Very few fruits can rival citrus fruits when it comes to versatility. They’re used in a wide variety of cuisines and they remain one of the more popular flavours for beverages and desserts. Furthermore, citrus fruits are commonly used in a wide range of non-food items, from dishwashing liquids to perfumes and cosmetics.
It is a wonder, then, that citrus trees are often ignored by Australians.
The citrus family is believed to have originated from Southeast Asia, specifically from the Malay archipelago. Most of the basic varieties that are propagated today trace their roots back to China by as much as 4,000 years ago.
Later on, lemons and bitter oranges were introduced to Europe via the Arabs. Vasco de Gama is credited for the introduction of sweet oranges to the Portuguese back in 1498. This is the reason why many citrus varieties carry names derived from both Portugal and Spain.
But don’t let the names fool you. For example, the Emperor mandarin may sound like it was first cultivated in China but it originated here in Australia.
But why should you consider planting citrus trees in your backyard?
For one, you will have a steady supply of citrus fruits you can use for a wide variety of dishes. Apart from that, citrus trees are a sight to behold especially when their flowers begin to blossom. These flowers have an appealing scent that can wow you and your guests. And unlike other fruit trees, you do not have to immediately harvest citrus fruits. You can simply leave those on the tree and not worry about their condition.
Take note that, in general, citrus trees require excellent soil quality plus ample sunlight. These make these trees ideal for cultivation in Sydney, Brisbane and other areas up north. They can be cultivated in Melbourne, but if you live in Tasmania or in the mountains, you have to look for other suitable fruit trees to plant.
For the best backyard citrus trees to cultivate, here are our recommendations.
If you are keen on planting oranges, choose the seedless Valencia variety which is suitable for planting in different areas in the country. Apart from being seedless, this plant is quite hardy and grows fast. The fruits are sweet especially during winter.
If you are planning to plant cumquats, we recommend the Nagami and Calamondin varieties. The Nagami is the sweeter of the two and is best enjoyed off the tree. Typically, the tree grows up to 4m tall, making it suitable for potting.
The Calamondin, on the other hand, is one of the most stunning among citrus plants. Like the Nagami, the Calamondin can be grown as a pot plant and gives out fruits multiple times a year.
Need a steady supply of lemons? Consider planting the Eureka. This lemon variety grows quite well in most areas in Australia, except the colder areas in Melbourne. This variety is quite prolific, giving out at least one fruit every day. The Lisbon and Meyer lemons are better suited for the cooler regions of Australia.
For grapefruits, we recommend red varieties like the Wheeny and the Mash Seedless which are renowned for their sweetness.
For those interested in cultivating lime, we recommend the Tahitian, West Indian and the Kaffir. The Tahitian has a taste akin to lemon and is among the most cold-tolerant varieties. The West Indian has the best flavour among the three while the Kaffir is perfect for Thai cuisine.
If you are looking for a citrus plant for your small garden, we recommend Valencia and Navel for oranges, Eureka and Meyer for lemons, Emperor for mandarins and Tahiti for limes.
Alternatively, you can opt for double-grafted citrus. The varieties we recommend are Washington Navel orange and Meyer Lemon, Washington Navel orange and Tahiti lime, and Meyer lemon and Tahiti lime.
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