Choosing the perfect citrus variety

Citrus trees will add extra zest to your garden and culinary delights! Before planting, check out the varieties of citrus on offer and pick one that best suits your garden and cooking needs. Below are some of our top picks.

Orange

Varieties are chosen based on taste and availablity.

Sweet oranges:

  • Best Seedless - classic navel oranges with sweet, medium-sized, near-seedless fruit. Normally ripen mid-season, from early spring through to late spring.
  • Cipo - sweet, juicy fruit with a hint of pineapple flavour. Fruit late winter.
  • Harwoods Late - navel orange, a selction of the Valencia orange hybrid that has thin-skinned juicy fruit with excellent flavour. Produces high yields from spring through to early autumn.

Blood oranges:

A mutation that has resulted in fruit with a red-coloured flesh.

  • Orange Cara Cara - distinctive rich pink flesh. Flavour is low acid and sweet, and has more depth and richness than that of the traditional navel. Virtually seedless. Needs plenty of sun, warmth and protection from hard frosts.
  • In New Zealand Ruby Blood is available from early spring to late spring.

Bitter oranges:

  • Seville - grown originally for bitter marmalade. Noted as the first fruit made into marmalade. A prolific cropper.
  • Chinotto - compact variety, with the fruit hanging on the trees for months. This variety is sometimes used to flavour Campari.

Lime

Lime varieties are usually chosen for their distinct flavour.

  • Bearss lime: medium-sized, seedless, tangy and very juicy fruit. Ideal for drinks and use in cooking.
  • Kaffir lime: it is the leaves of this low-growing shrub that are most prized, especially as an essential flavouring in Thai cooking. The fruit has some juice, but isn't used as commonly as the leaves. Kaffir limes aren't tolerant of really cold weather, but in good conditions can produce fruit year-round.
  • Tahitian lime: vigorous, hardy trees that grow to 2-4 metres tall with drooping branches. Tolerant to the cold. Produces small, oval fruit that is bright green on the tree, becoming light yellow when ripe. The pulp is juicy and very acidic.

Lemon

Despite being available year-round, the lemon's true season is late winter through spring.

  • Eureka - thought to be the most widely grown lemon variety in the world, this rough, thick-skinned lemon has a bitter flavour with high juice and acid content. It is distinguishable by a prominent point at one end.
  • Meyer - A very popular variety as the most cold hardy lemon variety. This smooth, thin-skinned fruit is roundish in shape and yellowy orange in colour. Its juicy and relatively sweet juice makes it ideal for desserts. Once tree is established, it will fruit all year round.
  • Lemonade - a hybrid cross between a lemon and a mandarin. The flesh can be eaten raw and it is perfect for making fresh lemonade!

Mandarin

The size of the fruit, the ease with which the skin peels, the presence of seeds, and the sweetness and acidity are always good traits to know before purchase.

  • Burgess Scarlet - tangerine-type mandarin. Medium size, peels well. Fine textured, juicy, aromatic flesh. A vigorous grower that ripens spring to early summer. Biennial harvest.
  • Clementine - well suited to cooler growing conditions. The fruit is small to medium in size and ripens from mid-winter to late winter. It remains juicy on the tree for several weeks. A round fruit with tight skin that is reasonably easy to peel. Fruits biennially.
  • Satsuma - slow-growing trees, but early ripening means fruit are ready for picking from early winter to mid-winter. The bush is small and spreading in habit. The fruit often matures before it reaches full colour and the skin is very easy to peel.
  • Mandarin Miho - an easy peel, cold hardy Satsuma mandarin with heavy crops of juicy, mild flavoured seedless fruit. Slower growing and well suited to growing in containers. Very early to ripen.

Grapefruit

Varities are mainly chosen on the basis of size, sweetness of fruit and harvesting time.

  • Golden Special - will give you big grapefruit, with delicious sweet flavour.
  • Orlando - seedless variety with a sweet flavour.
  • Wheeny - produces large, yellow-skinned juicy fruit from late spring and late summer. Has biennial bearing habit, producing very little fruit every second year.

