Clementine is a variety of citrus fruit and is often mistaken for mandarin. This article discusses the types of Clementines for you to identify their differences.
Often mistaken for mandarin oranges and in the same family, clementine oranges are different from other varieties of citrus fruit. Although clementines will grow in any warm climate, they prefer hot climates. As a result, the best Clementine’s grow in southern California, the Gulf Coast of Florida, Northern Africa, Spain, Australia, and warmer areas of several Mediterranean countries.
As one of the best-known citrus hybrids globally, the clementine orange is technically a Tangor or Temple orange. Since some Clementine varieties are hybrids, their parentage may be questionable. However, there are likely private stock varieties that are excellent. There are five different varieties of Clementine, each with distinctive qualities and flavors.
The fruit of the Clementine is bright orange, the rind is shiny, has a smooth texture, and the fruit is easy to peel. The fruit is easily segmented, very juicy, and can be sweet and sour in flavor. Some varieties are sweeter than others are, and Clementine’s can be as small as mandarin oranges or as large as tangelos.
Clementine Variety of Oranges
Arriving in Florida in 1909, the original variety of Clementine (Algerian tangerine) made its way to California by 1914. Unlike many orange trees, clementine trees are almost free of thorns. Each fruit has 12 segments and is practically seedless, having less than ten seeds per fruit. The fruit itself is approximately two inches in diameter and height.
It is thought that the Clementine developed naturally in the garden of a French Orphanage in Misserghin, Algeria, by Brother Clément Rodier, a missionary for whom the orange was named in 1902. However, there is evidence that a fruit similar to Clementine is also produced in China.
Scientific research has determined that the original strain of Clementine, discovered by Brother Rodier, was a cross between a temple orange and a mandarin. Thus, you get the sweet juiciness of a tangerine that is similar in size and has thin skin that peels easily and is easily sectioned.
As you can see, the original varieties have qualities that make them famous. Besides the fact they produce sweet and juicy fruit, the trees can be grown indoors or in your yard if you live in a USDA hardiness zone between 8 and 11.
1. Clementine De Nules Oranges
A true Clementine orange will have no more than ten seeds. As I said, they are almost seedless and have good qualities. However, different varieties have been developed from France’s first fruits brought to North America. The De Nules clementine is one of these varieties.
The tree of the De Nules clementine is absent of thorns. The fruit is small to medium in size and has a more mandarin quality than other varieties. The original rootstock of the De Nules clementines comes from Spain. Like the French variety of Clementine, the De Nules will grow in USDA hardiness zones 4- 11 when grown in containers and wintering indoors. However, if you want to plant a De Nules clementine tree outside, you must live in zones 8 – 11.
2. Monreal Clementine Oranges
Some Monreal clementine oranges have more than ten seeds and are the easiest way to identify this variety of Clementine. However, the ordinary clone variety is almost seedless. As a result, the trees are hard to distinguish from the original plants. This variety of the Clementine orange is a clone grown in North Africa in the Mediterranean basin and does particularly well in Morocco.
3. Clementine Caffin Orange
Like most varieties of Clementine, the Caffin is mandarin-like, has a bright orange peel and flesh, and is a seedless variety of orange. The fruit of a Caffin clementine is medium in size. However, the tree will top out at about eight feet in height, so it has a more diminutive stature than other clementine trees, even though the fruit is larger than other varieties.
Depending on your location, the Caffin variety of Clementine blooms from late fall to early winter. Fruit is harvested between November and May, depending on your zone and whether your plant is potted or growing in your yard.
4. Sidi Aissa Clementine
The Sidi Aissa variety of Clementine is an Australian variety of fruit that matures from mid-April to May. It is similar to the Nules Clementine, the main crop in Australia. This cultivar of the Clementine is in limited production in California, has thicker skin than other varieties, and bears fruit from October to December.
5. Cuties and Sweetie Clementine Oranges
Clementine oranges are the smallest of Mandarin, the mandarin variety of orange. Seedless and super sweet, Cutie and Sweetie varieties of Clementine’s have a bright orange, thin, smooth peel. These are hybrid fruits, and either variety may be more a mandarin than a clementine, which depends on the time of year you purchase either of these fruits.
