Clementine trees bear an abundance of juicy, nearly seedless oranges with just a hint of acid.
Clementine trees bear delectable fruit during the holiday season, earning them the name “Christmas oranges.” Clementines are a type of mandarin, and their fruit is easy to peel, virtually seedless, juicy, and much less acidic than traditional oranges. You can plant them outdoors or in a container if you live in a cooler climate; they make compact, vibrant house plants as well as ornamental statements in a yard. Clementine trees are some of the cold-hardiest citrus, meaning you reap all of the rewards with very little hassle.
Clementine Trees at a Glance
- Easy-to-peel fruit
- Virtually seedless fruit
- Great houseplants
- Can fruit in the first to third year
- Fruit ripens early
Clementine trees have a rounded, glossy canopy of dark green leaves that keep their color year-round. In spring, fragrant white blossoms bloom and then become bright orange fruits, ready to be picked from November to January.
Clementine trees can grow up to 25 feet tall, but they are typically pruned to 6-10 feet, especially if they are planted in a container or grafted from dwarf rootstock.
USDA Hardiness Zones indicate the regions where plants can grow, based on minimum winter temperatures. Clementine trees can be planted outside from Zones 8-11, along the Gulf Coast and up the West Coast. If planted in a container, clementine trees can withstand the temperatures from Zones 4-11, as long as they are brought indoors during cold winters.
The best time to plant your clementine tree is spring or fall. We recommend taking these steps:
- Start by choosing a planting site that receives plenty of sunlight—at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight per day.
- Pull any weeds and clear away any debris and turfgrass.
- Dig a hole three times wider than the container your clementine tree came in but the same depth.
- Tease the roots of the root ball gently with your hand or a small spade.
- Place your clementine tree in the hole.
- Fill it halfway with soil, then add water up to the top.
- Once it drains away, finish filling the hole.
- Apply a 2-3 inch layer of mulch over the roots to help conserve moisture, careful not to let the mulch touch the trunk.
If you plant your clementine tree in a container, make sure it has drainage holes. After planting, water your tree thoroughly. Whenever you water, make sure excess water flows out of the drainage holes.
Clementine trees are hardy and low-maintenance.
Sun and shade
Clementine trees thrive in full sun, or six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight per day. They can also grow in partial shade, but their crop will be less abundant.
Clementine trees are adaptable to a range of soils but flourish in slightly acidic, sandy, well-drained soils. If you need to improve your drainage, add some perlite or sand to your soil.
Clementine trees need consistently moist soil—but never soggy. For the first year after planting, water every two to three days. Water whenever the top two inches of the soil feel dry, which typically means weekly waterings.
If your clementine tree is in a container, remember to empty the water tray regularly to ensure proper drainage.
Feed your in-ground clementine tree every other month, using a specially formulated citrus fertilizer. If your clementine tree is in a container, follow this schedule but also fertilize once more before you place it outside in summer.
In general, clementine trees do not require pruning. But if you spot any dead, diseased, or damaged limbs, you should prune them immediately. Prune in the spring if you want to ensure that the shade beneath your tree is dappled. Be careful not to prune fruiting or flowering branches, and never prune more than a third of your tree at a time.
In general, your clementine tree will begin producing fruit within two to three years of planting, but some nurseries sell clementines that fruit the first year.
Your clementines will ripen from November to February. They will not ripen once picked, so choose your time wisely. You’ll tell they’re ready when their green skin turns completely orange.
You can store your clementines in the pantry for roughly one week in a cool, dry area. You can also refrigerate them in the crisper drawer or mesh bag.
Frequently Asked Questions
How big do they grow?
Clementine trees that are not pruned can grow to be 25 feet if planted in the ground and are typically in the 6-10 foot range in indoor containers.
How long does it take to bear fruit?
Most clementine trees start bearing fruit within two to three years after planting, but some trees will be ready for harvest the first year.
Are they self-pollinating?
Yes. You only need one clementine tree to get an abundant crop of fruit.
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