Named after the colonel who owned the Orange Mills grove where it originated in 1867, Dancy tangerine (Citrus reticulata) can add ornamental interest to your garden and makes for a healthy snack in your child's lunch box. This heat-loving dwarf specimen grows reddish-orange, easily peeled fruit that's about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and has anywhere from 6 to 20 seeds. It thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 10. If your garden lacks space or has poor soil, or if you live in an area with extreme winters, growing this tree in a pot is ideal.
Select a pot to grow the Dancy tangerine tree in. Use a lightweight, decorative pot or a plastic, nursery container with drainage holes. For a 1-year-old tree, use a 6- to 9-inch container and for a tree that's 2 to 3 years old, use a 10- to 14-inch container. Avoid using a container that's too big, because this makes it harder to control the soil moisture.
Fill the selected container with several inches of well-drained, commercial potting soil. Place the root ball of the tangerine tree on the soil in the pot, and surround it with more potting soil. Tamp the soil frequently around the root ball to eliminate air pockets and to provide stability. Plant the tree at the same depth it was growing in its previous container -- the roots should be right below the soil surface.
Place the Dancy tangerine tree in a sunny, wind-protected area of the garden. A southern exposure that provides at least eight hours of direct sunlight is preferred. Slightly raise the pot off the ground so water can drain freely.
Water the tree deeply immediately after planting it, and once or twice a week after this. During hot periods, water more often or daily if needed. Avoid letting the root ball dry out. Keep the soil consistently moist -- not wet -- so a strong root system can develop. To gauge whether you need to water the tree, check the top 2 inches of soil. If dry, it's time to water.
Feed the Dancy tangerine tree with a slow-release fertilizer two months after planting and again every two months after this. Use a fertilizer that's made for citrus fruit or use a feed, such as a 12-6-6 fertilizer, which has twice as much nitrogen as potassium and phosphorous. Check the fertilizer label to ensure it also contains iron, zinc and manganese. Spread the granules over the root zone in the pot, avoiding getting any fertilizer on the tree. Then water it in.
Drape Christmas lights or a frost blanket over the tree during periods of frost. Alternatively, move the tree indoors, and place it in a corner of the house where reflected heat from the walls can create a warmer micro climate. Dancy tangerine can withstand temperatures in the low 20s, but is best protected as soon as temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit are predicted.