What Every Cold Climate Gardener Should Know About Growing Kumquats

– Posted in: Fruit, How-to, Plant info

A guest post about Meiwa kumquat trees for a blog about gardening in cold climates? Oh, yes. If you have a sunny spot in your yard in summer and a south- or south-west-facing window in your house, you’ll love this little tree.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Keep your tree outdoors in the fall as long as the temperature stays above 30 degrees. You want it to go into winter dormancy.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Eat your kumquats off the tree. Or, find a recipe for candied kumquats and spoon them on vanilla ice cream. Watch wan spirits lift!

About the Author

When I’m not writing about the history, science, and pleasures of gardening, I’m taking care of the dozens of plants — citrus trees, figs, coffee bushes, pineapples, and lots of other tropicals — in my home conservatory. In the background of my author photo is my living wall, an eight-foot tall vertical garden of tropicals that waters itself four times a day. (Instructions are in the appendix to Paradise Under Glass.) Contact me via my Facebook page or visit my website. Looking for a speaker for your gardening club or garden-related event? Look for me on GreatGardenSpeakers.com

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Pol Bishop @Fantastic Gardeners March 31, 2014, 5:24 am

This will surely be my next project in the garden. Looks like a great way to spend the boring winter days, which usually pass without gardening. So, these fruits I see are actually edible, right? Any good recipes for them?

Ruth Kassinger March 31, 2014, 10:21 am

Oh, they’re definitely edible! Sometimes you can find them in grocery stores for a pretty penny. I’m not much of a cook, and just eat them off the tree. But candied kumquats are easy, as is a marmalade. There are lots of recipes online.

Ruth Kassinger February 26, 2014, 8:53 am

I’m so glad to hear of other kumquat admirers. I found a couple of kumquats on the floor this morning. They’re so pleasing to look at on the trees that I wait until the last minute––or later––to harvest them.

jenny February 25, 2014, 10:28 pm

I once had a kumquat and the fruit made a wonderful conserve. You have reminded me that I should look for another this year.

Alana February 25, 2014, 6:26 pm

Sounds like a great retirement project (hopefully, not too many years away). We wouldn’t have enough natural light in our house so grow lights it would have to be.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern February 25, 2014, 2:48 pm

That’s it! I am going to make it my mission to pare down my houseplants and only have a select few like this beautiful Kumquat! I can taste it now.

commonweeder February 25, 2014, 10:50 am

Wow! What an idea. I love kumquats – at least all sugared and spiced and in a jar – and they make great holiday decoration – but I never imagined I could grow one. I’m ready to try!