If you’ve always wanted to have an orange tree in your home or in your garden, this is the perfect time to get one. Oranges are a joy and they are really easy to care for. When grown in the right conditions, they reward gardeners with spectacular looks and their well-known fresh, citrus perfume. They make perfect additions to dull corners and sunny gardens and the best thing about them is, of course, the delicious fruit that you get to enjoy.
When we are talking about orange trees that are best suited for growing, the most popular one worldwide would be Citrus × Sinensis (Sweet Orange Group), which includes the navel oranges and blood oranges. In some areas, Citrus × Aurantium (Bitter Orange Group) is also commonly cultivated by citrus growers.
Are you excited to find out more interesting facts about Oranges? Keep reading our guide to discover everything you need to know about these beauties!
- The earliest mention of the sweet orange was in Chinese literature around 314 BC. Thus, it is safe to say that oranges originated in a region surrounding Southern China, Myanmar, and Northeast India. They are widely grown in tropical and subtropical climates.
- These orange fruits are important agricultural products, mainly used for both their aromatic peel and their juicy fruit pulp. Still, many people use their blossoms, leaves, and tree wood in several different ways.
- Many varieties of oranges play a big part in the perfume industry, used for their super aromatic essential oil. People use them for general consumption, as a flavouring, or as a solvent.
- Oranges are excellent ingredients in different culinary recipes, such as fruit salad, marmalade, French bigarade, juice, cocktails, compotes, liqueurs, gingerbread and other baked goods, and with various types of meat.
- The orange flowers are highly fragrant and contain nectar, making them attractive to many species of pollinators, especially honeybees. The beauty of orange flowers is very appreciated by florists, being common in bridal bouquets and head wreaths.
- The orange blossom has cultural importance, being the state flower of Florida. Some folks associate it with good fortune. Orange blossoms are also great for tea preparation, orange flower water, and orange blossom honey.
- Orange leaves can be added to mulled wine as they add a very nice flavour. The leaves of bitter orange trees have been used in traditional medicine thanks to their sedative properties. You can also find bitter orange essential oil on the market usually labelled ‘petitgrain essential oil’.
- When it comes to orange tree wood, people use it to make different tools such as cuticle pushers for manicures, or spudgers.
- Oranges have lots of health benefits, containing numerous nutrients that are beneficial for our well-being including vitamin C. Oranges may help with high blood pressure, heart and liver issues, diabetes, skin and eye health, sleep problems, memory, learning, muscle movement, inflammation, and cancer.
- Orange trees are a great addition outdoors in a garden, but they can also grow just fine in containers. You can also plant them with companions like Lemon Balm, Parsley, Marigold, Tansy, Petunia, Nasturtium, Lobelia, or Oregano.
Oranges Features: An Overview
- Orange trees belong to the Rutaceae family. It is a very large family, containing about 1700 species of marvellous plants.
- Orange trees are evergreen perennial trees that can reach up to 32 feet (10 m) in height with time. In containers, these buddies will grow much, much smaller and you can control their growing habit with pruning.
- They have very rounded crowns. Their foliage consists of leathery, elliptical to somewhat lanceolate, green leaves that grow on slightly thorny stems. The leaves have petioles that feature narrow wings.
- Orange trees start to produce buds as early as the beginning of the winter, usually blooming in mid-spring. Their flowers are small, five-petaled, star-shaped, white, and come along with numerous stamens and lots of scents.
- Their fruits are the well-known oranges, coming in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, peel shades and textures, and tastes.
Types of Orange Trees
As mentioned above there are several types of oranges that you can grow both indoors and outdoors. We are big fans of growing citrus trees indoors as they make amazing statement plants and bring tropical vibes to any dull corner, so let’s take a look at some of the best orange tree varieties to grow indoors.
Dwarf Trovita Orange Tree
The Citrus sinensis ‘Trovita’ dwarf orange tree produces sweet, juicy oranges and is quite resistant to cool weather. It can be grown in many locations from coastal areas to deserts and it will thrive indoors as well. The fruits of the Dwarf Trovita ripen in spring and have few seeds and thin skin. Another great feature of this orange tree is its highly fragrant blooms.
Dwarf Washington Navel Orange Tree
This is another amazing dwarf orange tree belonging to the Citrus sinensis family that is perfect for container growing. It also happens to be the oldest navel orange tree grown in Australia. The fruits are delicious, medium to large, and very easy to peel and eat.
Valencia Orange Tree
Valencia orange trees (Citrus x Sinensis) produce juicy fruits that are valued for their taste and flavour by gardeners worldwide. If you want to enjoy a fresh glass of orange juice every morning, this is the perfect type of orange tree to grow.
Mandarin Orange Tree
Mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulata) are perfect for indoors as they are smaller and more delicious. These citrus trees require plenty of sunlight, so you should pick the brightest location for them. Mandarin oranges, commonly known as tangerines, are easy to peel and growing them indoors is a fun and rewarding experience.
