For orange lovers who wish to enjoy those golden orbs of fruity sunshine, learning how to grow an orange tree can be a fun experience that also can save and possibly make you lots of money.
Orange trees are relatively low-maintenance, making them the perfect starter fruit tree for any novice grower. In fact, they are the most cultivated fruit tree on the planet.
This guide will teach you about the different types of oranges, the best time to plant them, different ways to grow orange trees, and tips for growing perfect oranges.
How to Grow an Orange Tree: Two Popular Types of Oranges
Before jumping into how to grow an orange tree, let’s start by taking a look at the different types of oranges you can grow. Now, I’m not going to mention every type of orange on the planet since there are over 600, but I will cover two very popular varieties here.
Navel oranges are sweet, slightly bitter, and perhaps the most common type of oranges you’ll find sold at grocery stores and farmer’s markets. These oranges are instantly recognizable thanks to their signature “navel,” like openings on the bottom of the fruit that look like a belly button.
And because of their sweetness and lack of seeds, Navel oranges are
a favorite for snacking, adding to desserts and salads. They are also great for juicing, so long as you drink the juice immediately. A lot of folks also like to use the skins to make orange zest for baking. These oranges are usually in season from November to June.
If you have your heart set on fresh-squeezed orange juice, then Valencia oranges are what you should grow. This orange variety has thin skins and tons of juice, meaning you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to juicing. They are also great for snacking. However, they do contain a few more seeds than other varieties. They are mostly grown in California between the months of March and July.
How to Grow an Orange Tree: Where Can Orange Trees Grow?
Most orange trees can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11. And for the continental U.S., the range ends at zone 10, mainly the southernmost parts of Florida, Texas, and California. Keep in mind that the Hardiness Zones are not just based on how far north or south a crop is grown. As you will see, there are some areas in states like Oregon and even tiny spots in Washington state where you could grow orange citrus trees.
Also, if you live in a zone 8 area, you may be able to pull off growing certain types of oranges like Blood Oranges, Ambersweeet, and Valencia, among others. Mandarins are also an excellent crop to grow in zone 8, especially Satsuma mandarins that can survive in climates as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Here’s a USDA Hardiness Map that will give you a good idea of where oranges can grow.
How to Grow an Orange Tree: How Long Does It Take to Grow Orange Trees?
As with most trees, orange citrus trees take a while to grow and produce fruit. Generally, some can take about 15 months to mature. However, a few may only need eight to 12 months. However, by “mature,” I don’t mean they are bearing fruit. An orange tree usually starts bearing fruit between its third and fifth years.
How to Grow an Orange Tree: Transplanting
As your potted orange tree grows, it will be necessary to transplant it to bigger and bigger pots with fresh soil every two to four years. Many people choose to grow their trees in a pot to better control temperatures by moving them inside during the winter.
However, if you wish to grow your healthy tree outside, there are several things you need to take into consideration.
When to Transplant
The best time of the year to transplant your potted orange tree is a time when it’s under the least amount of stress from the environment. This means transplanting from spring to the early fall season but not during winter. You also may want to skip the hottest summer months as high temperatures will dry out your soil faster. So Spring and early fall are the sweet spots.
The key to transplanting is maintaining your orange tree’s root ball. When removing your tree, you want to keep as much of your root ball intact along with some potting soil. If your roots are tangled together, you can straighten them out using a knife to promote outward growth before transplanting them.
Where to Transplant
If growing orange trees in an area prone to freezing temperatures, it’s very important to choose a transplanted area you can protect as best you can. The ideal area should provide your tree with as many hours of daily sunlight as possible. However, they can still do well with at least 50 percent sunlight.
As for soil, ideally, your soil should be rich, sandy, well tilled, and well-drained. This way, your orange tree’s roots will easily penetrate.
Also, you should plant your orange trees at least 15 feet apart from your home or other trees, giving your roots lots of room to grow. Planting your tree on the southern side of your home can offer wind protection that’s very helpful during the cold season.
Prepare your soil area by digging a hole twice the diameter of your rootball but half as deep. Your surface should be a bit raised from the ground to promote better water drainage.
How to Grow an Orange Tree: Caring for Your Orange Tree
You can employ several helpful tricks and strategies to encourage the most productive crop yields from your orange tree. Here are a few suggestions.
Remove Developing Fruit
During the first two years, you want to remove any developing fruit. I know, this seems pretty counterintuitive; after all, isn’t growing fruit the whole point?
However, by removing developing fruit during this period, you’re helping your tree focus more of its energy on establishing a healthy, strong framework that will allow it to deliver greater yields during future harvests.
Tips on Watering and Feeding
Once you’ve transplanted your tree, you’ll need to water it at least once a week, just until it becomes established and acclimated to the local soil. Once this happens, your orange tree will better withstand dry spells. However, it will still benefit from a good deep watering every few weeks.
When deciding how much you need to water, the main factor is the type of soil you have. For example, well-drained soil will dry more quickly during hot seasons, thus requiring that you water more frequently. However, if you’re experiencing a lot of rain, you may want to hold off for a few weeks.
Slow and thorough is the way to go when watering. You just need to soak the first couple of inches of soil located just under the tree trunk to just past the drip line.
The drip line consists of the soil under the outer circumference of your tree’s branches. In other words, it’s just to the outside of where your branches and leaves end, creating a circle where excess water drips off your tree. Think of an umbrella. Under where the water comes off is your dripline.
You want to feed your tree every season. Use organic-based pellet citrus fertilizer that has all the nutrients needed to enhance your soil.
Ideally, you should fertilize during the active growth seasons (spring and summer) at least once per month and no less than once every two months. Then during the dormant seasons (fall and winter), only feed once every 2-3 months.
When and How to Prune an Orange Tree
Pruning is one of the most important aspects when it comes to knowing how to grow an orange tree with great-tasting fruits and high yields. You’re improving your tree’s overall health while encouraging growth by pruning. Often tree branches can grow improperly, which can lead to unproductive branches, crowding, and other issues that will impact your harvest.
To learn more about the best practices for pruning orange trees, check out our helpful guide titled: “How to Prune an Orange Tree: Tips for Getting Your Best Fruit Harvest.”
Pest and Disease Control
While maintaining your orange tree, you should always be on the lookout for signs of disease and pests. This handy Citrus Insects & Diseases guide will help you identify and combat these threats to your crop.
Harvesting oranges is perhaps the easiest and most fun part of growing an orange tree. After all your hard work, you should see plump, juicy, orange-y oranges on your tree. You should feel the fruits for firmness. They shouldn’t be mushy. Be on the lookout for mold and discoloration.
Also, sniff them. They should give off a fresh citrus smell.
And most importantly, taste a few promising prospects. If they taste sweet and juicy, then get to picking! This harvest guide also has a few more helpful tips and suggestions.
Growing Oranges — Easier Than You Might Have Thought!
Growing an orange tree can be a little bit of work, but the good news is that they are not nearly as fussy as many other types of plants. The toughest part is cultivating the plants from seeds and transplanting them.
They will require much more attention during the early stages, but you can expect a delicious crop of oranges every year once you get them going for a few years. The main thing is to remain patient. Producing the best orange crops takes a bit more time, but in the end, your patience and efforts are bound to pay off in abundance!
Excited for more orange content? Check out our orange trees page to start learning everything there is to know about your favorite citrus!