Satsuma Tree

Daniel Gill  |  6/18/2015 2:42:08 AM

Mr. Gill, I read your article about root rot on citrus trees in southeast Louisiana via Twitter today. I was hoping you could spare a minute to answer a question of mine: I planted a satsuma tree in our yard 3-5 years ago. It produced about 2 dozen satsumas the first year but nothing since. I was told it was self-pollinating but I guess that was false. I guess it was pollinated from being grouped together with many other trees where I bought it. If I buy another tree to plant, will that be enough to pollinate and if so, how close do they need to be to each other?

Thank you, Nick C.

First, we allow citrus trees a 5 year grace period to settle in and get established. During this time, young trees may not produce or may produce erratically due to lack of maturity and establishment. Time will take care of this.

Also, your tree was set back when you allowed it to ripen such a large crop the first year. The recommendation is to remove the fruit a citrus tree sets the first year after planting. The young tree needs to put its limited resources into establishing and growing new leaves, stems and roots. Commercial farmers strip their trees the first two years, but we are happy if home gardeners will at least do it the first year. Your tree will be fine, but this may be another reason it has not tried to set any fruit for the past 5 years.

The reason a young tree in a pot at the nursery will set fruit is due to the roots being confined. Confining the roots in a container slows the tree’s growth and makes it more inclined to bloom and set fruit. When the tree is planted into the ground and the roots are free to grow and spread, the tree reverts to a more juvenile stage and puts more effort into growing and establishing and not into producing fruit. It is puzzling for home gardeners to purchase a tree already producing fruit and then be told it is too young to produce fruit reliably 3 years later. But, that’s why – the pot confines the roots.

Given how long it has been in the ground, it could start blooming and producing fruit any year now.

As to the need for cross pollination, this is not an issue. Citrus trees are perfectly able to pollinate their own flowers, and another citrus tree in the area is not needed.

Dan Gill
Consumer Horticulture Specialist

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