How to Grow Oranges

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Days to germination: Seedlings are more typical
Days to harvest: 2 to 3 years
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Water frequently
Soil: Well-drained and fertile
Container: Many dwarf varieties available


Tropical citrus like oranges will only grow in warm areas, so you should be living in zones 9 to 11 in order to grow oranges in your garden. Southern United States, South America and various parts of Southeast Asia are ideal for growing oranges. Cool areas can still have fresh oranges if you grow a small tree in a container and keep it protected over winter.

There are many kinds of oranges to choose from, each with their own unique flavor. Navel oranges are good for fresh eating, and Valencia are usually grown for their sweet juice. Blood oranges are distinctly red inside and even produce a reddish juice.

Oranges are almost exclusively eaten fresh or juiced. The juice is used in cooking and baking, but the fruit itself seldom is. Oranges are famous for their vitamin C content, and they also have fiber, vitamin A and even calcium. Their fragrant peels can be used to freshen up a room in potpourri.

Starting Your Tree

While you can probably get a seed from a supermarket orange to sprout, you will not get a resulting tree that matches that type of orange. Not to mention you will have about 10 years to wait before getting any kind of harvest. Most people buy seedlings instead.

When you go to the nursery, you’ll probably find that most orange trees are grafted. The orange branches have been fused with the rootstock of another tree. Don’t let that deter you when buying. The oranges will produce true to form, depending on the top of the tree, not the bottom. Grafted trees usually start to produce fruit for you the quickest.

Depending on your variety, an orange tree can get between 12 and 30 feet tall and have branches that spread around 10 feet across. It’s important to remember the final size when you pick your tree location. Oranges will also need a sunny location with well-drained soil.

Dig the hole for your seedling large enough to hold the roots without having to bend or break any of them. Soak the roots before planting them and make sure the grafting union point is kept well above ground level. Keep your tree well watered through the first season.

Tree Care

Orange trees need a lot of water. If there isn’t regular rainfall in your region, prepare to give your trees a deep watering every week through the hot weather of the summer. Adding a thick layer of mulch around the tree will help keep moisture in the soil.

If you’ve grown other fruit trees, you’ll be happy to know that oranges are one of the few that you really shouldn’t prune. Let the tree grow naturally for the best fruit harvest. That also means that your tree will be much taller than a pruned tree. You’ll need a ladder to get the fruit from the upper branches.

Regular fertilizing is extremely helpful for heavy-feeding orange trees. Giving them a feeding with standard fertilizer mixes at least twice a year is typical. There are some fertilizer products available formulated specifically for citrus trees as well.


One of the great things about growing a miniature orange tree in a pot is that you can move it somewhere sheltered during the winter. That means you may be able to grow oranges in areas cooler than the usual zones. Your tree should be able to stay outside as long as the temperature (both daytime and nighttime) stays above 40F.

You can get just about any kind of orange in “dwarf” variety because they are usually just standard orange trees grafted onto dwarf rootstocks.

Use a large container that has very good drainage. They like water but not soggy roots. You will have to water your tree at least once a week if not twice. If the soil is dry for an inch on top, you should water again.

Pests and Diseases

Orange trees can be subject to a number of problems. One of the most common is scale, which is a brownish insect that looks like a round bump or scale on the branches of your orange tree. Some species of scale are almost transparent, making them nearly impossible to see. Not only do they slowly suck the juices out of your plant, they give off a sweet sticky substance themselves that attracts more insects and can cause mold growth too.

A spray of diluted rubbing alcohol can kill them, but most typical insecticide sprays won’t do much good because of their tough shell. A foliage cleaner spray is designed to help with scale. It makes your orange tree leaves slippery, and the scale tends to drop off.

Ants love the liquid they give off (its called honeydew), so if you see a lot of ants on your orange trees that is a good indication that you have a scale problem. The ants themselves don’t usually harm your tree.

