Bought at Homebase ten years ago. It was a little careworn and had been on the shelves rather long. Nothing that a little tender love and care would put right, it had been reduced from £40 to £10! What value for a then 18 inches high (and bedraggled) evergreen glossy leaved plant that would give us scented delicate white flowers and perfumed long lasting edible fruit every year. Restricted by annual pruning our plant is now maintained as a sturdy shrub five foot high.
Citrofortunella micocarpa is a multiple hybrid between varied species and genera of citrus plants. Its exact origins as a sub-tropical edible fruit are lost in antiquity. It is one of the easiest citrus to grow as a conservatory plant in temperate climates such as the UK. Our stately homes have a long tradition of orangeries where citrus plants were brought inside to overwinter.
Our conservatory faces east and gets substantial morning sunlight. It is heated to suit our own comfort. Today in late March our orange carries over a hundred small fruits and looks quite superb.
Growth tends to come in flushes and will be strongest in Summer. Such growth will often, but not always carry new flowers. To some extent fruit formation is therefore staggered becoming apparent in December, the plant increases in beauty throughout winter and early Spring. It is orange with fruit for almost five months.
|Our plant in December|
Calamondins will survive several degrees of frost but because it looks so nice inside I am in no hurry to put it outside for Summer when it is still beautiful inside. It will stand outside in what we pretentiously call our courtyard from early June to first frosts in early October. It is a convenient time to prune it when we bring it in at that time. Let me remind you that your pruning should look natural and not be apparent to the casual observer!
|Standing outside in Summer in it’s previous earthen-ware pot|
Calamondins do not make a good houseplant if rooms are dingy and if they are not put outside in full summer light that lasts at least part of the day. Otherwise they are easy and I fully recommend them. Ours is now in a fifteen litre, square plastic pot. We have gone plastic because it is lighter and as we get older feel less inclined to heave inside its previous heavy earthen-ware container.
All my conservatory plants (other than the orchids) are in our own sandy soil. I know many gardeners need to use compost because their own garden soil is unsuitable. For large volumes of soil in a tub, I believe more gardeners have a more appropriate soil than they think. I generally recommend they add slow release fertiliser and sometimes dolomitic limestone or chalk when preparing such soil. In my own case I know I will be top dressing the calomondin with my yaramila fertiliser four or five times a year and sometimes omit the more expensive slow release stuff. As I have suggested in a previous post, plants like calomondins that make substantial new growth through the winter need generous feeding at that time despite what some of the books say.
I have nothing against liquid feeding, it is normal sound practice. I take the easy way and top dress by scattering fertiliser on the surface instead. Every time I water some of my granular fertiliser washes in. My yaramila compound fertiliser contains NPK and the other major elements calcium, sulphur and magnesium and all the trace elements. Every nutrient my plant needs. I generally recommend to those who liquid feed to use a proprietary tomato liquid fertiliser. I don’t recommend taylor made ‘special’ citrus feeds.
|You will see that my calomondin looks a little chlorotic.Leaves on evergreen plants do become senescent at certain times of the year and some leaves will fall. Do not imagine that this will always indicate your plant needs a special feed.|
I think I have only repotted my calamondin three time in ten years. First when it came to its new home base, second, when it needed a bigger pot and latterly when we moved to a square plastic pot from a round one!
|In its new pot|
When grown in the open ground in warmer climates calamondins are known to be tolerant of a wide range of soils but are sensitive to poor drainage. Same in a pot, never let them stand in saucers of water other than when a little run-through soaks back in a couple of hours. Water them generously on the occasion of watering but wait until the compost or soil looks distinctly dry at the surface before watering again. Outside in Summer they will need generous watering when dry - even if it has rained, unless you have had an absolute downpour! Plants can dry out very quickly in warm windy conditions, beware.
As long as your growing media drains freely do not worry that in extended periods of heavy rain your soil or compost is repeatedly watered when it is already wet!
Beautiful blue ball
You might be intrigued by the blue watering device standing in our pot and might be thinking it’s really not quite my style! You would be right and as for actual irrigation it is pretty useless!
It was given to us by a particularly dear friend - and a regular post peruser so I am trying to be diplomatic. It has a place in our hearts but merely as an ornament. On a technical note a typical single watering with my watering can when inside, or hosepipe outside, will be ten times the blue balls’s capacity.
We are sometimes asked whether we eat the fruits. My usual reply is that they look far too nice to spoil the plant’s beauty by picking. Last year however when the fruit was getting really ripe we did pick some and Brenda made the best marmalade ever. Billy, Brenda’s grandson regularly sucks a lemon. She cut one of our citruses for him to try. He never asked again! The flesh is apparently rather tart but the peel is sweet. Apparently they are very nice cut in two and frozen and used as an ice cube with drinks. So maybe the next time we serve dinner to friends in our conservatory we can savour it’s flavour!
It has only just dawned on me - I am pretty slow on the uptake - that if this year I collect a few seeds I can raise some more plants. I don’t know what I will do with them but it will be fun.
|There will be ripe seeds in these fruits|
I have written before about conservatory plants that we put out for the Summer.