Kumquats or dwarf oranges are the latest craze at every hip event and have long been an insider tip among gourmets. They’re also extremely decorative and you can harvest at home – a plant that is definitely worth growing. The kumquats belong to the exciting plant family of the rhombus plants, to which in addition to the entire, not exactly clearly arranged field of our citrus fruits, there are also around 2,000 other types of plants, many of which grow as medicinal plants, useful plants or ornamental plants to serve us.

Is the kumquat a kind of orange or not?

According to some botanists, kumquats do not belong to the citrus plants in the narrower sense, but to a separate sister genus, the kumquats or fortunellas with a total of six species. Other researchers classify the Fortunellas as the “Japanese part of the citrus fruits”, as Citrus japonica. The rhombus family doesn’t seem to care, at least the rhombus family, which belong to the same subfamily, mate unrestrainedly and regardless of botanical boundaries, so the calamondin orange emerged from mandarin (Citrus reticulata) and a kumquat (Fortunella margarita).

Most of what is sold today as citrus fruit was created by breeders in the first place, a little history of the variety arouses a lot of astonishment in most people: The much-loved oranges were created by crossing mandarins and grapefruit, just like bitter oranges. The oranges were then crossed back with the grapefruit, which resulted in the grapefruit. The grapefruit were crossed again with the grapefruit, resulting in pomelos. Because it was so nice, the oranges were crossed back with the mandarins, which is how the clementines were made, and so did the satsumas, although they taste significantly different. Our lemon is not “real” either, it came from a cross between the citron and the bitter orange, just like the bergamot.

In any case, the kumquats is an originally developed plant, which is called dwarf orange or dwarf pomeranian for good reason, its fruits have a very typical citrus taste. The hobby gardener is particularly interested in the small size of the fruits, which is wonderfully suitable for home cultivation, and the fact that kumquats can be grown very well in our part of the world.

Caring for the kumquats

Caring for the kumquats

The Fortunellas actually have their home in Asia but like to grow in other warm places in the wild, today they are grown on kumquat plantations in America, Africa and the warmest corners of southern Europe (e.g. on Corfu). The close relationship with the citrus plants is also evident in the appearance of the plants; in nature they can grow as low shrubs, but a kumquat on a plantation is almost indistinguishable from an orange tree. Outdoors, a kumquat can get up to five meters tall if kept in indoor culture, but it rarely gets higher than about five feet. The kumquats that we sell in buckets are usually raised as a standard trunk. This is how you plant and care for the “dwarf oranges”:

  • If you want to get yourself a kumquat, you should check beforehand whether you can offer the “south child” an appropriately bright location.
  • This should be a place where the plant is exposed to direct sunlight as often as possible.
  • In the season, the kumquat can withstand any normal room temperature, but also likes to be in the garden.
  • In its bucket, the kumquat should be provided with a nutrient-rich compost-based soil.
  • Under no circumstances should the soil have a pH value in the basic range, i.e. contain too much lime.
  • The substrate should also be made well water-permeable by adding a generous amount of coarse foliage soil or peat substitute.
  • Because a kumquat needs to be watered fairly well between spring and the beginning of autumn.
  • It is one of the few plants that are allowed to be replenished with water when the surface of the earth is still damp to the touch.
  • However, since it does not tolerate waterlogging, it is important that the water drains off well, and of course the bucket needs an outlet below for excess water.
  • The aversion to lime applies not only to the earth, but also to the irrigation water, a kumquat really only tolerates lime-free water.

The high level of humidity that the kumquat would like to have around you can be achieved by placing the tubs as a whole in slightly larger bowls filled with water, which increase the humidity around the plant. Since the outlet of the bucket must not stand in the water due to waterlogging, the plant must be raised in the water.

The vigorous kumquat has a healthy nutritional requirement during the season, so it should be given a liquid fertilizer with a normal concentration about every two weeks. When the first flower buds appear, you can switch to a complete fertilizer that contains a lot of potassium. The plant can now enjoy this fertilizer for the next three months until you return to conventional liquid fertilizer.

If you notice that your treatment of the kumquat is doing so well that the roots fill almost the entire plant pot, the kumquat needs a new and larger container and is repotted at the beginning of the growing season.

Hibernate kumquats.

The kumquats need a winter break with us, which is initiated by moving the plant to a slightly cooler place. Because the kumquat is much less sensitive to cold, at least compared to other citrus plants, it can be left outside a little longer if you have allocated it a place in the garden or on the terrace during the season. A kumquat can even withstand temperatures down to minus 5 degrees for a short time, it should really benefit from a sunny and sheltered place outdoors as long as no frost is expected – this plant from southern climes will still be enough for us for the rest of the winter Have to endure a lack of light.

