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Choosing the perfect citrus variety

Citrus variety

Citrus trees will add extra zest to your garden and culinary delights! Before planting, check out the varieties of citrus on offer and pick one that best suits your garden and cooking needs. Below are some of our top picks.

When should I plant
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Harvest in 2-4 years


Varieties are chosen based on taste and availablity.

Sweet oranges:

  • Best's Seedless - classic navel oranges with sweet, medium-sized, near-seedless fruit. Normally ripen mid-season, from early spring through to late spring.
  • Cipo - sweet, juicy fruit with a hint of pineapple flavour. Fruit late winter.
  • Harwoods Late - navel orange, a selction of the Valencia orange hybrid that has thin-skinned juicy fruit with excellent flavour. Produces high yields from spring through to early autumn.

Blood oranges:

A mutation that has resulted in fruit with a red-coloured flesh.

  • Orange Cara Cara - distinctive rich pink flesh. Flavour is low acid and sweet, and has more depth and richness than that of the traditional navel. Virtually seedless. Needs plenty of sun, warmth and protection from hard frosts.
  • In New Zealand Ruby Blood is available from early spring to late spring.

Bitter oranges:

  • Seville - grown originally for bitter marmalade. Noted as the first fruit made into marmalade. A prolific cropper.
  • Chinotto - compact variety, with the fruit hanging on the trees for months. This variety is sometimes used to flavour Campari.


Lime varieties are usually chosen for their distinct flavour.

  • Bearss lime: medium-sized, seedless, tangy and very juicy fruit. Ideal for drinks and use in cooking.
  • Makrut (citrus hystrix) lime: it is the leaves of this low-growing shrub that are most prized, especially as an essential flavouring in Thai cooking. The fruit has some juice, but isn't used as commonly as the leaves. Makrut limes aren't tolerant of really cold weather, but in good conditions can produce fruit year-round.
  • Tahitian lime: vigorous, hardy trees that grow to 2-4 metres tall with drooping branches. Tolerant to the cold. Produces small, oval fruit that is bright green on the tree, becoming light yellow when ripe. The pulp is juicy and very acidic.


Despite being available year-round, the lemon's true season is late winter through spring.

  • Eureka - thought to be the most widely grown lemon variety in the world, this rough, thick-skinned lemon has a bitter flavour with high juice and acid content. It is distinguishable by a prominent point at one end.
  • Meyer - A very popular variety as the most cold hardy lemon variety. This smooth, thin-skinned fruit is roundish in shape and yellowy orange in colour. Its juicy and relatively sweet juice makes it ideal for desserts. Once tree is established, it will fruit all year round.
  • Lemonade - a hybrid cross between a lemon and a mandarin. The flesh can be eaten raw and it is perfect for making fresh lemonade!


The size of the fruit, the ease with which the skin peels, the presence of seeds, and the sweetness and acidity are always good traits to know before purchase.

  • Burgess Scarlet - tangerine-type mandarin. Medium size, peels well. Fine textured, juicy, aromatic flesh. A vigorous grower that ripens spring to early summer. Biennial harvest.
  • Clementine - well suited to cooler growing conditions. The fruit is small to medium in size and ripens from mid-winter to late winter. It remains juicy on the tree for several weeks. A round fruit with tight skin that is reasonably easy to peel. Fruits biennially.
  • Satsuma - slow-growing trees, but early ripening means fruit are ready for picking from early winter to mid-winter. The bush is small and spreading in habit. The fruit often matures before it reaches full colour and the skin is very easy to peel.
  • Mandarin Miho - an easy peel, cold hardy Satsuma mandarin with heavy crops of juicy, mild flavoured seedless fruit. Slower growing and well suited to growing in containers. Very early to ripen.


Varities are mainly chosen on the basis of size, sweetness of fruit and harvesting time.

  • Golden Special - will give you big grapefruit, with delicious sweet flavour.
  • Orlando - seedless variety with a sweet flavour.
  • Wheeny - produces large, yellow-skinned juicy fruit from late spring and late summer. Has biennial bearing habit, producing very little fruit every second year.

Follow our Citrus Growing Guide here >

Reference: Based on content from The Tui NZ Vegetable Garden third edition, by Rachel Vogan.


