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How to Grow and Care for Potted Orange Trees

Citrus fruits, such as oranges, mandarins, and clementines, are some of the healthiest and most delicious fruits. Unfortunately, they tend to be somewhat pricey and are only available during certain times of the year.

An outdoor potted tangerine tree.

If you want to have oranges on hand, no matter where you live, you should learn how to grow and care for potted orange trees at your home. If you like the sound of that but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place.

Keep reading and we’ll tell you all you need to know to grow healthy, thriving orange trees in containers.

Choose Your Orange Tree Variety

The first and most crucial step to growing a potted orange tree is to select the right tree variety. There are dozens of different types of orange trees, and not all of them are compatible with growing in pots.

A potted calamondin tree in a windowsill.
A potted calamondin tree.

Here are some of the best options to choose from.

The key to choosing the right type of orange tree for pots is to choose small options. It’s best to look for dwarf plants or trees that don’t grow as tall as typical orange trees.

Select the Right Pot

Once you know which type of orange tree you’d like to grow, your next step is to pick the right pot. Choosing a pot that will be big enough to accommodate your potted orange tree when it’s full-grown is essential.

Otherwise, you’ll have to repot the tree as it grows, which becomes increasingly difficult the bigger they get. If you don’t want to repot your orange tree, you should start it in an eighteen to twenty-four-inch pot.

A potted orange tree on a patio.

You can also use an old twenty-gallon barrel or wine drum if you’d prefer. If you’re ok with repotting your tree and want to start it out in a smaller pot, a ten to twelve-inch option should do the trick.

Drainage Holes

In addition to choosing a container that’s the right size, you should also ensure plenty of drainage holes on the bottom of the pot. Otherwise, your orange tree’s roots will rot and succumb to mold or drowning.

Best Soil for Outdoor Potted Orange Trees

Once you have picked your tree and the correlating pot, it’s time to choose your orange tree potting soil. In general, it’s best to use actual potting soil rather than leftover dirt from your garden when planting orange trees.

Potting soil will have the right combination of nutrients and ingredients, including peat moss, compost, perlite, and manure. You should also ensure that your potting soil has a pH level of 5.5 to 6.5.

A potted orange tree.

Soil With Drainage

In addition to having the right ingredients and pH level, potted orange trees also need soil with excellent drainage. The key is choosing soil that drains well but that can also hold onto moisture if you should happen to forget to water your plant for a few days.

You also want soil that isn’t too compact and will allow for aeration. Your orange tree roots need to breathe. Otherwise, they won’t grow.

Planting Your Orange Tree in a Pot

Now that you have your potting soil, container, and orange tree, you’re ready to plant it and get started! Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Start by putting a base layer of gravel or landscaping stones at the bottom of the pot. Gravel helps with drainage and ensures your orange tree roots won’t drown.
  2. Next, dump your potting mix on top of the gravel. You’ll want to fill the container enough so that there’s plenty of soil for your orange tree to rest upon, but not so full that the tree no longer fits.
  3. It may be necessary to add and remove soil several times to get the right amount.
  4. When you have the right amount of soil, you can set your orange tree in the center of the pot.
  5. Add more potting soil around the sides of the orange tree while ensuring that the tree remains erect and straight.
  6. Gently pat the soil around the roots and sides of the tree to ensure it’s solid and that there aren’t any air pockets.
An outdoor potted orange tree.

Caring for Your Potted Orange Tree


Ideally, you should have your outdoor potted orange tree where it will get between five and seven hours of direct sun.


You should never leave your outdoor potted orange tree in temperatures less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The optimal growing temperature for oranges is 65 to 75 degrees, but they’ll do ok within a range of 50 to 100.


Choosing a healthy, nutritious fertilizer for your potted orange tree is just as important as choosing the potting soil. Ideally, you should utilize a slow-releasing fertilizer that’s either 8-8-8, 9-9-9, or 10-10-10.

Person holding handful of granular fertilizer mix.

You should add fertilizer as specified by the fertilizer you choose. It’s best to fertilize when you initially plant your orange tree in the spring and add more periodically during the summer and into the fall if necessary.


Watering your potted orange tree will be touch and go. Just know that potted trees need more water than trees planted in the ground. As long as the top two inches of soil are moist, your potted orange tree should be getting enough water.


Pruning your potted orange tree is an absolute must. You should regularly remove dead branches and leaves and any portions of the tree that aren’t bearing fruit but are blocking parts of the tree that are.

For all you need to know, read our blog post on Pruning Orange Trees.

Caring for Outdoor Potted Orange Trees During Winter

Orange trees are slow-growing and may take two to three years to produce fruit. This means that if you’re growing your potted orange tree outside, you’ll have to take special care during the winter.

An indoor potted orange tree.

Here are a few tips and tricks to caring for your potted orange tree during winter.

  • Once temperatures begin to drop in the fall, move your orange tree indoors.
  • Water the tree less frequently during the fall and winter months.
  • Add grass and mulch to the surface of your potting soil to act as a blanket against the cold.
  • Ensure that your orange tree gets enough real or artificial sunlight during the winter.

Growing and Caring for Indoor Potted Orange Trees

If you prefer to grow your potted orange trees indoors rather than outside, you’ll follow many of the same instructions that you would for an outdoor potted tree. However, there are a few differences you can check out in our related post, where we talk all about growing potted orange trees indoors!

An indoor potted orange tree.

Do I Need to Re-Pot My Orange Tree?

If you didn’t start your orange tree out in a 20-gallon or 18+ inch container, you’ll likely need to repot it in a larger container. Additionally, if you think that your orange tree isn’t getting the nutrients it needs, repotting it every two to three years will be of use.

Just make sure you follow the exact same steps listed above each time you repot your orange tree. If you decide that repotting your orange tree is necessary, the best time to do it is in the spring.

Where to Get Potted Orange Tree Supplies

A potted orange tree.

From the orange tree itself to the soil and fertilizer you use, you can get everything you need at Nature Hills Nursery.

When to Harvest Your Oranges

You can tell when your oranges are ready to harvest by the way they look. They should have a shiny orange color and be full-grown, plump, and juicy.

A woman holding picked oranges.

Orange trees take a long time to produce fruit, so be patient. Depending on your variety, it may take three to five years for it to produce fruit and an additional half a year for the fruit to ripen.

Final Thoughts About Growing and Caring for Potted Orange Trees

A potted calamondin as part of a windowbox holiday decoration.

As you can see, planting outdoor potted orange trees is a bit of a chore, but it’s well worth it in the end. For more information about growing and caring for orange trees and the different kinds to choose from, check out our Orange Trees page!