The winter break should then be allowed to spend the kumquat in a room that is as bright and as cool as possible, temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees would be ideal. If you cannot offer her that, you can also overwinter the kumquat warmer, but then it may not really go to rest. You will notice that in the next season – the kumquat is likely to “weaken” a little and produce fewer flowers and fruits.

A kumquat does not get fertilizer when it is not growing, water much less, the cooler it is, the more carefully you should water. The root ball should just not dry out through and through.

If the kumquat loses a few or even many leaves over the winter, this is not a cause for concern, but only a sign that the metabolism of the plant has really gone to rest. The most favorable strategy for the kumquat in our climate, because the light in a European interior is really not what a kumquat is used to and needs. When you can enjoy the spring sun again, new leaves will quickly form.

The move of the kumquat to summer quarters

With regard to the lack of light in winter in our latitudes, a kumquat really does not live its best time, the relocation of the weakened plant to the summer quarters should therefore take place gradually:

  • Wait until it is certain that your region will no longer freeze, even at night.
  • In most German regions this means that you should wait for the ice saints in mid-May.
  • The kumquat is then not placed in direct sunlight outside, as this could cause sunburn on the leaves.
  • Perhaps you have the option of shading the kumquat at the beginning of the season, but most plants do not like to be constantly rearranged.
  • The KK is poured just as carefully, more carefully in cloudy weather and a little more courageously in warm sunshine.
  • After about two weeks, the kumquat should have got used to the new situation and can now receive the first small dose of fertilizer.

Prune the kumquat.

When the winter break is slowly coming to an end, the kumquat can and should be pruned. You can prune the plant because it has grown to a considerable size, then you can cut shoots that are too long by up to two thirds.

The smaller kumquat should also be pruned regularly because the cut ensures that the tree develops a nice round and bushy crown. Each cut off shoot can branch out and develop several new shoots.

In addition, the cut also serves to keep the plant healthy; all malformed or visibly weak or otherwise crooked branches should be cut away, as well as too long and too thin shoots.

kumquats Pests and diseases

Pests and diseases

Like so many plants that are not native to us and therefore have not had the opportunity to develop defense strategies against the pests in the environment in the course of their evolution, the kumquat is often attacked by pests. The kumquat is particularly popular with scale insects and red spiders, against which you should then take preventive measures as quickly as possible.

You should therefore make a habit of checking kumquats and other “foreign guests” regularly for pests. If pests appear repeatedly, you should also basically check all housing conditions, only weakened plants are constantly visited by undesirable small animals.

There are different types of kumquats

As mentioned above, the genus Fortunella comprises six different species, and you might come across all of these species when shopping or as a plant gift from an avid hobby breeder. Here is an overview:

  • Changshou-Kumquat (Fortunella obovata): Round, large leaves, up to 3 cm large fruits with rather thick skins, unclear whether a cross between F. margarita and F. japonica or a wild species.
  • Hong Kong kumquat (Fortunella hindsii): variety with narrow leaves and lots of pea-sized, round fruits, also known as mini kumquats or golden bean kumquats.
  • Malay Kumquat (Fortunella polyandra): bears fairly round fruits that can be up to 4.5 cm in size and only develop a very thin skin.
  • Marumi or round kumquat (Fortunella japonica, syn. Citrus japonica): One of the commercially grown varieties, smooth-skinned, often round, but also elongated fruits.
  • Meiwa-Kumquat (Fortunella crassifolia): Yellow-orange, elongated fruits up to 4 cm in size with a thick, sweet skin and pulp with a mango flavor, also known as Neiha-Kinkan or Ninpo.
  • Oval kumquat (Fortunella margarita): In commercial cultivation the main variety with quite small leaves that are dark green and somewhat leathery.

If your kumquat cannot be classified under the species just mentioned, it could also be a cross, especially in the area of ​​the rhombus family, which produce the popular yellow or orange fruits, has been wildly crossed for centuries.

Harvest kumquats

Harvest kumquats.

Your kumquat will not flower immediately after purchase, and if grown from seeds you will even have to wait a few years for the first flowering. When it then shows its white flowers, however, the fruits also emerge from them. The fruits are ripe when they have taken on a strong orange color and give way slightly at the touch of a finger, usually in October to November. You can simply leave the fruits hanging on the tree and harvest them for the current consumption, they will stay on the tree for a long time and will probably be a little more aromatic. From now on, the kumquat bears fruit every two years.

Even if the fruits of the kumquat are not exactly huge, the harvest is definitely worth it. First of all, they can be eaten whole, i.e. with the skin and seeds. Then there are small aroma miracles – the pulp itself varies in several taste nuances between sour and sweet, the kernels bring a bit of bitterness into play, the peel tastes sweet to tart.

The kumquats are among the most exciting fruits from the wide range of citrus plants that can be cultivated in the home. The attractive plants bring you fruits that shine as rarely beautiful decorations and wonderfully aromatic ingredients in all possible recipes.

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