I live in suburban Maryland, and am the happy owner of the two kumquat trees you see here. (That’s my living wall behind them.) I bought them after I inadvertently pruned my first one to death. (That unhappy event inspired me to learn the basics of plant physiology, hoping I would be a better––or at least less lethal––gardener.) These beauties flower prolifically in July, and their golden-orange fruits ripen indoors just when the winter sun, along with my spirits, are at their lowest. The kumquats are just the size for popping in your mouth: the tangy taste of the juice is offset by the sweetness of the delicate peel.
Kumquats are ideal house guests: not only do they offer hostess gifts for weeks on end, they’re neat and undemanding. After eight years, my trees are still less than five-feet tall. I’ve had to re-pot them only once. While mealybugs and spider mites attack many of my other indoor plants (which means spraying messy horticultural oil), the kumquat trees’ sturdy leaves stay spotless. I’m not a particularly diligent caretaker and often forget to water as soon as I should, but these trees are forgiving, rarely even dropping a leaf in pique or protest.
If you want to invite a kumquat tree into your home, try FourWindsGrowers.com this spring. I started with three-year-old trees. Here’s how to care for them:
- Place the tree in a sunny spot in your backyard. Water whenever the soil is dry to about an inch below the surface. That can be everyday when it’s hot. Use a slow-release fertilizer with all the macro- and micro-nutrients.
- Keep your tree outdoors in the fall as long as the temperature stays above 30 degrees. You want it to go into winter dormancy.
- When you bring it in, make sure it gets at least six hours of sunlight. I supplement natural light with an inexpensive fluorescent grow-light. Inside, your tree will think it’s spring, and produce flowers.
- Water as outdoors, but use a plastic plant saucer, as well as a plastic rack. Leaving some water in the saucer (but not touching the bottom of the pot) is a good idea: evaporation provides a bit of humidity.
- Eat your kumquats off the tree. Or, find a recipe for candied kumquats and spoon them on vanilla ice cream. Watch wan spirits lift!