The real botanical name is actually Fortunella (from the English scholar, Fortune, who introduced it for the first time in Europe, in 1848) and is mostly from central China and secondarily from Malaysia.
Dense shrub or small tree, which over the years reaches 3-4 meters in height, native to Asia; once the kumquats were considered in the citrus species, given the numerous similarities with that species.
It forms compact shrubs, slow-growing, densely branched, which at times have small thorns on the branches; the foliage is lanceolate, of dimensions between the 4 and the 8 cm, of dark green colour, fairly leathery and often, rigid, evergreen.
In spring, it produces numerous small star-shaped flowers, white, delicately perfumed, followed, in winter, by small oval fruits, similar to small lemons, of a colour varying from the yellow to the intense orange; the fruits of kumquats have a sweet skin and sour flesh, are consumed whole, raw or caramelized. These fruit trees are also cultivated in the Mediterranean and in the USA . There are several cultivars, and also hybrids with species of citrus.
They are grown in a sunny place, possibly sheltered from the winter winds; the kumquats during the winter go through a phase of vegetative rest, for this reason they can bear even cold temperatures, close to -10 ° C, without any damage.
It grows and bears fruit well if it is positioned where it is reached by the sun for most of the day. It likes warm positions and sheltered from cold winds that can prematurely drop the flowers or affect the ripening of the fruit.
The ideal is therefore, especially if we live in the Centre-North, to insert it near a wall facing south.
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It is a fruit tree very interesting both from the point of view of production and decorative qualities: the individual fruits can be enjoyed quietly with the skin, very thin and aromatic. Its white flowers, gathered in bunches, are very fragrant and are produced with a certain continuity throughout the growing season, even if the peak is between June and July.
The leaves, persistent, are very shiny, dark green on the upper page, lighter on the lower one.
The fruits are 3-4 cm long and 2 cm broad, oval in shape. The skin is bright orange. They can be eaten fresh, even if their taste is slightly acidic, or used for making jams, candied fruit or to flavor liqueurs.
The cultivation of kumquat is not difficult, especially when compared to other citrus fruits. As we have said, it is often chosen as a decorative tree because of its great ability to adapt to different pedoclimatic situations. Its small size and abundant fruiting make it even more suitable for this purpose.
From November to May
From March to October, water regularly, always waiting for the soil to be dry between one watering and the other; during the cold months we water only in case of prolonged drought. During the growing season we supply, every 10-15 days, specific fertilizer for citrus fruits, mixed with the water of the watering.
They are cultivated in a good mixture of peat, humus and sand or pumice stone, in order to guarantee a good drainage. In areas with very cold winters, they can also be cultivated in pots, remembering to repot the shrubs every 2-3 years.
Kumquats want a rich soil that stays fresh for a long time. However, it is very important that the drainage is excellent, to avoid the onset of pathologies at the root level. Limestone or clay soils are therefore absolutely not recommended. In the first place, these do not allow an ideal draining of the water. In general, they are characterized by pH from subalkaline to alkaline and this is the cause of the appearance of leaf chlorosis (to be treated with chelated iron).
Multiplication and diseases
occurs by seed, even if usually the plants produced by seed are not identical to the mother plant, and at times they are more delicate; usually they propagate by grafting the young suckers on rootstock of Poncirus trifoliata.
Pests and Diseases
fear the attack of cochineal and mites.
Among citrus fruits it is certainly the most rustic. The woody parts can in fact withstand even -10 ° C, without losing the leaves. Only fruit that starts to fall and deteriorate at -3°C will be damaged.
Throughout the North (up to 600 m above sea level) and in the Apennine regions it is advisable to cultivate the lucky in a jar, so you can pick it up during the cold season. If we want to try to insert it directly in the garden, we will have to cover the entire aerial part with several layers of non-woven fabric around November. Clearly, placing it close to a well exposed wall will help.
In the Centre-South, on the coasts and on the great lakes of the North, instead, it can be cultivated in the open land without necessarily resorting to winter protections.
Planting kumquats in the ground
The best periods for planting in soil are autumn (where winters are mild) or spring (in the northern regions), waiting for the frosts to end.
Proceed by digging a hole at least 80 cm deep and wide. On the bottom it will be necessary to prepare a thick draining layer based on gravel or, better still, pumice or volcanic lapillus.
If the extracted substrate is compact, it should be replaced with a product specifically designed for citrus fruits or add a good amount of coarse sand. To make the soil even more aerated and rich, a good quantity of floured manure must be mixed in. Insert the plant so that the collar is at ground level. Let’s cover, keep close to each other and water abundantly, repeating for the first month every time the area is completely dry.
