How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Calamondin Orange Trees

Are you looking for a citrus plant that beautifies the landscape and produces delectable sweet-tart fruit? Then check out the calamondin orange tree! Plant expert Briana Yablonski shares how to grow and care for this unique citrus.

A close-up reveals the vibrant hue and glossy texture of ripe calamondin oranges, glowing brilliantly under the sunlight's embrace. In the background, a gentle blur captures a lush scene of more calamondin oranges nestled among verdant leaves.

Contents

In the bright and vibrant citrus world, few plants have as many favorable characteristics as the calamondin orange. Its lush green leaves pop out of porch planters and create lush hedges that produce fruit. And oh, the sweet and tangy fruits—they’re not just a tasty treat but also appropriate for everything from cakes to salad dressings. And did we mention the plants can tolerate cold temperatures that zap many other citrus species?

If you’re still unsure about adding a calamondin orange to your garden, I get it. Experimenting with something new can be a bit scary! Yet diving into the unknown is one of the fun parts of gardening. Here is all the information and care tips you need to successfully cultivate these unique citrus fruits.

Calamondin Orange Overview

A calamondin orange plant sits in a pot, its glossy green leaves basking in sunlight. Orange fruits dangle from the branches, adding a burst of color to the verdant foliage, promising citrusy freshness and decorative charm.
Plant Type Evergreen shrub
Family Rutaceae
Genus Citrus
Species Citrus x microcarpa
Native Area Southeast Asia
Exposure Full sun
Height 3-20 feet
Watering Requirements Moderate
Pests and Diseases Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, scale, leaf mottling, and citrus canker
Maintenance Moderate
Soil Type Coarse and well-draining
Hardiness Zone 10-11 outdoors

What Is a Calamondin Orange?

The calamondin orange, also known as calamansi or Philippine lime, is a hybrid citrus plant that’s a cross between a kumquat and a Mandarin orange. Plant scientists once thought the calamondin orange was a unique species (Citrus mitis), but they later determined it was a hybrid. Its scientific name changed over the years, but it’s mostly referred to as Citrus x microcarpa.

Native Range

Green calamondin orange leaves gracefully frame clusters of ripe fruits, their glossy surfaces glistening under gentle illumination. Bathed in soft, diffused light, the lush foliage and citrus gems create a captivating sight.
The calamansi fruit is believed to have originated in the Philippines and parts of Southeast Asia.

Scientists think the plant emerged in the Philippines and parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. You can now find it growing throughout Southeast Asia and a few other portions of the world. The Philippines is the major producer of calamansi fruit.

Characteristics

A close-up showcases the branches of a calamondin orange plant, adorned with lush, green ovate leaves. Amidst the verdant backdrop, ripe fruits dangle enticingly, hinting at the plant's bountiful harvest and natural vitality.
These unique citrus trees feature woody stems, glossy leaves, and fragrant flowers.

No matter what you call it, the calamondin orange is versatile in the garden and kitchen. Like many fruit trees, the plant’s mature height depends on the rootstock. Wild plants can grow up to twenty feet tall, but dwarf varieties remain under five feet. 

All plant sizes have a woody stem that gives way to pliable branches. These branches are covered with shiny, dark green, evergreen leaves. The leaves have an ovular shape with rounded tips, making them stand out from the more pointed leaves of lemons and limes.

Calamondin orange plants produce flowers throughout the year, but spring is the main flowering season. The small white flowers have five petals and emit an attractive fragrance. Upon successful pollination, these flowers turn into fruits that eventually grow one to three inches wide. All fruits start out green, and the mature color ranges from orange to yellow to green. Some varieties also sport variegated fruits.

When you cut into calamondin oranges, you’ll see juicy flesh that resembles other citrus fruits. The flavor is more tart than sweet, with hints of lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, and passion fruit. Each plant produces unique-tasting fruits, so you won’t know what a calamondin orange tastes like until you try it.

