Eating an orange is a magical experience. Growing an orange tree from seed, though, is slightly more difficult. It is not for the faint of heart. But it is possible.
Once you successfully grow an orange tree, it can start bearing fruit in as little as three years, and it can keep bearing fruit for decades.
Grafting is the most popular method for growing orange trees today, but growing an orange tree from seed can be done and is worth the challenge. We have lots of tips and advice, so keep reading to find out the optimal method for how to grow an orange tree from seed.
Ideal Environment for Orange Trees
First things first: let’s find out if your environment can actually support growing an orange tree from seed.
Orange trees need a warm climate year-round. USDA zones 8-11 are best. (Think Florida, Texas, and southern California)
If you live in USDA zone 7 (e.g. Oklahoma to North Carolina), you may be able to grow an orange tree in your climate. It depends on how much the weather will cooperate. A freak cold spell could kill your crop.
The best time to grow orange trees from seed is spring. That way, you can take full advantage of the warm summer temperatures when the plant is most vulnerable. With summer, there’s little-to-no chance of a freak frost that can destroy your crop.
Prepping Your Seeds
Since we’re going to be growing an orange tree from seed, let’s go to the source: the orange itself. Make sure you don’t buy a seedless one!
Cut the orange lengthwise to avoid cutting into the seeds. Remove the seeds from the flesh.
Wash your seeds with soap and water to remove excess pulp. You’ll notice your orange seeds have a white membrane around them. The membrane is there to protect seeds, but it slows down germination and dries out the seed.
Removing the membrane is like cracking open a pistachio shell. First, dry the seeds. Next, get your fingernail into the thin crack and pry open the membrane. Be careful not to break the seed.
Once you’ve removed your seeds and discarded the membrane, you’ll want to wrap your orange tree seeds in a damp paper towel and flatten them, pushing out air pockets. Place the seeds on the towel, then fold it over once or twice until they’re completely covered.
Wrap the paper towel in plastic wrap to make it especially airtight. Store in a warm, dark, place for about ten days. This will give time for seedlings to sprout, the first signs of life for growing an orange tree from seed.
Now that our seeds are active, we can move on to the germination process.
Growing Orange Tree Seeds
When growing orange trees from seed, this is the stage where the seeds can begin to grow roots in soil, getting strong enough to move into the ground eventually.
Transfer each sprouting seed into a small pot or an individual planting pod for propagation. You can look for biodegradable pots which can be put directly into the earth when it’s ready.
Plant your orange tree seeds half an inch deep in potting soil that’s mixed with sand. We add sand into the soil because sand breaks up the soil and improves drainage.
Keep your pots in a warm space near a window that gets lots of sun exposure. As previously stated, orange trees need lots and lots of warmth and sun. The same goes for growing orange trees from seed.
If all goes according to plan, plants should break through the soil in four to six weeks and continue to grow. To give them the best chance of survival, add fertilizer to the soil. Fertilizers can restore the soil’s pH levels.
Citrus trees have notoriously ravenous appetites. They take large amounts of nutrients from the soil, so it’s best to regularly replenish the soil. You want to aim for the soil to have a 6.0-7.0 pH.
Look out for veiny leaves on the plants. That’s a telltale sign of chlorosis, which is a pH deficiency.
It’s likely that many of your seeds won’t make it past this point. That’s why it’s important to sow several seeds at once. It’s like buying lottery tickets.
Where to Plant Orange Tree Seedlings
After the six-week period, you should start to see orange tree seeds sprouting through the soil and getting taller and growing leaves. At this point, you can either transfer each seedling to a larger pot where its roots can continue to grow, or you can plant it directly in the ground. If the weather has been unpredictable of late, it’s best to keep it indoors in a larger pot for a few more weeks.
Once you’re ready to move the orange tree outside, you will want to find the ideal spot. Growing an orange tree from seed is a treacherous process in itself; don’t fumble a healthy plant with a lackluster garden setup.
Select a location for your orange tree plant where it receives full sun for eight to twelve hours each day. Once your plant grows into an orange tree, the warm sun will help the oranges get nice and sweet.
Space your orange tree seeds twelve to twenty-five feet apart. This will ensure they and their roots have plenty of space and that they won’t block out each other’s sun.
The soil will need to be well-drained, so make sure to add sand to the garden. If the soil can’t drain, it will drown the plant. If possible, plant your orange tree seeds on a mound, which can help with draining and runoff. Add fertilizer to keep the soil pH balanced and in the 6.0-7.0 range.
Caring for Grown Orange Trees
You did it! You’ve grown an orange tree from seed and beat the odds. Now the next step is keeping it alive until it bears fruit. This can take a few years, so be patient.
Keep watering and using fertilizer to keep the soil pH balanced and moist. Fertilizer with a 10-10-10 ratio will likely be best but test your soil regularly to determine the right balance.
Switch to citrus fertilizer once your orange tree begins bearing fruit. The tree will lose nutrients once it starts producing fruit.
Additionally, don’t plant shrubs or other plants around the base of your orange trees. This is because orange trees have shallow roots. You don’t want those roots to be fighting with other plants for precious nutrients. You also don’t need to mulch around the orange tree either.
Wrapping Up How to Grow an Orange Tree From Seed
Growing an orange tree from seed is a years-long endeavor that requires patience, attention, and love. But there is no greater feeling of victory than plucking an orange from your tree, peeling its fresh rind, and taking a bite of your sweet, delicious fruit.
Orange you glad you tried growing an orange tree from seed?
To give yourself the best chances, head over to our Orange Trees page to learn every detail behind the ins and out of growing and maintaining orange trees.