Click here for our Citrus Growing Guide

Reference: Based on content from The Tui NZ Vegetable Garden third edition, by Rachel Vogan.

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Choosing the perfect citrus variety Comments

  • I am growing citrus In containers and do not want them to become big plants as I have limited space. How do I prune them to achieve a small bushy plant.

    Peter McKeogh

  • Hi Peter, prune them back to shape as and when required. If making large cuts bigger than your little finger paint the wound with water based paint or Vaseline. See our pruning guide for more tips: http://www.tuigarden.co.nz/howtoguide/fruit-tree-pruning-guide Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team.

    jenna

  • Hi Peter, prune them back to shape as and when required. If making large cuts bigger than your little finger paint the wound with water based paint or Vaseline. See our pruning guide for more tips: http://www.tuigarden.co.nz/howtoguide/fruit-tree-pruning-guide Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team.

    jenna

  • I am looking for a topary lime. Cannot find a supplier. Could you give me a growers name?

    Brigitte

  • Hi Brigitte, we suggest contacting Wairere Nursery or Waimea Nurseries to see if they are able to help. They are suppliers of some topiary trees. Thanks, Tui Team

    jenna

  • I'm after a Yuzu. Where would I be able to buy one.

    Elizabeth

  • Hi Elizabeth, Kings Plant Barn stock this variety, see here: https://www.kings.co.nz/lime-yuzu-dwarf Thanks, Tui Team

    jenna

  • My neighbours give me grapefruit every year they call Poorman's Orange. It's an old tree from their farm in the Waikato which has seeds and quite orange flesh and a well-balanced sweet-acid flavour. It makes wonderful marmalade and I'd like to plant a tree in my own garden. How can I find what this variety is?

    Susie

  • Hi Susie, it sounds lovely! ?Golden Special? (which has been known as Poor Man?s Orange) is one of the most common varieties grown in New Zealand. We suggest checking at your local garden centre or Mitre 10 for this variety. Read more here: https://www.waimeanurseries.co.nz/our-products/fruit-trees/citrus/grapefruit-golden-special/ Thanks, Tui Team.

    jenna

  • I am looking to plant a mandarin tree in a big pot and prefer a dwarf plant. I would appreciate if you could advise me a variety that is sweet and easily grown. Thank you.

    Christopher Lim

  • I'm looking at planting lemon, mandarin and lime tree (already have the lime in a pot). I live in Invercargill - what would be the best variety, and when should I plant given we get frosts here!

    Michelle

  • Hi Christopher, mandarin trees grafted on the dwarf ?Flying Dragon? rootstock are best for pots. Satsuma mandarin varieties (including Miho, Kawano, Silverhill and Okitsu) are smaller growing trees anyway, with an almost weeping habit. The Satsuma types fruit during winter (between June and August),whereas the ?Encore? variety fruits in summer. Any of these varieties are great grown in pots, and produce sweet yummy fruit. Citrus are heavy feeders, so need regular feeding. Feed with Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser as it is suitable for use in pots and containers. Use a high quality potting mix, mulch with peastraw and water deeply and regularly during summer. Happy planting from the Tui Team

    jenna

  • Hi Michelle, we'd suggest waiting until spring now in Invercargill. Tahitian lime is tolerant of the cold. Meyer Lemon is the most cold hardy lemon and Mandarin Miho is a cold hardy mandarin option. The varieties found at your local garden centre will be suitable for your climate :) Hope that helps ^Tui Team

    jenna

  • I planted a small Satsuma mandarin around February, we dug a large hole, filled with a mixture of compost and garden mixed, watered and fertilized as directed.. it is approx 1m tall and appears healthy but doesn't seem to be bushing out - what more can I do to encourage growth?

    Aaron

  • Hi Aaron, you have done all the right things. Give it at least 9 months to settle into the ground, fresh growth should appear in October or November once the soil warms. A side dressing of citrus fertiliser then will give it all the nutrients it requires. Mulch around the tree with Tui Mulch & Feed to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Happy gardening ^Tui Team

    jenna