Citrus trees are the most popular edible tree grown in southern Louisiana. With their dark green foliage, fragrant white flowers and delicious fruit so many people just love them!
We are lucky to have a unique climate that allows us to grow Citrus (a tropical fruit) here in south Louisiana. The only thing that stops us is the occasional record breaking cold spell that can kill mature citrus trees. It has to get down in the low teens or upper single digits for five to ten hours to kill a mature citrus tree. But lows in the mid to upper teens will take out newly planted trees as well as damage mature trees. This is why we recommend some of the more cold hardy citrus such as Satsumas and Kumquats. LSU AgCenter does recommend protecting any citrus trees when temps will be below 27 degrees for any extended period of time.
When selecting the type of citrus to plant, first consider where you live and where you want to plant the tree. The further south you go, the less cold hardy the plant needs to be. Here is a List of citrus from most cold hardy to least: Kumquats, Satsumas, Sweet Oranges, Navel Oranges, Grapefruit, Lemons, and Limes. Baton Rouge is in the middle of this range, ideal for oranges, satsumas and kumquats. Further north will have a killing freeze much more often, while further south towards New Orleans they are few and far between. Finding a microclimate in your back yard that stays even a degree or two warmer during the coldest nights of the year will help your citrus survive. Most of the time these areas are on the south facing side of your home, where it gets most of the winter sun.
As your tree grows, make sure you are fertilizing in the spring and summer. We recommend Fertilome's Fruit, Citrus and Pecan Food. It is important to not feed in late summer or fall. This allows the plant to properly slow down for the winter. This is called hardening off. Plants that are hardened off have more tolerance for freezing temperatures.
One of the most aggravating pests for home owners is the Citrus Leaf miner. In early spring the citrus miner moth will lay eggs on the underside of new growth. The larvae hatch and begin burrowing under the cuticle, the waxy upper layer of leaf. Under this waxy layer they are protected from most insecticides. It is important to spray for the insect before it becomes entrenched under this layer. Spraying every couple of weeks in spring after the new growth has emerged will help control this insect. We suggest Spinosad as a natural solution. Later in the season you can use neem oil to suffocate the insect, but this cannot be done when temperatures reach into the upper 80’s.
One overlooked aspect of citrus trees are their blooms. They have beautiful white blooms with a strong citrus fragrance. Plant one in a container and have it inside by a sunny window. It will bloom heavily in spring and sporadically throughout the rest of the year!
Louisiana is a unique part of the country. Things like crawfish, gumbo, Cajun music, swamps and alligators, and much more make this a special area. The ability to grow satsumas and other citrus trees is just one more thing that adds to the mystique of Southern Louisiana.