Planting

Growing calamondin oranges from seed isn’t the most reliable planting method, so purchasing a potted plant is the best way to add one of these trees to your home. Although it’s often difficult to find the plants in local nurseries, you can purchase them online. I recommend ordering your plants in the spring through fall since cold winter temperatures can damage the plants during shipping.

Before you choose a plant, be sure you research the cultivar. As I mentioned above, some calamondin oranges remain small enough for planters, but others grow into small trees. Pay attention to the rootstock and choose one that matches your needs.

Growing in Pots

A calamondin orange plant nestled snugly within a striking orange pot, its foliage adding a touch of greenery to the space. The plant is adorned with a mix of both ripe and unripe calamondin oranges.
Cultivating in small containers is beneficial for cold regions.

Since some calamondin oranges remain small and compact, you can grow them in pots. Growing containers is especially useful in cold areas since it allows you to bring the plants indoors during the winter.

Choose a container that’s two to five gallons and ensure it has drainage holes on the bottom. The material isn’t important, but a lightweight pot is easier to move than a glazed ceramic planter.

Once you have a container, fill the bottom few inches with a citrus-specific potting soil mix. Remove your plant’s root ball from the original container, place it into the new container, then fill any remaining space with more potting mix. Water well and let the tree adjust to its new home.

Growing in the Ground

A calamondin orange plant thrives in a garden, boasting green leaves and ripe, orange fruits swaying gently. As the afternoon progresses, sunlight filters through the foliage, highlighting the plant's natural beauty.
You can successfully grow citrus plants outdoors in zones 10 and warmer.

While many people choose to grow these citrus plants in pots, you can successfully grow them outdoors in the ground in zones 10 and warmer. Before you plant your tree in the ground, make sure you’ve identified a proper site. Avoid shaded areas or anywhere with compacted, wet soil.

Spring is the best time to plant calamondin oranges. Once you’ve found a suitable location, dig a hole a few inches larger than the plant’s root ball. Place the root ball in the ground and cover with soil.

YouTube video

How to Grow

Calamondin orange trees are moderately easy to care for if you provide the following conditions.

Light

A close-up captures lush green leaves and a calamondin orange illuminated by the sun's warm rays. The intricate veins of the leaves stand out, while the oranges gleam with a tantalizing mix of orange and green hues.
For healthy calamansi growth, provide at least six hours of direct daily light.

Calamansi require at least six hours of direct daily light to remain healthy. They thrive in areas with direct sun throughout the day. While they can survive with less light, they’ll experience slow growth and a lack of flowers.

If you’ve planted your calamansi outdoors, choose a location with full sun or partial shade. Place potted indoor plants in a brightly lit room near a south-facing window. If your house doesn’t have a bright location, utilize a grow light to supply supplemental lighting.

Water

A close-up reveals calamondin oranges nestled amidst lush green leaves, forming a striking contrast of colors. Tiny water droplets delicately adorn both the fruits and foliage, adding a refreshing and invigorating touch to the scene.
In summer, water calamondin oranges about once a week,.

Calamondin oranges prefer soil that’s moist but not wet. The plants’ water needs depend on the temperature, soil type, and humidity, so examining soil moisture is the best way to tell if your plant needs a drink. If the top two to three inches of soil is dry, thoroughly soak the soil or potting mix.

During the summer, expect to water your plants about once a week. Potted plants require water more often than plants growing in the ground since evaporation occurs more rapidly.

Soil

A rich, dark soil teeming with nutrients, ready for planting and nurturing life. Rich in organic matter, this soil provides a nurturing environment for vibrant growth and thriving ecosystems.
For optimal growth, plant in coarse, well-draining, slightly acidic soil.

Like most citrus plants, calamondin oranges prefer a coarse, well-draining, slightly acidic soil. If you’re growing your plants in a pot, choose a soil mix designed for citrus plants. You can also create your own potting mix by combining:

  • Five parts pine bark fines
  • One part perlite
  • One part peat moss or coco coir
  • One part finished compost

Before you plant a calamansi plant in the ground, ensure the soil is well-draining and well-aerated. Sandy areas are best, but you can also improve the soil in other areas by loosening it with a broad fork and adding a few cups of finished compost.

