Tucson Citrus Trees or Lemons Are Us

tucson grapefruitA lot of the people we come into contact with are from out of state or out of the country. They have never been to Tucson or a desert before. They have an idea in their head what to expect but always seem to be a little dumbfounded that we have citrus trees in Tucson.

This is an actual photo of a grapefruit in the wild. I was able to get close enough not to spook it into hiding higher up in the tree. It is one of the few citrus fruits that have some which are ripe.

Of course everyone thinks of citrus as coming from Florida or California or other states known for citrus. There are citrus trees all over Tucson and many people grow their own fruit in the backyard. Below is a picture of a grapefruit that has been domesticated sitting on a fence in the shade staying cool. He is of the Ruby Red Tribe of Grapefruit.

tucson grapefruitWhat we don’t have in Tucson are citrus groves. There is no citrus industry here. The closest thing to it are pecan groves up I-10 toward Picacho just up the road from Marana. There are a lot of pecan groves up that way and it is always fun to see lots of trees with leaves instead of cactus with thorns as we make the drive up to Phoenix and pass the pecan groves.

But this post is about citrus fruit trees, not nuts. I’ll talk about nuts some other time when we get closer to the time to make Christmas danish and sprinkle on pecans with melted powder sugar glaze. Um. . . All right I have to stop there, I’m making myself hungry.

tucson orangeIn Tucson we have:

  • Lemon Trees
  • Orange Trees
  • Lime Trees
  • Ruby Red Grapefruit Trees
  • Regular grapefruit trees (whatever a regular grapefruit is)
  • Tangelo trees
  • Tangerine Trees
  • Pomegranate Trees (I don’t think those are citrus, but we have them)
  • Dwarf Peach Trees (again, not citrus but you get the idea)
  • Kumquat Trees (I almost forgot kumquats)
  • Limequat Trees (yes Limequat)

That’s a pretty big list of trees. We often find homes that have a variety of these fruit trees in their backyards. It is not uncommon at certain times of the year to find boxes and baskets of fruit in church foyers on any given Sunday morning when the fruit is in season.

Now I’m not saying getting free fruit is a good reason for going to church. . .

You can also make friends with neighbors who have fruit trees and plant some of your own which are always welcome when it comes time to sell your house. There have even been lawsuits over the fruit being removed from fruit trees during a transaction. People really like productive fruit trees.

tucson tangerinesEven if you don’t like fruit you can be a big hit in the neighborhood if you have several kinds of fruit trees and share with the neighbors when they come ripe.

Most citrus in Tucson comes ripe around Christmas time. Some earlier some later. Duh! I’m not kidding. I don’t have any pictures of lemons since we were hit with a very hard freeze last January we might not have any lemons this year on some trees hit the hardest.

But if I did have a picture of a lemon tree with lemons they would be green and not yellow. Just like the Oranges are green not orange and the Tangerines are green not orange, orange the color not orange the fruit. Tangerines don’t ripen into Oranges they ripen into Tangerines. They are not like Grapes that become raisins or Plums that become prunes. Are you confused yet?

Remember if you see a box around the picture you can click on it and see a larger version and a caption under each picture.

Yep, Tucson has fruit trees, most citrus, but not always. There is no citrus industry as such, but we can grow some mighty fine lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit right in our own backyards.


  1. Anita says

    This is very nice. What can you tell me about growing citrus is big pots?

    Thanks so much,
    Anita Kuehn
    Tucson, Az.

  2. says


    That’s a great question. I see a lot of people growing their citrus trees in large pots. Some people want to be able to take their beloved trees with them when/if they move.

    Dwarf trees are easier to keep in pots, but not required. I see a lot of regular fruit trees of all varieties planted in large pots with drip running to each tree.

    Pruned properly they will produce amazing fruit and be portable, for some time.

  3. Don Hunt says

    I am interested in learning what it will take to establish and grow a citrus and nut orchard in Tucson. I represent a green rejuvenation corporation. Serious inquiry………..

  4. Michael Andari says

    I do enjoy reading your articles about trees,etc. I hope you can help me w/ my question. I live in Santa Clarita, California where it’s hot in the summer and near freezing temp. in the winter. I have a dwarf Eurika lemon tree and a Washington naval orange tree. They had fruits when i bought them. However, now they blossem,small fruits appear but then they fall off. Am I watering too much, please keep in mind the leaves on the lemon tree are half yellow but other wise healthy. On the orange tree the leaves are greener but the leaf becomes brown on the top,it curles in and falls. Please advise on what to do to have fruits. By the way the trees have been planted outside for three years. Thanks in advance.

  5. says


    I’ll take this to some local nursery people I know and do my best to get an answer for you this weekend.

    Speaking of Weekends “Have a Great Weekend”


  6. Laura Klein says

    Please tell me if you know a way I can have a grapefruit tree delivered to a friend who just moved to Tucson?? (Of course, it is asap for her birthday).

    THANK YOU SO MUCH !!!!!!

  7. Sheralyn says

    We have a orange tree and a lemon tree. Both planted by a landscaper last June 2011. Lots of flowers on them, then tiny fruit, now fruit is falling off. We did use a product to kill the insect that was eating the leaves which seemed to help. Is this normal??

  8. says


    I’m no expert by far on citrus trees. Typically a tree has to be around 7 years old to bear fruit. I have a small Lemon Orange hybrid I planted in 2010 and it does the same thing. If they were just planted last year I doubt they are of the age to bear fruit. My leaves fall off too after flowering, the tree is now budding out new leaves. I’m not sure if it can really take all the direct sun. It keeps hanging in there. My best guess at this point. Yes, probably normal. But you can check with a nursery that specializes in Citrus or call your landscaper and ask. If you get a better answer, please share it.



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