Planting an orange tree is doable for gardeners of any skill level. With their beautiful foliage and colorful fruits, orange trees add just the right amount of character to your landscape.
With the proper care, these fruit trees can grow in a multitude of environments. Whether you live in sunny Southern California or North Carolina, growing a healthy orange tree is possible.
Keep reading to learn how to plant an orange tree, and turn your backyard into a beautiful, productive space.
What You’ll Need
To properly learn how to plant an orange tree, you need the correct supplies. This will set you up for success before you even begin.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- An orange tree that will thrive in your climate
- Proper growing site
- Gardening gloves
- Composted manure
- Pruning Shears
Common Orange Tree Varieties
Orange trees are usually hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11. These zones include areas like Florida, Southern California, and Texas.
But, don’t fret if you don’t live in these zones. Zones 4 through 10 can grow most orange varieties as a container tree. You’ll just have to move the tree indoors during the winter. I’ll go over how to plant an orange tree in a container in this post as well.
Here are the most common orange tree varieties:
- Valencia – good juice orange; very few seeds; compact
- Washington Navel – good for eating fresh; seedless; ornamental
- Cara Cara – sweet, pink flesh; seedless; good container variety
- Moro Blood Orange – sweet, red flesh; ornamental; compact
- Calamondin – sour flesh; small fruit; ornamental
How to Plant an Orange Tree
Choose the Growing Site
To choose the proper site for planting an orange tree, consider what oranges need to thrive. Firstly, the orange tree needs sun to produce a good harvest. A healthy orange tree can tolerate some shade, but they need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
Orange trees also need good drainage. This is helped by two factors: landscape and soil. Avoid planting orange trees in low-lying areas that will collect water.
The soil will need to be rich and loamy. Slightly sandy soil is acceptable. Just be sure to monitor your orange tree and keep it sufficiently hydrated.
If your soil is heavy clay, amend it by mixing in composted manure. This will help the clay drain better and provide the tree with plenty of nutrients.
Also, be sure to leave plenty of space between your other fruit trees and bushes. The recommended spacing for orange trees is 12 to 25 feet apart.
Dig the Hole
Once you’ve chosen the perfect spot for planting an orange tree, you can prepare to dig the hole. Wait until early spring to plant the orange tree. This will give it time to establish before the end of the season.
The hole should be twice as wide and a few inches deeper than the orange tree’s root ball.
Keep the soil you remove from the hole. You’ll use it shortly. Then, take your shovel and break up the soil at the bottom of the hole to help with drainage.
Prepare the Tree
Ideally, you could just transfer an orange tree from the pot to the hole. But, to give your tree the best chance of healthy growth, you’ll need to prepare the tree.
If you purchased a bare-root orange tree, be sure to soak the roots for a few hours before planting. If the roots are wider than the hole, trim them to fit the hole.
For potted orange trees, break up the root ball by working the roots apart. The roots should end up separated instead of tangled together at the bottom. If the tree is extremely root bound, you can use a knife to help loosen the roots.
Plant the Tree
Set the tree into the hole. Backfill the hole with a mixture of original soil and compost. Wait to fertilize until after planting.
Once the soil reaches the base of the tree, step around the tree to remove any air pockets. Avoid piling soil around the trunk, which could cause rot.
How to Plant an Orange Tree in a Container
Planting an orange tree in a container is just as simple as planting in the ground. A container tree has the same growing requirements and will need the same amount of sun and nutrients.
Choose a container that is several inches larger than the roots on all sides. Get a sturdy pot that will hold up to the weather. I recommend a resin, wooden, or heavy plastic container that is easy to move indoors.
It should also have a hole in the bottom for drainage. Work smarter, not harder! Purchase a drain pan with wheels that will help with drainage and transportation.
To plant an orange tree in a container, make sure the tree roots are loosened and prepared. Set the tree into the container. Fill around the roots with a well-draining potting mix.
Take your hands and press down on the soil around the tree. Water the tree deeply, and you’re ready to grow oranges!
Caring for an Orange Tree After Planting
Orange trees need a balanced source of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Fertilizing orange trees should begin as soon as the tree blooms in the spring. You can then reapply a couple more times per season.
All-purpose 10-10-10 fertilizers work great for orange trees. You can also purchase a fertilizer that is specifically tailored to fruit trees or citrus. Either way, your orange tree should receive its required nutrients.
Young orange trees need more fertilizer than mature trees. As you build your soil health, the orange tree may need fewer applications of fertilizer.
As your orange tree matures, light pruning will help with productivity. Old limbs need to be removed to make energy for new limbs.
Pruning will also help you reach mature fruits without a giant ladder. After planting an orange tree, you’ll be surprised how fast they grow with proper maintenance!
Prune your orange tree in early spring. Any small sprouts around the base of the tree should be removed. Also, remove any dead, damaged, or diseased limbs at this time.
If any limbs are crowding each other, thin them out to allow air circulation and light in the tree canopy. Just be careful not to expose fruits to too much sunlight to avoid sunburn.
For more information, read our post on Pruning an Orange Tree.
Harvesting is the part most gardeners look forward to after planting an orange tree. It can take up to five years to see your first fruits, but it’s always worth it!
Most orange tree varieties mature in late summertime. A lot of times, your mature oranges will fall from the tree. All you have to do is visit often and gather the fruit!
If you suspect mature oranges on the tree, look at the color. The orange should have deepened in color and lost any hints of green. Mature oranges will also be firm and easily twist off the tree.
Common Pests and Diseases
Let’s talk about the not-so-fun part of planting an orange tree. Orange trees can fall prey to annoying pests and diseases. It’s important to catch these nuisances before they damage your orange tree irreparably.
Two common orange tree pests to look for are citrus leafminers and aphids.
Citrus leafminers are tiny moths that feed on orange tree foliage. These pests cause damage in all four life stages, making them a season-long problem.
If you notice tunnels on your leaves, you may have citrus leafminers. They can cause foliage damage and poor fruit production. To remove them, apply an insecticide.
Aphids most often affect an orange tree’s new growth. They suck the sap out of tree leaves, leaving a secreted substance behind. This often leaves orange trees susceptible to a sooty mold infection.
A common sign of aphids is yellowing, wilted leaves. To remove these pests, apply an insecticide to the orange tree. Sometimes, aphids are taken care of by beneficial insects, saving you some work.
For more orange tree pests and how to treat them, visit this post.
From citrus canker to citrus leprosis and citrus greasy spot, orange trees can struggle with many different diseases.
Providing air circulation in the tree canopy is a great preventative method. Remove any tree limbs that are crowding each other. Also, remove any obtrusive weeds or vines around the tree.
If you haven’t already, this is also a good time to remove any low-hanging branches. Branches close to the ground make it easy for pests and diseases to affect your tree.
You’ll find in-depth information in our post on Orange Tree Diseases about how to identify, treat, and even prevent common orange tree diseases.
Ready for Planting an Orange Tree?
Planting an orange tree will give you access to fresh oranges year after year. From making fruit juice to desserts and salads, there are so many uses for an orange. You won’t regret this addition to your yard!
Excited for more orange content? Check out our orange trees page to start learning everything there is to know about your favorite citrus!