Temperature and Humidity

A cluster of calamondin orange branches displays vibrant foliage, featuring delicate leaves and tiny green, unripe fruits. In the background, a row of black potted plants adds depth, their outlines softened by a gentle blur.
Cold-hardy calamondin plants can withstand temperatures as low as 20°F (-7°C).

Calamondin plants are more cold-hardy than other citrus plants but they will die in deep freezes. Plants will remain undamaged if temperatures drop to 30°F (-1°C) and can survive temperatures as low as 20°F (-7°C).

If you live in zone 9 or colder, you can still grow calamondin oranges. Just plant them in containers and move them indoors when winter arrives.

Although these plants can tolerate cold temperatures, they flourish in warm environments. Aim to keep the plants somewhere between 70-90°F (21-32°C) during the growing season. They aren’t picky about humidity but don’t thrive in extremely dry air.

Fertilizing

A hand carefully sprinkles fertilizer granules onto the dark, rich soil in a large gray pot, preparing it for growth. Inside the pot, a flourishing calamondin plant finds a snug home, poised to thrive amidst nourishment and care.
Use citrus-specific fertilizers to promote optimal growth and fruit production.

Calamondin orange trees require regular doses of fertilizers to grow, fight off disease, and produce an abundance of flowers and fruits. The easiest way to ensure your plant receives the nutrients it needs is to choose a fertilizer designed for citrus plants. These fertilizers contain the optimum blend of nutrients to support calamondin orange plants.

Citrus fertilizers come in spikes, granules, and liquid forms. Any of these options work well if you apply them following product instructions. A good rule of thumb is to split up the recommended annual dose into three applications. Apply one in January, the second in April, and the third in June. Avoid fertilizing in the late summer and fall since this can lead to low fruit quality and ripening problems.

Maintenance

A calamondin plant showcases its lush green leaves, creating a lively and thriving display of nature. Among the foliage, clusters of calamondin fruits, some ripe and others still green, promise citrusy flavors in the future harvest.
Light pruning during late winter promotes healthy growth.

Calamondin orange trees grow well with little maintenance, but regular light pruning helps keep them healthy. During the late winter, remove any dead, diseased, and criss-crossing branches from the canopy. Prune off any sprouts that pop out from the base of the trunk.

Other maintenance includes optional mulching. Mulching the surface of your soil or planter with wood chips, straw, or pine bark helps limit evaporation and trap moisture.

Propagation

If you want to grow a calamansi plant at home, start with mature seeds or cuttings. Calamansi seeds are polyembryonic, so each seed can produce more than one seedling. However, since the seeds are slow to grow into mature plants, home gardeners often propagate these plants from cuttings.

Once you obtain a healthy cutting, you can propagate it by rooting the cutting or grafting it onto a healthy rootstock. Since grafting requires advanced skills and a suitable rootstock, rooting cuttings is the easiest propagation method for home growers. To propagate your plant via this method, follow the steps listed below.

1. Obtain and Prepare a Cutting

A close-up of slender calamondin branches gracefully showcase unripe fruits and verdant leaves, adding a touch of freshness to the scene. The blurred background softly highlights a backdrop of lush, green foliage, creating a serene and inviting atmosphere.
To propagate a healthy calamondin orange plant, cut an eight-inch stem below a leaf node.

Start with a healthy calamondin orange plant that’s at least two years old. Look for a healthy stem that’s at least eight inches long. Use a sharp and sanitized pair of pruning shears to cut the stem right below a leaf node. A node is where the stem intersects with the central trunk. The cutting should be six to eight inches long. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the stem.

2. Apply Rooting Hormone

A pair of hands skillfully wields a knife to trim a stem from a calamondin orange plant, illustrating delicate precision. Surrounding the action, brown pots cradle rich, dark soil, nurturing clusters of promising calamondin seedlings.
Using rooting hormone on the cutting’s cut end significantly boosts root development likelihood.

Dip the cut end of the cutting into the rooting hormone. While this step is optional, it will greatly increase the chance of root formation.

