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Can You Grow Citrus Trees in USDA Zone 8? Which Are Best?


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Is any edible garden or orchard complete without a clutch of citrus trees? Citrus fruits are some of the most desirable in the world, with their juicy consistency and tropical flavors.

But not everyone has the privilege of being able to grow citrus trees freely. Most varieties need consistently hot, humid weather, with mild winters that won’t incur frost damage. This cold sensitivity limits outdoor citrus growth to specific regions of the world.

So where does that leave US gardeners living in USDA hardiness zone 8?

Some citrus trees will grow in USDA Zone 8, however not all, so read on to see which citrus trees will fare well in your growing zone.

Can You Grow Citrus Trees in USDA Zone 8?

Regions in zone 8 do experience high temperatures compared to most of the US, but because most zone 8 areas are coastal or near the coast, they also undergo significant turbulent weather, including storms and notable periods of frost in winter.

For these reasons, zone 8 is not ideal for citrus trees during cooler parts of the year.

Most citrus varieties grow in zones 9 to 11 and will need protection whenever temperatures drop below 30 degrees F for extended periods. According to the Clemson Cooperative Extension, most citrus trees will be extensively damaged by consistent sub-25F temperatures.

This is tricky for gardeners in zone 8a and 8b, where minimum average temperatures fall between 10 and 20 degrees F. There are a few cold hardy citrus cultivars that can be planted outdoors in zone 8, but the majority will need some degree of frost protection, and others should be planted in containers to be moved indoors for the winter.

Some citrus fruits are more cold-sensitive than others. For example, all sweet orange varieties will need to be planted in containers, whereas mandarin and kumquat varieties tend to be more cold tolerant and some can be grown outdoors with or even without protection.

Effective strategies for frost protection include wrapping in loose protective material (such as burlap), planting in sheltered locations, adequate watering, mulching etc. Consider prioritizing dwarf trees in your garden too, as they will be easier to protect.

Get your planting prep ready: these are the eight best citrus trees to grow in USDA zone 8.

8 Citrus Trees To Plant in Your Zone 8 Garden

1. Ruby Red Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi ‘Ruby Red’)

One of America’s most popular grapefruit varieties, the Ruby Red is one of the few grapefruit trees that can grow in zone 8 with adequate winter protection. For more inexperienced gardeners who want to grow grapefruits, planting in a container will be easier and less time-consuming.

The Ruby Reds will be well worth the effort either way – their fruits are highly desirable, with vivid reddish-pink flesh, a juicy consistency, and a sweet-tart flavor. This cultivar has a more balanced, less acidic taste which will appeal to fruit lovers who find the typical grapefruit too sour.

The broadleaf tree has its own appeal too, with bright evergreen foliage and fragrant white spring blossoms. Plant it as an accent, patio, or even as an informal screen. The Ruby Red is self-fertile, with decent tolerance to drought and natural pest and disease resistance.

Growing Zones: 8-11 (with some protection)

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 feet tall, with an 8-10 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Mid Winter to Early Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Mexican Lime (Citrus aurantifolia)

Mexican Limes on a tree
Image by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr

A heavy producer with relatively few needs, the Mexican lime is a fantastic addition to your edible landscape, provided you live in the right climate to grow it.

While this lime tree grows best in zones 9-11, it is the most cold-tolerant lime variety and can be planted in zone 8 with winter protection, though planting in a container is recommended. Otherwise, in the case of unusual temperature fluctuations you could lose your tree.

Which would be a shame, as Mexican limes are very handy to have around. These fresh, juicy limes are a lifesaver in the kitchen, able to be used in all kinds of savory recipes, desserts, cocktails, and smoothies! The tree is small and shrubby, ideal for container planting or as a patio tree.

If you are planting your Mexican lime in the ground, plant it in a sheltered location that gets the most amount of sun during the day. Mulch regularly and water thoroughly, and consider wrapping in winter.

Other Common Names: Key Lime, Mexican Key Lime, Key West Lime, West Indian Lime, Bartender’s Lime

Growing Zones: 8-11 (with some protection)

Average Size at Maturity: 8-10 feet tall, with a 5-8 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall to Early Winter

Available at: Nature Hills

3. Meyer Lemon (Citrus limon ‘Meyer’)

Meyer Lemon tree covered in lemons
Image by Design Build Love via Flickr

While the Mexican lime is the most cold hardy lime, the Meyer lemon is the most cold hardy lemon!

This is good news for zone 8 gardeners and foodies since the Meyer is also one of the most useful citrus fruits for cooking and baking. A grafted tree can begin producing these bright yellow fruits in just two years!

This tree can technically be planted without winter protection in as low as zone 8b, but gardeners in zone 8a should consider implementing overwintering techniques to protect it from any rogue drops in temperature. It can be grown as a dwarf or semi-dwarf, with the dwarf being the ideal option for container planting.

The Meyer lemon tree is a colorful addition to your property, with delicate spring blossoms, and its dark evergreen leaves and fruits will add sunny color to the dormant winter landscape.

Growing Zones: 9-11, or 4-11 as a container plant

Average Size at Maturity: 6-10 feet tall, with a 4-8 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Late Winter to Early Spring

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

4. Clementine Mandarin (Citrus reticulata ‘Clementine’)

Clementine Mandarin tree bearing fruit
Image via Nature Hills

Sweet, round, delicious Clementine mandarins are grown for their bright color, juiciness, and their mostly seedless, easy-peeling nature. Arriving in the US in 1909, they are now one of the most popular citrus fruits on the market.

Their trees have rounded canopies and glossy evergreen leaves, and are excellent for growing in containers. Their flowers smell like jasmine and their bright fruits look wonderfully ornamental in winter. The Clementine can be grown in both containers and in the ground in zone 8, provided it has adequate winter protection.

