By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
The traditional citrus belt spans the area between California along the Gulf coast to Florida. These zones are USDA 8 to 10. In areas that expect freezes, semi hardy citrus are the way to go. These might be satsuma, mandarin, kumquat, or Meyer lemon. Any of these would be perfect citrus trees for zone 8. So whether you want sweet fruits or acid-type fruits, there are selections available that can thrive in zone 8.
Citrus was introduced to the continental United States in 1565 by Spanish explorers. Over the years there have been increasingly large groves of many types of citrus, but most of the oldest stands have died to freeze damage.
Modern hybridizing has led to citrus plants that are hardier and more able to withstand such factors as high humidity and occasional light freezes with protection. In the home garden, such protection can be more difficult without the technology available to large scale growers. This is why selecting the right citrus trees for zone 8 is important and enhances your chances of successful harvests.
Much of the zone 8 region is coastal or partially coastal. These areas are mild and have extended warm seasons but they also receive violent storms and some freezing during winter. These are less than perfect conditions for tender or even semi-hardy citrus plants. Choosing one of the hardier cultivars as well as situating the plant with some protection can help defray these potentially damaging conditions.
Dwarf plants are easier to look after in case of storm or freeze expectations. Keeping an old blanket handy to cover the plant when a cold snap is due can help save your crop and the tree. Young zone 8 citrus trees are particularly susceptible. Trunk wraps and other types of temporary covers are also beneficial. Selection of rootstock is also important. Trifoliate orange is an excellent rootstock which imparts cold resistance to its scion.
Meyer is the most cold hardy variety of lemon. Fruits are nearly seedless and even a small plant can produce a large harvest.
The Mexican or Key West lime is the most tolerant of cold in this fruit category. It may do best grown in a container on casters that can be moved to shelter if heavy cold weather threatens.
Satsumas are cold tolerant and their fruit will ripen well before most cold weather occurs. Some of the better cultivars are Owari, Armstrong Early, and Browns’ Select.
Tangerines, like satsumas, are very able to withstand light freezes and cold temperatures. Examples of this fruit might be Clementine, Dancy, or Ponkan.
Kumquats bear no harm even when exposed to temperatures of 15 to 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 to -8 degrees Celsius).
Ambersweet and Hamlin are two sweet oranges to try and navels like Washington, Summerfield and Dream are good in the zone.
Choose a full sun location for your citrus. Citrus trees can be planted on the southwestern side of the house near a wall or other protection. They perform best in sandy loam, so if your soil is clay or heavy, add plenty of compost and some fine silt or sand.
The best time to plant is late winter or early spring. Dig the whole twice as wide and deep as the root ball. If necessary, cut across the root ball several times to loosen roots and stimulate root growth.
Fill in around the roots halfway and then add water to help soil get in around the roots. When water is absorbed by soil, tamp down and finish filling the hole. Water the soil again. Make a water trench around the root zone of the tree. Water twice per week for the first month and then once per week unless extreme dry conditions occur.
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When planning your USDA zone 9b garden, begin with the trees that love mild winters and hot summers. Consider your garden's microclimates, whether warmer or colder than the average within your hardiness zone, sun exposure, space available and soil type. Always check the recommended hardiness zone for the species and cultivar before making a final selection for your home orchard.
Native to Central America, the avocado (Persea americana) has been cultivated since at least 500 B.C. This subtropical tree grows in zones 8 through 11. The three different types of avocados vary in their cold tolerance. The Mexican cultivars tolerate frosts down to 16 degrees Fahrenheit, Guatemalan down to 24 degrees and West Indian down to 32 degrees. Avocado trees can grow to over 60 feet tall under ideal conditions.
The lush fruits of citrus trees (Citrus spp.) make them a desirable addition to your zone 9b garden. In general, the many cultivars of lemon, lime, orange and mandarin thrive in zones 9 and 10. A few, such as pummelo and grapefruit, need extra protection if frost threatens.
Grown in climates from temperate to tropical, the fig (Ficus carica) grows in zones 5 through 10, depending on the cultivar. Native to western Asia, figs have been cultivated throughout the Mediterranean since at least 5000 B.C. The Spanish brought figs to Mexico in 1560 and to California's San Diego Mission in 1769. 'Chicago Hardy' is the hardiest of the figs, grown in zones 5 through 10. Other fig cultivars, such as 'LSU Gold' and 'LSU Purple,' prefer the warmer temperatures of zones 7 through 10. Most figs are self-fertile but produce a larger crop when a second tree is planted nearby.
Plant loquat trees (Eriobotrya japonica) in zone 8 through 10 gardens. You can prune the 10- to 25-foot tall evergreen trees to a shrub or tree form. The small orange fruits are described as a combination of a plum and kumquat. Loquats do well in full sun and partial shade.
Persimmon trees are native to Asia (Diospyros kaki) and North America (Diospyros virginiana). The Asian species thrive in zones 6 through 10, while the native trees are more cold tolerant, growing in zones 4 through 10. The cold and heat tolerance of both species depend on the particular cultivar. The fruits of native persimmons, and some of the Asian cultivars, are lip-puckeringly astringent until fully ripened.
The pomegranate (Punica granatum), a native of southern Europe and middle to western Asia, thrives in zones 8 through 10. It attracts hummingbirds and bees to its orange-red flowers and produces rounded fruits filled with juicy sacs that contain its edible seeds.
The hardiness zone guide can help you decide which plants to grow in your region. A few helpful tips about growing in this zone include:
A common misperception is that it's not possible to grow citrus trees in this zone. However, there are several varieties that are zone 7 and even zone 8 hardy.
McKenzie Farms and Nursery specializes in producing cold hardy citrus as well as palms and eucalyptus trees. The company only ships inside the U.S. and aren't able to ship to Arizona, California, Florida or Texas.
Zone 7, like other zones, has specific first and last timeframes. However, these aren't set in stone and sometimes are off the mark. Frost dates for zone 7 last and first frosts for the year are typically:
You can always download a current frost date app. Just enter your zip code to get a more accurate time-frame.
The way to use the zone designation is to aid you in growing plant life that can survive the winter in your region. The zone guide can't account for occurrences like microclimates, droughts, soil conditions, soil fertility, rainfall and unusual weather patterns. These things are very important to your growing progress. You can find this information in Sunset's The New Western Garden Book.