3. Set the Cutting in a Suitable Container

A cluster of petite, earth-toned pots sit filled with rich, dark soil, each cradling tender calamondin seedlings. The brown containers, arranged closely, foster the growth of the young citrus plants, promising future blooms.
Select a container with proper depth and fill it with well-draining material.

Choose a container that’s four to eight inches deep, then fill it with a well-draining material. Some suitable options include perlite, coco coir, peat moss, or a loose potting mix. Use a pencil or chopstick to poke a hole in the material, then insert the cutting into the hole. Nudge the material around the sides of the cutting until it’s held securely in place.

4. Place in a Warm and Humid Environment

A close-up reveals the delicate white buds of calamondin flowers, each poised to blossom in pristine beauty. Surrounding them, verdant leaves form a lush backdrop, their vibrant green hues enhancing the purity of the budding flowers.
For successful propagation, keep cuttings moist in a warm, humid environment with indirect light.

Water the material until it’s moist, then set the cuttings in a warm, humid area between 70-80°F (21-27°C). If your house or greenhouse is dry, cover the cuttings with a plastic bag or glass container to trap moisture and increase the humidity. Ensure the material isn’t touching the tops of the cuttings. Set the cutting in an area with indirect light.

5. Wait Until Roots Form

A gardener, dressed in black gloves, carefully tends to a calamondin plant in a room. With precision, he pours nutrient-rich dark soil from a black trowel, adorned with a wooden handle, into a gray pot, nurturing the thriving greenery.
Maintain moist soil until roots form within a few weeks.

Keep the material moist but not wet while the cuttings form roots. Under the right conditions, roots emerge within a few weeks. Once the roots are an inch long, repot them into larger containers.

Harvesting and Storage

 A close-up of unripe calamondin fruits, showcasing their vivid green hue. Delicate leaves gracefully encircle the fruit, adding a touch of natural elegance to the composition and emphasizing the freshness of the citrus harvest.
Calamansi trees have year-round flowering, with the main harvest in late fall and winter.

Since calamansi plants flower throughout the year, the fruits mature at different times. However, the main harvest occurs in the late fall and winter.

Color is the best way to determine if a calamondin orange is ripe. Many varieties produce orange fruits, but mature fruits may sport yellow and green stripes. Once your fruits turn their mature color, harvest them by gently plucking them off the tree. You can also harvest unripe calamondin oranges, but their flavor will be tarter than ripe fruit.

Store the fruits in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. If you plan to use the fruits for juice, you can juice all of them at once and then store the juice in an airtight jar. The juice will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator and up to six months in the freezer.

At room temperature, oranges should last at least a few days.

Common Problems

Calamondin oranges face many of the same problems as other citrus plants. Some problems arise from improper environment and care, and others are just natural occurrences. If you grow one of these plants at home, watch for the following problems.

Lack of Flowers

Calamondin leaves displaying a rich palette of green and pale yellow hues, creating a visually captivating scene. In the blurred background, a black pot provides a nurturing environment for the thriving calamondin plant.
Insufficient light, excessive nitrogen fertilizer, and immaturity can hinder flowering.

If you notice your plant looks healthy but isn’t producing any flowers, a few factors could be to blame. First, ensure your plants receive at least six hours of direct light each day. A lack of light leads to a lack of energy, preventing the plants from producing flowers.

Second, ensure you’re not over-applying nitrogen fertilizer. Too much nitrogen may lead to explosive vegetative growth but no flowers.

Finally, ensure your plant is mature enough to produce flowers. Plants won’t produce flowers during their first few years of growth, so don’t expect new seedlings to flower.

Yellow Leaves

A close-up of calamondin leaves glistening in the sunlight. Among them, certain leaves catch the eye with a subtle yellow tint, hinting at a potential concern or issue affecting the plant's health.
The yellow leaves on plants may indicate various issues, such as soil moisture imbalance or nutrient deficiencies.

