Fruit and Vegetables

Kumquat - Fortunella margarita


Kumquat (also called Chinese mandarin) is a citrus fruit belonging to the Rutaceae family. The real botanical name is actually Fortunella (from the English scholar, Fortune, who introduced it for the first time in Europe, in 1848) and originates mostly from central China and secondarily from Malaysia
Dense shrub or small tree, which reaches 3-4 meters in height, a native of Asia; a time i kumquat they were considered in the citrus species, given the numerous similarities with this species. It forms compact shrubs, slow growing, densely branched, which sometimes have small spines on the branches; the foliage is lanceolate, ranging in size from 4 to 8 cm, dark green, fairly leathery and thick, rigid, evergreen. In spring it produces numerous small star-shaped flowers, white, delicately scented, which are followed, in winter, by small oval fruits, similar to small lemons, of a color that varies from yellow to intense orange; the fruits of kumquat they have sweet peel and sour pulp, they are eaten whole, raw or caramelized. These fruit trees are also grown in the Mediterranean and in the USA. There are numerous cultivars, and also hybrids with citrus species.


They are grown in a sunny place, possibly sheltered from winter winds; kumquats during the winter go through a phase of vegetative rest, which is why they can also withstand harsh temperatures, close to -10 ° C, without any damage.
It grows and bears fruit well if it is positioned where it is reached by the sun for most of the day. It likes warm and sheltered positions from cold winds that can make the flowers fall prematurely or affect the ripening of the little fruits.
The ideal is therefore, especially if we live in the Center-North, to place it near a wall facing South.

Kumquat features

It is a fruit tree that is very interesting both from a production point of view and for its decorative qualities: the individual fruits can be enjoyed easily with the very thin and aromatic peel. Its white flowers, collected in bunches, are very fragrant and are produced with a certain continuity throughout the vegetative period, even if the climax occurs between June and July.
The leaves, persistent, are very shiny, dark green on the upper page, lighter on the lower one.
The fruits are 3-4 cm long and 2 wide, oval in shape. The peel is bright orange. They can be eaten fresh, even if their flavor is slightly acidic, or they can be used to make jams, candied fruit or to flavor liqueurs.

Kumquat cultivation

The cultivation of kumquats is not difficult, especially when compared to other citrus fruits. As we have said, it is often chosen as a decorative tree because of its great ability to adapt to different pedoclimatic situations. Its small size and abundant fruiting make it even more suitable for this purpose.

October-November; April May
Flowering June August
Collection From November to May
Pruning June July


From March to October water regularly, always waiting for the soil to dry well between one watering and another; during the cold months we water only in case of prolonged drought. During the vegetative period we supply, every 10-15 days, specific fertilizer for citrus fruits, mixed with the water of the watering.


They are cultivated in a good mixture of peat, humus and sand or pumice stone, to ensure good drainage. In areas with very cold winters, they can also be cultivated in pots, remembering to repot the shrubs every 2-3 years.
Kumquat wants a rich soil that stays fresh for a long time. It is however very important that drainage is excellent, to avoid the onset of pathologies at the radical level. Calcareous or clayey soils are therefore not recommended. First of all, these do not allow an ideal drainage of water. Generally speaking, they are characterized by pH from sub-alkaline to alkaline and this is due to the appearance of leaf chlorosis (to be treated with chelated iron).

Multiplication and diseases

it occurs by seed, although in general the plants produced by seed are not identical to the mother plant, and sometimes they are more delicate; generally propagate by grafting young suckers on Poncirus trifoliata rootstock.
Parasites and Diseases
fear the attack of cochineal and mites.


Among the citrus fruits it is certainly the most rustic. The woody parts can in fact withstand even -10 ° C, without losing the leaves. Only the fruits that begin to fall and perish already at -3 ° C will be damaged.
In the whole North (up to 600 m above sea level) and in the Apennine regions it is advisable to cultivate the fortunella in a pot, so that it can be withdrawn during the cold season. If we want to try inserting it directly into the garden, we will have to cover the entire aerial part with more layers of non-woven fabric around November. Clearly the positioning behind a well exposed wall will help.
In the Center-South, on the coasts and on the great northern lakes, on the other hand, it can be cultivated in full ground without resorting to winter protection.

Planting kumquats in the open ground

The best times for planting on the ground are the autumn (where the winters are mild) or the spring (in the northern regions), waiting for the frosts to end.
Proceed by digging a deep and wide hole at least 80 cm. On the bottom it will be necessary to prepare a thick draining layer based on gravel or better still pumice or volcanic lapillus.
If the extracted substrate proves to be compact, it will be better to replace it with a product specifically designed for citrus fruits or add a good quantity of coarse sand. To make the soil even more aerated and rich, you must mix a good quantity of flour manure. Insert the plant so that the collar is at ground level. We cover, press well and irrigate abundantly, repeating for the first month whenever the area is completely dry.

