How to Grow Satsuma Trees

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Satsuma Trees Growing Guide

Satsuma (Citrus unshiu) is one of the sweetest and coldest citrus fruits. Originally from China, the name 'Satsuma' comes from the province of Japan where the trees were first cultivated and introduced to the West. Fruits were first brought to North America in the 18th century.

With its loose, tanned skin, it is an easy fruit to peel and has about 12 segments of delicate and succulent pulp. Small to medium-sized trees grow slowly with a spreading, stooping habit. The beautiful white flowers appear in spring and are attractive to early pollinators. Grown from seed, it can take up to eight years before harvesting your first crop. Time will be significantly reduced when grafting onto other citrus rootstocks. For best results, plant your satsuma tree in early spring.

Botanical NameCitrus unshiu
Common NameSatsuma, satsuma mandarin, unshu mikan, cold hardy mandarin
Plant TypeTree
Mature SizeUp to 20 ft. tall
Sun ExposureFull sun
Soil TypeRich, moist
Soil pHAcidic, neutral
Bloom TimeSpring
Flower ColorWhite
Hardiness Zones8-11 (USDA)
Native AreaChina

How to Plant Satsuma Trees

When planting a satsuma tree, you should wait until the temperature consistently stays above 50 degrees during the day for at least a week. This helps ensure that the cold does not kill the plant in its vulnerable state and allows the tree to acclimate to mild temperatures before the heat of summer.

If a severe frost occurs late in the spring season, cover the branches of the seedling with a blanket to protect it.

The location is also important. Satsuma doesn't look good when exposed to the wind, so in addition to choosing a spot with lots of sun, you'll want shelter provided by a building or fence.

How to Care for Satsuma Trees


Most fruit trees require full sun conditions and satsumas are no exception. Ideally, they receive 8-10 hours of direct sunlight, especially in spring, during flower and fruit formation.


Citrus trees prefer sandy and clay soils with a slightly acidic pH. Satsumas adapt to different soil conditions, such as rocks or clay, but they do not tolerate salty soils. The soil must have good drainage.


Satsuma trees need a lot of water, so plan for deep and constant watering throughout the growing season. After planting, water every two to three days and then once a week to ten days later during the growing season.

If you are going through a dry period, watering will need to be more frequent to keep the soil moist.

Temperature and humidity

Although satsumas are more cold-hardy than other citrus trees, they still need warm temperatures during the growing season. Cold winters and hot, humid summers produce the best fruit harvest.

Mature, dormant trees can easily survive temperatures of up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. If temperatures drop below this, or if you have a young tree, it is advisable to implement some protection strategies against the cold.

Placing the base of the trunk with about 60 cm of soil during these periods can be beneficial (it must be removed again when the frosts pass). Alternatively, you can invest in a trunk wrap. Winter temperatures between 25 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit add to the sweetness of the fruit.


Satsuma trees benefit from regular fertilization. It is best to fertilize from late January to early February when the tree is producing new growth. You can use an 8-8-8 balanced citrus fertilizer that contains nitrogen. A two-year-old tree can withstand 450 to 500 grams of fertilizer.

Satsuma Varieties

There are over 100 satsuma cultivars to choose from. They can vary considerably in terms of when they mature, shape, color, and quantity, and quality of the crop. Some popular and readily available examples include:

  • 'Owari': This productive tree produces high-quality fruits that rarely produce seeds.
  • 'Brown Select': The tree has a less droopy habit than most and is compact and dense in shape. The peel is easily separated from the pulp of sweet and sour fruit.
  • 'Silverhill': This tree's fruit shape is flatter than most and is high in sugar and low in acid, making it particularly sweet. The tree is known to be vigorous and productive, with a more upright growth habit than most.
  • 'Early St. Ann': Fruit is ready for harvest from mid-September to October, about a month earlier than most other cultivars.

Satsumas vs. Mandarins

In some classification systems, Citrus unshiu is considered a species in its own right. In others, they are considered a group of mandarin varieties. Genetics shows that the fruit is actually a tangerine-grapefruit hybrid.

Satsuma is similar in size to its mandarin relatives (Citrus reticulata), but has a softer, more delicate texture and looser rind, and is also ready to be harvested earlier.

Harvesting Satsumas

Satsumas can generally be harvested between October and December, depending on the variety grown. They do not hang well from the tree after maturity. They are important to harvest immediately when ripe and can be stored in a refrigerator at temperatures between 32 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

As the fruit reaches maturity, the skin becomes loose (separating a bit from the pulp) and the surface is rougher. The color of the ripe fruits can vary according to the climate. In humid regions, the fruit can be ripe even while still green, and a reddish-orange hue is possible when nighttime temperatures are low.

Since the rinds are loose, it is better to cut the fruit off the tree rather than pluck it. Damaging the husk during harvest will cause rapid deterioration. Of all citrus fruits, a satsuma is one of the most delicate, and care must be taken when handling it.

How to Grow Satsumas in Pots

Although satsuma trees can grow up to 20 feet tall, they can be trained to be smaller and can be grown in containers. Keeping your pruned ripe satsuma at about 5 or 6 feet tall and wide is a good rule of thumb.

The main benefit of planting satsumas in containers is that they can be moved indoors during the fall and winter. Placed near a sunny window and watered regularly (spray the leaves to keep humidity high as internal heat has a drying effect), your satsuma will produce tasty fruit for you during the cold months.


As satsuma trees have a habit of growing prostrate, pruning is essential to prevent hanging fruits from touching the ground. The best time to prune your tree is in early spring, after the danger of frost.

Prune branches that grow less than 18 inches from the ground. Remove leaf debris from under trees to help keep trees clean and disease-free.

Propagating Satsumas

You can propagate satsumas from hardwood cuttings using rooting talc, but the usual way to grow them is by grafting, as with most fruit trees. The best time to get seedlings is in summer, during active growth.

Satsumas grown from seedlings will remain tender and vulnerable for the first two years, so wait before planting them outdoors. It is important to know that US citrus crops can be susceptible to certain site-specific diseases, and the USDA recommends that you do not move or transplant citrus trees from one state to another.

Common Pests and Diseases

Although satsuma trees are hardy compared to some other citrus varieties, they can be prone to a fungal disease called sour orange peel. This causes damage to leaves, branches, and fruits. Fortunately, this generally does not affect the quality of the fruit's pulp.

Enjoy This Video Tutorial About Planting Fruit

Source: Self Sufficient Me

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