I have had a few people tell me they love that you can grow Citrus in Containers, But then they ask, will they grow in the ground in South Carolina? YES!
This is the information sheet that I give to everybody that attends my lectures.
This is good information for anybody that lives in a Zone 8 or warmer.
CITRUS IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Citrus are subtropical or warm temperature plants adapted to growing in sandy soils along floodplains. To a degree, many parts of the Southeast greatly resemble the native habitats of citrus. Rainfall patterns are similar to Southeast Asia, the native habitat of citrus.
Like many plants, citrus prefer well drained, loamy soil. Citrus can succeed in heavier clays as long as they are well drained. No citrus can stand wet feet and will rapidly decline under persistently wet conditions. That being said, citrus need to be well watered at all times. They can be somewhat drought tolerant depending upon variety, but all will do better if given sufficient moisture. Remember, Winter is the drier season and special attention will need to be given to citrus during this time.
When planting citrus it is always a good idea to have your soil tested. Citrus appear to be more sensitive to deficiencies and when they enter a new flush of growth, the new growth will immediately show the deficiencies. Correcting them is a challenge after that! Slow release fertilizers with a ratio of 8-8-8 are excellent, especially if it also contains micronutrients such as iron, magnesium and manganese. A foliar feed (spraying the plants so the leaves absorb the food) with fish emulsion is also a good idea.
When it comes to where in your yard you should plant a citrus, there are a few factors that can come into play. South Carolina does occasionally have some really cold snaps, below 28 degrees. A southern or western exposure is the best. If you can plant it close to the house or a brick wall, this will give you some extra protection. The building or wall will absorb heat during the day and give it back to the tree at night. A mature citrus tree will handle down to 28 degrees or lower for a brief period of time. All of this is subject to how long the freeze is and how much time the tree had to go dormant prior to the freeze event. Younger trees should have some additional protection. One of the most festive ways is to get some C-7 or C-9 Christmas lights, the old ones, the new ones don't put off any heat. Wrap them around your tree and then place a plastic sheet over it. This will give you a few extra degrees of protection, which is sometimes all you need. Just remember to remove it at sunrise or you risk the chance of burning your citrus or having it break dormancy. A southern or western exposure will also give you the 8-10 hours of sunlight that citrus enjoy most of the year.
There are many varieties that will do well in a zone 8, given the help and protection listed above. Kumquats will do very well because they go completely dormant in the winter. Satsumas are actually a “class” of mandarin oranges. There are several cultivars that do well in South Carolina. Some examples are Kimbrough, Owari and Early St. Anne. There are many other early sweet oranges, sour oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit that will do well. It is just a matter of finding the right cultivar that ripens early. It is also important to find trees grafted on Poncirus trifoliata or Flying Dragon as this will give you more cold hardiness.
Want some proof?
This is the fruit and tree from my friend Kathy. (Thanks Kathy!) As you can see she got quite the harvest of Oranges and Satsumas and has to use a ladder to pick the fruit.
So if you don't like the looks of containers or are afraid they will be a little too much work, Put 'em in the ground!