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Yuzu, a hardy citrus for colder climates

yuzu tree

Discover all about yuzu, a citrus fruit tree that’s special for many reasons.

Yuzu tree key facts:

Botanical nameCitrus x junos
Common – yuzu, Japanese lemon
FamilyRutaceae (Rue family)
Type – fruit tree

Height – 12 to 25 feet (4 to 8 m)
Breadth – 6 to 13 feet (2 to 4 meters)
Soil – any type, not chalky, well drained

Exposure: full sun  –  Foliage: evergreen  –  Flowering: spring  –  Harvest: fall

Though it isn’t yet famous in our parts, yuzu is a tree that comes from Asia. More specifically, it is native to Japan, where it is an important part of local food recipes. Its fruits indeed taste like no other: in the same bite, you get a tangy tart feel that ends on a soft, sweet note. Though it isn’t impossible, growing a Citrus x junos nonetheless requires particular care. But it’s clearly worth the time and effort!

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Yuzu: a tree with a lot speaking for it

Unlike most other citrus, yuzu is hardy and easily adapts to our own climates.

Yuzu flower and spikeIn spring, its flowers release a very fragrant scent and turn into fruits shaped like flattened lemons which have an amazing unique taste.

The lush green leaves are leathery and resist the cold well. Young stems tend to have lots of sharp spikes. Not necessarily a good idea if you have reckless children or pets!

Last of all, its slow growth and narrow bearing will enable it to grow even in a tiny garden.

Planting yuzu

As for all the other citrus, yuzu is a tree that requires lots of sun to thrive. Pay particular care to where you plant it.

As for the soil, Citrus x junos has the following requirements:

  • Yuzu plantingneutral to acidic pH;
  • low water retention in the soil;
  • soil that’s rather on the light side, containing lots of organic matter.

The best time to plant depends on where you live:

  • for mild climates, it’s possible to plant either in fall or spring;
  • for places with a harsher winter, better plant in spring only.

Depending on what your goals are and the size of your garden, you can choose whether to plant it directly in the ground or grow it in a pot instead.

Hardiness of the yuzu tree:

One of the greatest advantages of the yuzu tree is its hardiness, which allows it to survive the cold down to 5°F (-15°C). It’s the hardiest citrus by far. Note, however, that in areas where winters get really cold, it’s best to shelter your tree from the cold somewhat, with winterizing fleece, or by bringing it indoors to a lean-in or greenhouse if it’s planted in a container.

>> Winterizing Citrus: checklist to prepare for winter

Planting in the ground, outdoors:

Possibly the most demanding option, since you have to make sure all yuzu soil requirements are met. Thus, you’ll have to check the pH of your soil. Hopefully, it’s already a bit acidic naturally, because changing it is difficult.

Proper planting guidance for a yuzu citrusIt’s easier to amend the soil to comply with the other parameters: for instance, lighten up the soil by adding sand and soil mix into it. Soil mix usually contains enough organic matter for the tree’s needs.

Once you’ve prepared and amended the soil, move on to the next step: planting. For that, simply:

  1. Dig a hole 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) deep.
  2. Add, again, a little soil mix.
  3. Loosen up the root clump, hopefully without causing severe damage. This step will help trigger growth of more vigorous, new roots.
  4. Fill the hole in, packing the soil in with your foot. Don’t cover or smother the root crown (portion of the tree located between the trunk and roots).
  5. Water abundantly.

Yuzu in a pot:

It’s often easier to go for this type of planting because you can really control for all the environmental needs of your yuzu plant. The only drawback is that you’ll have to repot the the tree after a little while. Luckily, this slow-growing tree will give you a few years to relax before having to repot again.

To plant your yuzu in a pot, you must:

  1. Potted yuzu, thrivingDouble-check that there are holes for drainage at the bottom of your pot. If none, make some with a hand drill and a large drillbit.
  2. Spread a drainage layer a few centimeters thick. Use either clay pebbles or gravel, for instance, but take great care not to plug the holes up during this step. To avoid this happening, an easy trick is to lay a small square of mesh wire along the bottom of the container.
  3. Add a mix of 1/3 peat soil, 1/3 garden soil and 1/3 soil mix to the pot.
  4. Settle the yuzu tree inside, taking great care to press it down around the base.

Smart tip : for planting in pots, add vermiculite (or perlite) to the substrate. This type of material has several advantages: it helps evacuate water and, at the same time, retain moisture for thre tree.

Growing and caring for Citrus x junos

After planting, yuzu is a tree that requires certain types of care. Most important among these is watering, especially if you live in a region where the summer gets dry or where it gets really dry in summer. Consequently, the substrate for sowing must always remain moist, without getting soggy. Favor moderate but regular watering sessions.

Caring for yuzu from watering to pruningTo reduce water loss, one good tactic is to spread a layer of natural mulch (pine bark, lawn trimmings, etc.), which will, in time, double as a supply of organic matter as it breaks down.

If you’ve planted your tree in a pot, you’ll have to fertilize the substrate with a special citrus fertilizer. Provide this fertilizer in several doses:

  • at the beginning of spring, just before the blooming;
  • at the end of summer to support fruit ripening;
  • in fall.


There are three ways to get new yuzu specimens from your existing one:

  • Propagate yuzu through seedsSowing is the first, but you’ll need to be very patient because the growth rate of Citrus x junos is slow, and fruit-bearing comes even later. Moreover, chances of success are rather low.
  • With cuttings on semi-soft wood at the end of summer.
  • Through grafting, a technique that’s tricky but leads to the earliest blooming. It also ensure the child plant is identical to the mother plant.

Yuzu tree diseases and pests:

More often than not, your yuzu tree will resist most diseases. However, pests are another story all together. Let’s list several of them out here:

Harvest and keeping

Hartvest of yuzu in a cartonYuzu fruit harvest begins in fall, when the fruits are nice and yellow: this is the sign they’re ripe.

To best savor the taste and benefit from its health benefits, we recommend only picking the fruits just before you eat them. Once harvested, though, they can still keep for a few weeks in a cool spot.

How to use yuzu

Yuzu is a generous tree, and its fruits have many different uses.

Cooking with yuzu:

Cooking with yuzu opens your taste budsThe most important portion of this Japanese citrus is its bark: a few slivers of it are enough to completely transform and enhance the flavor of your dish. The strong, powerful taste of its flesh make it hard to eat directly. Luckily, you can easily extract its juice (without the pulp) to add it to sauces and fruit cocktails.

Other uses for yuzu:

This might come as something unexpected: the scent of yuzu fruit peels is so strong that you can use it to perfume bathwater (add when water is hot/warm).

In winter, also gather a few peel shavings in a clay bowl and place it atop a heater or radiator for an enchanting natural air freshener. Perfect to spread a warm, exotic scent throughout the house!

Images: 123RF: contrail, CC BY 2.0: david, Rosewoman, David Aferiat, Ian Lee, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0: ariari; Pixabay: DerWeg, Edsel Little
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