Orange trees are blossoming, fruiting trees that can add color, fragrance, and sweetness to any home or office setting, as well as delicious fresh squeezed orange juice to the breakfast table. Orange trees are a varietal of citrus trees, and can be grown either from seeds or from grafts, shoots cut from an existing tree. One interesting fact about orange trees is that at maturity, the top of the tree is nearly always of a different varietal than the bottom of the tree. This is why growing an orange tree that is identical to a mature tree is not an exact science, although using grafts rather than seeds for greater control is preferred by commercial growers.
Orange trees in nature can grow to heights of up to 50 feet, and will produce long narrow green leaves and lovely clusters of white blossoms prior to fruiting. Blossoms cluster in packs of four or five or six sweet scented blossoms. In order for an orange tree to begin to produce oranges, these blossoms must be fertilized by bees or butterflies or other friendly garden denizens. Once fertilized, it can take between half a year and a year and a half for fruits to form. The length of time depends in large part upon the specific varietal of orange tree as well as water, soil, and fertilizer conditions. Fruits will first appear small and yellow and will only later turn their trademark orange color. Fruits may be seeded or unseeded depending on the varietal of orange tree.
Only approximately five percent of blossoms require fertilization in order for the tree to be able to produce a full crop, which is protective of the tree since most of the blossoms do fall off without fertilization happening, and if every blossom was fertilized the tree would snap under the weight of the crop. When an orange tree reliably produces blossoms but no oranges appear, the issue at hand is most likely inadequate fertilization, or no fertilization. Fertilization is usually done by bees or butterflies, but in their absence can be done by hand. When fruit does not appear after flowering, hand fertilization can be done by using a very small paintbrush or a cotton q-tip to swab the bloom's center with pollen. This should be done very early in the day for best results.
When pollination has been achieved but fruiting still is not observed, growing conditions could be at fault. Orange trees require adequate humidity, a particular concern for trees grown indoors. Trees also require adequate watering and fertilization. Soil should be moist but standing water or wet soil should be avoided for best results. Avoid pruning, as this can impact an Orange tree's ability to produce flowers and fruits according to its growing cycle. Orange trees also require access to plenty of natural direct sunlight in order to flower and fruit, and temperatures should not drop below 50 farenheit and should ideally stay in the subtropical range.
Understanding your orange tree will help you maintain it's health and vitality so it stays part of your garden or backyard for a long time to come.