Citrus In West Texas? Why Not?

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Citrus in West Texas?  Why not!  Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Texas A&M University’s Texas Superstar® program is poised to release its latest list of Superstar plants.  Among three of the plants slated for release in 2016 is the extremely cold tolerant “arctic frost’ orange tree.    The Texas Superstar® program grew out of the regional marketing efforts of Extension horticulturist Dr. Jerry Parsons in the 1980’s.  In cooperation with industry professionals in the San Antonio region, Dr. Parsons tested and promoted dozens of new plants for the market.   Extension expanded the program statewide in 1989.  The horticulture industry has been involved from the beginning to help insure the public would have adequate access to plants promoted out of the program.   The first proven performer that came out of the program was the Texas bluebonnet.  During this time Dr. Parsons and other plant breeders had a little fun creating new bluebonnet cultivars.  The ‘Texas Maroon’ bluebonnet was one of Dr. Parson’s developments.                      In 1997 the research and marketing program’s executive board adopted the Texas Superstar® title and began calling all promotions Texas Superstar® plants.  Each plant is extensively tested at locations throughout Texas for broad durability, beauty and pest resistance.    Specialty plants sometimes earn the famous designation if they expand the planting zone of a particular species or display an especially desirable trait.  One such plant introduced in June of 2015 was Arctic Frost, a satsuma mandarin orange tree.  Citrus is well known for having poor cold tolerance.  Arctic Frost breaks all the rules, having survived temperatures as low as 9 degrees during testing.  This means that West Texans may finally have a citrus tree useful as an accent plant for the back yard.     Although Arctic Frost is relatively cold tolerant, allowing it’s root system to develop in a container for the first two or three years may improve its success in the landscape.  Also, planting the small tree in an area that gets 8 or more hours of full sun with protection from North winds provides additional insurance against winter injury.  Even if frozen back to the ground, it can regrow true to form since this mandarin orange hybrid is grown on its own roots.   Plant Arctic Frost in a well-drained location after all danger of frost has passed in the spring.  Provide adequate moisture during the establishment phase and have your soil analyzed by the Texas A&M soil, water and forage testing lab to identify any lacking nutrients.

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