep the plants outdoors on a deck or patio during the warm season, then move them indoors to a bright location during the colder months.

  • 01 of 16

    Bitter Orange (Citrus aurantium)

    Fresh orange tree on the organic farm.
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    Bitter orange may also be known as sour orange or Seville orange. Most people find the fruit too sour-tasting to eat fresh, but this is an excellent fruit for making orange marmalade. Like most oranges, bitter orange does best in a Mediterranean-type climate—warm days and coolish nights.

    • Native Area: Asia ​​
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 8 to 30 feet, depending on the variety
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 02 of 16

    Blood Orange (Citrus x sinensis var.)

    Blood orange

     

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    The blood orange is a variety of the standard sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) known for its deep red flesh. The most common varieties are the 'Moro', the 'Sanguinello', and the 'Tarocco'. The red coloring is due to the high anthocyanin content, a substance common in many flowers but rare in citrus fruit. Blood orange trees are often grown in large containers and kept pruned to maintain a diminutive size. The trees are indistinguishable from sweet oranges—they have the same glossy green leaves, twisted branches, and spines.

    • Native Area: Spain, Italy
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11; may need winter protection in zone 9
    • Height: Up to 25 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 03 of 16

    Calamondin ( Citrus microcarpa × Citrofortunella microcarpa)

    calamondin plant


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    Calamondin was developed as a cross between a sour Mandarin and a kumquat. In the U.S., this tree is used most often for ornamental purposes rather than for edible fruit. These are small bushy evergreens usually kept fairly short. The branches have small spines, and the orange-scented flowers become small fruits, about 1 inch in diameter, similar to a tiny tangerine. The fruit is segmented and is very acidic.

    This citrus is not tolerant of freezing or windy conditions. It is drought-tolerant once established but needs plentiful water during the fruiting period. Other common names for this plant include calamondin orange, calamonsi, and Philippine lime.

    • Native Area: NA; this is a hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 6 to 15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 04 of 16

    Citron (Citrus medica)

    Citron

     

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    Citron is one of the oldest kinds of citrus fruits and was used as parent species in the genetic breeding of many other important citrus fruits. It is often candied and used in desserts, as the citron is mostly rind and offers little or no juice. The citron is a slow-growing tree with leathery leaves and spines. White or purplish flowers give way to knobby, irregular fruit.

    • Native Area: Probably India (origins uncertain)
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11
    • Height: 10 to 15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 5 of 16 below.
  • 05 of 16

    Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)

    Grapefruit

     

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    The grapefruit is an accidental hybrid plant that first appeared in Barbados as a cross between sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and pomelo (C. maxima). It has since become a very important food crop and is sometimes grown in home landscapes. Different varieties produce fruit with pulp in various shades of white, pink, or red.

    Grapefruit trees have long, glossy dark-green leaves. White flowers precede the development of fruit with yellow-orange skin. Grapefruit trees can tolerate brief dips below freezing, but they require good moisture and frequent feeding.

    • Native Area: Caribbean
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 10 to 45 feet tall
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 06 of 16

    Persian Lime (Citrus x latifolia)

    Lime tree

     

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    The Persian lime (Citrus x latifolia), also known as the Tahiti lime, is a hybrid plant of unknown parentage. It is usually seedless and is widely used for lime juices. This is the kind of lime you will usually see in the grocery store or used for a garnish on cocktail drinks.

    The Persian lime has denser foliage than most citrus trees, with rounded glossy green leaves that form a dense lower canopy. Clusters of white blooms in February and March precede fruits that are ready to eat by June through August. This plant is often grown in large containers, kept pruned to about 6 feet or less. Unlike many other citrus plants, this one has no thorns.

    • Native Area: NA; this is hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 15 to 20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 07 of 16

    Key Lime (Citrus aurantifolia)

    Key limes, Citrus aurantiifolia, in a wooden bowl
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    Key lime is a famous species of lime (Citrus aurantifolia) that is also known as Mexican lime or West Indian lime. The fruit is sweeter than the Persian lime and is well-known as the base ingredient in a key lime pie. 

