Caring For & Planting Tangelo Trees
Like labradoodles, brunch, and athleisure, tangelos are a fusion that brings you the best of both worlds: sweet and easily peeled like a tangerine, but big, juicy, and ever-so-slightly tart like a grapefruit. Since they were first cross-bred around the turn of the last century, tangelos have become wildly popular among backyard growers and international farmers alike.
Talk about broad a-peel!
If you’re looking for a citrus that’s just a little fancier than your everyday orange, a tangelo tree might be just what you need to brighten up your yard. Read on to learn everything you need to know about planting and maintaining tangelo trees, along with some great ideas for enjoying your new ZFF (that’s Zest Friend Forever).
While there are several tangelo varieties, the most popular is the Minneola tangelo. First created in 1931, these juicy darlings are also known as Honeybells, a sticky-sweet name earned by both its flavor and its distinctive bell shape.
In addition to being tasty and practically seedless, Minneolas make nutritious snacks. Each one comes with 60% of your daily recommended vitamin C and 80% of your daily recommended folate, all in one small orange package.
It’s no surprise that Minneolas are common gift fruits, labeled under the name Honeybell Oranges in holiday gift baskets worth upwards of 70 or 80 dollars.2
Rather than splurge on one small basket of Minneolas, you could just plant a Minneola tangelo tree in your yard— with a little tender loving care, she’ll give you a bounty for years to come.
Planting Tangelo Trees
Before you start dreaming about flavorful cocktails and tangy salads, your new trees need an inviting patch of dirt to call home. So what is tangelo's best practice? Let’s learn how to give your tangelo trees a space they’ll tange-love.
Tangelos were first bred in the sun-soaked Florida fields, so they thrive in California’s warm weather.1 We especially recommend them for those living in zones 10 and 11.5
Although they prefer full sunshine, tangelos are a little hardier than some other citrus.1 They’re happy in temperatures down to 32°F and can survive frosty winters inside a greenhouse. If you live in the snowy mountains of Tahoe or Big Bear, you’ll need to make sure your trees will have a safe haven during the colder months.
Fortunately, most of California is plenty warm for tangelo trees. Keep ‘em in the sunshine as much as possible, and they’ll bring you a tasty reward.
Picking the Perfect Spot
If you know your tangelos will love your local weather, you can start thinking about where in your yard they should take root. Keep these factors in mind before you dig:
- Space – Because of how large these babies can grow, tangelo trees need room to stretch their limbs. Plan on spacing full-sized trees about 25 feet apart and dwarf-sized trees about 10 feet apart.
- Neighbors – Tangelos produce more juicy fruit with other sweet oranges around to cross-pollinate. We recommend Dancy or Algerian clementines, but most mandarins will do the trick so don’t worry about whether it’s a mandarin or orange.5
- Drainage – Citrus don’t like soggy soil. Make sure your selected spot has good drainage, so your citrus tree’s roots don’t drown.5
- Wind – If strong winds hit your property more on one side than the other, plant your tangelos where they’ll get the most protection.6
- Sun – The sunnier the spot, the better!5
Now that you’ve selected the perfect place to plant your leafy new pal, you’re ready to grab that shovel and roll up your sleeves. Follow these steps to help them settle in nicely:
- Dig a hole a few inches shallower than the roots’ height and about twice as wide. If you’d like, add a little manure to the bottom of the hole as fertilizer.
- Carefully remove the citrus tree from its bucket.
- Set the delicious fruit tree into the hole and gently spread out the roots with your hands.
- Refill the hole. You can use the same dirt you removed, or you can mix it with some compost.
- Pack down the soil tightly to remove air pockets. The tree trunk should have a slight mound around it.
- Thoroughly soak the soil to help pack it down further. Spread some fertilizer around the base to give it an extra boost.
Congrats! Your tangelo tree is now comfortably resting in your yard, its journey complete. Now all that’s standing between you, and that home-squeezed juice is a few simple tips for keeping your new tree happy.
Spoil Those Stems
Like most citrus, tangelo trees aren’t picky citrus plants. If your weather is sufficiently warm and sunny, your tree will need minimal attention. Pamper it with these care methods:
- Water – Keep the soil moist by watering your delicious fruit tree about once a week. Make sure the soil is damp but not drowned, and that your dirt is draining efficiently.6
- Fertilizer – Trees love nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Use a formula specifically for citrus trees and spread it over their soil in early spring and summer.7
- Pruning – Remove any branches that are damaged or weighing down the tree, and clip back outer foliage to keep it from throwing shade on more central leaves.7
Juicy Tip: Be the Bee
Tangelo trees, especially the lovely Minneola, are social butterflies that crave the company of other pollinators. If your other orange trees are nearby, natural pollination should be more than enough to keep them yielding year after year.
