Of all the different varieties of citrus trees, one that is loved by almost everyone is the Satsuma. This delicious fruit – sweet, easy to peel and virtually seedless – is a special favorite of children, who find the small segments just right to pop straight into their mouths. The harvest time is good too, since these fruits appear between Thanksgiving and Christmas, right at the height of the holiday season. Few people know that Satsumas are very hardy trees and one of the easiest citrus to grow.
When grown in the garden, they are hardy down to 10 degrees, while in pots, their small size makes them ideal for bringing indoors during cold weather. 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. Satsumas do vary in their hardiness, so it makes sense to grow one like the Seto Satsuma Tree, which is a specially selected cold-hardy variety. As well, it produces top quality fruit that is as good as or better than anything you can buy in the store.
Growing Seto Satsuma Orange Trees
This tree is hardy for short periods to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, 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 Seto Satsumas from trees in their gardens. Another big plus is that this variety ripens earlier than other varieties and can be picked for Thanksgiving weekend, although it will stay fresh on the tree into December. This means that you can celebrate the holidays with your own garden-ripened fruit and finish off the turkey dinner by sharing a bowl of home-grown sweet Satsumas.
Growing Indoors Using a Pot
Maybe you don’t live in the warm states mentioned above. Don’t feel you are out of luck, because this tree will grow well in any cool, sunny spot indoors, where you can keep it when the temperatures are close to and below freezing. Plant your Seto Satsuma Tree in a pot, keep it outdoors in a sunny spot as much as possible, bring it in during the cold weather, and you will be picking delicious fruit from your very own tree.
Size and Appearance
Planted outdoors in a sunny spot the Seto Satsuma Tree will grow no more than 12 feet tall and a bushy 6 feet wide, with slightly drooping branches. In a pot it will grow to about half that size, so it is easy to move your tree indoors during colder weather. It has large, evergreen, glossy leaves. 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 Seto Satsuma has a distinctive ‘flattened’ appearance, shaped like a pumpkin, with a smoother skin than most other Satsumas. The beautiful red-orange peel is incredibly easy to peel off, revealing juicy segments that divide easily and contain few or no seeds. 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. They can also be juiced, to drink alone or to add a special flavor to plain orange juice.
Planting Your Seto Satsuma Orange Tree
To grow your Seto Satsuma Tree in a pot, choose a pot that is 18-24 inches in diameter, and be sure to use one 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. 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 indoors when the temperature is below 35 degrees. 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 Seto Satsuma Orange Tree
Growing satsumas in Japan has a very long history, since they have been grown there for at least 700 years, after being brought over from China. There are many different varieties grown in the southern islands of Japan. Growing in America began when they were introduced into Florida by George R. Hall in 1876. It was just a few years later that the name “Satsuma” was given to this fruit by the wife of the United States Minister to Japan, General Van Valkenberg. She sent trees home to America from Satsuma Province in southern Japan, so it was named after the area.
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. Although known by other names in other countries, like mandarin, tangerine, or clementine, in America we usually called this fruit a Satsuma. It doesn’t really matter what they are called, since they are all varieties of the same wild tree, Citrus reticulata.
For years new, cold-hardy varieties have been sought. In 1984 seeds collected from very hardy trees in Japan were grown, and then tested, at the Texas A&M University. The Seto Satsuma Tree, and its relative the Miho Satsuma Tree, are the results of that work, and have proved to be exceptionally hardy and heavy-cropping trees, as well as producing top-rate fruit that more than satisfies the most discerning citrus gourmet. Pieces from those trees are carefully attached to special hardy roots, and grown to perfection by skilled nursery staff. So this is not just any tree 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.