Gardening to Do

Hardy Orange: Pruning the Standard

Here's how to grow hardy orange:


Latin Name

Poncirus trifoliata

Common Name

Hardy orange

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous flowering shrub or small tree with small green leaves in threes.

Hardiness

Zones 6 - 10

Habit

Broadly upright, with one or several trunks.  Densely twiggy growth, green-barked when young, studded with fierce green thorns to four (!) inches long. 

Rate of Growth

Fast when happy


Size in ten years

Twelve feet high, taller in milder climates.

Texture

Dense and bulky. 

Grown for

Year-round appeal: White flowers (without fragrance, alas) in early Spring, then small green leaves in threes, then colorful (but small and pithy) small orange citrus fruit, then yellow Fall foliage, then, in Winter, the full reveal of the dense twigginess and startlingly large green thorns. 

Flowering season

Early Spring, just before the leaves emerge.

Culture

All possible heat and sun.  Any reasonable soil.

How to handle it

Pruned into a buffalo-proof hedge.  Limbed up into a small ornamental tree.  Clipped and tied into topiary or an espalier.

Downsides

The thorns are as dangerous as those of any cactus.  Wear protective glasses and thick-soled shoes when working on this plant.  When pruning, take care to put each clipping directly into the wheelbarrow or basket; stray clippings would be painful to "discover" when kneeling or weeding later in the season.  Self-seeds modestly, but be alert.

Variants

'Flying Dragon' has contorted stems and even thorns.  Not substantially more interesting than the species itself, but often more available.

Availability

Because this plant is difficult to handle, it's generally available only at specialty nurseries or on-line.

Propagation

Seeds or cuttings

Native habitat

China











 
 
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