If you’ve given your trees diverse company, but the fruit count is still low, you can give mother nature a hand by playing the honeybee yourself— pick up pollen from one tree’s flowers with a small paintbrush and transfer it to your tangelo blossoms.6 Your tree will thank you.
Aphids and Fungus and Snails, Oh My!
By now, you’re probably daydreaming about cocktail recipes (us too), and you’re well on your way to citrus plant parenthood. But before you start the party, first you should know about the possible problems that can jeopardize your beautiful new tree.
Here are a few issues to keep an eye on, and how to show them who’s boss.
Depending on the type of curl your leaves are showing, the cause could be as simple as drought. If the leaves are just rolling over a bit, try increasing water. If they’re crumpled, sticky, or show signs of insect damage, you could have aphids. Prune the affected leaves and consider using an insecticide if the problem is severe.
If you notice your leaves are a little less green and a little more yellow, your tree is asking for more nutrients. It’s time to beef up your fertilization routine.
These slimy critters are one of the more common pests in California, and you can identify their favorite haunts by the trails they leave behind. Start by clearing any debris that might provide them shelter and removing any snails you notice on your tree. If the problem persists, you can try barriers, traps, or molluscicides.
Alternaria (Brown Rot)
Far more of a problem on Florida farms, Alternaria can still pop up on Californian trees. This fungus appears as pale brown spots on citrus peels and can spread quickly. Prevent it by properly draining your tree’s roots and regularly fertilizing. If you do notice the spots popping up, treat your soil with potassium phosphates or fungicides to stop the disease in its tracks.
The good news is that the better you’re taking care of your tree, the less likely you’ll be dealing with any of these unsavory characters. Treat your lovely lady right, and she’ll pay you back with tangelos a-plenty.
How to Eat (and Drink) Your Tangelos
Your tree is happily rooted and spoiled to perfection, and the fruits of your labor are ripe for the picking. Orange you glad to have such a delicious bounty right at home? Here are a few ways to use those yummy tangelos:
- Tangelo Juice – Simple and delicious, store-bought OJ has nothing on homemade. Tangelos have as much juice as an orange, but are even sweeter.
- Cocktails – Sub in tangelo juice in any cocktail recipe that calls for OJ. Screwdrivers, sidecars, mimosas, tequila sunrises—you can elevate them all with your homegrown juice.
- Salads – Add some bright color (and tangy flavor) to your salads with some chopped tangelo wedges. Use the juice in a vinaigrette to have your guests clamoring to know the secret ingredient.
- Creamsicles – Mix tangelo juice and Greek yogurt for a healthy snack to eat right away, or freeze the juice inside a popsicle mold for homemade creamsicles.
- Garnish – This is one garnish that won’t end up in the trash. Use thin slices of tangelo to brighten up a dessert plate or charcuterie board.
- A Snack to Take Anywhere – Tangelos are delicious just as they are, right off the stem. Pluck one from your tree on your way out and enjoy it anywhere.
Of course, tangelos also make great gifts— but we’d understand if you wanted to keep them all for yourself. Juice ‘em, eat ‘em, zest ‘em, they’re all yours.
Tangelos Grown for Californians, By Californians
With plenty of space and direct sunlight, your tangelo tree can rest comfortably in your yard for years to come.
For two decades, Plants Express has delivered California plants to California homes. Our Golden State-grown tangelo trees come straight from our nurseries to your front door. We inspect every plant to ensure it meets our sky-high standards, but if you’re not feeling the love at first sight, we’ll take them back with a full refund. No questions asked, no bogus fees, no worries.
If you’ve been looking to brighten up your yard, look no further. Plant your roots with Plants Express.
Florida Fruit Shippers. Gift Baskets. https://www.orangesonline.com/giftbaskets/
Harvest to Table. How to Plant, Grow, Prune, and Harvest Citrus. https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-plant-grow-prune-and-harvest-citrus/
Harvest to Table. Tangelos for Backyard Gardens. https://harvesttotable.com/tangelos-for-backyard-gardens/
Plants Express. Minneola Tangelo Tree. https://plantsexpress.com/products/minnelola-tangelo-tree
Purdue. Tangelo. https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/tangelo.html
Science Direct. Alternaria citri. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/alternaria-citri
Sunkist. Minneola Tangelos. https://www.sunkist.com/nutrition/minneola-tangelos/
UCANR. Aphids. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7404.html
UCANR. Diseases and Disorders of Leaves and Twigs. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/C107/m107bpleaftwigdis.html
UCANR. Snails and Slugs. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7427.html
UCANR. Thinking of Planting a Citrus Tree? Now’s the Time. https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=45987
University of Arizona. Diagnosing Home Citrus Problems. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwi0qYqt85_7AhXaKkQIHZk9DQ8QFnoECBMQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fextension.arizona.edu%2Fpubs%2Faz1492.pdf&usg=AOvVaw3gKN9xbNPz3nVjb_5eCh1j (PDF)University of Florida. Minneola Tangelo. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/CH072