If you’re looking for an orange tree that is particularly well-suited to growing in containers, one tree you might want to look into is the Fukumoto orange tree. This tree is less vigorous than some other varieties of oranges, and many people who need to grow their citrus trees indoors (or bring them in for the cooler months) are devoted to this tree.
Besides its portability, the Fukumoto orange tree delivers a flavorful, juicy, and sweet orange. Perhaps the main benefit of this tree is that it delivers fruit three to four weeks sooner than other navel orange varieties. In fact, Fukumoto oranges ripen anywhere from three to six weeks before the popular Washington navel orange tree.
Let’s dive in and learn all about this delicious Japanese import.
History of the Fukumoto Orange Tree
The Fukumoto orange tree has a fascinating history. Experts believe that the tree was a naturally occurring mutation of a Washington navel tree that was found in the 1960s in a garden in Kokawa-Cho, which is located in the Wakayama Prefecture in Japan. The owner of the garden was a man named S. Fukumoto, and that’s how this unique navel orange tree got its name.
The tree was donated to an American doctor named W.P. Bitters in 1983. Bitters selected this tree from a display of Japanese citrus trees. Then, Mr. Bitters brought the Fukumoto orange tree to the Glenn Dale quarantine facility that belongs to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The tree spent a few years in quarantine before being released in September 1986.
Progress of the Fukumoto Orange Tree
When the Fukumoto orange tree was brought to the United States, the hope was that its deep color and larger size would give the commercial citrus market an improved naval orange cultivar.
In 1990, the Fukumoto orange tree was released to the University of California Riverside, and it’s been in development there ever since.
Unfortunately, the first Fukumoto orange tree imports didn’t produce fruit as large as expected, and there were some health issues with the tree. However, orange growers have not given up hope. New strains of the tree are still being tested and grown at the University of California Riverside and their affiliate growers.
Fruit Tree / Fruit Characteristics
According to the University of California Riverside, the Fukumoto orange tree delivers a fruit that is medium-sized at best, although it has excellent color. The best thing about this tree is that it matures early and reaches maturity a few weeks than the Washington navel orange tree.
The rind of the fruit is deep reddish in color and highly aromatic. Additionally, the rind is prized for the high-quality essential oils it delivers.
Fukumoto oranges peel and segment easily and are delicious for eating out of hand. Your tree will yield 40-50 oranges.
Because it matures early, this tree is a good tree to have in your backyard or orchard. The Fukumoto orange tree bears fruit between one and two years after planting. In Riverside, California, the fruit ripens from November to January.
The Fukumoto orange tree is best-suited to USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10, with Zone 9 being ideal for this tree. You will need to bring your Fukumoto orange tree inside before hard frost occurs in the fall.
To learn more about growing this citrus tree, visit our post on “How to Grow Fukumoto Orange Trees.”
Size and Spacing
At maturity, Fukumoto orange trees are between four and five feet tall.
When planting your Fukumoto orange tree, choose a container that is big enough to support your tree for several years. The larger the pot you chose, the longer your tree can grow in the pot without you having to transplant it later. For example, if you plant your tree in a 15-gallon pot, it will enjoy eight to 10 years of growth in that one container.
Fukumoto orange trees are self-fertile. However, you can help your tree set fruit by using a small brush to move pollen from one flower to another.
Many people choose the Fukumoto orange tree because it grows well in containers. However, something to keep in mind is that when you grow any plant or tree in a container, you are fully responsible for its environment.
Following the guidelines below will ensure that you get the best harvest from your Fukumoto orange tree.
To fertilize your Fukumoto orange tree, use a citrus mix three to four times per year. You can fertilize in late winter, late spring, and early fall.
The soil for growing your Fukumoto orange tree needs to be well-drained and coarse potting soil. We don’t recommend propagation mix for this tree because it holds too much water and is unsuitable.
We recommend that you check the label on your bag of soil to see if fertilizer has been added to the mix. If no fertilizer has been added, you can use an organic or chemical slow-release fertilizer.
The Fukumoto orange tree needs full sunlight. If you grow your tree indoors or bring it in for the winter, be sure to place it near a south-facing window.
In dark winter months, you can also supplement the sunlight with grow lights.
While you don’t want to allow your Fukumoto orange tree to dry out, the most common watering problem is overwatering. During the tree’s growing season, a deep watering every week is usually enough.
In winter, your tree will be growing more slowly. During this time, deep watering every two weeks is sufficient.
To make sure you’re keeping your orange tree suitably moist, check the top two to three inches of soil. If the soil is dry to that depth, it’s time to water your tree.
You can prune your Fukumoto orange tree to encourage outward growth and better fruit production. Eliminating branches that cross or rub each other will help ensure that sunlight reaches all the tree’s branches.
For information about pruning this tree, visit our guide to “Pruning The Fukumoto Orange Tree.”
Diseases & Care
In hot weather, the Fukumoto orange tree suffers from a foamy bark root that agricultural scientists are currently researching. The tree is also prone to chimeras or ridging. Moreover, this tree suckers heavily, and this can result in a smaller harvest.
