Propagating Orange Trees
Orange trees can be grown from a seed or from a cutting from another orange tree. Many commercial growers choose to use a tree cutting to start a new orange tree because a cutting will create a new tree that is just like the old one. With an orange tree seed, there is no way to know exactly how the new tree will turn out. To get a crop that is cohesive, with oranges that are of comparable shape, size and taste, the trees are started by choosing a tree that has been a good producer and a hardy specimen. The cutting of the tree is then taken from the tree during the growth season, lasting from roughly April through November. The cutting should be about 8 to 12 inches in length.
Grafting the Tree
The top of an orange tree is the part that grows the oranges. The rest of the tree, the rootstock, can be grown differently from the top of the tree. The rootstock of the new orange tree is started by planting a seed. After the new tree is about a year old, the cutting taken from the hardy orange tree is grafted to the seedling. This is done by measuring about 6 inches above the soil and then cutting into the new tree. About an inch of the tree cutting is inserted under the bark of the seedling. Wrapping tape or string around the cutting slice will keep it in place and encourage the union of the two trees.
Growing the Top
The grafted portion of the tree grows upward, creating the orange-baring top portion of the tree. The rootstock tree must be trimmed to about an inch above the cutting slice once it has grown into a 3 to 4 inch tree bud. This keeps the seedling from growing the top portion of the tree.
Orange trees need soil that drains well and that is fertilized regularly. Some varieties of orange trees require insect pollination to develop fruit while others don't produce pollen or seeds. Most of the flowers that bloom on an orange tree will fall off the tree without ever having produced fruit. The ones that don't fall off will produce fruit anywhere from five months to 18 months after the flower appears.