Satsuma Tree

Daniel Gill  |  4/25/2015 7:38:14 AM

Hi Dan, I'm a big fan and appreciate what you do. I wonder if my satsuma tree is normal. I planted the tree in 2003 and Katrina blew it almost on a 45 degree angle to the ground, so now it's more like a satsuma bush. For the past six years or so it has produced tremendously, but only every other year. Even years since about 2010 I get hundreds of satsumas. Odd years I get barely a dozen. Last month it was covered with flowers, but now I can't find any indication of where those flowers once existed. Is it normal for a satsuma tree to produce fruit every other year? My neighbor has a more mature tree that produces hundreds every year.

Thanks, Greg C.

Your tree has gotten into a bad habit called alternate bearing. While it is not necessarily typical for citrus trees, it does happen occasionally.

The problem is the tree produces a crop that is too large and depletes its resources. The next year it does not have the resources to produce a crop, so it drops its flowers. But, the long growing season without fruit allows it to build up really large levels of resources. So, it produces an extra-large (too large) crop the next year. And, that depletes the resources – and starts the cycle again.

The solution is not easy. To break this you must prevent the tree from over producing. Next year it will set a large crop. When the fruit are about an inch in diameter, remove one-third to one-half of them. That’s the hard part. But, it will keep the tree from draining its resources. You should only have to do it once. The reward for your sacrifice will be more even fruit production year to year.

Dan Gill
Consumer Horticulture Specialist

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