When to Fertilize an Orange Tree

Have you ever dreamed of having an pretty orange tree of your very own, with scented blossoms in the springtime and sunshiny fruit in the wintertime? You may have figured it was out of the question unless you live in Florida or California, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s true you should live in USDA growing zones 8 to 11 if you want to plant a Navel Orange Tree in the ground, but many orange tree varieties (particularly dwarf varieties) can be kept in containers that can be moved indoors when the temperature drops.

Orange Trees in Containers

If you want to grow an orange tree in a pot, a navel orange tree is a good way to go. Self-fertilizing and seedless, the classic navel (a product of the Washington Navel Orange Tree) is arguably the world’s most popular orange. When kept in a container, the dwarf orange tree height stays anywhere from four to eleven feet (on the shorter side of you prune it occasionally). You can even keep your tree indoors most of the time if the conditions are right!

You can find both a regular and dwarf variety of the popular Washington navel Orange Tree for sale at Citrus.com, as well as other orange varieties.

Growing Navel Oranges

Growing navel oranges in pots is surprisingly simple, so long as you follow a few cardinal rules:

  1. Sunlight. A good rule of thumb with orange trees is this: the more sunlight, the more flowers, and the more flowers, the more fruit, so make sure you keep your orange tree in a spot that sees at least six to eight hours of sun each day.
  2. Water. You want to keep your orange tree’s soil moist, but not soggy. For a new container tree, two to three times a week should work. You can help your tree retain moisture by adding 2-3 inches of organic mulch or compost around the tree (not too close to the trunk).
  3. Prune. Orange trees don’t really need to be shaped, but if you notice branches rubbing against each other, or branches that are broken, diseased or dead, you should remove them. Just make a 45° angle cut on the affected branches with sharp pruning shears.
  4. Pollinate. Citrus trees tend to be self-pollinating, but you can help increase your potted indoor tree’s fruit yield by collecting pollen from the blooms with the use of a small, dry, fine-tipped brush. Just stick the brush into the center of each bloom and swirl it around. Don’t wash the brush you use, and repeat the process once a day until the blooms have pollinated.
  5. Fertilize. Wondering when orange trees should be fertilized? You can start fertilizing potted citrus trees in early spring and stop in midsummer to allow your tree to prepare for winter. You can either use a slow-release fertilizer once a year in early spring or a liquid fertilizer every other week. Use a fertilizer labeled specifically for citrus (like Citrus.com’s own All-in-One Kits), or look for a fertilizer with twice as much nitrogen as phosphorous.

Keep in mind, too, that it’s best to give your tree some outside time when the weather allows for it. Not only will it beautify your patio, but it will soak up all that wonderful sunshine directly, ensuring that, when the orange season comes, you’ll have plenty of juicy, seedless, sweet and tangy oranges to enjoy!