Growing Orange Trees

Thinking about growing orange trees? Even if you don't live in year round warmth, you can still enjoy these fragrant fruit producers by growing one as an indoor container plant. There are many varieties of orange trees available, each with different fruit characteristics and harvest times. 

Growing Orange Trees At Home
Variety: Sweet Orange Citrus sinensis
Zones: 9 to 11, grown as an indoor container plant elsewhere
Soil Type: Organically amended, sandy or well-drained soil
Soil pH: 5.5 to 7.5
Sunlight: Full sun

  • Availability: Sold as container grown starter plants. When buying plants, look for healthy, dark green foliage with no damaged or weak limbs.
  • When to plant: Although orange trees can be planted any time of the year except winter, your tree will fare better if it is planted in the spring.
  • Planting Method: Pick a site that gets plenty of sun and provides enough room (12' to 16') for your fully mature orange tree. Soil in the area must be well drained, as orange trees don't appreciate soggy roots. Dig a hole slightly shallower than the soil in the container and twice as wide as the container. Remove the orange tree from the container and loosen the soil around the roots. Place the tree in the hole and backfill about halfway-water to settle the soil. Fill the rest of the hole and water again, filling in any holes or depressions that form. Create a shallow watering ring around the perimeter of the hole to help retain water.
    Container plants can be planted in well-drained container slightly larger then the original container. Container plants should be kept in a south facing window during cooler months and can be moved outdoors during warmer months.
  • Watering: Orange trees need plenty of moisture while they become established. Water your orange tree every for or five days until new growth appears and then once a week. Watering should be slow and deep to allow for penetration of water into the root zone of the tree. Container grown orange trees should be water when the surface of the soil just becomes damp. When kept indoors, orange trees should be misted daily to maintain humidity.
  • Fertilizing: Orange trees should be fertilized lightly until they are well established. Feed orange trees with a high nitrogen or citrus-specific fertilizer in February, May and September.
  • Harvesting: Your orange tree will take three to four years to enter full fruit production. Fruit that appears in the first few years should be removed to allow your tree to concentrate its energy on the growth of roots and plant material. Different varieties of orange have different maturity times, but in general, fruit will be ripe when the color of the skin deepens and flesh taste firm and sweet.


  • Root Rot: Plant will yellow and wither from this condition. Root rot is caused by over watering or poor drainage. Make sure plants are placed in well-drained soil and understand the watering needs of specific plants.
  • Sooty Mold: Appears as a black powdery substance on the leaves of the plant. Sooty mold usually forms in the presence of aphids or mealy bugs. Mold should be wash from leaves with warm, soapy water. Addressing the insect infestation will limit the appearance of sooty mold.


  • Aphids: Small, soft-bodied insects that suck moisture from plants. Ladybugs are a great way to control aphids. Consider insecticidal soaps as an alternative to pesticides.
  • Thrips: These tiny, yellow or tan insects eat the pollen from plant blossoms. An infestation of thrips can lead to undersized or malformed fruit. Remove infected blossoms and treat plant with insecticidal soap.
  • Mealybugs: Tiny beetle-like insects with a white furry coat, mealybugs suck sap from a plant. Mealybugs secrete a sticky substance that promotes the growth of sooty mold. Treat the infected plant with insecticidal soap. Make sure to apply soap to the joints where leaves meet the branch-a favorite mealybug hideout.
  • Saving Seeds: Although orange seeds can be used to grow trees, it can take up to seven years for a seedling to reach the point where it can produce fruit.

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