Yes, I know, the title is a spin-off of the old knock-knock joke “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana.” It’s no joke; citrus can be successfully grown in St. Tammany Parish. I have encouraged many homeowners who want fruit trees to consider many of the citrus varieties: satsumas, kumquats, sweet and navel oranges, grapefruit, lemons or limes. The fruit is easy to grow once it’s mature, stores well and can be picked over several months. Although hard freezes are a concern occasionally in St. Tammany, freeze protection may be necessary - especially for 1 or 2 year old trees.
The best time to plant citrus is in January or February. Choose a tree 2 to 4 feet tall with no branches 15-18 inches above the ground. Plant on a mound and be careful not to bend the roots. Allow spacing of 30 foot diameter circle for navels or grapefruit, smaller (15-20 ft) for satsumas, kumquats or lemons. Newly planted trees should not be fertilized within 6 weeks after planting. Apply 1 to 1 ½ pounds of 13-13-13 per year of age. Do not fertilize after June.
Minimal pruning is required of mature trees. Dead branches, branches crossing over each other, branches touching the ground or water sprouts should be removed. Limbs that need pruning should be cut to the nearest intersection. Freeze damaged limbs should not be pruned till the new flush of growth begins.
Recommended varieties for our area include: Owari satsumas, Louisiana sweet or navel oranges, Ruby Red grapefruit, Meiwa (sweet, round) or Nagami (tart, oblong) kumquats, Meyer lemons, and Dancy tangerines.
If you haven’t included citrus in your landscape you should. The leaves, aroma of blooms, and the color of mature fruit add to a creative landscape. The fruit is an excellent source of nutrition. If you already have some citrus trees, "orange you glad you planted them?”
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture