Hardy Satsuma Is a Delight
It was 45 years ago that the late Oscar Gray gave me several Changsha hardy tangerines from a tree he had growing at the old O.S. Gray family nursery on Division Street in Arlington. It had made it through a lot of winters and had a nice crop that year. They were seedy, but they surely were good. And that was decades before the Cuties craze hit every grocery in town. Fresh tangerines (which is what I thought they were) were a delicacy.
I didn’t realize I could have planted those seeds – that they would have come true to the variety. By the time I got around to asking about buying a tree or getting seeds, that mother tree had frozen in the Great Winter of 1983-84 and the nursery was gone.
Jump ahead another 20 or 25 years and Texas A&M was putting a big push toward more cold-hardy citrus. That old Changsha had been crossed with a high quality Satsuma to produce ‘Orange Frost’ Mandarin hybrid, and what do you know: it went on to be named a Texas Superstar® plant!
Here are the facts about Orange Frost…
• It’s sweet and easily peeled.
• It has only one or two seeds per fruit (ours sometimes have none).
• It’s labeled as a Zone 8 plant, which means it will tolerate temperatures into the teens. I have to confess, however, that I move mine into the greenhouse when it drops into the 20s where we live outside the Metroplex. If I had them outside, I’d cover them with frost cloth below 28F. I’m obsessive that way – no point in taking a chance.
• It grows to 8 ft. tall in the ground and 4 or 5 ft. tall in large patio pots. You can put it on a plant dolly and shuttle it into protection when temperatures drop.
• It needs full or nearly full sun. A little mid-afternoon shade in the summer, however, might help the tree.
• Use a high-quality, highly organic potting soil. Keep the plant moist at all times, and fertilize it with a high-nitrogen, water-soluble plant food monthly.
• Scale insects and white flies are its major pest problems in a greenhouse. Let your local nurseryman show you products labeled for their control.
• ‘Orange Frost’ will be widely available in local retail nurseries again next spring. You might want to include it in your patio container plantings so that you, too, can treat a child or grandchild to citrus fresh from your patio farm.