Mites are another tiny insect that can cause big problems. Orange trees are susceptible to citrus rust mites as well as spider mites. They are very small, and look like fat little spiders. Mites can cause your leaves to curl and brown. You can spray your trees with dormant oil in the early spring to help kill them off, or use insecticide later in the growing season.

Harvest and Storage

Your harvest season will vary greatly depending on what variety of orange you are growing. Valencia oranges will ripen between March and June, but many navel oranges ripen after December. A new orange tree will usually start to produce a fruit harvest about 2 years after planting.

The fruit will turn completely orange and have lost their green when they are ripe. Taste one to make sure they are at their sweetest. Either clip the fruit from the stem or twist it off carefully so you don’t damage the rest of the branch.

You can store oranges at room temperature for up to 2 weeks with no problem. If you keep them in the fridge, don’t keep them in a plastic bag or they may mold.

46 Responses to “How to Grow Oranges”

  1. Jeannie  Says:

    I really enjoyed reading what I can do for my one and only dwarf orange tree. Can you put dried leafs for mulch or do you have to buy mulch? I am new to any type of landscaping and I live in Southern CA with a rock front and back yard. I think I have the ugliest front and backyard in the whole town. I am 71 years old and am trying to make our yards pretty.
    Thank you,

  2. terry  Says:

    i have a naval orange tree question 1 what kind of fertilizer do i use and it has some leaves that have a yellow or rust color on the under side of some leaves what can i do to make it not have that happen to it terry

  3. carol  Says:

    We have new green oranges that has black rust or mildew on it what causes that??

  4. Dan Loren  Says:

    What could you tell me regarding doing a larger planting such as 20 acres or more.

  5. Jack Van Eck  Says:

    I am in Savannah, GA. We have an orange tree which is loaded with green oranges. They don’t seem to be ripening. How long should I expect it to take them to ripen?

  6. Donna Vernet  Says:

    Our oranges are really, really sour. How can we make them sweeter?

  7. barry  Says:

    Hi……I have a valencia orange tree I planted last year, it’s about 6′ tall……should I remove all the oranges before the grow and ripen the first year so the future crops will be better?thank you, Barry

  8. Craig  Says:

    Our Naval Oranges have a thin skin and tend to burst open before ripening. Can you please explain? Thanks, Craig

  9. ron stone  Says:

    Should I remove the first blossoms from my new navel orange tree . some folks tell me it is the right thing to do and some say don’t. Thank You

  10. Jason  Says:

    We live in Phoenix, AZ and moved into a house about six months ago that has an orange tree in the yard. A few of the oranges have been the best oranges I have ever had, juicy and delicious. Most though (like 10:1) are dry inside and have no flavor at all. Any advice?

  11. diana  Says:

    I am in Ct. with a 7′ tree grown from a sprig in an envelope from Disney World in 1995. This year I got blossoms. Surprise! All other years only thorns. It is indoors in winter and I have fertilized it. But the flowers seem to be browning and dying. Some leaves are curling but are shiny. Could this be mites and what & where do I find dormant oil? I REALLY have waited for an orange! I don’t want to blow this season.

  12. Jason Mcgehee  Says:

    I planted my orange tree last year it did great all season. Now has nothing on it no leaves nothing. Is that normal? Thank you, Jason

  13. Stefani Eaton  Says:

    Hi there!

    I just moved into a house a few months ago in Central California, and was happy to find we have an orange tree! After moving in i went and picked a few and was sad to find out they were all sour! After looking up a few things online i have come up with they are either sour oranges great for marmalade or they went sour during the frost of winter.

    Recently i noticed little buds coming up on the tree, showing new growth (Im assuming anyways) Do i need to pick all the oranges that are still on the tree off? Or will they just slowly fall off on there own with the new growth?

  14. Mark  Says:

    I have an orange tree that produces lots of fruit. However, the fruit is dry inside and does not have much flavor. It is “pithy”. Any helpful suggestions?

