Fruit | Seed Starting

How to Grow a Clementine Tree from Seed

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There’s just something so rewarding about growing citrus trees from seed! Particularly here in PA zone 6b, where we can’t grow citrus trees outdoors over the winter, it feels like a challenge and I always love a good gardening challenge. I’m excited to share my tips and experience on how to grow a clementine tree from seed with you!

Growing a Clementine Tree from Seed - Clementine Seedling and Fruit on teal background
Growing a Clementine Tree from Seed – Clementine Seedling and Fruit

Our family sure goes through our fair share of clementines (Citrus clementina). It seems like a great fruit tree to start from seed. After having some luck germinating lemon seeds, I’m really looking forward to expanding my grove of indoor citrus trees.

If you’d like to learn how to grow a clementine tree from seeds, keep reading. I’ll tell you the quickest and easiest way to germinate clementine seeds for baby trees!

Baby Clementine Tree - How to grow a clementine tree indoors
Baby Clementine Tree in a nursery pot

Does a clementine have seeds?

Clementines are not truly seedless. Grower intervention helps to create seedless clementine varieties. Many times, clementines are seedless when growers intentionally cross-pollinate with another tree species and prevent natural pollination by the bees. When pollination does occur, or if clementine trees grow autonomously, the presence of seeds may become more prevalent.

Most of the time, you may not find clementine seeds in your Cuties or Halos (or other clementines). However, when you do find them, you can germinate clementine seeds and try growing a clementine tree at home!

Three Clementine Seeds on a Granite Table with Three Clementines (Mandarins)
Three Clementine Seeds on a Granite Table with Three Clementines (Mandarins)

Is a clementine the same as a mandarin?

Clementines are a type of mandarin but not all mandarins are clementines. Three different types of clementines exist — “seedless clementines,” clementines (with at most 10 seeds), and Monreal (with more than 10 seeds).

If you think clementines seem different during the early season as compared to the new year, you aren’t imagining it. The beloved Cuties brand of clementines offers Clementine mandarins from November through January and W. Murcott mandarins from February through April.

Is a clementine the same as a tangerine?

Clementines and tangerines are similar but not the same. When compared to a tangerine, the clementine is smaller in size. Its coloring is brighter orange and the skin is smoother as well.

What does a clementine seedling look like?

A clementine seedling has a rich green color and rounded leaves. When clementine seeds first germinate, you’ll notice the prominent seed radicle (root) emerging from the seed. The root of the clementine seedling is very robust and sturdy.

Many Clementine Seedlings Growing in a Wet Paper Towel
Many Clementine Seedlings Growing in a Wet Paper Towel

How tall do clementine trees grow?

Clementine trees can grow up to 25 feet in the ideal environment. However, it’s quite easy to prune them to a height that is more manageable for you, such as 6 to 10 feet high. This works especially well when you live in a cooler climate such as zone 6 as we do.

Learn How to Grow a Clementine Tree from Seed

Growing a clementine tree from seed is not difficult if you try the right steps.

Supplies needed for growing a clementine tree from seeds
Supplies needed for growing a clementine tree from seeds

Start with fresh seeds or even clementine seeds you’ve allowed to dry. Both dry and fresh seeds should germinate.

And now, follow these steps to discover how to grow a clementine tree from seed!

  1. Enjoy eating a clementine! This is the easiest and most delicious part. 🙂
  2. Remove any seeds that you find and set them aside.
  3. Allow the seeds to soak in water for about 15 minutes. This softens the outer skin of the seed coat.
  4. After soaking, use a thumbnail or very carefully use the edge of a sharp knife to gently nick the seed coat.
  5. Gently unwrap the seed coat and remove it from the seed. You should now see a softer, smoother “nut” type seed.
    Remove the seed coat from the clementine seeds
    Seed coat removed from clementine seeds
  6. Fold a paper towel in half and wet it with a spray bottle.
  7. Write “Clementine” and the date on a plastic zip-top bag.
  8. Spread the seeds out on the wet paper towel so they aren’t touching.
    Spread out clementine seeds on wet paper towel
  9. Fold the paper towel over the seeds to they are covered on all sides. The paper towel should now be the right size for the bag.
  10. Place the paper towel in the plastic baggie.
    Plastic baggie germination for citrus seeds
  11. Set the baggie somewhere warm and out of the way, such as on top of your microwave or near a heating vent.
  12. Wait up to a week to check for signs of germination. (If you’re like me, check sooner, hah!)
Germinating clementine seeds in a plastic baggie with a wet paper towel
Germinating clementine seeds in a plastic baggie with a wet paper towel

By the way, feel free to check out our more in-depth post about germinating seeds in wet paper towels and baggies!

Clementine Seedling Care

Caring for clementine seedlings is easier than you might expect. Don’t be intimidated!

Try these nearly effortless steps for good clementine seedling care to give your baby citrus trees the best chance at life.

Sprouted Clementine Trees from Seed in Wet Paper Towel
Sprouted Clementine Trees from Seed in Wet Paper Towel
  1. When you notice the clementine seeds sprouting, prepare small nursery pots with potting soil.
    • First put a piece of a coffee filter to screen the soil from going through the drainage holes.
    • Next, fill the pot most of the way with potting soil. I LOVE ProMix potting soil!
    • Finally, gently plant the sprouting seed or clementine seedling in the soil mix.
    • Water as needed and place the seed pot in a sunny location or ideally under some grow lights.
  2. When it gets warm enough in your zone, harden off your baby clementine trees and move them outdoors to enjoy the summer sun!
Clementine Tree Seedling in a flower pot in the rain on a gray background
Clementine Tree Seedling in a flower pot in the rain

Growing a Clementine Tree Indoors

I am super excited to be growing a clementine tree indoors! If you are lucky enough to find some clementine seeds, I hope you try it, too!

(I am still hoping to happen upon lime seeds one of these days!)

I’ll be sure to come back and update this post as our journey continues.

But first, here are a few things you should know about growing clementine seedlings indoors.

  • Clementine trees may take two to three years before they begin producing fruit. In the grand scheme of fruit trees, this feels pretty quick and I’ll take it! Hopefully this time in 2023 I’ll have some photos of clementine flowers and fruits for you.
  • Fruit trees don’t always grow true to seed. Especially with the cross-pollination process and efforts to breed the trees as growers intended, you never really know what you’re going to get. Hopefully you’ll get delicious fruit! (If not, you can always buy some citrus trees from your favorite nursery or grower.)
  • Manage your expectations. Some “gardening experts” say never to grow fruit trees from seed and only to purchase quality trees or grafted fruit trees. I don’t think there’s any harm in growing clementine trees from seed as long as you go into it knowing there’s a chance you may not get the results you want. (shrug) I am all for the fun and experiment of it!
  • Grow another variety nearby to get a bumper crop. Clementines can grow without cross-pollinating with another variety, but you can increase the yield with another type of mandarin nearby.
Baby Clementine Tree in a flower pot and Fruit on a turquoise background
Baby Clementine Tree in a flower pot and Fruit on a turquoise background

I am still learning every day as I continue on my gardening adventures with my girls. If you have any experience growing clementines from seed, definitely hit us up in the comments! Feel free to ask questions, too, or just say hi! We love hearing from you.

Happy Gardening!

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