How To Grow Clementine: Best Tips And Advice

Learn how to grow clementines with tips on choosing the right variety, soil preparation, pruning, pest control, irrigation, and fertilization.

Choose the Right Clementine Tree Variety

There are several varieties of clementine trees to choose from. Select a tree suited to your climate and needs. Options include pollinator types vs self-fertilizing varieties.Citrus reticulata var. clementine, also known as Algerian tangerine or common mandarin,Clementineis one of the most popular cultivars of mandarin oranges. This variety is usually seedless, very easy to peel and naturally lower acid than oranges.It’son the hard to find types with limited availability. Select a type that will thrive in your region. For example, in warm climates, varieties such as ‘Nova’ and ‘Caffin’ produce good quality fruit with high sugar and juice content. Colder locations may be better suited to hardier varieties such as ‘Clemenules’ and ‘Temple’.

Pollinator cultivars, such as ‘Chandler’ or ‘Kinnow’, require cross-pollination with a different variety to produce good fruit yields. Self-pollinating clementine types like ‘Nova’ and ‘Fina’ do not need a separate pollinator and can produce good crops on their own. However, for the best production, it is still recommended to plant different cultivars together whenever possible. Consider your needs and resources to determine what combination of trees would work well in your location.

clementine, pruning, man laying on tree branch
Photo by Rob Mulally / Unsplash

Planting Location and Soil Preparation

Choose a spot with well-drained soil and full sun exposure for your clementine tree. Clementines grow on citrus rootstocks that prefer loamy, sandy soil with good drainage and aeration. Heavy clay soils should be avoided as these do not drain well and can lead to root rot. The ideal soil pH range is between 5 to 8, slightly acidic to moderately alkaline.

If you have a location in mind, test your soil to determine the pH and ensure proper drainage. Make any necessary adjustments to the soil before planting. Add compost or other organic matter to improve both soil structure and nutrient content before planting. For the best results, plant clementine trees in a spot that will receive direct sunlight for at least 6 to 8 hours per day.

Soil Requirements
Sandy or loamy
Slightly acidic pH 5-8

Space clementine trees at least 10 to 15 feet apart to account for their mature spread. This will also allow for good air circulation as the trees grow. Proper spacing will minimize competition between trees and reduce disease risks.

Once the spot is prepared and the soil is amended, you can plant your clementine tree. Dig a hole that is slightly larger than the size of the root ball of your tree. Place the tree in the hole, position it straight, and backfill the soil around the base. Water thoroughly after planting to help reduce shock.

For new citrus trees, regular watering is essential especially for the first few years of establishment. Water about an inch per week for the first year. Clementine trees need consistent moisture, so check the soil before watering and never let it dry out completely. An irrigation system can help make watering efficient, especially for larger orchards. Use a timer to control the frequency and duration of watering based on your local climate and seasonal rainfall.

As the tree matures, you can reduce watering frequency. However, clementine trees will always need supplemental irrigation, even when established. Monitor trees regularly to make sure soil moisture remains adequate, especially in hot or dry weather. Never let the soil completely dry out. Consistent moisture is key to producing high quality citrus fruit.

clementine, irrigation, grey concrete surface under white clouds
Photo by Charles G / Unsplash

Irrigation and Fertilization Techniques

Water clementine trees regularly, especially for the first few years after planting. Young citrus trees require consistent moisture for healthy growth. For the best results, water about an inch per week. Check the soil before watering to make sure it is dry to a depth of a few inches. Never let the soil dry out completely.

An irrigation system can help simplify watering. Using a timer to control the frequency and duration, irrigate trees 3-4 times a week during hot or dry weather. Reduce watering frequency to 1-2 times a week during spring and fall. In winter, irrigation needs drop further. However, the soil should never fully dry out.

As trees mature, their water needs decrease. For established clementine trees, irrigate about 3/4 to 1 inch of water per week during peak summer heat, tapering off in spring and fall. The exact amount will depend on factors like tree size, climate, and soil type. The most accurate way to determine if a tree needs water is to check the soil moisture.

Fertilize clementine trees in early spring before buds open and again in June or July. Use a balanced citrus fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium such as 6-6-6 or 8-8-8. Follow the directions on the product packaging for how much and how often to apply. As a general rule, fertilize 1/2 to 1 pound of actual nitrogen per inch of trunk diameter measured at chest height.

For mature clementine trees, fertilize just before spring growth starts and again in early summer after harvest. Excess nitrogen can reduce fruit quality and yield. Never fertilize after July.

SeasonIrrigation FrequencyFertilization
Spring (March-May)2-3 times per weekEarly spring (March)
Summer (June-August)3-4 times per weekEarly summer (June)
Fall (September-November)1-2 times per weekNone
Winter (December-February)Check soil moistureNone

Nutrient deficiencies often show up first on citrus foliage. Some common symptoms include:

Nitrogen deficiency: Slow growth and pale yellow leaves (especially older leaves).

