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The Tangerine Tree

Tangerine trees grow a unique fruit that is a favorite all over the world. Tangerines are easy to peel and eat, have a great color, and they have a sweet flavor that people of all ages love. If you want to have a harvest of tangerines of your own, here’s what you need to know about the tangerine tree. 

Tangerine Tree with Ripe Tangerines
Growing Tangerines on a Tree.

History of the Tangerine / Tangerine Tree

This fruit tree is thought to originally be from the northeastern portion of India, from Chine, or Japan. Like many other citrus fruits, they traveled in trade along the Silk Road. Then were traded in North Africa and shipped out from Tangiers, a seaport in Morocco. In fact, its name came from the city of Tangiers.

In the mid-1800s, the tangerine tree came to the US. It was brought by an Italian diplomat who planted them in the garden of the New Orleans consulate. Later, it was sent to Florida, and it became one of the state’s biggest citrus crops. 

Tangerine Ornge Tree / Tangerine Characteristics

Ripe Tangerines on a Tree
Ripe green and Orange Tangerines.

Tangerine trees come in several varieties, and each has its own special characteristics. In general, tangerine trees can grow to be as tall as 10′ to 15′. There are also dwarf varieties that get from 6′ to 8′ tall.

The typical tangerine tree has dark green leaves and bright orange fruit that really stand out in a yard or an orchard. They are small enough that they rarely need pruning and generally don’t have to be pruned to control the size.

The young trees take three to four years to begin bearing fruit, and they also grow small, fragrant flowers. The tree can bear its fruit and then bloom again with the fruit still on the branches. This makes different harvest times possible. The trees should not go below 40 degrees F. If there is cold weather coming, it may be necessary to cover the trees and to mulch the area around the trunk to keep the soil warmer.

The tangerine itself is an amazing little fruit that is popular with kids as well as adults. It has loose skin, so the skin is easily removed by hand. Even kids can pull away the peel and eat the fruit. The fruit itself is in segments, like an orange, so it can be eaten easily and on the go without sticky fingers. It has a sweet taste with a touch of citrus tartness that gives it a very balanced flavor.

Planting Zones

Tangerine trees will generally thrive in zones 8b through 11. These trees are more cold hardy than many other citrus trees, but they often will not survive a hard freeze and need precautions taken in the winter in areas that freeze. Find out more in How to Grow the Tangerine Tree. 

Size and Spacing

Tangerine trees average about 10′-15′ tall and about as wide. You can plant them about 10′ to 15′ apart. 

Pollination

Tangerine trees are self-pollinating. They do not need a pollination partner. 

Tangerine Tree Care

These trees do not need much care as long as they are planted in an area that is right for them. Unlike most fruit trees, they don’t need a lot of pruning or shaping. 

Sunlight

This fruit tree variety wants as much sun as possible. They should be planted in full sun. Even if your area is very hot, they need full sunlight at all times. 

Watering

Like other citrus trees, the tangerine tree needs a lot of water, especially when they are first becoming established. When you first get the young tree and plant it, make sure it is thoroughly soaked with water to help the plant settle and the roots to become established.

For the first two weeks that the plenty is in place, keep the soil moist at all times. However, make sure that there is good drainage for the tree. It’s important for the water to flow deep enough to reach the roots, but they roots should not be kept in standing water. 

After the tree has become established, it only needs watering once or twice a week. The number of times you water it each week will depend on how much rainfall your area gets.

If there is no rain one week, watering it twice a week is needed. Be sure not to overwater your tangerine trees, especially after the tree has already established itself. Too much water can make the tree susceptible to certain diseases as well as harming the roots.

However often you water your plants, try to keep the amount of water that they receive consistent each week. If they have a lot of variety in how much water they get, the tangerines can split. The best way to water these trees is to add water to the soil that encircles the tree and to let that water get soaked into the soil. Then, add more water to it. 

Pruning

These trees don’t need to be pruned regularly to keep them from getting too tall. They can be pruned, however, when a branch becomes broken or there is an area of the tree that has become diseased.

If you cut off a diseased portion, be sure to burn that portion to keep the disease from continuing to spread. If you have two branches that cross each other and will rub together, this can create wounds in the tree that bacteria can use to get inside it. If you have crossing branches, remove one of them.

Diseases and Care

There are a number of diseases that can attack tangerine trees. One of these is citrus canker It’s a bacteria that creates leaf lesions that are raised, but it can often cause lesions on the tangerines or on the stems. The appearance of a halo around the lesions is often present.

There is no cure for it, but you can remove any areas that seem affected. If the whole tree is infected, it should be removed so that it won’t infect other trees. 

Soft scales is another danger to citrus trees. It is caused by pests who create honeydew, a sticky liquid that can be seen in various places on the tree as well as the area around the tree. This substance makes the tree more vulnerable to growing sooty mold.

If your tree has this disease, it can harm the overall health of the tree, stunt its growth and can cause the loss of both fruit and leaves. Using horticultural oils is a good way to get rid of these pests. To find out more, go to Tangerine Tree Diseases and Care.

Fertilizer

It’s helpful to fertilize these trees twice a year whether the tree is in the ground or in a container. When you see the new growth appear, this is when it needs to be fertilized. There are special fertilizers that are made for use with citrus trees. These will have heavier amounts of iron, nitrogen and zinc. If the tree is in the ground, there are also fertilizer stakes that can be used. 

Common Uses for the Tangerine 

Peeled Tangerines

Tangerines are often given to children because they are sweet and easy to peel. They make perfect snacks, as they have their own “wrapper” and are small enough to be carried with your anywhere. They can be eaten raw and have a sweet, and slightly tart, taste. They can also be used in candies because of that sweetness. They make a fine addition to fruit salads. They are often used in puddings, marmalades and cakes as well.

There are many ways to incorporate them into dinner entrees, including using them in tangerine beef recipes and to make tangerine-glazed ham. They can be used in a number of marinades and sauces. They can well and can be frozen for use at another time of the year. 

Health Benefits of the Tangerine

Tangerines, like most fruit, are packed with vitamins and have some of the fiber your body needs for its health. These fruits are high in vitamin C, like other citrus fruits. Just one tangerine gives you 44% of the recommended daily amount of this vitamin. It also contains other antioxidants like vitamins A and B6.

They are also very low calorie. The high amount of vitamin A in tangerines can help the body to fight inflammation. The vitamin C is good for the immune system as well as for oral health. They are a great fruit to eat as a part of an anti-aging diet because of the high levels of antioxidants. To find out more, see The Health Benefits of the Tangerine. 

Where to Buy the Tangerine Tree?

Tangerine trees can often be found at your local nursery, but if you’d like to find one online, some varieties of tangerines can be found at Nature Hills Nursery.

Where to Buy The Tangerine Ornge

Virtually all grocery stores will have tangerines available at certain times of the year. Very small, urban grocery stores may not carry them, but a full-size grocery store will carry them and may even carry different varieties of them. They may also be found in some pre-packaged fruit cocktail cups or in sliced-fruit medleys.

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