x Citrofortunella Microcarpa, Citrus Mitis, Panama Orange

The Calamondin is a petite tree and belongs to an interesting group of plants that is a garden hybrid of two different citrus genera – Citrus and Fortunella, in this instance the mandarin orange and kumquat. That’s why the ‘x’ appears before the genus name – denoting a bi-generic hybrid. The specific epithet (microcarpa) is a derived from the Ancient Greek words mikros meaning “little” and karpos meaning “fruit”, as the fruit of this variety is indeed small. This botanical trivia, however, has little relevance to the virtues of this versatile and attractive small citrus tree.

During spring and summer, the Calamondin produces an abundance of white, waxy, five-petalled flowers, lending a sweet fragrance to the garden for weeks on end. Small orange-like fruits then develop, turning bright orange as they ripen in July and remain on the plant for several months. In very warm climates or in a mild winter, the fruit can remain partially green when ripe. The fruit has an acquired taste with its mix of bitter-sweet skin and flesh that leaves the mouth tingling with delight. Because the fruit is difficult to peel, they are best popped straight into the mouth and enjoyed.

The fruit has many culinary purposes

  • Marmalade or couli;
  • Frozen whole and used as ice cubes;
  • Juiced to make a drink similar to lemonade;
  • Used to season fish, chicken or pork;
  • The juice can be mixed with soy sauce as a dipping sauce;
  • to make a delicious liqueur or fruit preserve.

These compact-growing citrus trees make wonderful container specimens for patios, courtyards and swimming-pool surrounds. They can be left to grow as shrubs or trained into standards with a rounded head on a clean stem. Other garden uses include specimen shrubs, boundary hedging, feature plants in formal herb gardens – or use them where an attractive evergreen plant is needed to make an impact.

x Citrofortunella Microcarpa ‘Variegata’ has leaves that are variegated green with irregular cream and white markings and blotches. 

Distribution and Habitat of the Calamondin

All citrus prefers a tropical to sub-tropical climate with a high rainfall, but once well-established, they will flourish just as well in other climates, including the winter rainfall regions and other colder areas.

What Calamondin need

Calamondins grow best in rich, loamy, well-drained soil and enjoy full sun. If they grow in the shade of other trees, they will not produce much fruit and will tend to become diseased.

In coastal regions, protect citrus against salt-laden sea breezes and, in colder climates, plant the tree against a north-facing, sun-baked wall and protect the plant against frost and any strong winter blasts with an icy ‘chill factor’.

Calamondins enjoy a well-draining soil that has been enriched with quality compost. Citrus are greedy plants and need to fed at least four times a year with a fertiliser high in nitrogen and potassium to encourage healthy foliage (nitrogen) and good fruiting (potassium). Distribute the fertiliser evenly over the spread of roots and water well, then layer compost over the same area as a mulch.  Citrus trees do not enjoy their roots being disturbed.

Do not over-water your plant. In summer rainfall areas, the summer rains should suffice, however if it hasn’t rained for weeks on end, water your Calamondin.

In winter, a deep watering every two weeks for trees in the ground will be helpful. For container specimens, assess the moisture level of the soil weekly. Citrus should never be over-watered or water-logged.

Be on the lookout for red spider mite and red scale which accumulate on stems and leaves. Treat these immediately upon detection to keep the plants healthy.

Click here for care instructions of lemons.

In a nutshell

  • an evergreen and generous fruit bearer;
  • a beautiful, ornamental tree for any garden;
  • ideal for pots on the patio;
  • easy to cultivate;
  • has medium water consumption;
  • highly scented white flowers.

Citrus Mitis or Panama Orange

This a large shrub or small tree with typical citrus foliage, although usually smaller than the average orange tree leaf. The small, waxy, white blossoms are followed by spherical fruits about 2,5 cm in diameter at maturity. The fruit are rather unpalatable, hence the often-used common name of ‘ornamental orange’.

However, this is an attractive tub or container specimen, especially when the little trees are covered with ripe fruit. They withstand light frost only.

The Gardener