  15. JOHN  Says:

    I have an orange with lots of Fruit fruit is dry and not sweet. It is a yellow navel orange tree

  16. Hugh Pearson  Says:

    no. 12 – Jason, for whatever reason, might I respectfully suggest that your orange tree is dead.
    Rgds, Hugh Pearson

  17. Ali Hamid Khan  Says:

    The oranges on my trees fall off prematurely. They can’t stay long enough to ripen. What should I do?

    How often should I fertilize orange trees and what chemical fertilizers should I use and in what proportion?

    Ali Khan.

  18. Mary Ann Padrta  Says:

    I have a blood naval orange When does the fruit
    ripen? I have orances with dry pulp.What can I do to have juice in my oranges?

  19. John m  Says:

    My Washington dwarf orange naval tree gave me
    six oranges last year and it has ten little oranges
    The leave are turning yellow and I don’t know why.
    Is there something I’m not doing?

  20. mike petschen  Says:

    i bought a seedling in florida live in minnesota have it indoors will i ever have any oranges it is 4 years old

  21. sandra smart  Says:

    Hi, we live in southern Spain and have got a standard orange tree in a large container. Last year we had 5 oranges which were very good and this year no blossom but the leaves are very sticky underneath and curling a bit. Advice please on how to deal with this

  22. Tony Q  Says:

    I have a question: I just bought a Valencia Orange tree from a local nursery and have my gardener planted it already. It is about 6 ft to my house in the sideyard. However, the label tag says it is a standard size tree and the tree size is 15-25 ft. Spacing is 15-20 ft. The tree is still small. So it is OK for now. However, my question is whether 6 ft is far enough to my house consider when the tree becomes mature? if not, what should I do? I am concerned that if we don’t leave enough space to the house, when it has grown up, the tree root would hurt my house foundation.

  23. Administrator  Says:

    Mike PEtschen… maybe. It needs warmth and especially sun, in MN you’re pretty far north… Outside of a greenhouse where it’d absolutely get as much sun as nature can provide at your latitude I’m not sure it would fruit. If it is just indoors near a window it probably will not.

  24. Administrator  Says:

    Tony Q, move it. Fruit trees do not get large and are unlikely to harm your foundation (they don’t develop those concrete lifting roots like say an Oak), but 6 feet is still too close to the house. Try 10 feet, and move it now, moving it later will only be harder and stress the tree out more.

  25. Paul Duimstra  Says:

    Why are my oranges turn out dry? We water every day because they are in pots, we bring them in every winter. They are 30yrs old and produce fruit all the time. We don’t have any problem with the lemon trees

  26. jerry blackwell  Says:

    this is my 1st orange tree. it was a red naval they are falling off now and are not sweet at all. I live in Tallahassee, FL. what am I doing wrong

  27. jerry blackwell  Says:

    I have a naval orange tree it is sub post to be red it is orange and very bitter. What am I doing wrong

  28. pamela carrasco  Says:

    our tree gives us lots of navel oranges but some skins are thick and some are so thin we can’t hardly peel them. What are we doing wrong?

  29. Tobias Onweng, Araki Village, Dokolo District, Northern Uganda  Says:

    Thanks for the information on Growing Oranges. I found it practical and useful. I did not, however get how the orange seedlings should be spaced.

    Tobias Onweng

  30. Doug Wootten  Says:

    Why do so many of my leaves drop orr each year
    My tree is a navel draft

  31. Lourdes Bernarte  Says:

    I am in the philippines. I have an orange tree. It bear big fruits but it is dry inside. We have been watering it diligently. Can you please give an advice how I can prevent the dryness inside of the fruit. Thank you.