Planting kumquats in pots

In this case it is very important to choose a container of suitable dimensions. Generally the plants are sold in rather understated pots in volume. The advice is to repot as soon as possible by increasing the diameter by about 4 cm.
The best vases are in terracotta, since they guarantee good breathability. Resin is also a good alternative, both from a functional and aesthetic point of view. However, we always avoid those with water reserve that could cause excessive humidity with disastrous consequences.
On the bottom it is always a good idea to create a thick draining layer: the most suitable materials to be used are gravel, pozzolana or small shards.
As far as the substrate is concerned, we can choose whether to buy it ready (there are products specifically designed for citrus fruit for sale) or to compose it ourselves. The ideal is to create a rich, sub-acid and with a large amount of sand and clay below 15%. We can also mix some pozzolana or pumice to improve water flow.
It is very important to insert the plant keeping it at the right level: the grafting point (very delicate in citrus fruits) must be 5 cm away from the ground level.

Kumquat cultivation

In the open ground
Irrigation in case of strong heat and lack of precipitation is good to intervene at least twice a week, distributing plenty of water.
Fertilization fertilization must be carried out in the spring, using specific products for citrus fruit, possibly with a slow release: we distribute the quantity recommended by the producer throughout the area covered by the tree's foliage.
Pruning does not require strict and frequent interventions. Most of the time we proceed by balancing the various branches of the tree after the end of fruiting.
In pot
- The substrate should always be kept slightly damp, but avoiding water stagnation. The use of the saucer is absolutely not recommended.
- We distribute liquid fertilizer for citrus fruit every two weeks during the growing season, then from spring to autumn. We can also opt for a granular product waiting for both the quantities and the frequency of administration to the manufacturer's indications. Lupine flour is also excellent, even if it is not easy to find.
- Upon arrival of winter we will gradually stop the irrigations, until the substrate is dry in depth. This will send the plant into vegetative rest. Towards November we bring the vase to a sheltered area. Rooms where the temperature is between 8 and 10 ° C are good. We can also make use of a well exposed cold greenhouse. In extreme cases we can place the plants alongside a wall facing south and cover them with many layers of TNT (also considering the minimum temperatures that will be reached). As spring arrives we will return to slowly expose the plants to light and heat.
- Every 3 years (5 years for adult plants) we will have to repot. It is important that the diameter increases gradually. Citrus fruits, in fact, tend to occupy all the space available with the roots before dedicating themselves totally to flowering and fruiting. Let us remember to always work by eliminating all the felted parts of the hypogeum apparatus.
- If the pot is very large we can simply pick up carrots of soil along the perimeter (with a bulb plant) and replace it with new material.

Kumquat pruning

Chinese mandarin does not require pruning strictly. You can intervene after the harvest to shorten the fruiting branches or after repotting to balance the shape and eventually eliminate the dead or damaged parts. If we want we can set a shape: it is very widespread the search for the sapling with roundish foliage, but also an espalier specimen can be very decorative.


Kumquat can be reproduced by seed (although the results are not always satisfactory), by cuttings or by grafting. This last option is the most recommendable as you can choose rootstocks more resistant to radical pathologies and the general development is still faster.
Talea semi-woody branch portions must be taken at the end of the summer. They should then be placed in very light soil and kept at temperatures around 20 ° C and high humidity until they begin to vegetate. They can then be moved to a very bright area, but not to direct sunlight.
graft may be difficult for the hobbyist, even if it is the method that guarantees the best results. It is carried out in late spring or autumn, when the temperatures never drop below 20 ° C.
Poncirus trifoliata is generally chosen as a rootstock. This gives greater resistance to pathogens and cold.

Pests and diseases

The main enemy of the fortunella It is the cochineal. The plants should always be carefully monitored. If these insects appear on the branches you can intervene (if they are few) by detaching them and passing on the part of the alcohol.
Otherwise it will be good to intervene by distributing activated mineral oil with a systemic insecticide, taking care, paying particular attention to the times of shortage before seizing the mandarins.


Fortunella japonica Round, yellow-orange fruits Acidic pulp, sweetish peel Equipped with thorns
Fortunella margarita Long and oval fruits with orange peel Acid pulp with sweet rind Not prickly, more decorative. Growth is rapid
Fortunella obovata Pear fruit, bright orange Acid pulp and sweet rind
Very beautiful oval leaves
The most resistant to cold

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