It can be wonderful to pluck a juicy orange off your own tree. If your climate is right—hot summers and winters with temperatures that do not fall below 20 degrees—then there are varieties that you can grow and enjoy. You have many choices, between standard or dwarf varieties, late or early ripening varieties, or small to large varieties. All types do have some standard guidelines for care and maintenance.
Oranges need plenty of watering and uniformly moist soil, but fast drainage is also a requirement for all varieties. Newly planted trees need watering twice a week during the summer months and every other week once they are established. Water deeply, to a depth of approximately four feet, taking care to keep the trunk of the tree dry. Mulching is a good idea to help the soil remain moist.
Sunkist experts recommend that oranges get large amounts of “nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur and calcium." You can find commercial fertilizer made with these ingredients. Apply fertilizer three times a year, in late winter, in June and in August. Water well after applying fertilizer.
Heat requirements vary depending on the variety of orange grown. The most widely planted oranges, valencia (the orange for commercial juices) and navel both need high heat for best flavor. Mandarin oranges, or tangerines, need the most summer heat.
The biggest danger for all orange varieties is winter frost. One way for homeowners to protect oranges from frost is to plant them in containers and move them to areas sheltered from frost for the winter.
Orange trees do not require pruning, but if homeowners want to prune sparingly to improve the shape of a tree or to provide access to a path or patio, they can do so with no damage to the tree. Commercial growers frequently allow branches to grow very near the ground because fruit production is heaviest on the lower branches that get plenty of sunshine.
Oranges are susceptible to a number of different pests, such as aphids, mites and scale insects. One organic way to control these pests is by using certain beetles or wasps. Scientists at Purdue University reported that in one instance, 97 percent of blackfly pests were eradicated by using a parasite that naturally feeds on blackflies. These natural parasites may not be available to homeowners, who usually need to purchase commercial products from their local garden shops to discourage pests.