Citrus can add an unexpected sweet touch to your Tucson yard. These long-lived trees can produce fruit for years, becoming a source of deliciousness and beauty if you choose the best type that will thrive in the desert climate and give it the proper care to reach its full lusciousness.
Best Citrus for Tucson Landscapes
First and foremost, the very best citrus tree for your yard is a variety you will eat and enjoy. Different types of citrus can become phenomenal jams, jellies, and marmalades and be eaten fresh, juiced, candied, or used in salads, marinades, baking, and other dishes. Consider what types of citrus you will enjoy most so there will be less fruit wasted, or choose a type you could trade with neighbors or donate to others to ensure the fruit is used.
All types of citrus can thrive in Tucson, including…
- Oranges – Sweet varieties such as Arizona Sweet or Trovita are top choices, as are juicy options like the Cara Cara orange. Still, you can find a variety of oranges that do well in our Tucson climate. Consider the fruit size and rind thickness for your personal preferences and how you plan to use the fruit.
- Grapefruit – Both pink and yellow grapefruits of different sizes will do well in Tucson’s climate, but be mindful of the level of sourness the selected variety offers, as well as how much grapefruit you will use.
- Lemons – Ideal for juices and marinades, lemons are a top favorite for Tucson landscaping. Lisbon lemons are a top choices, as well as Meyer Lemons. Meyer lemons are actually a hybrid between a Citron and a Mandarin. They are less acidic and more hold hardy than your typical lemon.
- Limes – A great option for marinades as well as fabulously tangy pies, cookies, and other baked treats, limes are also tasty garnishes for many dishes. We typically have both the Mexican Lime and the Bearss Seedless Lime, which is like the full sized lime in the grocery store.
In addition to these familiar citrus types, less common citrus such as tangelos, pummelos, kumquats, and limequats can also be great choices to grow in Tucson. If you aren’t certain which type you prefer, consider visiting Green Things in person for advice, or try out a local farmer’s market for samples or taste testing to find your favorites before committing to one or more varieties.
Tips for Planting Citrus
Regardless of which type of citrus you choose, you want to be sure to give it proper care for the most bountiful harvests of juicy, delicious fruit. Choose a good location with adequate space for the tree’s full growth, as excess pruning can limit fruit production. The best location will also be free of grass or other plantings that would compete with the tree for moisture and nutrients.
Citrus should be planted from February through May or October through December to avoid freshly planted, vulnerable trees during the extremes of heat and cold. Adding good quality mulch around the tree – but not up against the trunk – can help protect the soil and keep the temperatures more balanced. Wrapping the tree’s trunk with flexible tree wrap will also help protect it from sunburn, while frost cloths may be necessary in winter if temperatures drop to extreme lows. Be sure the frost cloth is sizeable enough to drape over the entire tree, all the way to the ground, to retain heat through a chilly night.
Citrus should be watered deeply and slowly – a soaker hose or drip system can be perfect. A soil probe is useful to determine moisture in the soil, as the top few inches should be allowed to dry out between waterings so citrus trees do not develop root rot. Specialized citrus blend fertilizer is also essential to properly nourish these trees for the tastiest fruit, though take care to time feedings and fertilizer amounts to the type of citrus for the best results.
Citrus trees can be a beautiful and delicious addition to any Tucson landscape, provided you choose the best citrus type for your preferences and offer it proper care to reach its full potential. Before you know it, you’ll have ample fruit to enjoy!