How to Grow Tangerines

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Days to germination: Started by seedling
Days to harvest: 3 years old
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Water regularly
Soil: Well-drained soil
Container: Suitable in dwarf varieties


The tangerine is just a variety of Mandarin orange, and is often confused with the clementine. While they are both very close in taste and appearance, they are not precisely the same fruit.

They are a tropical fruit, and can be grown in USA climate zones 8 to 11. Standard trees that are planted outdoors will reach a height between 10 and 15 feet, and there are some dwarfed trees that are much smaller.

Tangerines are smaller than regular oranges, are generally sweeter in taste and the peel comes off much easier. They are very popular eaten fresh, though they are sometimes juiced as well. Tangerines aren’t a fruit that is used in cooked or baked dishes very often. Though smaller than an orange, they are still very high in vitamins C and A, fiber and folic acid.

The similarly named “tangelo” is a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit.

Starting Your Tree

One tangerine tree is enough to create a fruit crop, so you don’t need to buy extra trees for pollination purposes.

When shopping for a tangerine seedling or sapling, you will probably find that most are grafted trees. That means young tangerine branches were attached to a different kind of rootstock, but that doesn’t really have any effect on the tree other than to make it more hardy for its age.

Since the terms “tangerine” and “clementine” are so often interchanged, you may even end up with one tree or the other when shopping at the nursery. Some people consider the clementine to be a variety of tangerine, rather than a different fruit. If you do get a clementine tree, there is no worry as the information on growing is the same as a tangerine.

Trees should be planted in a sunny location with well-draining soil, though a large spot isn’t that necessary because tangerine trees don’t grow as large as other citrus, as mentioned above.

Dig a hole larger than the root ball, and carefully loosen the roots up before you plant. If it’s wrapped in canvas, slice it open so the roots are free (don’t slice any roots!). Keep the tree watered regularly for the first few months.

If you are growing other citrus, you don’t have to worry about them crossing and creating strange hybrid fruit. Any pollination crossings would only be evident if you were to save the seed from the fruit and grew new trees from that. You will still have tangerines regardless.

Tree Care

You will want to water your tangerine tree fairly regularly, whenever there has been a week or so without heavy rainfall. Though tangerines aren’t as heavy-feeders as standard oranges, you should give them a dose of citrus fertilizer each spring or even twice a year for the extra nutrients.

Small tangerine trees don’t need much pruning, so you can forgo that if you want to. A little clean-up of dead branches each spring can help with the look of the tree, and it will make it more productive.

If an unexpected cold snap hits, you should cover your trees to protect from frost damage. It’s usually not a viable option with big trees, but you should be able to cover up a tangerine tree with a few sheets or a tarp if necessary.


Because of their small size, dwarf tangerines are one of the better fruit trees for container gardening and they can even be kept indoors. A dwarf tangerine tree (usually a standard tree grafted to a dwarf rootstock) will stay small, usually no more than 4 or 5 feet tall. A pot between 10 and 15 gallons will usually suffice.

In a sunny enough room, it is even possible to keep a tangerine indoors all year round and still get fruit. But it is usually best for the tree (and your harvest) if you are able to keep the potted tree outside for the warmer weather as long as it won’t be subjected to any freezing temperatures.

To keep the roots from sitting in water, use a loose soil and add extra gravel at the bottom of the pot. It’s better to water frequently but lightly, rather than soak the whole thing.

Pests and Diseases

The biggest insect pests for tangerines are pretty small, so you will have to make it a habit to check your tree closely on a regular basis. Tiny aphids and black-shelled scale insects are what you need to look for, though neither one will be a huge problem even if you find them.

Aphids and scale are both sucking insects that feed off the trees juices, but seldom do severe damage to the tree unless you have really huge numbers of them. They will attract ants, due to their sweet excretions. The ants can be a pest in the garden, though they also pose little threat to your tangerine trees directly.

If you do want to get rid of the bugs, give your tree a good spray with the hose or a few spritzes with very soapy water. You can also use regular insecticides, if you wish though they are of little help with scale because of their tough shells.

Harvest and Storage

Most tangerine trees will be ready for picking during the winter and early spring, though that can vary by region and variety of tree. Fairchild tangerines are usually ready to pick by October, but the Honey types aren’t ready until January.