Culinary uses for Clementine Oranges
You can use Clementine’s in place of tangerines or mandarin oranges in recipes that require citrus. Their sweetness is excellent in winter fruit salads, and their juice is less acidic than other oranges. However, Clementine’s are only available between November and February.
Health Benefits of Clementine’s
The high level of antioxidants in Clementine oranges helps reduce inflammation, which may help prevent you from developing cancer when added to your diet. They are also rich in vitamin C and are less acidic than other oranges. They are also rich in calcium and potassium, two necessary minerals that we need even more as we age.
Clementine Trees have an ornamental quality.
The round-topped trees with dark green, shiny leaves will add an ornamental texture to your landscape if you live in a climate where they can be planted outdoors. In addition, they have an abundance of lovely fragrant blooms that add to the appeal of this tree as a way to get fruit and an addition to your landscape. When planted in a favorable climate, Clementine trees are evergreens and will add their luscious beauty to any yard.
The aroma of orange blossoms is like none other, and having the fragrance at your back door is a lovely thought that you can make happen. Depending on the variety, a clementine tree can grow as high as 25 feet when left unpruned; however, most are between eight and ten feet tall. Remember this when planting your trees so that you do not overcrowd them.
Even when kept under glass, a clementine tree will bloom just as if it were outside and will add its lovely bouquet to your home or greenhouse. Even when not in bloom, citrus trees add a crisp, citrusy scent to the air around them. The aroma of citrus trees in the warm spring sun is a pleasant experience.
Where Clementine Oranges Grow in the United States
Of course, you can grow clementines along the Gulf Coast of Florida; however, the northern parts of the state do get frost in the winter. You can also grow them along the west coast, in southern California.
Qualities about Clementine’s you will love!
- Clementine’s can fruit from the first to third year of growth
- Clementine ripen earlier than other oranges do.
- Clementine’s are pest-resistant
- Clementines are thin-skinned and easy to peel
- Clementine orange trees make excellent house plants
- Clementine’s can be grown outside in USDA hardiness zones 8-11
Are Clementine Oranges Hard to Grow?
Once established, Clementine’s are no harder to grow than other citrus plants. They are hardy and require little maintenance. They can be planted in the spring or fall of the year and need to be planted in full sun or in a location that gets at least six total hours of sun a day. However, in my experience with plants, they need as much as they can get if they grow well in the sun.
Clementine trees prefer acidic, sandy soil that is well-drained. If you have heavy soil, you can add perlite, peat moss, or vermiculite to the soil to help it drain. Citrus plants like good watering, but they do not like their feet to be too wet, and they can get root rot if the soil they are in is too heavy.
With the soil in mind, clementine trees want moist, not soggy soil. Therefore, during their first year of growth, water your trees every two to three days. Then, use the finger test on your plant by testing the soil with your finger to a depth of two inches and if the soil is dry, water your trees. Once their roots are established, you may not need to water them once or twice a week.
Fertilize your tree every other month outside or in a container. Use a fertilizer formulated for citrus trees for the best results. However, you can make your citrus fertilizer if you are so inclined.
Planting your Clementine Tree in a Container
In the beginning, your tree will be fine in a gallon to three-gallon container. However, when full-sized, you will need a container the size of half a barrel that can hold twenty or thirty gallons of soil and plant. The container should be made of wood, plastic, or terra cotta and have sufficient drain holes in the bottom. A two to three-inch layer of gravel on the bottom will help facilitate proper drainage.
The soil for your container should be a mix of potting soil, peat moss, vermiculite, or perlite, and organic matter such as compost. You should water and fertilize your potted Clementine just as if it were planted in the ground. However, your plant will need an extra fertilizer application when moving it from inside to outside in the spring.
Pollination of Clementine Orange Trees
Clementines do not need to be pollinated; however, they will produce more fruit if they are. On another note, most clementine trees are products of grafting one plant onto another instead of starting them from seed. Grafting and cross-pollination are why there are so many variations of the Clementine orange.
Is your climate suitable for growing Clementine oranges?
As mentioned, Clementine, trees will grow outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 8-11. However, keep in mind that if you live in one of these areas and get occasional frost, you will need to protect your trees from the cold. If it’s spring where you are, though, go grab your shovel, it’s time to plant!