Homestead Gardening in the Texas Gulf Coast
Podcast E6: Citrus Varieties for Zone 9
Recommendations for Houston, Texas (specifically)
My clients love to grow citrus, but unfortunately, selecting the right variety is challenging for too many reasons. To understand why I recommend some varieties over others, you have to know what’s happening behind the scenes in the citrus growing industry.
- The providers of Texas citrus (the growers) are few and far between. Why? Something called Citrus Greening (a.k.a. Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus or Huanglongbing has been attacking trees all over the world. Orchards are being wiped out because once a tree is sick, it cannot be cured and can spread the disease to other trees. New laws make shipping trees across state lines illegal, and few nursery growers have chosen to comply with these very strict laws. Those that did not comply had to stop selling citrus.
- Not every citrus grower in Texas offers the same product even when it’s named the same. Some growers use ideal root stock varieties that are more cold hardy while others use root stock that grows a taller tree that is less cold hardy. A fast growing tree means the grower can sell a citrus tree cheaper and earlier than it’s competitors. 10 years of growing citrus in Houston and not one single tree from the inferior grower has survived more than 3 years being killed by either a freeze or a drought. In that time, not one single tree produced usable fruit because the tree was consistently unhealthy. If you know me as a grower, you also know that I have grown every citrus variety available in Texas which means at least 20 dead trees from this grower mainly because I did not know this information until a few years ago.
- Houston zone 9 is not like a California or Florida zone 9. Houston has only recently become a zone 9 climate. Although 90% of our weather is typical, it only take 1 extreme weather event to cause damage to our sub-tropical and tropical plants. Erratic weather like a cold snap when plants have not gone dormant or have broken dormancy is detrimental. So, selecting plants that can handle harsher conditions that what is expected is ideal.
This episode reveals my expert opinion. Weeding out many citrus varieties, I offer a “best chance” list at growing citrus in the Houston area. Of course, knowing how to protect plants from Northern winds and fertilizing in late February and late September are two requirements you can’t skip!