Planting kumquats in pots
In this case it is very important to choose a container of suitable size. Plants are generally sold in rather understated pots in terms of volume. The advice is to repot as soon as possible by increasing the diameter by about 4 cm.
The best vases are made of terracotta, as they guarantee good breathability. A good alternative are also those in resin, both from a functional and aesthetic point of view. However, we always avoid those with water reserves that could cause excessive humidity with disastrous consequences.
It is always good to create a thick drainage layer on the bottom: the most suitable materials to use are gravel, pozzolana or small shards.
As for the substrate we can choose whether to buy it ready (you can find on sale products specifically designed for citrus) or compose it ourselves. The ideal is to create a rich, sub-acidic whole with a large quantity of sand and clay below 15%. We can also mix a little ‘pozzolana or pumice to improve the transit of water.
It is very important to insert the plant keeping it at the right level: the grafting point (very delicate in citrus fruits) must be 5 cm away from the ground level.
Kumquat cultivation treatments
In the middle of the earth
Irrigation in case of strong heat and lack of precipitation, it is advisable to intervene at least twice a week distributing water in abundance.
Fertilization must be carried out in spring, using specific products for citrus fruits, possibly with slow release: we distribute the quantity recommended by the producer in the whole area covered by the canopy of the tree.
Pruning does not require severe and frequent interventions. Most of the time we proceed by balancing the various branches of the sapling after the end of fruiting.
– The substratum should always be kept slightly moist, but avoiding water stagnations. The use of the saucer is absolutely not recommended.
– We distribute liquid citrus fertiliser every two weeks during the growing season, i.e. from spring to autumn. We can also opt for a granular product waiting for us both for the quantities and for the frequency of administration to the indications of the producer. Lupine flour is also excellent, even if it is not easy to find.
– When the winter arrives, we will gradually interrupt the irrigations, until the substratum is dry in depth. This will send the plant into vegetative rest. Towards November let’s take the pot to a sheltered area. Rooms in which the temperature is between 8 and 10 °C are suitable. We can also use a cold greenhouse well exposed.
In extreme cases we can place the plants next to a wall facing south and cover them with many layers of TNT (also evaluating the minimum temperatures that will be reached). When spring arrives, we will slowly return to expose the plants to light and heat.
– Every about 3 years (5 years for adult plants) we will have to repot. It is important that the diameter increases gradually. Citrus fruits, in fact, tend to occupy all the space available with their roots before dedicating themselves totally to flowering and fruiting. Let’s remember to always eliminate all the felted parts of the hypogeum apparatus.
– If the pot is very large, we can limit ourselves to taking soil carrots along the perimeter (with a bulb plant) and replacing it with new material.
Chinese mandarins do not strictly require pruning. You can intervene after harvesting to shorten the fruit branches or after repotting to balance the shape and remove any dead or damaged parts. If we want we can set a shape: it is very common to search for the sapling with a round crown, but also a specimen with a back can be very decorative.
The kumquat can be reproduced by seed (even if the results are not always satisfactory), by cutting or by grafting. This last option is the most recommended, as it is possible to choose rootstocks that are more resistant to radical pathologies and the general development is however faster.
Cuttings portions of the semi-woody branch must be taken at the end of the summer. They should then be placed in very light soil and kept at temperatures around 20°C and high humidity until they begin to vegetate. They can then be moved to a very luminous area, but not to the direct sun.
Grafting can be difficult for the hobbyist, even if it is the method that guarantees the best results. It is done in late spring or autumn, when temperatures never drop below 20°C.
Generally the poncirus trifoliata is chosen as rootstock. This gives it greater resistance to pathogens and cold.
Pests and diseases
The main enemy of the lucky is cochineal. You should always keep a close eye on your plants. If these insects appear on the branches you can intervene (if there are few) by removing them and passing on the part of the alcohol.
Otherwise it will be good to intervene by distributing mineral oil activated with a systemic insecticide, taking care, however, paying particular attention to the time of shortage before catching the mandarins.
Round fruits, yellow-orange
Acidulous flesh, sweetish skin
Equipped with plugs
Long, oval fruits with orange peel
Acidic pulp with sweet rind
Not thorny, more decorative.
Growth is rapid
Pear fruits, bright orange
Acidic flesh and sweet rind
Very beautiful oval leaves
The most resistant to cold
- The kumquat is a citrus fruit, of Asian origin; once it was classified under the genus citrus, in the species japonica
visits : kumquat
- The Kumquats are citrus fruits of Chinese and Japanese origin, often grown in Italy only for ornamental purposes; the
Visit : kumquat cultivation