  32. ashton ryan  Says:

    if i just got some red orange seeds out of some oranges how long should i leave them in the sun to dry out before planting them in my yard

  33. H cumming  Says:

    Bought oranges at fruit stand in Georgia end of Feb 2015″
    We cannot peel them, skin thin and hard, are theynot fresh oranges? Unfortunately we brought home a large bag and wish we had not spent the money.
    They were guaranteed to be fresh!!!
    Waiting you reply

  34. azra  Says:

    I found a plastic wire under the ground can i plant the small orange tree over it

  35. David Daines  Says:

    I have 2 orange trees 1 navel & 1 valencia and they both only produce very small and bitter oranges. When I planted them about 6 years ago they had really sweet & large fruit but after then nothing but small & bitter fruit.
    What can I do to resolve this

  36. tina carroll  Says:

    We live in Alabama is it a good idea to grow oranges here

  37. Administrator  Says:

    Does it ever freeze where you are? If not, sure go ahead.

  38. J_R_S  Says:


    This often happens as the individual tree becomes accustomed to the state of the soil it has been planted it. First thing to do is check the soil ph… it can be only slightly acid and should not be way over into the alkaline side. A “neutral” to slightly ph is best.

    To adjust ph, do the research and apply the appropriate minerals by carefully cultivating the top 1 to 2 inches and working it in.

    This process takes time, but will be worth it. In addtion, you can research and try mineral supplements and make sure you are fertilizing on the proper schedule for your types of trees (schedules available all over the internet).

    Water your maturing trees deeply, but not too often… every two weeks or so should work in all but the hottest, driest climates (or if you have very sandy soil that doesn’t hold water. If that’s the case also start working ph-neutral organic matter into the top soil so that at least it retains some moisture.

    Finally, the old reliable technique: Look for other people in your area who are growing the same type of tree and seem to be having success — introduce yourself and your problem to them and ask them for tips.

  39. Ellen Cox  Says:

    My orange tree has always had delicious fruit until this year. There are a lot of oranges as usual but this season the oranges are still very green and has brown coloring on 3/4 of the rind and they are not getting big (usual size – large). I have been researching and it might be sunburn. Never heard of this in all my years of having this tree. If so, can the fruit eventually grow normal size and the right orange color and taste good or should I just pick them and toss and hope next year will be normal?

  40. Helen  Says:

    Just planted a dwarf lemon tree at home. Looking forward to see it grow and thrive. Thank you for the great guide!

  41. Linda Guess  Says:

    I have a navel orange tree that is one year old. It has tiny green oranges all over the tree but they are falling off. Does the tree have to be a certain age before the oranges will stay on the tree?

  42. betty k.  Says:

    I have started several small lemon trees from seeds and am about to plant some orange seeds. My question: Living in zone 7b we have trifolate oranges. I believe I read a long time ago that you can use this to graft.Do you know if this will work and make the tree hardy in my zone or will I still need to bring it inside in winter?
    Thank you!

  43. Administrator  Says:

    Hardiness doesn’t work like that, in a cold temp if the grafted tree is itself not cold hardy it would die back to the graft.

  44. Joan Mitchell  Says:

    Hi: I planted my small tree about 2 years ago;I bought it at Lowes, but I am only getting oranges on the bottom, thicker, wider leaves. It looks almost like 2 different trees. I got maybe 6 oranges the first time and looks like about 20 this time. I have tried to keep it fertilized and watered and its over 9 ft tall and getting wider. Is there any advice you can give me; to get the fruit to grow on the entire tree or does it just take time to do. Thank you, Joan

  45. Administrator  Says:

    Fruits form on different branches depending on the type of tree. Primary branches are the first level off the trunk, then secondary, then tertiary, many only fruit on tertiary branches (though I’m not sure off the top of my head which sort of branch oranges fruit on).

    So that could be it.

    You could also be having a graft issue where one portion of your tree is growing from the graft appropriately, but the rest is from the rootstock and is not a fruiting variety.

    It could also be an issue with pollination where your pollinators are not reaching high enough for some reason.

    IF it is a young tree my guess is it is the branch issue. The top the of the tree hasn’t yet formed the branches necessary to support fruit.

  46. Kelvin h  Says:

    I live in Texas, I planted a naval orange tree that i got from a gardener. The tree is 1 1/2 years old it grow two oranges last year this year it did not grow any. On one side of the tree the branches appear to be drying out. Does that mean my tree is dying.

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