Iron or Zinc deficiency:Yellow or white areas between leaf veins.

Manganese deficiency: Light green mottling or spots on leaves.

Have your soil and plant tissue tested to determine the exact problem. Treat deficiencies with foliar sprays or soil applications of the necessary nutrient. For the best fruit production, maintain a balanced nutritional program for your clementine tree.

clementine, irrigation, a train traveling through a lush green countryside
Photo by Rachel Powell / Unsplash

Pruning and Training Techniques

Prune clementine trees to maintain their shape and size and also remove any dead or crossing branches. For young clementine trees, prune to establish a strong branch structure for the first 3 to 5 years.

• Remove any shoots or suckers emerging below the bud union. These branches will not produce good fruit and sap energy from the main tree.

• Thin out any crossing or inward facing branches to improve air circulation. This also makes harvesting easier and reduces disease risks.

• Prune trees to a round shape with a single trunk. For older trees, also remove any dead or diseased wood.

• Once the main scaffold branches have developed, maintain the tree’s height at about 6-8 feet to allow easy access for harvesting.

• Avoid heavy pruning which can reduce yields for up to 2 years. Never remove more than 25% of branches at one time.

The best time for pruning clementine trees is after harvest in late winter. This allows trees to recover during the dormant season before spring growth starts. However, you can do some light corrective pruning in summer after the main fruit harvest.

Pruning and training young citrus trees is important for establishing a strong, open center structure that will support abundant fruit production for years to come. Proper pruning technique and timing is key.

Pruning TimePurpose
Late winter (February-March)Establish structure, remove dead/crossing branches
After harvest (October-November)Light corrective pruning, if needed
Avoid summer pruningHeavy pruning will reduce next crop

To train clementine trees, establish a single trunk and select 3-4 evenly spaced scaffold branches at about 1 to 2 feet apart. These branches should be at wide angles from the trunk (60-90 degrees) to provide good support for developing fruit. Through annual pruning, continue to select strong new shoots to fill in the open center of the tree.

For the first 2-3 years, prune trees to open jar or vase-like shape. After this establishment period, remove only what is necessary each year to maintain the tree’s health, structure, and desired size. With annual pruning and training, clementine trees will develop a productive shape and become less work over time. consistent, professional care will help ensure bountiful harvests for years to come.

clementine, soil, brown rock formation under blue sky during daytime
Photo by Roland Szép / Unsplash

Controlling Pest and Disease Infestations

Monitor clementine trees regularly for signs of common pests and diseases. Early detection and prompt treatment is key to minimizing damage. Some potential issues include:

Aphids:Green or black soft-bodied insects that feed on foliage. Spray with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.

Citrus leafminers: Larvae burrow between leaf surfaces, leaving winding tunnels. Remove infested leaves. Apply spinosad or azadirachtin.

Mealybugs: Cottony mass on leaves that secrete honeydew. Wipe off manually and treat with horticultural oil.

Scale:Hard or soft bumps on leaves, twigs and fruit that suck sap. Prune off heavily infested branches and apply horticultural oil.

Spider mites:Webbing and stippling on leaves. Spray predatory mite predators or horticultural oil.

Root rots:Caused by fungi that infect roots and trunk base. Improve drainage and ventilation; apply fungicides.

Leaf and fruit spots:Fungal diseases leading to brown spots on leaves/fruit. Sanitize pruning tools, remove infected plant debris and apply fungicides especially during wet weather.

The most effective way to control pests and diseases is through Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This approach incorporates multiple strategies, such as:

• Choose disease-resistant cultivars when possible.

• Plant in suitable location with good air circulation and drainage.

• Practice good sanitation like pruning and removing dead branches, leaves and fallen fruit.

• Monitor trees routinely for early detection of issues. Look on leaves, branches, trunks and fruit.

• Apply insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils or spinosad as needed to control infestations. Only apply fungicides during extended periods of wet weather.

• Introduce or attract beneficial insects that prey on common citrus pests like lacewings, lady beetles and predatory mites.

• Only treat affected plant parts rather than spraying entire trees. This minimizes risk of pesticide resistance over time.

• For severe infestations, you may need to combine organics with synthetic pesticides. Follow directions carefully and reapply as needed to break the life cycle.

• Consider pheromone mating disruption for certain pests like citrus leafminers. The pheromones confuse males and reduce mating/egg laying.

An IPM program, diligent monitoring and quick action are the best ways to limit damage from pests and diseases on your clementine trees. Keeping trees healthy will also make them less susceptible to potential problems.

clementine, irrigation, green trees and green grass field during daytime
Photo by Philippe Gras / Unsplash

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