Orange trees are tropical citrus trees that grow best in subtropical, tropical and Mediterranean climates. They grow up to 30 feet high and produce orange fruits that smell and taste sweet. Although orange fruits and juices are available in the market all year round, many home gardeners try to grow orange trees at home.
The most common way to grow an orange tree is by planting outdoors, which you can accomplish by planting seeds or young plants from the nursery. A seedling that grew from a seed may take up to 15 years to bear fruit and may not bear any resemblance to its parent plant. Due to these reasons, growing from seeds is not a preferred method of planting oranges.
Transplanting oranges bought from the nursery should be on the south or southeast side of the house. Orange trees prefer deep, well-drained soils. Loamy soils are ideal while heavy clays and poorly-drained soils will result in poor growth and production as well as shorter life. The trees should be about 3 feet high at the time of transplant. There should be at least 12 feet distance from other trees, house and walkways to allow adequate room for the tree to grow. Orange trees grow and produce best in full sun. Watering often during the growing season will ensure that the tree will thrive.
In colder climates, the best way to grow orange trees is using containers indoors. Choosing the smaller varieties, such as dwarf oranges, which can grow up to 5 feet tall, will ensure that your orange tree will not be too difficult to move around, especially if you plan to move the tree outdoors during warmer months.
Indoor orange trees need a warm, sunny room. They require five to six hours of sunlight. Feeding in the late winter, June and August with a high-nitrogen, acid fertilizer is necessary to produce fragrant blooms and fruits year round.
Overwatering, poor container soil drainage, increased salinity of container soil and lack of nutrients such as nitrogen, zinc or iron are conditions that may weaken the plant and make it more susceptible to insects and disease.
Growing oranges in espalier will give you added dimension. It is also an ideal way to grow orange trees if space is at a minimum. Espalier is a technique of growing trees into a two-dimensional flat plane by grafting, pruning and training. Developed in Europe in the 16th century, espalier helps orange trees grow in cooler climates, by growing them flat against a sunny wall.
A sunny location with a sturdy wall or fence is the ideal place to start. Adding a sturdy trellis or horizontal tensioned wires about 15 inches apart will ensure that they can hold the weight of the growing tree. Adding clips or ties will help train and hold the branches in place. Look at the tree from all angles before planting. Planting with the most horizontal branches to line up to the wall will provide best results. Pruning the unwanted branches will keep the tree flat.
Keeping the tree under control will take some care and time during the early growing season; therefore, always check and keep your trimmer (secateurs) handy. Palmette verrier, six grid, triple vertical U shape, fan and Belgian fence are some of the common espalier designs that you can use to grow your orange trees.