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Simply Citrus Nursery Grows Cold-Hardy Varieties in SC’s Midlands


Top Left:The Hamlin orange produces tasty juice, with some seeds, and is hardy to around 20 degrees.

Top Right: This mandarin hybrid is hardy to the lower 20s and matures in December.

Bottom: The Ponderosa Lemon produces large, acidic fruit, and is cold sensitive.

Right: Ben Salley with a blood orange called Sanguinelli, hardy to the lower 20s and late maturing, with a berry orange taste.


Orange Zest

Simply Citrus Nursery Grows Cold-Hardy Varieties in SC’s Midlands

Story by Hannah Arndt  •  Photos by Stephanie Finnegan

 This story appears in the Jan. 2, 2020 issue of the South Carolina Market Bulletin.

Simply Citrus Nursery is not hard to spot. Nestled in a pine tree-lined neighborhood in Columbia, South Carolina, the colorful fruit and citrus scents draw you in.

Ben Salley, owner of Simply Citrus, has been growing citrus in the Midlands for 20 years, alongside his wife Mary. His interest in citrus was sparked after visiting his brother who lived across from a grove in central Florida.

“I couldn’t see it, but I could smell it, and that’s how it started,” said Salley.

While in Florida, Salley developed relationships with several nurseries, which provided him with the knowledge he needed to start growing a few citrus trees in Columbia. But what started out as a hobby now has turned into a full-time business. With over 130 cultivars and varieties and 76 trees spanning across oranges, grapefruit, lemons, kumquats, and more, his fruit and his business are thriving.

“There’s really not anything that we don’t have growing,” Salley added.

When it comes to growing citrus in Columbia, some may think it is impossible due to climate, pests, and other issues.

“We still have people come by and say, ‘You can’t grow citrus fruit in South Carolina’,” said Salley. Simply Citrus Nursery protects their fruit during colder weather in a variety of ways, including the use of thermocubes, thermostatically controlled plugs, as well as incandescent clamp lights and other heat sources that help with temperature control. These devices, paired with frost blankets for when temperatures fall below 25 degrees and strategic planting that blocks wind to avoid drying out the citrus, allow the hardy fruits to prosper year-round.

Most citrus trees in South Carolina go semi-dormant, which means the trees stop putting on new growth, so when a freeze hits, vulnerable new growth is not killed or damaged by heavy frosts or freezes. Six trees over 10 years old at Simply Citrus Nursery have never been covered.

“It is really the unusual weather events, like 24 hours below freezing or extended winter events of much below normal temperatures, that you need to look out for,” Salley said.

For those interested in growing citrus in the Midlands, Salley notes that kumquats, satsuma mandarins, and Meyer lemons have better hardiness than other kinds of citrus.

Beyond just growing fruit, Mary Salley makes a variety of marmalades and jams like hot pepper jam, limequat marmalade, and classic orange marmalade, among others.

If you would like to buy fruit or marmalade from Simply Citrus Nursery, you can find them at the Fall and Spring Plant and Flowers Shows at the SC State Farmers Market in West Columbia and on Saturdays on the 1500 block at Soda City Market. To contact Simply Citrus Nursery, call Ben Salley at 803-466-0200 or find them on Facebook at Please call before visiting the nursery.

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