The mandarin orange is sweet, juicy and delicious. What’s more, it grows easily in containers, which makes it ideal for homes with small gardens or patios. Relatively small in size, these fruits are sometimes known as kid-glove oranges or, in South Africa, naartjies. However, the naartjie is technically a Satsuma mandarin. These trees do not need to be pollinated by another tree and can bear fruit on their own.
Mandarin oranges have high levels of the vitamins C and A, and also contain dietary fibre, manganese and potassium.
Position – The mandarin orange tree thrives in hot, humid conditions and full sun. The fruits have a thin skin and are susceptible to the cold and frost. Plant your trees about 3.5 to 5 metres apart to allow for their canopy to spread.
Size – Depending on the soil, climate conditions and care, your mandarin orange tree can grow to a height of between 3.5 and 7.5 metres tall.
Soil Type – Mandarin oranges need well-draining sandy soil that is healthy, with a neutral pH. If your soil’s drainage isn’t optimal, plant your mandarin tree on a bit of a mound so that the soil doesn’t become waterlogged.
Mulch – This tree thrives with a layer of mulch to protect its roots from drying out. Organic mulches – like pine needles, leaves and bark chips – work very well.
Watering – Your tree needs to be well watered for the best fruits. In summer and spring, increase your watering so that the tree doesn’t dry out in the heat.
Fertilising – To get the most out of your mandarin orange tree, feed it with fertiliser in spring and summer. If the leaves start to yellow, your plant may not have enough magnesium. Apply a little Epsom salts to the drip-line of the tree (where the leaves extend their reach).
Pruning – You may decide to prune your tree if you need to keep its spread under control, prefer it in a certain shape, or have diseased or dead branches that are sapping it of its vital energy. But, it’s also important not to cut it unnecessarily, especially while it is still young.
Harvesting – Pick your mandarins when they have turned from green to a beautiful orange colour all over. Clip or twist them carefully from the tree. If they’re ripe and you know there are rains coming, try to take them off before the rains, as these can cause the fruits to spoil.