Want to grow something completely out of your comfort zone? Learn how to grow Buddha’s hand, also called the fingered citron.
What is Buddha’s hand?
It is one of the oldest citrus fruits and originates from China. The unusually shaped fruit looks like outstretched fingers with a length of 10-22cm.
The flavor resembles a blend of the yuzu fruit and lemon creating the perfect sweet and crunchy taste. Unlike several other citrus fruits, it does not contain a bitter tang, but it has a citrusy aroma.
There is no pulp and it’s sometimes seedless making it easier to slice and has an edible peel. The peel contains condensed flavorsome essential oils, which some perfume companies have integrated into their fragrances.
The fingered citron may not be the juiciest of all citrus fruits, but is quite delicious. You may use it for the zest to garnish your salads, cook it to make candied peels, use it to brew tea, or simply use it for decorative purposes.
How to plant Buddha’s hand?
Here’s how to plant this perennial evergreen.
How this citron tree grows is largely dependent on how it is planted from the stage of seed or seedling. It determines how the tree will blossom as well as the form fruits will take as they develop.
Test the quality of the seeds by doing the water test and dispose of those that float. Leave the seeds in lukewarm water in a dry place away from direct sunlight.
The seeds will germinate in a few weeks and when they appear from the crack of the shell, remove and pat them dry for planting.
In the beginning, it’s best to gather well-drained soil rich in nutrients for the roots to spread efficiently. If you had aged compost that may be used as a citrus potting mix that can be added to the soil.
Next, till up to 12 inches of the soil to keep it loosened. Soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8 is excellent.
Dig a small hole and create a drainage layer at the base with gravel or clay marbles to prevent water logging. Then layer the bottom with garden soil, place the seedling or plant in the hole and cover with dirt.
Lightly press down on the surrounding areas and water lightly. You’ll need to water consistently for the following 2 years after planting the tree but do not flood the roots. Too much water will cause them to rot and starting over the entire process can be quite tiring.
If you are interested in seeing the results as fast as possible, it’s best to start from the seedling or a well-established potted plant as the tree usually takes up to 8 years to bear its first fruit.
Starting from the seed means waiting even longer, which may leave your patience weary in anticipation of the final outcome of delicious fruits.
How to grow Buddha’s hand?
The plant is very sensitive to cold and will begin to resist freezing temperatures that fall below 40˚ F or 5˚ C.
Plant the citron tree a few inches deep directly into the ground where there is a sunbathed area yet protected from heavy winds. It’s best to do this when the climate tends to be mild in late summer to winter.
At the same time, it’s important to note that planting them during the summer months when the sun is scorching hot is not the best choice. Buddha’s hand enjoys the moderate temperatures of both seasons.
If you are living in a country with a very cold climate, planting the Buddha tree in a pot is your best chance of getting great results.
If you had it planted in your garden, carefully uproot it so the roots are not damaged. It will adjust and grow easily in a spacious pot.
If you started the process from a seedling, then repot it after your purchase and repeat this as the plant grows every 2 to 5 years.
Before transferring to a new pot for the first time ensure that it is fully rooted and do this before the new shoots appear.
How to care for the Buddha’s Hand fruit:
As the air begins to get frosty move the pot indoors or to a greenhouse. The best time to do this is from mid-October to May.
Keep it close to your window where there is enough sunlight or use grow lights as a substitute. If during that time of year, the weather is consistently warm and nice, feel free to leave the tree in a wind-shielded location.
Healthy fingered fruits love water, and understanding how to water it right is important. Summer is that time of the year when you will need to water the plant way more than you ever did.
If the plant is outdoors, water it generously very early in the mornings before the sun rises over the horizon.
If possible, use rainwater instead of tap water. This is because the plant is weak to tap water that contains calcium ions. During winter, significantly reduce the amount of water given to once every fortnight.
If the soil remains too dry for long periods the blooms will shed and the leaves will begin to shrivel. Do not allow this to happen.
A clear sign that the plant is dehydrated is when the leaves begin to droop too low. So always remember to keep the soil moist. During other seasons of the year water as needed.
How to keep Buddha’s hand fertile:
The blooming season is often during the summer and autumn months. Flowers will appear with white petals and yellow stamen which bees will absolutely enjoy pollinating.
You may thin the blooms within the first year. This will boost the fruits to grow quickly and prevent the plant from producing such a large crop that it is unable to bloom well for the next harvest.
Like growing many types of fruits and vegetables the Buddha’s hand needs proper nutrients. Add aged compost to the soil during the growing season. This is usually between the months of March to October.
If you will be pruning the tree, then the best time to do this is after the citron harvest which is in the months of March, April and May.
Disinfect your pruning tools and trim no further than half the length of the new shoots. Feel free to cut branches that are growing inward, dead wood and suckers that appear to be forming in the wrong place.
Harvesting Buddha’s hand
As you harvest the Buddha’s hand fruit simply twist the stem and pull downwards for it to snap.
There is no specific time for harvesting as the tree may keep bearing fruit all year round but the peak time to harvest for many growers is during spring.
Fruits that have not been harvested in winter can be left on their branches for months. Note that the more of the yellow spectacle fruit you harvest, the more fertile it becomes.
Halloween is here and if that is something you are excited to celebrate the Buddha’s hand is excellent for decorating your home and other areas. What’s scarier than a scarecrow with tentacled fingers?
Otherwise, you’ll have enough of the fruit to last a long time.
Buddha’s hand pests:
Quite similar to other citrus trees, the Buddha’s hand fruit is vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Aphids, mealybugs, fruit rot and thrips are a few of the diseases and pests that enjoy attacking the plant. Thrips care more about destroying the fruits and this is visible from the silver-white blotches on the side of the fruit.
You’ll notice that aphids are the main ones to cause an issue. To get rid of them in the most natural way use your garden hose to wash them away.
This may require a few tries every once in a while. If they still appear on the branches, try using a neem oil spray, which won’t affect the tree or the fruits.
Scale insects appear in many different forms. Your best chance of getting rid of them involves pruning and disposing of the infected leaves, branches and twigs.
If there are few on the branches, then use a cotton swab dampened with neem oil to get rid of the pests.
Buddha’s hand diseases:
Other pests and diseases the tree may attract are European brown rot and scale insects. The European brown rot is often seen during spring. The fruits will begin to rot while still growing on the stem.
What causes this fungal disease to kill the citrons is a lack of ventilation and high humidity. To prevent this from happening to the other fruits, prune branches that grow inward that may be blocking the flow of air.
Conclusion on how to grow Buddha’s hand:
Although the fruit appears to be frightening the taste is quite delicious. The entire fruit can be consumed raw or prepared in different ways to bring out the sweet flavor.
So, head on out to your favorite gardening spot and grab a seedling or established potted plant to grow your own Buddha’s hand fruit.
More exotic fruits:
- Egg Fruit (Canistel)
- Guinep (Mamoncillo)
- Sweet Sop
- Star Apple (Caimito)
- Black Sapote
- Yellow Dragon Fruit
- Ground Cherry
- Yellow Guava
- Golden Kiwi
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