Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 496 Citrus reticulata

Common Names: mandarin, satsuma, tangerine Family: Rutaceae (citrus Family)
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This is an 'Owari' satsuma tree.


The Mandarin oranges are small, sometimes spiny, trees with slender branches, and lance shaped shiny evergreen leaves. The leaves are not trifoliate, but the petioles (leaf stems) are slightly winged. Mandarins have shapely, symmetrical, rather open, rounded crowns and rarely require pruning. They can get 15-20 ft (4.6-6.1 m) tall. The white flowers appear in March and April and are very fragrant, usually attracting hoards of honey bees. The orange colored fruit of most mandarins is juicy and sweet, loose skinned and easy to peel. They are 2-4 in (5.1-10.2 cm) in diameter and have easily divided sections. They are similar to oranges, but usually smaller and looser skinned. The fruit of most varieties matures in November or December.

Well known mandarin orange cultivars include the very easy-peeling and delicious 'Clementine'; 'Cleopatra', which also is used as root stock; 'Dancy', the most common commercial tangerine in Florida; 'Ponkan', a larger, low-acid type; and 'Changsha', perhaps the most cold hardy of all the sweet citrus fruits. The satsumas are a group of cold hardy mandarins that include a hundred or more cultivars. One of the most popular and readily available is 'Owari'.


Citrus fruits are native to southern China and Southeast Asia where they have been cultivated for some 4,000 years. Mandarins from southern China were brought to Europe and the Americas in the 1800's. The satsuma mandarin, Citrus reticulata, originated in Japan more than 400 years ago. There are some 100 varieties of satsumas in Japan, about a dozen of which have been released in the United States. Satsumas were grown commercially along the US Gulf Coast from South Carolina to Texas until back-to-back freezes in the late 1890's discouraged replanting. Satsumas are still grown commercially in southern Louisiana and southern Texas as well as Florida.


Light: Full sun to partial shade. Moisture: Established mandarin trees will not succumb to droughts that might occur along the US Gulf Coast, but fruit development may suffer if supplemental water is not provided during dry periods. Most citrus cultivars, including mandarins, do well with only 45 in (114 cm) of rain per year. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8B - 11. Mature satsumas and 'Changsha' tangerines can tolerate temperatures as low as 15ºF (-9.4ºC) or lower if they have become cold-acclimated. A sudden freeze to 25ºF (-3.9ºC)without any previous cold weather can be more damaging than a freeze to 20ºF (-6.7ºC) that comes after a period of low temperatures. Freeze damaged mandarins may lose some leaves, but they usually recover. Small trees, less than 2 or 3 years old are not as cold hardy as bearing trees. Satsumas are commonly grown along the Gulf Coast in zone 8B, where they need some protection only during the very coldest nights, maybe once every 5-10 years on average. I have had a 'Changsha' tangerine and an 'Owari' satsuma in my yard near Tallahassee for 10 years now. I protected them from near 20ºF (-6.7ºC) freezes with blankets and light bulbs when they were young, but they're too big for that now. 'Changsha' has survived 4ºF (-15.6ºC) temperatures near Dallas, Texas. Propagation: Desired cultivars of mandarin oranges, like most citrus cultivars, are bud grafted onto seedlings of the same or a closely related species. Satsumas are usually grafted onto trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) seedlings; most other mandarin cultivars are grafted onto 'Cleopatra' mandarin seedlings.


Mandarin oranges, with their glossy dark green leaves, fragrant springtime blossoms, and bright orange fruits, are beautiful little specimen trees in the home landscape. They may need protection from temperatures below 25ºF (-3.9ºC) for the first couple of winters. For increased protection from the cold, plant tender trees on the south side of a building. Many people grow citrus trees in containers that can be brought indoors during freezing temperatures.

satsuma tangerine
Here in North Florida, our satsuma tangerines ripen by Christmas and provide a delicious holiday treat!

Mandarins start bearing 3-4 years after planting grafted saplings. Citrus fruits do not continue to ripen after they have been picked, so leave them on the tree until needed.

Mandarins start bearing 3-4 years after planting grafted saplings. Citrus fruits do not continue to ripen after they have been picked, so leave them on the tree until needed.


Important members of the genus Citrus include the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), the sour orange (C. aurantium), the lemon (C. limon), the shaddock or pomelo (C. maxima), the citron (C. medica) and the lime (C. aurantiifolia). Key limes and Mexican limes are limes named for where they're grown. Bergamot is a subspecies of sour orange grown in southern Italy for a perfume made from the rind. The grapefruit (Citrus X paradisi) is a hybrid between the sweet orange and the shaddock. The tangelo (C. X tangelo) is a hybrid between the grapefruit and the mandarin orange. The very cold-hardy Rangpur lime (C. X limonia) is a cross between the mandarin orange and the lime. The tangor (C. X nobilis) is a cross between the mandarin and the sweet orange. The 'Temple' orange is a tangor. The cold-hardy 'Ambersweet' orange is a cross between a hybrid tangelo-mandarin and a sweet orange.

Other important members of the citrus family are four species of kumquats (Fortunella spp.), and the trifoliate (a.k.a. hardy) orange (Poncirus trifoliata). Intergeneric citrus hybrids include crosses with kumquats: the calamondin (X Citrofortunella microcarpa) is a cross between the mandarin and one of the kumquats; the limequat (X C. floridana), is a cross between the marumi kumquat (F. japonica) and the lime; the 'Tavares' limequat (X C. swinglei), is a cross between the nagami kumquat (F. margarita) and the lime. The citrange (X Citroncirus webberi) is a cross between the sweet orange and the trifoliate orange. Perhaps the most cold-hardy citrus yet is the 'Thomasville' citrangequat, a cross between the citrange and the nagami kumquat, and hardy to about 0F.

>A good little book for the homeowner who wants to grow citrus in Florida is available from the University of Florida: Your Florida Dooryard Citrus Guide, by Jim Ferguson.

Steve Christman 2/8/00; updated 11/23/03, 1/18/04, 10/17/07

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Citrus species profiled on Floridata:

Citrus X paradisi

( grapefruit )

Citrus maxima

( pummelo, pommelo,shaddock,pumelo,pomelo )

Citrus meyeri

( Meyers lemon, improved Meyer lemon, Chinese dwarf lemon, Chinese dwarf lemon, dwarf lemon )

Citrus reticulata

( mandarin, satsuma, tangerine )

Citrus sinensis

( sweet orange, navel orange )

Citrus x limonia

( Rangpur lime, mandarin lime, lemandarin )

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