    Key lime trees need rich, well-draining soil that is kept consistently moist. The leaves are glossy deep green, oval in shape. The fragrant flowers precede small green fruit, about the size of a golf ball. The fruits are usually picked while they are green, but they will ripen to a yellow color.

    • Native Area: Indonesia and Malaysia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11
    • Height: 10 to 12 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 08 of 16

    Kumquat (Citrus japoncia)

    Kumquat fruit
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    Technically speaking, the kumquat (Citrus japonica) is not a citrus fruit, but it is very closely related. It was separated out into its genus around 1915 and formerly classified in the genus Fortunella. The name kumquat means "golden tangerine" in Cantonese. The kumquat has served as a parent species for several hybrid crosses, including the orangequat, calamondin, and limequat.

    Kumquat trees have narrow, medium-green leaves and vase-like growing habit with a rounded top. Fragrant white flowers in spring lead to slightly oval yellow-orange fruit. This is a citrus variety that has better cold-tolerance than most; it can survive temperatures down to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

    • Native Area: Southern Asia and Asia Pacific
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11; survives in zone 8 with protection
    • Height: 4 to 14 feet, depending on the variety
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 9 of 16 below.
  • 09 of 16

    Lemon (Citrus lemon)

    Lemons

     

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    One of the most popular of all citrus fruits, the lemon tree is a durable, long-lived tree that is very sensitive to cold. For this reason, it is often grown as a potted plant that is moved indoors in cold weather. Lemons are broadleaf evergreens with rather sparse foliage. The leaves are oval in shape, dark green on the top surfaces and lighter green on the bottoms. The fragrant flowers are white and reddish pink, leading to the familiar fruits, which may be green as well as yellow.

    These plants can tolerate drought provided they do receive enough water during the fruiting period.

    • Native Area: Asia (exact origins are uncertain)
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 10 to 30 feet, depending on the variety
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 10 of 16

    Orange (Citrus sinensis)

    Orange tree

     

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    The orange, or Citrus sinensis, is the common name for the sweet orange that is the standard supermarket fruit. Two of the most well-known varieties of the orange are Valencia and Washington Navel.

    The leaves of an orange tree are elongated and glossy green, and branches are often twisted with spiny protuberances. The white flowers are fragrant, and the fruits require 12 months or more to ripen. Orange trees are very sensitive to cold; temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit may seriously harm the fruit.

    • Native Area: Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11; protection may be required in zone 9
    • Height: Up to 25 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun; may tolerate part shade
  • 11 of 16

    Mandarin Orange (Citrus reticulata)

    Mandarin orange tree

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    The mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata) has three classes: mandarin, tangerine, and satsuma. All are commonly eaten by themselves or used in salads and have a sweet juicy flavor that is great for snacking. The mandarin is a legacy species that served as one of the genetic parents for the modern standard orange.

    Mandarin oranges are grown as large shrubs or small trees that are nearly indistinguishable from standard orange trees. The leaves are oval in shape and glossy green. The branches are often twisted, with blunt spines. Blossoms appear in March and April, developing the slightly flattened round fruit that matures in about 6 to 8 months.

    • Native Area: Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 10 to 25 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 12 of 16

    Tangerine (Citrus reticulata)

    Tangerines

     

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    Distinguishing between mandarin oranges and tangerines is a confusing matter, since they both belong to the same C. reticulata species. And the words "tangerine" and "mandarin" are sometimes used to describe all varieties of fruit within that species.

    In practice, the name tangerine is usually reserved for the types of C. Reticulata fruit that have red-orange skin. Some authorities see the Clementine as a well-known variety of tangerine, but others classify the Clementine as a hybrid cross between a sweet orange (C. x senensis) and the willowleaf mandarin orange (C. deliciosa).

    • Native Area: Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Height: 10 to 25 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 13 of 16 below.
  • 13 of 16

    Pummelo (Citrus maxima)

    Pummelo

     

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    The pummelo (Citrus maxima) is the largest of the citrus fruits. It is one of the ancestors of the grapefruit. Growing a pummelo tree should be regarded as something of a novelty, as it can take as long as eight years before the tree matures enough to produce edible fruit.