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Choosing the perfect citrus variety Comments

  • I am growing citrus In containers and do not want them to become big plants as I have limited space. How do I prune them to achieve a small bushy plant.

    Peter McKeogh

  • Hi Peter, prune them back to shape as and when required. If making large cuts bigger than your little finger paint the wound with water based paint or Vaseline. See our pruning guide for more tips: Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team.


  • Hi Peter, prune them back to shape as and when required. If making large cuts bigger than your little finger paint the wound with water based paint or Vaseline. See our pruning guide for more tips: Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team.


  • I am looking for a topary lime. Cannot find a supplier. Could you give me a growers name?


  • Hi Brigitte, we suggest contacting Wairere Nursery or Waimea Nurseries to see if they are able to help. They are suppliers of some topiary trees. Thanks, Tui Team


  • I'm after a Yuzu. Where would I be able to buy one.


  • Hi Elizabeth, Kings Plant Barn stock this variety, see here: Thanks, Tui Team


  • My neighbours give me grapefruit every year they call Poorman's Orange. It's an old tree from their farm in the Waikato which has seeds and quite orange flesh and a well-balanced sweet-acid flavour. It makes wonderful marmalade and I'd like to plant a tree in my own garden. How can I find what this variety is?


  • Hi Susie, it sounds lovely! ?Golden Special? (which has been known as Poor Man?s Orange) is one of the most common varieties grown in New Zealand. We suggest checking at your local garden centre or Mitre 10 for this variety. Read more here: Thanks, Tui Team.


  • I am looking to plant a mandarin tree in a big pot and prefer a dwarf plant. I would appreciate if you could advise me a variety that is sweet and easily grown. Thank you.

    Christopher Lim

  • I'm looking at planting lemon, mandarin and lime tree (already have the lime in a pot). I live in Invercargill - what would be the best variety, and when should I plant given we get frosts here!


  • Hi Christopher, mandarin trees grafted on the dwarf ?Flying Dragon? rootstock are best for pots. Satsuma mandarin varieties (including Miho, Kawano, Silverhill and Okitsu) are smaller growing trees anyway, with an almost weeping habit. The Satsuma types fruit during winter (between June and August),whereas the ?Encore? variety fruits in summer. Any of these varieties are great grown in pots, and produce sweet yummy fruit. Citrus are heavy feeders, so need regular feeding. Feed with Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser as it is suitable for use in pots and containers. Use a high quality potting mix, mulch with peastraw and water deeply and regularly during summer. Happy planting from the Tui Team


  • Hi Michelle, we'd suggest waiting until spring now in Invercargill. Tahitian lime is tolerant of the cold. Meyer Lemon is the most cold hardy lemon and Mandarin Miho is a cold hardy mandarin option. The varieties found at your local garden centre will be suitable for your climate :) Hope that helps ^Tui Team


  • I planted a small Satsuma mandarin around February, we dug a large hole, filled with a mixture of compost and garden mixed, watered and fertilized as directed.. it is approx 1m tall and appears healthy but doesn't seem to be bushing out - what more can I do to encourage growth?


  • Hi Aaron, you have done all the right things. Give it at least 9 months to settle into the ground, fresh growth should appear in October or November once the soil warms. A side dressing of citrus fertiliser then will give it all the nutrients it requires. Mulch around the tree with Tui Mulch & Feed to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Happy gardening ^Tui Team


  • I live in Invercargill and want to grow a Meyer lemon tree. Is that possible so far south?

    jenny miller

    • Hi Jenny, citrus trees are frost tender and they do best in a consistently sunny environment with adequate rainfall, in an area sheltered from cold winds. However some varieties are hardier than others. 'Meyer' lemons are the hardiest and one to try in your area of the South Island. Young lemon trees should be protected from frost until established. We also suggest checking at your local garden centre as they will be able to help recommend/will stock the best varieties suited to your climate. Happy growing ^Tui Team 

      Tui Team

  • I am wanting to grow a lemonade lemon tree but cant find a supplier in my area. Could you please help with an idea of where i could sourse one.