As far as pests, be mindful of slugs. Otherwise, your Fukumoto orange tree won’t be bothered by outside pests. However, when you bring your tree indoors, it can be vulnerable to aphids or mites. You can treat these issues with insecticidal soap.
To learn more about the diseases that can affect this tree, check out our guide to the “Fukumoto Orange Tree Diseases and Care.”
Common Uses For the Fukumoto Orange Tree
Fukumoto oranges are super sweet and low in acid. This makes these small oranges ideal for eating raw, preserving, and using in recipes.
What Do Fukumoto Oranges Taste Like?
In terms of taste, the Fukumoto orange tree delivers fruit that is low in acid content. This makes for a sweet fruit that is delicious to eat straight off the trees.
Any recipe that calls for oranges will be made even more delicious with Fukumoto oranges. The superior color and juiciness, along with the low acid content, will give your recipes the perfect zing.
Because they’re so sweet and juicy, Fukumoto oranges are perfect for eating raw or serving in salads.
Canning / Freezing / Drying
The list of ways to preserve oranges is extensive. If your tree gives you a full harvest, you can find lots of creative recipes online for preserving your Fukumoto oranges.
If you want to can your oranges, you can preserve them in segments or whole in canning jars. You can use your canned oranges in fruit salads or recipes all year long. Fukumoto oranges are beautiful in jars, and they make welcome holiday gifts.
Sunny Southern Preserved Oranges is one great orange preserving idea. Also, you can make recipes like Orange Marmalade or Orange Jam with Warm Spices to bring a taste of sweet sunshine into your breakfast.
Moreover, jelly or marmalade in tiny jars also makes gorgeous gifts.
To freeze oranges, you have several options. One is that you can freeze oranges whole. Doing this allows you to pull them out of the freezer as needed to make juice.
One of our favorite tips for freezing Fukumoto oranges is to juice them and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. Once your orange juice cubes are frozen solid, pop the juice cubes into a large freezer bag. Later, you can thaw them for a glass of juice or for use in recipes.
One great use for dried orange slices is to use them to flavor and accent a pitcher of iced tea or homemade lemonade. The effect with the gorgeous reddish skin of the Fukumoto orange will be as beautiful as it is delicious.
To make sure you’re not wasting a single bit of your orange harvest, consider making your own homemade orange zest. Follow these steps for the best results.
- To dry your orange zest, zest your Fukumoto oranges and place the zest in a thin layer on a baking tray. When you’re zesting your oranges, be sure to avoid getting the white pith into your zest. This will ensure that your zest is tangy, not bitter.
- Set your oven to 170° F or lower.
- Bake your finely-grated orange zest for 30 minutes to one hour. Note that if you’re drying your zest in strips of peel, it can take several hours.
- Allow it to cool completely after baking.
- Store your dried zest in a cool, dark place in an airtight container.
Alternatively, you can allow your orange zest to dry in the air naturally. Follow all the instructions above, but skip the oven. Your zest will be air-dried in a couple of days.
Dried orange zest will stay flavorful for up to a year.
Recipes for Fukumoto Oranges
Any recipe that calls for oranges will be made doubly delicious by Fukumoto oranges. Here are some of our favorite orange recipes.
- Citrus and Avocado Salad with Orange Water
- Classic Orange Beef
- Orange Sweet Rolls
- Cranberry Orange Walnut Bread
- Duck a l’Orange
- Root Vegetable Soup with Orange, Ginger, and Tarragon
- Orange Dream Bars
- Orange Glazed Pork Loin
Another excellent use for Fukumoto oranges is to make candied citrus peel out of the gorgeous reddish-orange peels.
Health Benefits of Fukumoto Oranges
Oranges are one of the healthiest fruits we can eat, and their benefits have been well-documented in numerous scientific and nutritional studies. Half of a large orange has about 47 calories, and this nutrient-dense citrus fruit is chock-full of vitamins and minerals.
Here are some of the nutrients in oranges:
- Vitamin C
- Fiber, Thiamine
- Rich antioxidants
- Flavonoids like hesperidin and anthocyanins
Where To Buy the Fukumoto Orange Tree
You can buy the Fukumoto at some online nurseries, but they don’t ship to certain states, including George, California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas.
Nature Hills Nursery sells a Fukamoto orange tree (note the spelling difference), which is related to the Fukumoto tree but is a different tree.
Where To Buy Fukumoto Oranges
Fukumoto oranges are available in Japan’s local markets and at California farmer’s markets in limited quantities. If you’re lucky enough to find these oranges at a produce stand, grab them up because they’re not easy to find.
Wrapping up the Fukumoto Orange Tree
If you can get your hands on a Fukumoto orange tree, you will enjoy the early harvest of large fruit that’s sweet and juicy. Like all orange trees, the Fukumoto orange tree is beautiful to have in your yard. Best of all, this tree transports easily to the warmer indoors in cold months.