Sweet citrus fruits are one of the great joys of winter – and of all the different types, perhaps the most popular are those small, loose-skinned beauties variously called tangerines, mandarins, and clementines around the world, and in the USA, satsumas. Whatever we choose to call them, these small fruits are instantly recognizable and loved by everyone, especially children, because they are so easy to peel, so sweet and delicious they pop right into the mouth, and they are not full of troublesome seeds.
What many people do not realize is that these fruits are also among the hardiest and easiest of citrus to grow, either in your garden, where they are hardy to 10 degrees, or in pots, where their small size makes them ideal for bringing indoors during cold weather and growing outdoors for the rest of the year. They will grow in a sunny location in almost any well-drained soil, or thrive for years with simple care when grown in a large pot.
Growing Miho Satsuma Orange Trees
At the top of the list of satsumas to grow is the Miho Satsuma Tree, a very cold-hardy variety that also produces top quality fruit. This tree is hardy for short periods to 10 degrees F, so it can be grown outdoors from North Carolina all the way through the South and up the West Coast into Washington State. This means that millions of Americans can be picking Miho Satsuma from trees in their gardens for Thanksgiving. That’s right – this tree is not only hardy, it ripens earlier than other varieties and can be picked for Thanksgiving weekend, although it will stay fresh on the tree into December.
If you don’t live in these warmer areas, don’t worry, this tree will grow well anywhere, if you have a cool, sunny spot indoors to keep it when the temperatures are close to and below freezing. Plant your Miho Satsuma Tree in a pot, keep it outdoors in a sunny spot as much as possible and you will be picking delicious fruit while you look at the snow outside your windows.
Size and Appearance
The Miho Satsuma Tree will grow no more than 12 feet tall and a bushy 6 feet wide, if you plant it outdoors. In a pot it will grow to perhaps half those dimensions, making it easy to move your tree indoors as needed. It has large, evergreen and glossy leaves, with very few thorns on the tree. In spring you will love the fragrant, ‘orange-blossom’ white flowers that appear, followed by tiny green fruit that will gradually grow and ripen over summer into fruits well over 3 inches in diameter, making this a large fruit for its type.
The beautiful red-orange peel will almost fall of the fruit, revealing juicy segments that divide easily and have almost no seeds in them. Children and adults will love how easy it is to peel and eat this fruit, and in the kitchen they make great additions to a fruit-salad, or they can be juiced too, to drink alone or add a special flavor to orange juice.
Growing in a Pot
To grow your Miho Satsuma Tree in a pot, choose a pot that is 18-24 inches in diameter, and that has drainage holes. Use a potting soil designed for citrus or outdoor planters. Water well, until water flows from the drainage holes, every time you water and don’t stand your tree in a saucer if you can avoid it. Allow the soil to become dry for the top inch or two before watering again Use a citrus fertilizer as directed throughout the life of your tree and keep it in a sheltered, sunny spot. Keep it indoors when the temperature is below 35 degrees, and try to find a bright but cool place to keep it when it is inside. An unheated porch that will not freeze is ideal if you have it, or a cool sun-room.
History and Origins of the Miho Satsuma Orange Tree
Growing satsumas in America has a long history, but not as long as in Japan, where they have been grown for 700 years, probably originally coming from China. There are many different varieties grown in the southern islands of Japan, and they were introduced into Florida by George R. Hall in 1876. The name “Satsuma” was given to this fruit by the wife of the United States minister to Japan, General Van Valkenberg, when she sent trees home to America from Satsuma Province in southern Japan. So although known by other names in other countries, here they are usually called Satsumas, although they all are varieties of Citrus reticulata. A million trees were imported from Japan in the years before WWI and a thriving industry grew up around the Gulf, until a record cold winter in 1911 and a hurricane in 1915 destroyed most of the trees.
Since that time, new, cold-hardy varieties have been sought from Japan. In 1984, seeds collected from very hardy trees in Japan were grown and then tested at the Texas A&M University. The Miho Satsuma Tree, and its relative the Seto Satsuma Tree, are the results of that work, and have proved to be hardy and reliable trees, as well as producing top-rate fruit that more than satisfies the most discerning citrus gourmet. So this is not just any ‘Satsuma’, that you might find cheaply, but a specially-selected variety that will definitely not only give you top-quality fruit, but be hardy and reliable too, in the garden or in a pot.