Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Citrus Seeds

Today marks the conclusion of the citrus family series.  I have been doing a lot of reporting on plants that I have put into the garden over this past year for people who are on a limited budget and want something they purchase to grow in the desert southwest.  Currently, I have introduced mostly all successful plants in my garden, but remember that this blog is also about failures.  That series will be coming up in February.  Again, what works for me may not work for others and vice versa.  I'm just reporting my observations about the ease of growing a plant in our garden space here in Tucson.  Today's title is about that citrus seed we take from a fabulous eating experience with an orange or grapefruit.  We loved the flavor so much that we kept the seeds and put them into the ground.  A lot of people have asked me if this will indeed work.  I've done this myself with my favorite orange in Wisconsin back in the summer of 1995. I have moved all over the world and I still to this day have that orange what's the deal?  Will it grow fruit?  What does it look like? How tall did it get?

Here's the story of my orange seed.  I hated, like many of you, having to give up my plants to the winter cold.  It was a major disappointment to me when beautiful tropical plants had to be moved to the inside of my apartment in snowy Wisconsin. My plants followed me indoors and the brutal winters depressed me in ways you could not believe, but I had my little sprout in a pot that kept growing.  In '96, after college, I moved to Tucson and lived in a tiny little dump under the football stadium.  I didn't have much money with me and lived off of beans and tortillas.  My parents were coming from Wisconsin to drop off  more suitcases of clothes etc for my new move.  The only extra thing I asked them to do was bring me my potted little orange tree.  The orange tree was a symbol for me that I could make it in a new world.  It was also a comfort to remind me that if an orange seed could grow in Wisconsin; a Wisconsinite could grow in Tucson.  I put it under a lamp light in the dark dorm room of the stadium and I religiously cared for the plant.....even sleeping with the plant light on at night.  My parents came to me with the plant wondering why they brought it by car all the way to Arizona, "Land of the Citrus".  One.  It was the only green thing I had in my sterile dorm room.  Two.  It was the only reminder to myself that I could make it on rice and beans. Three.  I grew attached to the little tree.  I remember my mother crying at the conditions of my life and room.  Why would I want to move to this city when everything I needed was in Wisconsin?  Sometimes you grow up knowing that you don't belong in your birthplace.  Sometimes we need to take a risk and just jump.  And I did.....I never look back with regret.  Today I am still here and my entire family is back in Wisconsin.  And guess what?  They sure come often during spring to visit:)

The little orange tree moved with me as I moved to different apartments.  It grew.  It always grew.  I left for California and it came with me in a larger pot.  I moved to Cape Verde and left the plant in Tucson with my wonderful friend David and it grew.  I came back to Tucson and it was a miniature tree with thorns.  In my new apartment, I put it into a larger pot and it grew into a larger 5 foot tree.  Here it stayed for 5 years!!!  A frost nearly killed it back in 2006 when we received snowfall in the foothills!!  We later purchased a home and I have since nursed my tree back into health.  It now has a permanent place next to our home where it grows several inches every year.  It blossoms but does not produce any fruit which doesn't bother me at all.  This plant is a special member of my family and represents strength and courage.  When I doubt or become scared about something, the "little" orange tree of 7 feet now brings me comfort.  This is probably the most cheesy thing to write but it's true.  I made it in Tucson and came back to Tucson and now it's part of my larger garden life.

I wonder if any of you have similiar stories of a plant that has followed you throughout your life. There's gotta be a bunch of you that have also done this:) If so, what is the plant?  Wait!  You don't care about the personal story? Okay okay....:)  Then let me go technically into the citrus seed.  So you love a citrus fruit so much that you keep the seeds and plant them.  A plant begins to grow and grow and no fruit.  Here are the facts. Some seeds are sterile while others "may" fruit after 7-12 years.  Mine is older and still hasn't set any fruit on it.  Of course it wasn't put into the ground until 3 years ago where it has substantially grown back from the hard freeze. OR some citrus seeds will set fruit on the tree but be completely sour!  "How does that happen?", you ask.  Well remember that most citrus trees you buy in the stores are grafted from another rootstock.  The seeds of your fruit may actually revert back to the original part of the plant or form some fruit similiar, but rarely exact, to the fruit you ate.  I have several friends that have tangelo and lemon trees in their yards that never set fruit.  They became frustrated because they put the seed into the ground, but haven't, after 11 years, had any fruit on the tree. I thought it was weird and went with them to the local citrus expert, who was also baffled until we both found out that they had planted their citrus from seeds. Mystery solved.  My personal opinion, if this is your situation, is to wait awhile.  The tree may eventually fruit and if it's large and bushy, why not give it a chance?  My friends are going to let their citrus be for now and are planting fruiting citrus trees around the area to try and encourage some fruit to grown on their trees. Kind of a citrus "intervention":) They thought they needed a pollinator, but the simple fact is that getting a tree to set fruit from a citrus seed is difficult.  If you have had it happen, give yourself a pat on the back. If you want fruit, buy a fruiting tree from your local nursery.  Seeds are unpredictable, but they will always grow for you and if you are patient, they may provide fruit for you.  My orange tree is green and beautiful and while there haven't been any oranges on the tree, it adds a nice view from the window:) I have a lot of fun posts coming up and will be taking a break from the plant series for a bit plus an update on the Whiskey Barrel project!  Until next time, happy gardening!!

Protected in a well next to our place.  I can't get a side view, but this is the top view from the balcony.  The "little" orange tree that grew from a seed.

1 comment:

  1. I have a lemon tree that has recently started to bear fruits.

    As for lime trees that were started from seeds, I don't know when they will bear fruit. For the time being, they bear butterflies.


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