Citrus x limonia ‘Otaheite’, commonly referred to as the Tahitian Orange tree, is a dwarf variety that is appreciated by gardeners thanks to its ability to produce fruit that lasts for a very long time on the branches. This variety blooms and bears fruit even when it is very young. The fruits are a combination of limes and oranges and the blooms are highly fragrant.
Citrus unshiu, commonly referred to as the Satsuma mandarin is another very popular type of citrus tree that can easily be grown indoors. Satsuma is a mandarin-pomelo hybrid, the fruits are sweet, seedless, and very easy to peel. Satsuma trees are cold hardy and thrive in many regions including New Zealand, South Africa, South America, Asia, and near the Black Sea.
The citrus trees mentioned above are just a few examples of amazing fruit-bearing trees that can easily be grown indoors in containers. There are hundreds of varieties of orange trees and if you have a favourite one that isn’t on our list, let us know in the comments!
Growing Orange Trees
Orange trees will thrive if you provide them with as much sunlight as you can throughout the day. In general, they need at least six hours of bright, direct light to perform well and bear oranges. Outdoors, plant or place them wherever they will not experience shady conditions.
In indoor settings, place your Orange trees in a well-lit spot, such as in front of west, east, or south-facing windows. Be careful, though, as windows can act as magnifiers and burn their leaves, especially during very hot summer afternoons. We recommend you place the containers at a distance of 24 inches (61 cm) away from your windows for the best growth.
Oranges require a warm overall climate to show nice results. They are cold-hardy only in the USDA zones 9 to 10. Because of this, if you live in a cold area, you should grow your orange trees in pots and bring them inside once the weather begins to get cooler. As a rule, Oranges do well in outdoor temperatures that range from 55 to 85 °F (13-29 °C) all year round and an average of 65 °F (18 °C) indoors.
Planting Orange Trees
Orange trees will show the best growth if you plant them in soil that comes with very sharp drainage so their roots do not experience soggy conditions. The type of soil you choose is not as important at first because you will change its quality by adding a few extra substrates of organic matter.
Whether you want to grow your Orange trees in a pot or directly in the ground, you should mix the basic soil with peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, or compost. You can also opt for a commercial mix that contains these types of organic matter. In case the soil is too heavy, you can amend it with perlite, coco fibre, hardwood bark, redwood shavings, or cedar.
- Citrus reticulata Blanco is commonly referred to as Mandarin Orange Tree.
- Mandarin fruit are smaller and less spherical than normal oranges. They are also easier to peel and not as acidic
- Hardiness: -10 degrees Fahrenheit
- Light: Full Sun / Partial Shade
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In terms of fertilizing, you should not be stingy at all. Like most fruit-bearing species, orange trees require plenty of nutrients to keep their health intact. Feed your beloved citrus trees with a fertilizer that contains nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. If you are not sure which ratio is good, you can take a soil test to determine which nutrients your oranges lack. Fertilize the plants once every month, from early winter to early autumn.
Although pruning Orange trees is not necessary, this process becomes mandatory in situations with potted specimens. We suggest you remove any branches that are too big to avoid turning your plants into lazy and leggy buddies. Plus, you should cut all the damaged or dying branches off once you notice them.
Watering Orange Trees
The amount of water your orange trees will need usually varies by climate and how often they experience rainfalls throughout the year. Since these particular conditions are not great indicators of how often you should water your oranges, we come in your help with an excellent and much easier alternative.
Overwatering is a common problem for many gardeners that grow citrus trees, especially since these trees are big fans of hot climates. To avoid overwatering, make sure you always check the substrate in which your orange trees grow in-between waterings. In general, you must water these plants as needed, allowing the upper inch (2.5 cm) of the soil to dry completely before watering them again.
This watering routine is a viable option for all seasons except for the winter. When the autumn ends, it would be wise to water your orange trees only as often as once every week or so.
Propagating Orange Trees
Even if you can grow orange trees directly from seeds, the results may not be as expected, as they are hybrids and do not typically produce fruits that are true to their parents. But if you still want to try, keep in mind that you should provide the seeds with lots of moisture until germination occurs. You can just sow the seeds straight into the soil and wait for the magic to happen. Another method implies placing the seeds between two damp sheets of paper towel until they germinate. Your choice, gardener!
The easiest way to propagate orange trees is nonetheless through branch cuttings. The chances of nice results will increase if you are doing this in either late spring or early summer. Look for young branches from the current year’s growth that are somewhat woody. Once you find them, take cuttings at an angle of about 45 degrees using a sharp knife. After this, make three or four vertical cuttings of one inch (2.5 cm) from the cut end, as these wounds will encourage root production. Place the cuttings in a rooting hormone.
