What’s breakfast without a side of cool and refreshing OJ? Whether cut up into quarters for a quick snack, freshly squeezed into juice, or baked into a dessert, oranges are such a versatile and delicious fruit to be enjoyed all year round.
Orange trees have been enchanting our gardens for years. Even Frank Sinatra says that orange is the happiest colour! It’s no surprise that many gardeners want to grow their own oranges, especially with the promise of a sweet (and tangy!) reward.
Luckily for us, orange trees are not too difficult to grow. With the right guide, you can have your own fresh supply of sweet oranges in no time!
Types of Orange Trees
You might be surprised to know that there are over 400 orange tree varieties in the world! In Australia, some of the most popular variations are Navel, Valencia, and Blood Orange.
The Navel orange is well-known as the most common orange found in supermarkets. They’re sweet, juicy, and a fantastic type of orange to grow at home! Because of the different varieties of navel oranges, you can harvest oranges almost all year round. Navel oranges also have dwarf varieties that grow to approximately 1.5m, which are easier to maintain and perfect for growing in pots.
The Valencia orange is the best orange variety for most places in Australia. They usually produce seedless orange and are sweeter than most other oranges in cooler areas. Valencia orange trees are fast-growing, hardy, and capable of holding the fruits well even months after they ripen.
Blood oranges are a bold favourite with their red patterned fruit and uplifting sweet-tangy flavour. They are easy to take care of and is vigorous in growth. Blood orange trees best produce fruit in winter and early spring. The blood orange cultivars available in Australia include ‘Maltese‘, ‘Harvard‘ and ‘Ruby Blood‘.
How to Grow Your Own Orange Tree
1. Choose where to plant your tree
Much like any other citrus tree, orange trees prefer well-drained soil with maximum sun exposure. Make sure that you choose a sunny spot for your tree with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
2. Enrich the soil
Orange trees prefer deep, well-draining soil like sandy loam. Improve the soil by incorporating compost and a few buckets of gypsum if the soil is heavy or clay-based. Fork these in well.
3. Dig the planting hole
The planting hole should be twice as wide as the container and roughly the same depth as the root-ball.
4. Plant the orange shrub into the hole
Remove the tree from the container and gently tease the roots so they are orientated out in different directions. Cut away any spiralled or tangled roots as these can affect the tree’s growth. Place the tree in the hole and backfill with soil by gently firming it down.
5. Form a raised ring around the plant
Create a well in the soil with the raised ring in order to direct more water where it’s needed the most.
6. Water your tree
Watering your tree well can help get rid of any air pockets in the soil. Continue watering once or twice a week depending on the weather.
7. Feed your tree with fertiliser
Continue to grow your tree by feeding it three times a year (in early spring, summer, and autumn).
The Basics On Citrus Trees
A few weeks after planting and for the first few years, feed the tree with a balanced fertiliser. For newly bearing orange trees, encourage more branch and leaf growth by providing additional nutrients through citrus blend fertilisers. This is especially important to replace the nutrients lost by fruit forming.
Citrus leaf curl is a sign that something is wrong with your plant. This can be due to a disease present, incompatible weather, over or underwatering, or an insect infestation. Thankfully, this can easily be treated by pruning or adjusting the amount of shade or water for your plant.
Common Pests/Diseases And How To Treat Them
Understanding the risks as well as following the correct treatment procedures are essential aspects of caring for your orange tree. Some of the most common diseases that affect citrus trees in Australia are:
How to treat aphids: Spray cold water on the leaves of your citrus tree to dislodge them. Most of the time, they won’t be able to make their way back to the tree. If it’s already a major infestation, dust the plant with flour and spray the leaves with a mild solution of water and dishwashing soap the day after.
How to treat mites: Spray horticultural oil on the plant. This is safe to use even in sensitive areas. Another advantage of using horticultural oil is it helps beneficial insect species compared to other chemical alternatives.
Root and Crown Rots
How to treat root and crown rots: Cut away all the diseased tissue and leave the trunk area open. Let it dry and put fresh soil back in late autumn. If the infection isn’t too severe, you can also try to use certain fungicides.
Fungal Leaf Spots
How to treat fungal leaf spots: Apply a fungicide wash containing copper sulfate ideally twice a year (in spring and autumn). Follow the label directions for the correct ratio of water to fungicide.
How to treat fruit flies: Select and use a fly trap that is appropriate for the species troubling your citrus tree. Hang these near your trees and among the fruits. Avoid using pesticides.
More Oranges, Please: The Secret To Better Fruit Production
Orange Tree Seeds Vs. Grafts
Maturity is the most common reason why orange trees won’t bear fruit. Grafted orange trees can take 2-3 years to fruit, while those grown from seed can take at least 10 years.
Growing from seed may be more satisfying for some gardeners. However, it’s actually considered to be a less than ideal way of growing fruit trees.
Grafting involves using the DNA from an already mature tree and using it for a younger tree. On the other hand, you’re starting with brand new DNA if you grow from seed. This means that grafted trees can start fruiting much quicker since they’re already genetically developed.
There are two vital aspects to growing sweet and juicy oranges: water and sunlight. Full sun is needed to photosynthesise sugar for the fruit, while water makes the orange juicy. Without these two, your orange tree won’t be able to produce fruit or it will end up small and sour.
In terms of sunlight, it is relatively easy to provide as long as you plant the tree in a sunny area. To provide enough water, we recommend deep watering.
Deep watering is watering for longer periods, but less frequently. This encourages your plant to grow deeper roots to access deeper water tables. Doing so makes your orange tree more self-sufficient.
Failing to practice deep watering creates an orange tree that has shallow roots and is highly dependent on receiving water from your watering routine. If you miss a watering session a couple of times, the tree can start to die.
Dealing With Nutrient Deficiency
Part of being a responsible tree owner is learning about the most common nutrient deficiencies to help your plant thrive.
The most common deficiencies are:
You can identify if your citrus tree lacks any of these nutrients if its leaves turn yellow or if they fall off completely. Citrus trees are evergreen, so they aren’t supposed to lose their leaves – even during autumn, as most fruit trees do.
If your orange tree has a nutrient deficiency, it will go into survival mode, focusing only on the more vital functions. The tree won’t be able to produce fruit because it will prioritise foliage and water conservation.
Most orange trees are self-pollinating. This means that you generally don’t have to help your tree to pollinate to increase fruit production. However, your orange tree can still benefit from cross-pollination. Boosting pollination can get more flowers fertilised and produce more fruit.
Here are common ways of promoting pollination:
- Attract more pollinators
- Plant more citrus trees
- Pollinate by hand
Anyone would love to have sweet and beautiful oranges for a refreshing snack. You’ll be able to grow and take care of your orange tree with this simple guide! However, if you’re nervous about growing your own tree or the process doesn’t sound too ap-peel-ing, you can get in touch with a professional gardener to help you out.