The fruit will be a good shade of orange, and start to soften up a bit. You should pick a few of them and see how juicy they are. Once the fruit has gotten juicy and sweet, they are ready for picking. When they are not ripe yet, they are hard and won’t have much juice.

Freshly picked tangerines will stay in good shape at room temperature for around 2 weeks, or even longer in the fridge. Don’t pack them in plastic bags though because they are prone to getting moldy with the moisture.

17 Responses to “How to Grow Tangerines”

  1. Joe  Says:

    I live in Hawaii & my tree is about 12yrs old for the last 5 or 6 yrs I have had large fruit with great color. For some reason this year the fruit is largh great color only it is hard and dry inside any reasons why and how do get the to produce good fruit again

  2. doug  Says:

    I believe you have slacked off on praying over your tangerines my friend. Get back to including them in your evening prayers (and preferably on your knees).

  3. Larry I Sylvester  Says:

    We grew a tangerine tree that came up from a plant attached to it. We transplant it in the middle of they yard but only produce 5 tangerines. This year it was full of blooms and they were polinated by the beed, but all the flowers fell off and about 5 little fruits are the only fruits we can see, out of millions of blooms. They are very sour when we get to eat one or two. What make this tree (about 5 years old loose porduction after so much bloom9ng?

  4. Don  Says:

    Thank you for a great article. I live in South Florida and have had good luck with growing Bananas and Mangoes in containers, and now thanks to your article think I will try Tangerines too!

  5. Isaiah  Says:

    Our tangerines are just small plants. About how long should I wait before I move the plant.

  6. yuzu  Says:

    I have not grown yet tangerine 2 common “gardener’ sense answers.

    1 the ones dry inside: feed the soil and prune the tree properly

    2 the ones only too much blooming and no adequate fruit: prune with the intention of having less blooming very few bud should led to fruit. Feed p the tree properly

  7. Karen Joshua  Says:

    Our tree is about 6 years old. We have lots of fruit however the leaves on one side is turning yellow. Why is this?

  8. A a Ron  Says:

    Can I eat the first harvest from my tangerine tree

  9. Robert J Mosby  Says:

    I planted a tangerine tree last winter but when I came back to Ft. Myers,I found that most of the leaves were falling off but then about 25% stayed but there has been no sign of grow. Apparently there was some standing water in our yard last summer. What can I do for this 4 foot plant?

  10. Lillian Gaherty  Says:

    I planted a tangerine tree two years ago – a large thorned branch grew up in the middle. The tree is not doing good. should I cut that branch off. I live in the Daytona Beach area

  11. glenn cunningham  Says:

    leaves falling off my tangerine tree which is in a pot & STANDS 4 FEET TALL. What is wrong with it!

  12. Diana hutte  Says:

    What would be the reason that my tangerines are not sweet, very bitter ,I don’t know what type they are, tree was here wheni bought the property,first year I was here no fruit, but the last two years I have had fruit, but very bitter tangarines

  13. Diana hutte  Says:

    WhT would I need to do to have sweeter tangarines, I don’t know what type of tangarines this tree is, it was here when I bought the property,the last two years it has bore fruit, but very bitter tangarines, do I need to add something for sweetness

  14. Fred Ingley  Says:

    Hi, I line in Havana, FL, about 60 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico & just south of Georgia. Is it practical to grow a producing tangerine tree outdoors here? Any particular species you would recommend?

  15. Bon  Says:

    . I live nearby in north Tallahassee and have a producing tangerine tree outdoors. Not sure what variety… It was already on the property. It was likely bought from a hardware store as most of the non-native plants on this property seem to have been. We cover the tree if there is a freeze when fruit is on it. Figs and blueberries do really well in this region.

  16. Jack  Says:

    I have a Tangerine tree that is in a pot and is doing well. Problem is the branches are leaning heavily toward the ground, and one branch even split. How do I and even should I prop the limbs up? Good looking fruit and I’ve thinned the fruit twice.

  17. Administrator  Says:

    Yes prop them up. Any other forked branch type device will work if its a small tree in a pot. This frequently happens with young fruit trees. I’ve had apples lose limbs once fully loaded with fat fruit.

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