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Mandarins hanging from a mandarin tree. Rows of mandarin trees are blurred in the background.
Mandarins are a great go-to snack. They fit in your hand, are easy to peel, and delicious to eat. They are also easy to grow in either a garden bed or pot. You can also grow a mandarin tree from seed – it takes patience but makes for a fun project.

What you need to know about mandarin trees

Name: mandarin (Citrus reticulata and hybrids), satsuma mandarin (Citrus unshiu).

Height: 2-4m, dwarf forms 1-2m.

Plant type: evergreen tree.

Climate: prefers warm frost-free zones but is tolerant of cold conditions once established – provided frosts are not too severe.

Soil: moist, well drained.

Position: full sun.

Foliage: glossy, dark green leaves. Fragrant when crushed.

Flowering and fruiting: creamy, white waxy flowers. The fruit is smaller than an orange (40-80mm) and oblate with bright orange, red-orange or yellow-orange skin. The flesh is orange and sweet when ripe.

Feeding: granular or pelletised citrus fertiliser in spring, summer and autumn, but be careful not to overfeed when flowering as this could cause the flowers to drop.

Watering: water regularly when flowering and fruiting.  

Appearance and characteristics of mandarin trees

Mandarin trees are compact and evergreen with aromatic, glossy green leaves, and 40-80mm-sized fruit. The fruit is usually bright orange but can be reddish or yellow orange. The rind may be smooth, firm, and thin – or bumpy, loose, and puffy (like the popular satsuma varieties). Mandarins are mostly easy to peel, and the segmented, orange coloured flesh is usually sweet.

Mandarin trees fruit throughout the year, depending on the variety. Satsuma hybrids (such as Miho, Okitsu and Kawano), also known as Japanese seedless mandarins, tend to fruit from around late April or May to August. The large-fruited Richards Special mandarin produces from August through October, while encore variety fruits from October through to April. Plant a few different varieties to make the most of the fruiting season.

A small wooden crate filled with mandarins with leaves on stems. A peeled and split mandarin is at the front.

Uses for mandarins

Mandarins are typically enjoyed fresh but can also be juiced, made into marmalade, or added to salads. In the garden, they are attractive trees, suited to either garden beds or pots.

How to grow and plant a mandarin tree

Most mandarins thrive in subtropical and warm frost-free zones, but they are adaptable to cooler climates, if there is protection from heavy frosts. Satsuma mandarins are the most cold-tolerant variety. 

Mandarin trees can be planted at any time of the year, but the ideal time is in autumn or spring when the temperatures are mild, and the soil is warm. Choose a spot in full sun with well-drained soil. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and to the same depth. Mix in compost and aged manure and fork in well. Position the tree in the centre of the hole, backfill with soil, and water in well with diluted seaweed solution. Mulch around the base with an organic mulch, like pine bark or compost, keeping it at least 10cm away from the trunk.

Caring for a mandarin tree

Once established, mandarin trees are fairly low maintenance. Pruning is occasionally needed to remove dead wood or criss-crossed branches in the canopy and any suckers or shoots below the graft union (identifiable as a knobbly bump near the base of the tree).

A bunch of mandarins hanging from a mandarin tree. More mandarin trees are blurred in the background.

How often should you water and feed a mandarin tree?

Once established, mandarin trees are tolerant of dry conditions. However, to support optimal health of the tree and maximise fruit production, water regularly when flowering and fruiting.

Apply a citrus-specific fertiliser in spring, summer and autumn, but be careful not to overfeed while the tree is in flower as this could cause the flowers to drop.

How and when to harvest mandarins

After planting, mandarin trees take 2-3 years to bear fruit. Pick the mandarins as soon as they turn orange. Unlike most citrus fruit, mandarins do not keep their flavour well when left on the tree.

Diseases and pests that affect mandarin trees

Citrus leaf miner may affect mandarin trees, mealy bug, and scale. Treat with a naturally based insecticide spray such as a horticultural oil and pyrethrum formula.

What causes mandarins to become dry and tasteless?

Research shows mandarins are likely to be dry due to earlier than usual fruit development and lack of fertiliser and sunlight during this time. Warm winter temperatures can trigger early flowering and fruiting. You can reduce the likelihood of dry fruit by feeding the tree regularly with a citrus-specific fertiliser once flowers form. Thinning out heavy crops, - removing 20-30 per cent of small developing fruit - can also help reduce the risk of dry mandarins.

How to grow a mandarin tree from seed

While you can grow a mandarin tree from seed, it’s not recommended. The resulting tree can take 5-10 years to produce fruit, and the tree may not bear fruit of the same quality as the original tree. It’s best to buy varieties in store that will grow and perform as expected. However, if you want to try, here’s what you need to know to grow a mandarin tree from seed:

1. Collect seed, wash to remove any pulp, and air dry on a paper towel.

2. Fill a small pot or tray with seed-raising mix, push the seed 5mm into the mix and cover.

3. Water well and position in a warm, brightly lit spot out of direct sunlight. Water regularly to keep the mix moist. A mini greenhouse or plastic cloche will help retain warmth and humidity.

4. Repot seedlings in separate pots filled with premium potting mix when they are 7-10cm tall.

If you like this, then try

Pomegranate: an attractive tree with large decorative fruit.

Blackberries: a caning shrub with an abundance of sweet, black berries from late spring to autumn.

Papaya: this fast-growing tree typically bears fruit within 12 months of planting.

Start planting today

Check out our wide range of plants now and get your garden growing!

 

Photo credit: Getty Images

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.