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!

Photo: ‘Orange Frost’ Mandarin hybrid hardy citrus from the Sperry home garden and greenhouse.

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.

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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.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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