Tips to help you grow your own orange tree
Growing their very own orange tree is a dream of many gardeners. When your growing orange trees begin to produce fruit, you’re bound to feel lots of satisfaction when biting into their juicy flesh. The best of all – growing orange trees isn’t difficult at all. All you need to do is follow a few basic steps and you’ll have your own healthy tree, increasing its fruit production and enjoying the divine smell when it blooms. Here’s a short guide to growing an orange tree.
What to know before planting your first orange tree
If you’ve never planted an orange tree, you might be considering to start one from orange tree seeds. While some orange varieties come true from seeds, commercial growers behind sensations like Florida oranges tend to use trees which are grafted through a process of budding.
Seed grown trees might have a short lifespan – they’re more susceptible to foot and root rot. If they survive, they might never produce any fruit until maturity. And who is willing to wait 15 years to taste their own oranges?
Growing seedlings find their best use as scions of a graft union between them and a rootstock which tolerates adverse growing conditions. Fruit is produced from the scion and it will develop much more quickly on grafted trees than on those which are grown from orange tree seeds. If you live in an area of orange cultivation, try some of the local nurseries for purchasing a grafted tree.
Growing an orange from seed
If you’ve cut open the fruit and exposed the seed, you can remove it and wash off any fruit residue. Make sure to clean the seed that you’ve collected from fruiting bodies – those usually contain chemicals, such as ascorbic acid, which actively prevent seed germination.
Place your clean seeds in a glass of water. All seeds which you spot floating on the surface won’t be any good and you can easily get rid of them. Smaller seeds might rise to the surface because of air bubbles from the surface of the seed coat – this doesn’t mean they’re bad to use.
If you have seeds of different sizes you can discard those that look undersized with no hard feelings – they likely don’t have a large enough store of energy required for successful germination. Once you selected your seed, dry it off and store it in an envelope until planting.
Just like all citrus seeds, orange seeds have a natural dormancy period and will require some time in cold temperature to initiate germination. If you skip this step and they germinate without this cold period, it’s likely that your results will be poorer. The majority of citrus fruit are transported with the use of a cool-chain system, so most are already ‘pre-chilled’ before they reach you. If that’s not the case, you can place the seed in the vegetable compartment of your fridge and leave it there for a few weeks. Fold your seeds in a paper towel a couple of times, then place the wrapping in a plastic bag or sterile food container.
You can leave them in your fridge for a month, but they should be ready after three weeks. Now it’s time to pot your seeds. Soak them in water for a couple of hours and plant them into 2-3 inch pots. Sow one seed per pot. Make sure to use high-quality, free draining soil-based compost. Water your seeds and wait for them to spring forth.
It’s a good idea to keep your pots close to a source of heat – you’ll need at least 16 degrees Celsius. If you’re not sure where to put them, try a warm and sunlit position like a kitchen windowsill. Water your pots periodically to maintain the humidity in the compost. Make sure that it’s never waterlogged either. You’ll wait for germination from 4 to 6 weeks, but if it takes your seeds a little longer, don’t worry – sometimes it takes orange seeds several months to show up.
Once the seedlings emerge, you can leave them in their pots for 3 to 6 months. Observe how they develop and once they achieve the height of 4-5 inches, you can pot them in a larger pot with a new mix of compost. If you live in an area where the weather is mild and there are no frosts, you can place young orange plants outside to help them harden off.
Water them regularly and feed them with a water soluble fertilizer once a week. If you spot any yellow leaves, don’t panic – chlorosis is quite common. Use some acidic plant food and the problem should disappear. You can either tip out your seedling or allow it grow as it likes and take on its natural shape.
How to take good care of your orange tree
Whether you grew a tree from a seed or purchased a grafted one, now it’s time to learn how to take good care of your tree. This section will cover three important actions every gardener will undertake when taking care of a growing orange tree.
Watering orange trees generally depends on the climate and yearly rainfall totals, but as a rule of thumb gardeners water their orange trees on a regular basis in spring. They do it to prevent wilting and withholding of irrigation in fall.
When taking care of an orange tree, you should remember that water reduces the solid content of the fruit. Depth of planting will also impact on how much water you provide during your care. Growing orange trees usually need between 1 and 1 ½ inches of water per week.
Fertilization of growing orange trees again usually depends on the use of the fruit. If you’d like to grew oranges that are aromatic and have lots of oil in the peel, you can use an extra dose of nitrogen fertilizer. Potassium fertilizer will on the other hand decrease oil in the peel.
If you aim to grow edible oranges, apply 1 to 2 lbs. of nitrogen yearly to each tree for better productivity. Your fertilizer should include potassium, phosphorus and a range of micro-nutrients.
If your older orange tree produces little fruit, you can always take a soil test in the area where your tree grows to check what fertilizer ratio could help. Growers apply additional fertilization by spraying the leaves of the tree once or twice a year.
Pruning the orange tree for shape is not a must, but many do it for aesthetic reasons. It becomes necessary, however, if you find any branches which are a foot or less from the ground. Careful gardeners should also look for damaged or dying branches – once you notice them, feel free to remove them.
Growing and taking care of an orange tree is much simpler than many people think. With a bit of luck and proper care, you’ll grow beautiful trees and taste delicious fruit. If you’d like to grow an orange tree, there’s nothing stopping you from realizing your gardening dream.
About the author: Carol Williams is part of the team at Navel Oranges – fruit shippers from Florida. She is passionate about gardening and healthy living. She is also keen on writing and sharing her gardening knowledge and experience.