Many of us have memories of school lunches and the little cup of fruit cocktail that sometimes came with it.  Little bits of assorted fruit, served in a light syrup with a cherry for color.

What if I told you that there is a fruit tree that can produce up to 5 different kinds of fruit.  Would you think I was crazy?  Well, there is such a tree and it is called a “Cocktail Citrus Tree”.

At first glance, a cocktail tree can look like any other citrus tree you may encounter.
But, if you look closely, you may find the following fruit, all on the same tree.


 Grapefruit…
Oranges…
…and Lemons.
Warning – if you don’t want to read the scientific explanation, just skip down to the next picture :^)
Citrus trees, like most fruit trees consist of two parts.  The bottom part is called the ‘rootstock’, which in the case of citrus, is a hardy citrus plant that produces a healthy root system, but does not necessarily produce great tasting fruit.  Then a bud from a tree that produces delicious citrus fruit, but may have a weaker root system, is grafted onto the rootstock.  Over time, both of these parts will grow together into one tree.

A cocktail tree is created using this method, but instead of grafting only one type of fruit onto the root stock, up to 5 different fruits are grafted.  Most often, you will find cocktail trees with 3 types of fruit in the nursery.

A few months ago, my mother, (Pastor Farmer), asked me to look at one of their citrus trees at Double S Farms.  Some of the fruit on their grapefruit tree (above) looked smaller and was clustered more thickly on the branches.
It turns out that this was a cocktail tree and they had both lemons and grapefruit on the same tree.
If you have a cocktail tree, it is important to manage it correctly with pruning.  For example, grapefruit are more vigorous growers then oranges, so you need to prune the grapefruit portion of the tree to keep it from taking over the other types of citrus.

**There are other types of cocktail trees that have peach, plum, apricot and cherry grafted onto the same tree.

A cocktail tree is a great solution for those who have a small gardening area, but would like to have a nice variety of fruit.  You can have it all in one tree.

And, you can also use the fruit to create your own homemade fruit cocktail.
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

31 replies
  1. Edith Hope
    Edith Hope says:

    Dear Noelle, What an extraordinary and totally magical tree. How I should love to have this in my garden. I am completely smitten. Tell me, is the white trunk natural? It is so decorative.

    I know only too well the tinned fruit cocktail you refer to from my childhood. Imagine my surprise meeting it all these years later in Hungary where it is fairly common to find it served as a pudding even in quite expensive restaurants. It is, of course, a legacy from the Communist era and, like much else, has still to change.

    Reply
  2. Curbstone Valley Farm
    Curbstone Valley Farm says:

    We had a stone-fruit cocktail tree at our last house, as space was very limited. Apricot, plum, 2 peaches and a nectarine. The apricots and plums were so aggressive, the peaches and nectarines paled in comparison. They we good, but it was difficult to prune the apricot and plums enough to let the peaches catch up. We're lucky now, in that we have space to have each cultivar on its own stock, but these cocktail trees can produce an impressive amount of fruit, and are very valuable for small gardens. I'm also seeing lots of multigrafted apple trees here too, with 5 or 6 apples per espaliered tree, but this is the first citrus cocktail I've seen.

    Reply
  3. villager
    villager says:

    That is so neat! I knew different varieties of apples could be grafted on one tree, but not citrus. That is such a great idea for people with limited space.

    Reply
  4. noel
    noel says:

    aloha,

    wow five trees into one, fantastic…here in hawaii, they tend to graft two or three varieties into one, but five..thats a record.

    cool post noelle 🙂

    Reply
  5. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Hi Noelle, this is a big Horticultural achievement, but the most excellent deed is the cultural practices done by your mom at the Double S Farms. The species have different characteristics and pest susceptibilities, and bringing them to simultaneously fruit like this is really wonderful.

    I have seen mangoes here in the country with different varieties grafted to one, it is fascinating but some varieties do not produce many fruits as the others, which limit the aesthetic purpose of the tree.

    Reply
  6. Grace Peterson
    Grace Peterson says:

    Hi Noelle~~ In my neck of the woods citrus cocktail trees are a no-go but there are apple trees with two or three varieties. Leave it to our intrepid plant breeders to grace us with such amazing plants. Don't you sometimes wonder what our grandparents or garden writers of the last century would think if they could see all the plants we can grow?

    Reply
  7. jeansgarden
    jeansgarden says:

    Noelle, This is so interesting; I had no idea. A friend who is a horticulturalist and a farmer, however, has a big old apple tree outside his back door that has, I believe, a dozen different varieties of apples growing on it. (He grafted them himself.) -Jean

    Reply
  8. Kathleen Scott
    Kathleen Scott says:

    Cool post. I've never seen one of these. Have to wonder why anyone would want it. I'd rather have limes and grapefruits aplenty, a tree of each to thrive without competition.

    Thanks for your comments at Hill Country Mysteries.

    Reply
  9. Meredith
    Meredith says:

    That is so cool, Noelle. We can't grow citrus here, of course… but plum, cherry, apricot and peach is doable. I love the creativity that went into the "fruit cocktail" design. My great-grandfather was apparently famous in his neck of the woods for being able to graft finicky trees together, something like a tree whisperer, I imagine. In my grandparents' yard was a dogwood he'd grafted, half pink, half white, quite a magical little trick. 🙂

    Reply
  10. jodi (bloomingwriter)
    jodi (bloomingwriter) says:

    I'm with Edith–totally smitten with the concept of a fruit cocktail tree. Alas, citrus doesn't grow here, but I can dream. Now I have this utter craving for an orange or a grapefruit. The world would be a sad place without citrus to delight our palates (and our eyes). I can't wait to one day see citrus trees for real.

    Reply
  11. Ami
    Ami says:

    Wow, Noelle: Thanks for this posting since I learned another new thing from it! That would be lots of fun if I can have such a tree in my garden 🙂

    Reply
  12. Kate
    Kate says:

    Hi, Noelle!
    Our master gardening group held a clinic on grafting such as this for multiple types of apples on one tree. At first I thought it sounded outrageous but I suppose if space is limited…

    Reply
  13. Sharon Lovejoy
    Sharon Lovejoy says:

    Noelle,

    Thank you! I love your fruit cocktail tree and I am going to do some grafting. I do have five fruit plum, cherry, and apple trees, but no "fruit cocktail" citrus.

    I love all the gardens and gardeners I can enjoy (without back pain) on blogs. They're the best!

    All joys to you,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

    Reply
  14. azplantlady
    azplantlady says:

    Thank you all for your comments!

    I really have never been a fan of the fruit cocktail that is served in a little cup. But, I would love to have a cocktail tree for myself.

    Edith, the trunks of many citrus trees are painted white because their trunks are susceptible to sunburn. Only trees that are pruned up need to be painted. Thank you for your question =)

    Reply
  15. leavesnbloom
    leavesnbloom says:

    My boys still love the fruit from a tin of fruit cocktail. As a child I used to always try and pick out the bits of cherry as there were few pieces in the tin! We sometimes grow apples like this in the UK with different varieties on the same tree – but I'd never heard of a citrus one with quite so many various fruits. I can imagine that the pruning could be a little tricky.

    Reply
  16. Chandramouli S
    Chandramouli S says:

    What fun! I should thank Rebecca @ In The Garden for directing me to your post. I was amused by Catherine's Cocktail Apple tree and now yours. Now I'm thinking of Cocktail Tomatoes! If only that's possible! [sigh]

    Reply

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