Find out everything you need to know on how to look after an orange tree. From citrus leaf drop causes to how often you should water and feed your tree you’ll find everything in our orange tree care guide.
How to Look After an Orange Tree
Orange Tree Quick Facts:
Hardiness: Not Hardy. Will need protection when temperatures drop below 10°C for most varieties.
Pollination: Self Fertile
Height and spread: approx 6ft maximum
Flowering: Year Round
Harvesting: Year Round
Orange trees aren’t originally native to the UK and were cultivated in China thousands of years ago. Now, oranges can be grown all over the world including Europe and North America. As the fruits are suited to warmer climates it is important to stop any exposure to frost or low temperatures below 10°C as this will cause damage to the plant.
The best way to grow orange varieties in the UK is to keep them in pots. This means they can be put outside in the summer from around June to September when it’s nice and warm but can easily be moved inside when the cool weather rolls around. Citrus trees prefer sunny, sheltered spots when they’re outside and bright, airy spaces indoors away from any central heating, conservatories and greenhouses are perfect.
Repotting your Orange Tree
In the first 12 months, your tree will need repotting into a larger container, the best time to do this is usually the spring. There aren’t any rules on how big the new pot should be but it’s always best to choose a deep one with drainage holes that will allow to tree roots to grow for at least another 1-2 years.
Some tips for repotting:
- We advise that you withhold water for a couple of days in advance to allow the soil to dry out slightly.
- Loosen the soil around the edge of the pot and pull the tree out by the base of the main stem.
- Add some extra soil to the bottom of the new pot before you insert the plant. We recommend John Innes number two or three.
- Fill in with a mix of soil and compost.
- Water the plant thoroughly, and keep it well watered for several weeks.
Your tree will then need repotting every few years as it grows and continues to deplete the nutrients from the soil. If you’re unsure whether your tree is ready for a new home or not just ask yourself some of the questions below:
- Does your orange plant look less healthy than it used to?
- Does it seem to dry out quicker?
- Are there roots growing out of the holes in the bottom of the pots or the top of the soil?
- Has the citrus tree been in the same pot for two years or more?
How to Feed an Orange Tree
Most citrus varieties need a constant supply of nutrients throughout the year as they are heavy feeders. It’s important that your tree is getting the right nutrients at the right time. We love the Vitax citrus feed which you can purchase on our website. Use the summer feed from April to September and then when the weather starts to get colder, switch to the winter feed. You can follow the simple instructions on the back of the packet.
Watering your Orange Tree
Orange trees don’t like to be waterlogged and will thrive in a free draining soil. Choosing a high-quality potting soil and making sure your tree is planted in a good sized pot with plenty of drainage holes. Citrus varieties also prefer good air circulation and a humid environment. To help with humidity you can place the pot on a large tray filled with pebbles and then fill the tray just below the gravel level.
Water the soil more frequently in the summer but make sure the plant is never standing in water, you can also help achieve a more humid environment by misting the leaves.
When the weather starts to cool off the growth of your orange tree will slow meaning it will need a lot less water than usual. To check if your tree needs watering you can check the first top inch of soil, if it feels medium to dry then it will need a good drink.
Where it’s possible always try to use rainwater when feeding your plants.
When is the right time to prune your Orange Tree?
Grafted orange trees grow more slowly meaning they will require very minimal pruning. If you do decide that your tree needs a bit of a trim then make sure to watch out for those sharp thorns!
For a late winter prune, you can remove any branches that are crossing over each other, unhealthy or broken. Then in summer all you need to do is pinch back to tips of the stems that are growing too long. This will limit their growth and encourage the fruiting side shoots to start growing.
Fruit and Flowers
Although oranges are evergreen they aren’t able to produce fruit as often as other citrus varieties like lemons and limes which are able to fruit up to 4 times a year. Oranges are limited to fruiting just once a year and can take 7-12 months to ripen but don’t worry, they’re definitely worth the wait! The trees we stock are self-fertile, meaning they don’t need another tree to produce any fruit. However, it’s sometimes a good idea to give a bit of a helping hand and dusting pollen from one flower to another with a soft brush or cotton bud. Transferring the pollen between the blooms will allow for a higher yield of fruit.
When the tree is smaller it is completely normal for some of the fruit to drop from the tree when it has set. This happens when the yield is too much for the tree to maintain. As it can take a while for the fruits to ripen, you will find that the tree will sometimes have both fruit and flowers on it at the same time.
When the temperature starts to drop and goes below 10°C, it is time to move your orange tree somewhere sheltered - an unheated greenhouse or conservatory is perfect. This will protect your tree from frost and extreme drops in temperature. If you don’t have a greenhouse or conservatory then your orange tree will be happy in any room that is bright, airy and away from all central heating.