Outside of its fruiting potential, you can also use the Clementine as a focal point in your garden or as an effective evergreen privacy tree. Outside of winter protection or moving indoors and outdoors, it is an easy tree to grow: as long as you use a light but regular fertilizer and water regularly.

Other Common Names: Algerian Mandarin, Christmas Orange

Growing Zones: 8-11 (with some protection)

Average Size at Maturity: 8-10 feet tall, with a 3-4 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Late Fall to Mid Winter

Available at: Nature Hills

5. Owari Satsuma (Citrus reticulata ‘Owari’)

Owari Satsuma Mandarins on a tree
Image via Nature Hills

Like the Clementine, the Owari satsuma, or Owari mandarin, is a juicy, zesty, bright orange fruit with easy-to-peel skin and an especially ornamental appeal when fruiting in winter.

Like the Clementine too it can be grown in zone 8 – though it is more cold hardy (the most cold tolerant of all mandarin varieties!), and should not need extra winter protection to bloom and produce fruit. It is also completely seedless, making it a super convenient winter snack.

This lovely evergreen tree has a round form, dark leaves, and pretty flowers that will fill your garden with a delicate floral and citrus aroma. This makes it an attractive specimen for pollinators in spring.

The Owari is a drought-tolerant self-pollinating tree that will fit perfectly in a small spot in your yard. According to the University of Georgia Extension, the Owari is the most popular mandarin cultivar in the US due to its lovely flavor – who wouldn’t want this tree in their garden?

Other Common Names: Owari Mandarin

Growing Zones: 7-11

Average Size at Maturity: 7-10 feet tall

Fruiting Season: Early Winter

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Dancy Tangerine (Citrus reticulata ‘Dancy’)

Dancy Tangerine
Image via Nature Hills

A popular tangerine on the west coast, the Dancy is believed to originate from Tangier, Morocco, though it hasn’t been fully verified according to the UC Riverside Collection. Regardless of its murky origins, the Dancy is a rich, sweet, easy-peeling fruit that provides gorgeous color to your property during the harvest season.

The Dancy is cold hardy to zone 9 and should be planted as a container tree in zone 8 to avoid any potential frost damage, though it may fare well when planted outdoors with adequate winter protection.

With its upright growth habit and dense foliage, the Dancy will make a lovely little evergreen patio plant throughout the year.

Well-draining, acidic soil, and regular feeding will give your self-pollinating Dancy tree the best chance of a bountiful harvest. Due to its fragile skin, the Dancy is no longer grown commercially, so home-growing is the best way to taste this delicate, flavorful fruit!

Other Common Names: Kid Glove Orange, Zipper-Skin Tangerine, Christmas Tangerine

Growing Zones: 9-10, or 4-11 as a container plant

Average Size at Maturity: 10-15 feet tall, with a 5-8 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Early to Mid Winter

Available at: Nature Hills

7. Washington Orange (Citrus × sinensis ‘Washington’)

Washington Orange tree with fruit on it
Image via Nature Hills

Oranges typically will not fare well in USDA zone 8, but the Washington is one of the few cold hardy exceptions. This seedless, easy-peeling navel orange is a highly popular fruit in the US that was first imported from Brazil in 1870 and is prized for its excellent flavor, juicy consistency, and early production – it will be one of the first fruits from your winter harvest!

Gardeners in zone 8 will want to plant their Dancy in a container to move indoors for the winter. While it won’t reach its full growth potential in these conditions it will still produce flowers and fruits and will make a gorgeous patio plant. The Dancy tree has a balanced, appealing form with beautifully perfumed spring flowers.

This tree needs plenty of sunlight and should be grown in moist, well-draining, slightly acidic soil. It is self-pollinating so can be grown as a single specimen.

Other Common Names: Bahia

Growing Zones: 8-11

Average Size at Maturity: 7-15 feet tall, with an 8-12 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Late Fall to Winter

Available at: Nature Hills

8. Nagami Kumquat (Fortunella margarita ‘Nagami’)

Nagami Kumquat
Image via Nature Hills

The Kumquat citrus fruit looks like a tiny oval-shaped orange and has been enjoyed throughout the Asian continent for centuries. One of the most popular Kumquat cultivars is the Nagami, prized for its bright color, satisfying balance of sweet and sour, and tangy edible rind – no peeling required!

The tree itself is ornamental with a neat, formal growth habit, evergreen foliage, and small flowers. In winter its fruits will brighten the landscape and can hang on the trees for months at a time.

This Kumquat has exceptional cold hardiness compared to most citrus trees. It can be planted outdoors in zone 8 and needs no extra winter protection, though it also grows very well in containers if you prefer it.

Plant in moist, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH, in a location with full sun. Water regularly until fully established.

Growing Zones: 8-11

Average Size at Maturity: 15-18 feet tall, with a 12-15 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Winter

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Cold-Hardy Citrus Trees For Your Orchard or Edible Garden

It may take some extra time and preparation, but as you can see, growing citrus trees in zone 8 is entirely possible. With the right tactics you’ll be feasting on juicy mandarins like the Clementine, or useful culinary fruits like the Meyer lemon and Mexican lime, in no time!

Don’t forget to keep track of the micro-climates in your area, as its possible you may experience consistent cold periods that are below the minimum average temperatures for zone 8.

In such cases, a citrus variety that usually grows outdoors with winter protection in zone 8 may need to be planted in a container, and so on.

For more non-citrus fruit varieties, check out the best fruit trees for zone 8 or alternatively you can find out which mango trees grow best in zone 8.

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