    Mark Wilson

    • Hi Mark, the best time to purchase citrus is around July when new seasons stock arrives into store, that is when you get the best selection. I am not sure what region you are in, but your local garden centre should be able to order one for you next season if you can’t find one in a store in your area. Waimea Nurseries in Nelson produce lemonade lemon trees, try contacting them to see when they are next available. Tui Team.

      Tui Team

  • I'm looking for a lovely looking citrus to have in a corner of a courtyard with a swimming pool. Any ideas?


    • Hi Caroline, look for citrus on semi dwarf or dwarf rootstock so that it doesn't grow too big for the space, if it is a hot sunny position consider planting a lime tree, either Tahitian Lime or Bearss Lime, otherwise look for a Meyer Lemon which produces fruit almost year round, or a Lisbon Lemon or Yen Ben lemon. For something novel have a look for a lemonade lemon tree which is a sweet lemon. If you are not so concerned about the fruit, Kumquats are great specimen plants with nice compact foliage, and can be grown as a standard (topiary) tree, it has many tiny bright orange fruit that aren't edible, but very ornamental and attractive. Citrus on dwarf rootstock can be grown in pots and containers as well as the garden. The Tui Team.

      Tui Team

  • Hi there, my Meyer Lemon Tree has got little dark brown to black ladybird size insects on it they appear dead. What are they and how do I control them? Thank you


    • Those raised bumps are likely to be scale insect, a common sap sucking insect. You will probably have ants on your plant too, they are feeding on the honey dew excreted by the scale insect, there is a live insect under the shield. Spray your lemon tree with a pyrethrum based insecticide spray, apply at a time that bees are not foraging either early in the  morning or late evening. Alternatively a horticultural mineral oil is effective in smothering the insect. Repeat applications will be required to break the lifecycle of the insect. Talk to your local garden centre or DIY store for a suitable control, take a photo in with you just to make sure we have identified the insect correctly, photos are always helpful. The Tui Team.

      The Tui Team

  • Great, helps no end.

    peter ellingford

  • Hi, we have recently moved to our property which has three citrus trees. One orange tree has loads of oranges starting to ripen up they are falling off the tree before they are fully ripe, they are still quite sour. What could be causing this. Thanks.

    Donna Harris

    • Hi Donna, most citrus trees shed excess fruit, the exception is mandarins which tend to hold on to their fruit. Shedding fruit is natures way of not overburdening the tree with fruit. Check the fallen fruit for small pin prick marks on the skin and if you do see marks, cut the fruit in half to check that they have not been infected by guava moth,  if it is guava moth the inside of the fruit will be rotten, collect up fallen fruit to prevent the insect spreading and dispose of fallen fruit in the rubbish. If the fruit are dropping close to ripening it could also be caused by a sudden change in temperature, lack of water or too much water. Fruit flavour can be improved by regular applications of fertiliser rich in potassium, apply in early spring and again in late summer, early autumn.


  • I have trouble getting ride of whitefly in mandarin tree which carry on to my tomatoes. How can I stop them?


    • Hi Gary, there are several ways to control whitefly, the best way is to keep your plants healthy and actively growing by regular feeding in spring and again in late summer, early autumn with a balanced specialty fertilisers. Regular watering throughout the growing season and mulch around the tree to conserve soil moisture. Remove weeds that can be host to whitefly such as milk weed, and any grass growing right up around the tree as it competes with the lemon tree for nutrients and water. You can try regularly hosing off the whitefly but this may not be practical. Hang yellow sticky traps in the tree which help break the lifecycle of the whitefly, these are available from garden centres and DIY stores. Talk to your local garden centre about a suitable control for white fly, either a horticultural spraying oil or a pyrethrum based insecticide. Continue to spray every 7-10 days to break the lifecycle of the insects. Regular applications of Tui Seaweed Plant Tonic will also help create natural resistance to pests and diseases in plants by strengthening the cell wall of the leaves, essentially it toughens the plant and makes it difficult for insects to pierce the leaf surface. Unfortunately whitefly prevalence is due to time of year and it has been a great season for bugs being warm and wet!


  • Thank you for the citrus guide from choosing the right tree to how to look after it, I am just learning and very informative.


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