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Tangelos for Backyard Gardens

Tangelo fruitsTangelos are easy to grow in home and backyard gardens.

Tangelos are hybrids of mandarins and grapefruits. The name tangelo is short for “tang” tangerine (a popular name for mandarins) and “elo” from pummelo (once the name used for grapefruits, but in actuality a separate fruit).

Tangelo fruits can vary in color and size but are commonly about the size of an orange. They generally have loose skin and are easier to peel than oranges. They are readily distinguished from oranges by a characteristic “nipple” at the stem end.

Tangelo flavor is tart and tangy; the fruit is aromatic; they can be juicy at the expense of flesh. Tangelos are best adapted to hot climates.

Tangelo Growing Tips

  • Tangelos grow best in USDA Zones 9 and 10. Choose a location that gets at least 8 hours of sun or more each day. Set tangelos in a protected spot away from a prevailing breeze or wind. Avoid planting in low spots where cold air or frost can settle.
  • Plant tangelos in compost-rich, loamy soil that is well-drained. Keep the soil evenly moist. Protect plants with plant blankets if temperatures near freezing are forecast.
  • For more details on growing citrus see How to Plant, Grow, Prune, and Harvest Citrus.
  • Tangelo is an evergreen citrus tree. A standard tangelo can grow 20 to 30 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide. Trees on dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstock will grow to one-fourth to one-third the size of a standard, that is 5 to 7 feet tall and wide.
  • Dwarf tangelos can be grown in containers. Choose a container at least 18 inches deep and wide. Move tangelos to larger containers after a year or two.
  • Tangelos can be grown indoors in a very brightly lit spot. Potting soil should be coarse, acidic and well-drained. Tangelos growing in containers in cold-winter regions should be moved indoors in autumn before the first frost.
  • Most tangelos are self-fertile. The popular tangelo ‘Minneola’ requires a pollinator to ensure good fruit set. Most mandarins will pollinate tangelos with the exception of Satsumas, ‘Orlando’ and ‘Seminole’. You can help a tree set fruit by taking a small brush and moving pollen from one flower to another. Honeybees and other pollinators can assist as well. Trees will begin bearing fruit at 1 to 2 years old. A mature tree will bear 40 to 50 fruits. Fruits commonly ripen from winter into spring.
  • Tangelos are hardy to the mid 20sF. Protect plants from freezing temperatures to avoid dieback or death. Fruit most be protected from temperatures below freezing.
  • Feed tangelo trees in mid-spring, early summer, and late summer. Use an organic fertilizer formulated for citrus trees, generally higher in nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium.
  • Take care when harvesting fruit not to pull the fruit or the rind will tear around the stem; cut stems with pruning shears is the best harvest practice.
  • Tangelos, like other citrus, are usually not bothered by insect pests. Watch for slugs or leafminers. Indoors watch for mites or aphids.

Tangelos can be used as a substitute for mandarin oranges or sweet oranges.

Tangelos are sometimes referred to as “Honeybells”.

Grow tangelosTangelo Varieties

‘Minneola’: rich and tart flavor, very juicy; large (3 inches in diameter), bright orange-red fruit often with a prominent neck at the stem end makes fruit look bell-shaped; peel easily; slightly seedy; cross between ‘Dancy’ mandarin and ‘Duncan’ grapefruit.

‘Orlando’: mild, sweet flesh, very juicy; large fruit, flat-round shape with a knob at neck; pale orange rind; looks like flattened orange; some seeds; ripens from early fall to late winter; cross between ‘Dancy’ mandarin and ‘Duncan’ grapefruit.

‘Wekiwa’: mildly sweet flavor; flesh is light purplish rose color; looks white-fleshed in cool climates; yellow-skinned; looks like undersized grapefruit; peel and eat like a mandarin; best adapted to warm summer climates; cross between a ‘Sampson’ tangelo and grapefruit; sometimes marketed as ‘Lavender Gem’ because of flesh color.

Other Tangelos

‘Allspice’: rich, spicy flavor; matures midseason.

‘Chironja’: mildly sweet flavor; the size of an orange; yellow-orange rind; sometimes sold as orangelos; a hybrid of an orange and a grapefruit.

‘Ortanique’: sweet, juicy flesh; fruit is medium size slightly flattened with small navel; deep orange rind; few to many seeds; late-ripening, matures at same time as ‘Valencia’ orange; large spreading tree; originally found in Jamaica; the name comes from the words “orange”, “tangerine”, and “unique”.

‘Sampson’: tart grapefruit-like flavor; yellow rind with orange flesh; best adapted to warm-summer climates.

‘Seminole’: tart flavor; juicy flesh; orange-red rind; best adapted to warm-summer climates.

‘Ugli’: greenish-orange rind; rind is bumpy; ripens early; best adapted to tropical climates.

Also of interest:

How to Grow Citrus

Tangors for Backyard Gardens

Kumquats: Kitchen Basics

Grapefruit Varieties

Lemons for Backyards Gardens

Limes for Backyard Gardens

Oranges for Backyard Gardens

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4 Comments

    • If the plant remains healthy and has grown upward, start feeding it on a regular basis. Use a citrus-specific fertilizer. The tree should be in a location where it gets 12 to 14 hours of sunlight each day during the summer. Fruit commonly appears by the third year.

    • Keep the soil evenly moist. If you have a mature tree, deep water once every 10 days. If the tree is young, water every 7 days. The soil should be just moist, not wet.

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