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Growing citrus indoors in Minnesota

Deborah L. Brown

Oranges in Minnesota? This idea is not so far-fetched if you consider growing selected citrus plants indoors. Although not large producers of fruit, the flowers and fruit, when they do appear, can be fragrant and attractive.

Most varieties of oranges and other citrus grown commercially in warm climates are too large to be grown indoors. There are several species that make good houseplants when cared for properly, however.

Citrofortunella mitis, or calmondin orange, is probably the most common species grown indoors. Its fruits are small and sour but can be used for marmalade or as a garnish in summer drinks. The Otaheite orange is not actually an orange but is a dwarf, spineless variant resulting from a cross between a lemon and a tangerine. Its botanical name is Citrus limonia 'Otaheite,' once known as Citrus taitensis.

Tangerines (Citrus reticulata) can also be grown indoors. Satsuma oranges, which are really tangerines, are particularly good and are noted for their abundant fragrant flowers. There are two varieties of lemon which may be used as houseplants, 'Ponderosa' and 'Meyer'. Citron (Citrus medica) and kumquat (Fortunella species) can also be grown indoors.

The culture of citrus plants is not particularly difficult if the following requirements can be met.

You may have flowers, but still have difficulty getting fruit to form on your citrus plant. This may be due to lack of pollination. In the wild and in the grove, citrus are pollinated by insects. Since these are not usually present in the home situation, shaking the flowers gently or flicking them with your fingers ought to get the job done.

Growing citrus plants is not all that difficult. Getting the plants to bear luscious tropical fruits is another story. Perhaps it's better to simply consider your citrus a nice houseplant that may, given the chance, produce fruit as a bonus.

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