    The pummelo tree has a shape similar to that of a grapefruit tree, with glossy green leaves that form a dense canopy (this tree makes a good small shade tree). The fruits (when they finally appear) are very large—up to 12 inches in diameter, with removable rinds that reveal flesh that looks like that of grapefruit but which usually has a milder taste.

    • Native Area: Malaysia, Thailand, and southern China 
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; may survive zone 9 with winter protection
    • Height:10 to 20 feet tall; can grow up to 50 feet over time
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 14 of 16

    Tangelo (Citrus paradisi × Citrus reticulata)

    Tangelo

     

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    The tangelo is a cross between a mandarin orange and a pummelo or grapefruit. The size depends on the variety chosen; they can be as small as an orange or as large as a grapefruit. Common varieties include 'Minneola' and 'Orlando.'

    A tangelo tree has the familiar glossy dark-green leaves and growth habit common to orange trees, but it produces fruit that has a bulbous end. The flesh of the fruit is very juicy and usually quite sweet.

    • Native Area: NA; this is hybrid plant
    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11
    • Height: 10 to 15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 15 of 16

    Ugli Fruit (Citrus reticulata x C. paradisi)

    Ugli fruit

     

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    The Ugli fruit is the registered brand name for a particular Jamaican tangelo hybrid said to have been a cross between the bitter orange, the grapefruit, and the tangerine. The name comes from its unsightly appearance of the fruit, which is typically 4 to 6 inches in diameter with a rough, wrinkled skin. The Ugli fruit tree resembles that of a tangelo, while the fruit taste is somewhat sweeter than a grapefruit but more sour than an orange. Based on the taste, some people have suggested that the plant is a cross between a lemon and an orange.

    • Native Area: Jamaica
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10
    • Height: 15 to 20 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 16 of 16

    Yuzu Tree (Citrus junos)

    Yuzu in the tree
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    The yuzu is an upright shrub or small tree with pronounced thorns. It is usually considered to be a naturally occurring hybrid from China; it is sometimes categorized as C. ichangensis x C. reticulata var. austera. It is a semi-dwarf plant when planted in the garden, but stays under 5 feet when planted in a pot, which is common. Visually, the yuzo resembles other small citrus trees. Fragrant white flowers lead to unusual, knobby fruits that resemble large, deformed lemons. The fruit has a mild, lemon taste, though it is not often eaten fresh. Instead, the juice and rind are used in preparing Asian cuisine, including drinks, sauces, and sweets. The oil from the skin is also used as a fragrance. Some interesting recipes to try with yuzu include beef shabu-shabu, Modern Smuggler cocktail, and ponzu sauce.

    This plant has the best cold hardiness of any citrus species, surviving temperatures down to zero degrees Fahrenheit. This allows it to be successfully grown outdoors across the southern U.S., up the Pacific Coast through Washington, and up the Atlantic Coast to the Carolinas.

    • Native Area: China, Japan
    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 11
    • Height: 8 to 12 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun

The Citrus genus includes some of the most important of all food crops, and these trees can also make excellent landscape plants for sunny locations in warmer climates. They are fairly easy to grow, and, in addition to providing edible fruit, they are attractive specimens in the landscape. If you like the idea of plants that combine visual and culinary appeal, consider other fruit trees, such as the various types of apples (Malus spp.), plumbs (Prunus spp.), or pears (Pyrus spp.), all of which are quite suitable for cooler climates where citrus fruits cannot grow.

Growing Tips

Most citrus trees are quite easy to grow—if they have the right conditions. If you can provide these, you will find citrus trees easy, fun, and rewarding to grow:

  • Well-drained soil that is kept moist but not soggy; protection from cold (temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit will damage the fruit of most citrus trees); and
  • Adequate sun—8 to 12 hours a day, if you expect to have good fruit. The idea environment for citrus trees is a Mediterranean-type climate, with warm, sunny days and cool (but not frosty) evenings.