Saturday, October 24, 2009

Growing Oranges in North Carolina

It's called Japanese Bitter Orange, Poncirus trifoliata. It's a thorny, sparsely leafed shrub that reaches 10-12' in height. I found it last winter in the "wild" beyond the edge of the backyard. There's another in the gully. In spring, they bloom with a light sweet citrus fragrance. The leaves are insignificant. I imaging these two shrubs have survived for years with no care, no pruning, and no fertilizer. Until the oak tree fell, the one pictured here lived in deep shade receiving only winter/early spring sunlight.

They do produce oranges. They have a very bitter flavor, and leave their scent on your hands much longer than you'd like. The skin is slightly fuzzy, like a peach. The largest one this year is about the size of a ping pong ball.

Inside, there's very little pulp, lots of juice, and a dozen or so seeds.

Since the seeds do not store well once removed from the fruit, I have already sown several in outdoor containers. I plan to use these and pyracantha to create a bird habitat in the gully. The thorns will protect them while they eat berries and sample the fruits from these spiny shrubs.

Planted nearby, and intertwined with the hardy orange, is an elaeagnus. I'm not sure of the variety. Again, grown in heavy shade, I've never seen any fruit and have only found this one specimen in the woods. I suspect it's E. pungens. Some varieties are highly invasive. Given no others are nearby, this is probably not the invasive Russian olive, E. augustifolia. There are several common names, silverberry, Autumn Olive, Winterthorn. This one has small, golden flowers that aren't as highly scented as I've read about. I plan to propagate more of this shrub in the spring using softwood cuttings.

New growth from maturing stems appears as 1" long spikes. These later develop leaves and become new branches. Given ample sunlight, they really put out some amazing growth in just a few weeks.

In the shrub island, the "white" hibiscus is blooming again. I guess I should give this one a name as well. Grown from seed, the flowers are a deep, dark wine color. The picture is lighter than the actual color. This one shall be called the other, other red hibiscus.

More of the wild.

At the edge of my property along the perennial bed, the maple has really taken on some color in the past 24 hours.

Across the street, Beth's back yard is something I aspire to. I'll be raking leaves back here in a few weeks to use as mulch and add to my compost pile.

It's 70 degrees and cloudy. We got rain for all of 3 minutes last night about 1am. Several passing drizzles have dampened the soil this morning. More scattered drizzles expected throughout the day. We need a lot more rain, not this teasing habit Mother Nature has developed.


Nell Jean said...

The blue wild ageratum throws stolons and spreads, so you could just dig some little pieces off the side.

My nephew hates eleagnus. He calls it 'Ellie and Agnes' and gets all out of sorts when he has to prune the considerable number that belong to his MIL.

I wish I had a kumquat tree. They would grow here in a very protected spot. Mama used to say that they had one growing in a pine thicket when she was a girl, 'way up toward Rome, GA. I was just telling DH yesterday about how we used to go on 4th of July to where Mama's cousin Julian, who worked for the county, had staked out an apricot tree that hung over a dirt road. What a treat!

janie said...

That trifoliata is a very good root stock for grafting citrus. All varieties of citrus, really. You could graft a satsuma, Meyers lemon, Mexican lime, and Ruby grapefruit all on the same stock! Wouldn't that be neat?!

The seeds will germinate easily, and you can grow the little trees straight. Graft them before you top them. If you want to graft them, that is.

I have a powerpoint on grafting that I would happily share with you if you would like to have it. I love grafting plants. Except roses; I want my roses to have their own roots.

Citrus has to be grafted for the most part. It takes several years, (about 7, I think) for them to produce fruit when grown from seed. The lemon is the only citrus that can be propagated from cuttings, and the rest, except for grapefruit, are not good to reproduce the parent plant from seed; less than 50%, if I remember my lessons right.

Let me know about the powerpoint.

This is a great post.

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Thanks Nell, I'll go looking for some side shoots tomorrow. It's hard to get down in that ditch. I might have to come at it from my side of the wild. Never had a kumqat. Persimmons, yes. Hmmm...where could I grow one of those?

Janie, I've never grafted before. I'll email you through GW tonight. Let me know if you want some seeds.

Randy Emmitt said...


Just so you know this hardy orange can be very invasive. I have a friend out in Winston Salem that has it on his 100 acre farm. About 50 years ago his aunt planted three of these at the edge of a pasture, now he has more than two acres of it that he can not get rid of. You can cut it down and let it dry then it burns very fast, but grows back. They make good jelly with the oranges.

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Thanks for the warning Randy. I've read that it can be invasive in this area, but I only count three of these shrubs in my ignored wooded area. I've never seen any of them in other yards either.

Like other possibly invasive plants, I'll have to remove the fruit each season. If/when I sell this house years from now, I'll be removing those items and destroying them with chemicals. I don't want to leave someone with a plant that would take over their yard if they are not gardeners.