Citrus Choices for the Panhandle
The panhandle of Florida is a great place to grow citrus with our plentiful sunshine and sandy soil. But some varieties do better than others. Here are some that thrive in the more northerly climes of Florida:
- Satsuma mandarin is cold hardy to 15°F once established. There are a few different available cultivars with fruit ripening October through December. Fruit needs to be picked promptly when ripe.
- Kumquat is cold hardy to 10°F once established. ‘Nagami’ and ‘Meiwa’ are the two common cultivars of the small tart fruits. Fruit matures in fall and winter and holds fairly well on the trees.
- Calamondin is a lesser known variety that bears small fruit that resemble tangerines. The tart fruit is great for jams and chutneys. Fruit is borne all year.
- Some of the sweet oranges that do well in the panhandle are Navel, Hamlin and Parson Brown. They are cold hardy to 14°F once established and are harvested November through January.
- Minneola or Honeybell tangelo is also hardy to 14°F and harvested in January. This is a cross between a Duncan grapefruit and a Darcy tangerine. This bell-shaped fruit is very juicy and sweet. Unlike the other citrus varieties, it needs another citrus nearby for cross-pollination in order to produce an abundant crop.
- Meyer Lemon is the choice to make if you would like to grow lemons in the panhandle. Other lemons may be damaged by our occasional freezes.
Grapefruit and lime can be grown – although unreliably – on the coast with protection from northwestern winter winds. They are much more susceptible to freezes in more northerly panhandle locations.
There are threats to our dooryard and commercial citrus from pests and disease. Only vigilance will help to combat the challenges so that we may continue to grow and enjoy our citrus. What can we do to protect our citrus?
- Report any serious diseases like suspected citrus canker or citrus greening to the Division of Plant Industry by calling toll-free 1-888-397-1517. Inspections and diagnosis are free. Citrus canker has been confirmed in south Santa Rosa County in the past 3 years.
- Purchase citrus trees only from registered nurseries – they may cost a little more but they have gone through an extensive process to remain disease and pest free. That will save you $$ in the long run!
- Don’t bring plants or fruit back into Florida – they may be harboring a pest!
- Citrus trees or fruit cannot move in or out of the State of Florida without a permit. This applies to homeowners as well as to the industry. This rule protects our vital dooryard trees and citrus industry.
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