Cool Climate Citrus
Ahh citrus..who doesn’t love a bit of fresh lime in their beer, a cheescake chock full of home grown
lemons, a juicy, just picked mandarin or a gorgeous orange on a hot summers day? Problem is, us
folk living in the cooler areas of Australia can be a bit challenged by citrus, due to the fact that the
bulk of them originate from warmer climes. So, which varieties do best in the cooler areas of this
great land? Well the good folk at SGA have put together a list of citrus hits for your part of the
world. So grab a G and T, sit back, and enjoy!
1st Place – Without a doubt, the best lemon for colder spots is the Lisbon…cold tolerant, thick
skinned, great tart lemon flavour, full of juice and, best of all, it does darned well in clay soils. On
the downside, Lisbon is COVERED in thorns, especially when young, making it a little unsuitable
where pricks may be a problem. Lisbon grows to a medium height (about 8m) and is vigorous as well
as being long bearing.
Runners Up – Let’s not forget the good old Meyer lemon, a fantastic choice for those really cold
areas. Meyer is a very sweet lemon (possibly what the lovechild of a lemon and orange would taste
like) with a thin skin and a low acid content (meaning it’s no good in your cheesecake). Growing only
to 2.5m, Meyer is a bushy, vigorous lemon with a few thorns. In cold spots, this is your lemon!
Honourable Mention – Okay, we have to mention the Eureka, possibly Australia’s most popular
lemon. Look, it will do alright in some areas, but it despises cooler spots and will really struggle in
cold snaps. A nice sized tree with great lemons, the Eureka can bear fruit almost all year round and
is pretty well thornless. The thing to remember with the Eureka is that they HATE clay soil and wet
feet, so prepare your spot well!
1st Place – No surprises here – the best lime for cooler climes is the Tahitian. A beaut, golfball
sized fruit that has a fabulous tart lime flavour is perfect in beers, cocktails and marinades. Down
south, this luscious lime bears fruit from Autumn to Spring on a tree with no thorns! And, just when
you thought it couldn’t get any better, the Tahitian Lime can also be grown quite happily in a large
Runner Up – Let’s give a nod to the Kaffir lime, a decent variety for growing in many parts of
Australia. Grown predominately for it’s foliage (which is used in a range of Thai dishes and my
sister-in-laws super steak marinade), Kaffir limes are great in pots, but look out for those spikes.
They prefer a free-draining soil, and are not big fans of extended cold periods and frosts. The skin of
the kaffir is a great zest.
Honorable Mention – A special mention must be made of the finger lime, our very own native
citrus. An understory plant of QLD and NSW rainforests, the finger lime can be grown with some
success in cooler areas, just as long as you find the right spot. These guys need good drainage,
protection from direct sun and wind and a bit of a feed to get them humming. The best variety for
cool climate success and fruiting is, without question, the Alstonville, a green lime to about 10cm in
length that will happily fruit in cooler climes. Don’t expect too much in the first year, but hold onto
your hats after that! The prickliest bush on earth!
1st Place – By George, the best Orange for temperate climes is the Washington Navel. Setting
fruit in early winter, the Washington Navel is the best orange for eating straight off the tree, has a
gorgeous flavour, and will tolerate cooler areas. On the less positive side, the juice can sour fairly
quickly in the fridge, and they can be a little prone to pest and disease problems. A gorgeous shaped
tree to 4m tall, this guy will do pretty well in a large sized pot.
Runner Up – Coming hot on the heels of our winner is the ever-popular Seedless Valencia. This
beaut little tree (to 4m) has delightfully sweet fruit that can be held on the tree for months, and can
be sweeter than many other varieties in cooler areas. The juice is beautiful, which is no surprise
considering that Valencia oranges are responsible for most of the world’s OJ. The fruit on this tree
ripens a bit later in the season (early September in some cases), and the tree itself seems to be less
prone to attack from nasties than the Washington Navel. Not a lover of frost and intense cold snaps.
Honourable Mention – If marmalade is your thing, whack in a Seville. A gorgeous shade tree (very
popular street tree in Spain if memory serves me correctly), Seville produces an incredibly tart,
bitter fruit with an absolutely divine perfume. Will do OK in the southern states, but find it a nice,
warm, sunny spot, and show it some love!
Cumquats and Calamondins
1st Place – Tough call on this one, especially considering how well these citrus do in cooler areas of
Australia, especially around Melbourne. If we have to pick a winner, let’s go for the Australian
Cumquat (also known as the Calamondin). This is a gorgeous small tree, a stunner in a pot, and
can even be hedged if pruned well after fruiting. This super citrus will fruit several times a year,
with the main crop borne in winter. The fruit is small, round, bright orange when ripe and incredibly
tart and acidic, making it just perfect for liquors, jams and other preserves. Can be eaten straight
from the tree, skin and all.
Runner Up – A nod has to go to the Nagami cumquat, a gorgeous wee tree with fruit that is
ridiculously sweet (the skin) while being mind-numbingly sour (the juice) at the same time. Beautiful
as an ornamental, this citrus is a symbol of fertility, and is often used in Chinese New Year
1st Place – Imperial, with juicy, sweet fruit and a fair cold tolerance wins this round. A great
backyard variety, Imperial is a reliable fruit setter at home, with a thin, easy to peel skin that is a
gorgeous bright orange colour. Imperial has very few seeds, so is great for fussy kids (and adults!).
The fruit will ripen late Autumn to Winter, and a happy Imperial tree should continue to fruit for
many, many years.
Runners Up – If flavour is what you are after, it is hard to go past the good old Satsuma mandarin.
Cold tolerant, this mandarin is an early bearer, the fruit having few seeds and the flavour sweet,
juicy and low in acid. Try a Robbie Engall Seedless, which is essentially a “puffy skinned”
Satsuma, making it more child friendly and easier to peel!
Ellendale is also a great option as well, being a bit more cold tolerant than some other varieties.
The fruit itself is large, quite sweet and rich, but can be very seedy (can’t we all). This mandarin may
be challenging for kids, as the skin is incredibly tight, and a bit hard to peel.