Fill a pot with fresh soil for each cutting, plant them in their individual pots, then gently press the soil around the cuttings. Water the substrates until they are moist and cover the pots with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. Repeat the watering process whenever the soil feels dry to the touch. After a few weeks, you can remove the plastic wraps and move the cuttings to a well-lit area. The cuttings should develop a healthy root system in several months. All you need is patience.
Common Problems with Orange Trees
An important problem that many orange tree growers face is nutrient deficiency. Like all plants, orange trees need plenty of energy to bear healthy fruit and for that, they need nutrients. Without these nutrients, orange trees are very likely to develop small fruit and unhealthy leaves. If you notice discoloured leaves on your orange tree, it’s best to check the soil to find out if you’re dealing with a mineral and nutrient deficiency.
Mineral deficiencies will usually manifest as unhealthy leaves and, over time, they will result in unhealthy blooms and fruits. If you notice yellowing leaves, you might be dealing with a nitrogen deficiency. Zinc deficiencies are also quite common and they cause yellow patches on the leaves around the leaf veins. Bent and yellowing leaves can indicate a potassium deficiency, while yellow leaves with green veins can indicate a manganese deficiency. Proper watering and regular feeding will prevent all of these issues.
Orange trees can also suffer due to improper environmental conditions such as wind damage, frost damage, underwatering, and overwatering. Orange trees that are exposed to strong winds for extended periods of time will have dehydrated foliage and they might even experience stunted growth. Discoloured, curled, or pitted leaves are also common symptoms of wind damage. To prevent this problem, keep your orange trees in sheltered locations.
Water-soaked leaves and withered twigs are signs of frost damage. Orange trees aren’t fans of cold weather, so make sure you protect them from the cold. Underwatering and overwatering are also common and can stress a citrus tree and cause irreparable damage. The first signs of underwatering are curling leaves with brown tips and crisp edges, undersized foliage, yellowing leaves, and leaf drop. Pale green or yellowish leaves, leaf shedding, and fungal infections are signs of overwatering. Root rot can also be caused by overwatering and it is often a lethal issue. Well-drained soil and using the ‘soak and dry’ watering method are great preventive measures for overwatering and root rot.
Oranges can be a magnet for various species of pests including spider mites, aphids, thrips, crusader bugs, citrus bud mites, citrus gall wasp, and caterpillars. If you notice any suspect presence on your orange trees, you should treat them with suitable insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils to get rid of the infestation quickly. It is highly recommended to use organic products and to avoid chemical products at all costs. Organic products are kinder to the surrounding environment, don’t add dangerous chemicals to your soil, aren’t bad for your health, and won’t harm the beneficial wildlife. Pests are a natural part of the gardening process and they can also be avoided and managed through companion planting, as you’ll see in the following paragraphs.
Orange Tree Companion Planting
You might be wondering what plants would do well alongside your orange trees. The concept of pairing different plants to achieve the best results is known as companion planting. As mentioned above, fruit trees, including citrus trees are quite susceptible to various pests and diseases. Therefore, it is wise to plant them alongside certain plants that can repel these pests or that have other important benefits.
To help your orange trees grow healthy and happy, you can grow flowering plants that will deter some of the most common harmful bugs and plants that will attract beneficial bugs. ‘Single Gold’ Marigolds, for instance, are quite popular in the gardening world thanks to their ability to repel nematodes. These beautiful ornamentals will attract beneficial pollinators and beneficial insects such as ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and hoverflies, that feed on harmful bugs.
Dandelions, Yarrow, Cosmos, Mint, Coneflowers, Coreopsis, and Chives will also attract ladybugs. The best companion plants that will attract pollinators are wildflowers, lavender, rosemary, and comfrey.
If you want to prevent aphid infestations, you should consider planting chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, and peppermint near your citrus trees. Some gardeners will use a different strategy. Instead of planting something that repels the aphids, they use certain plants that are aphid-magnets to protect their other plants. If you want to implement this aphid-magnet strategy, you can try with okra and nasturtiums.
Citrus trees can also benefit from being planted near veggies, legumes, and cover crops that will improve the health of the soil. These plants will also fix nitrogen in the soil by feeding the good bacteria. Citrus trees need plenty of nitrogen to thrive, so it is recommended to plant them alongside alfalfa, clover, radish, peas, or rye.
Now that you know how to grow orange trees, what they need to grow healthy and happy, how to propagate them, and what the best types to grow indoors are, you can fully enjoy the delightful experience of gardening with citrus trees. If you provide them with the ideal environmental conditions and avoid a few common issues, keeping them healthy and happy will be really easy! As long as your orange trees get plenty of sunlight, warm temperatures, regular feeding and watering, you will have some of the most tolerating and loving companions blossoms and fruits for many seasons.
Are you growing orange trees? Let us know what types of orange trees you are growing and what you enjoy doing with their delicious fruits.