If you notice your plant’s leaves changing from green to yellow, you know something is awry. However, it can be challenging to determine exactly what’s wrong. The truth is that there is a long list of possible causes of yellow leaves.

First, check the soil moisture. Both under-watering and over-watering can prevent plants from obtaining the water and nutrients they need to remain healthy. When it comes to under-watering, the soil simply lacks moisture. Over-watering can lead to rotten plant roots that struggle to take up moisture. Remember to water your plant about once a week or when the top two to three inches of soil is dry.

Next, take note of any sudden environmental changes. Moving your plant between the indoors and outdoors can lead to stress and temporary yellow leaves. Slowly acclimating your plant to a new environment helps limit stress.

Finally, ensure you’re giving your plant the proper amount of nutrients. Too little and too many nutrients can both lead to problems, including yellow leaves, so follow fertilizer application directions.

Sap-Sucking Pests and Diseases

A close-up reveals a green calamondin branch adorned with yellow fruit and a delicate white flower. Perched on the stem is a solitary mealybug, distinguished by its white, powdery exoskeleton.
Pests such as aphids, thrips, and spider mites can weaken plants.

Tiny pests like aphids, scale, and spider mites often appear on calamondin orange leaves and in node crevices. These tiny critters pierce plant leaves and suck out their sap. A few of these pests aren’t a big concern, but big outbreaks can weaken plants. If you notice these pests on your plant, wipe them off with a soapy rag or spray them with neem oil or insecticidal soap. 

Leaf mottling and citrus canker are two related symptoms of disease caused by the same bacterial pathogen. This bacterium causes lesions on leaves and fruit, as well as cankers that ooze orange in the branching nodes. Because this is such a debilitating and communicable disease, it is best to contact your extension office. They will advise you of the best course of action to take, which can sometimes mean removal of the tree.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can You Use Calamondin Oranges?

Some calamondin oranges are sweet enough to enjoy fresh, but many fruits are too tart to enjoy raw. Try using this tart juice in cocktails, syrups, marinades, and jams.

What Are Other Names for Calamondin Oranges?

People also refer to calamondin oranges as calamansi, Philippine lime, Philippine lemon, and kalamansi.

Can You Grow Calamondin Oranges in Pots?

Yes! Calamondin oranges grow well in pots. Planting these citrus in containers allows you to grow them indoors in colder climates.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re looking for a unique citrus to grow at home, the calamondin orange is a great choice. Remember to grow them in well-draining soil, provide at least six hours of direct sun, and fertilize regularly.

SHARE THIS POST
A close-up of a cluster of ripe hardy kiwi berries hanging from a vine. The berries are smooth-skinned and green, with a few fuzzy red hairs at the blossom end. They appear almost jewel-like against the backdrop of dark green leaves, hinting at the juicy sweetness within.

Fruits

How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Hardy Kiwi

While many people think of kiwis as tropical plants, hardy kiwis make a great addition to many temperate gardens. Join plant expert Briana Yablonski as she shares how to plant, care for, and harvest for this unique vining plant.

how to prune overgrown fruit trees

Fruits

How to Prune Overgrown Fruit Trees in 7 Easy Steps

Do your overgrown fruit trees need a prune? Depending on the type of tree, all it takes is a few simple steps to get your tree properly pruned. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares the simple steps you can take to trim an overgrown fruit tree in your yard or garden.

Fast Producing Fruit Tree Called PawPaw

Fruits

21 Fast Producing Fruit Trees, Shrubs & Vines

Are you thinking about adding some fruit trees to your garden or fruit orchard this season? Fruit trees can take time to grow, but there are some that produce fruit faster than others. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen looks at some of the fastest-growing fruit trees you can plant.

dwarf fruit trees

Fruits

12 Dwarf Fruit Trees For Small Garden Spaces

Are you looking for a dwarf fruit tree to place in a smaller garden area? These days, a compact growing space isn't necessarily so limiting. There are actually plenty of small fruit trees you can plant, depending on your hardiness zone. In this article, gardening expert Merideth Corhs looks at some of her favorite fruit trees that come in smaller sizes.