What Temperature Will Kill Citrus Trees: A Quick Guide

Are you the proud owner of a citrus tree? Maybe you’re planning to grow one in your yard. From orange and clementine to lemon and lime, these graceful specimens reward the patient gardener with a bounty of nutritious fruit and fragrant blossoms. However, they don’t do so well in the cold!

As the leading tree service contractors in Massillon, OH, we know a thing or two about landscape care. Read on as we answer the question, “What temperature will kill citrus trees?” and provide tips on protecting yours from cold weather.

Know Your Tree’s Limits

Every specific species will have a “chill threshold,” or the freezing point of tissue. Here’s a general guideline for cold hardiness:

  • Citrons, lemons, and limes are the weakest, where the high 20s can severely damage or even kill them.
  • Grapefruits and sweet oranges offer a bit more resilience and don’t usually begin to suffer until the mid-20s.
  • Mandarins and tangerines can take a minimum air temperature in the low 20s without significant damage.
  • When you want the highest degree of cold hardiness, choose a kumquat or satsuma. It can take cold temperatures as low as 20° Fahrenheit!

It Gets a Little More Complicated

The above guide on what temperature will kill citrus trees only tells part of the story. Other crucial factors to consider include the following:

  • The tree’s age: A young sapling will not have built up its cold tolerance as much as a mature tree. If you’re considering a young tree, you’ll want to invest in cold protection for it.
  • The tree’s health: It goes without saying, but if your tree has already weakened due to disease or environmental factors, it won’t be as tolerant of a drop in temperature.
  • The microclimate of your yard: Certain conditions might make the wintertime more or less risky than usual, such as strong winds, low humidity, or poor drainage.
  • The type of cold exposure: How long, how fast, and how strong the frost hits can make all the difference. For example, a sudden, rapid freeze will be more damaging than low temperatures that slowly creep in.

General Tips for Protecting Your Citrus Tree

Now that you know the chill threshold of your tree, you can make sure to protect it from temperatures below that mark. Here are a few strategies:

  • Cover the tree with insulating materials like fiberglass or foam rubber. They should have at least six inches of thickness and make direct contact with the soil underneath.
  • Use sprinkler irrigation (about 1/4 inch per hour) when the temperatures dip below freezing. Having a layer of clear ice will actually protect the plant from extreme cold.
  • On the coldest nights, place a few electric light bulbs under the covering for extra protection.

We hope this answers the question, “What temperature will kill citrus trees?” If you want to give your landscape the best chance of survival, call Petrarca Landcare at (330) 933-0562. Our certified arborists can assess any specific issue, whether you’re dealing with water flowing from tree trunk parts or the threat of a hard freeze.

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