If you’re looking for auspicious decor with an eye toward wealth and overall good fortune in the new year, citrus might just be your answer. When we lived in Hong Kong, I looked forward to the arrival of the big mandarin orange trees, some with red and gold envelopes hanging from branches, in the weeks before Chinese New Year. These gorgeous trees graced the doorways of the lobby entrance to our home at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong and almost every major storefront or business around the city.

However, it’s not always practical to cart a large mandarin orange tree around to serve as decor, especially in a bustling city. You can definitely improvise. Kumquat trees do the trick at heights of just a few feet or less. These small trees make nice gifts and are often presented to friends and business associates during this important holiday.

Why? Let’s talk about why citrus is important.

Why Citrus Trees for Chinese New Year?

Individual pots of small mandarin trees for Chinese New Year with red envelops hanging from the branches.

The words orange and tangerine sound like the words for luck and wealth in Chinese (because there are many dialects in China, we’ll leave it at that). Not to mention, the orange or golden color of the fruit resembles gold or money. The trees often have hong bao or lai see packets (traditional red envelopes) draped sporadically off branches.

Some also say that mandarin oranges represent the sun’s positive energy and are meant to lift spirits. The trees are usually placed in pairs, one on each side of the entry door.

Do They Grow Naturally in These Shapes?

A pretty mandarin orange tree on a doorstep in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year.

Absolutely not. These symmetrical, perfect trees are groomed into shape and staked strategically. The fruit is tied on with wire in some instances. They sure are pretty, though. If you’ve seen some of these glorious manicured trees in real life, you know what I’m talking about — it would otherwise be so much perfect fruit for one tree to produce.

I loved going to the Flower Market in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year to see all of these perfect trees waiting to be taken home.

A big mandarin tree up close decorated for Chinese New Year.

Where to Buy Mandarin Orange Trees Locally

In San Diego, these trees sell out at local nurseries quite quickly. Your best bet is to head to an Asian grocery such as 99 Ranch where, last year, they had small kumquat trees. I’ll be hunting for a small kumquat tree next week, so I will advise if I see any. Sort of like this…

Small orange tree for Chinese New Year on a table next to some RMB in a red envelope.

So, if you’d like to ensure the new year is prosperous, find yourself a mandarin orange or kumquat tree. Or, a bowl of pretty mandarins will do as well. (We also eat mandarin oranges for Japanese New Year.)

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

See also:

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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