Orange Trees – Grow Your Own Oranges in the UK

Orange trees originally come from China but have been grown in Europe and North America for over 100 years. Orange trees are now grown all over the world for their delicious and nutritious fruit. There are many varieties to choose from, including Jaffa oranges, Navel oranges and Blood oranges. Many orange trees along with other citrus fruit such as lemon trees and lime trees can be grown in the UK, under cover such as in a conservatory or greenhouse. They are not hard trees to grow in the UK as long as they are looked after properly.

orange tree in fruit against bright blue sky
Orange trees can be grown in the UK with the correct care.

About Orange Trees

As is the case with other citrus plants, such as lemon trees and lime trees, orange trees are best grown in pots.

They need some extra protection during winter so having them in pots means you can move them when required. Orange trees are a delight to grow and you will enjoy dark green leaves all year round as they are an evergreen plant variety (they don’t lose their leaves in autumn). Flowers are of delicate appearance, white in colour, with a fragrant smell. Oranges have so many uses and can be used to make jams, marmalades, sauces, smoothies, fresh juice, and curd.

Orange Tree Facts

  • The average height of a potted orange tree will be around 6ft.
  • Flowering can potentially occur all year round, and you will be treated to gorgeous fruit which can take up to 12 months to ripen. 
  • Once they are ripe, they can be eaten straight from the tree, or left on the branch until you’re ready to eat them. They retain their flavour this way, if you plucked them from the tree and stored them, their flavour would diminish.
  • If your space is modest you can buy a mini variety of orange tree which can grow happily on windowsills.
  • It’s important to pop your tree outdoors when the weather permits as they absolutely thrive from being outdoors on sunny days.
  • A group of orange trees is called a grove.

Growing Orange Trees

Orange trees cope well with the great British weather and are often grown more successfully than other citrus varieties. Carrying out regular annual tasks will ensure you get a good harvest and maintain the tree’s overall health.

Orange trees are best grown in a large pot full of rich, organic matter. They suit a well-lit position, free from draughts. For smaller trees, a windowsill is ideal. Larger plants will benefit from a humid greenhouse or conservatory environment. In the summer months, stand them in a dish of wet gravel or mist them with water every day to encourage humidity, and place them outside if it is warm enough – they love to be outside. A south facing patio against a wall is ideal.

Orange trees can tolerate temperatures as low as 4°C, so if you live in the south you may be able to keep them outside throughout the year. Cover them with thick layer of fleece, so any frost can’t get to them. During the summer months water them weekly, ideally with rainwater, and fertilise with a specialist citrus plant food or liquid seaweed.

Tips for Growing Orange Trees:

  • If kept indoors throughout the year, remove dust from their leaves regularly, so the plant can breathe.
  • Ensure temperatures in your conservatory or greenhouse don’t get too high.
  • Keep your orange tree away from radiators as they can put the trees under stress.
  • Keep them cool, but protected from frost during winter – this mimics their natural growing conditions.
  • Water less during winter but don’t let the pot dry out completely, and increase the amount in spring.
  • Check the soil before you water the tree – too much water can kill them.
  • Feed weekly during the summer with a special citrus tree fertiliser – this gives them all he nutrients they are used to absorbing in their natural conditions. An organic alternative is a seaweed solution.
  • Top up the soil in the pot every spring with fresh compost.
  • Prune branches to 10-15cm long in February to keep the tree compact and healthy.

When To Plant Orange Trees

You can plant your orange tree in a pot any time of year as long as you protect it during the winter by bringing it indoors or into a heated greenhouse. From June to September, you can pop it outside to soak up some sun.

Where To Plant Orange Trees

Orange trees are best grown as potted plants so you can move them around during the growing season. Indoors you can put your orange tree anywhere where it isn’t dark or in front of central heating. Oranges like airy conditions and small potted trees will grow well in sunny windowsills or conservatories.  Outdoors, somewhere sheltered yet sunny will be ideal so they can enjoy the warm sunshine and be protected from any winds. If you have a sunny south facing patio in a sheltered spot, your orange tree should grow very well. We would recommend placing the orange tree in a corner close to a wall for optimally warm conditions.

How To Prune Orange Trees

When your orange tree is about 12 months old you should start to consider moving it to a larger pot.  After this, every 2-3 years it will need repotting as it matures. Drainage holes are important when choosing your pot as they won’t fare well in wet, undrained soil. One reason for repotting is so you can add new soil which will be full of rich nutrients.

Grafted orange trees are slow-growing so pruning will be minimal. This is good news if you are new to the world of gardening. It’s best to wear some gloves while pruning as there will be sharp thorns on your tree. In winter when your tree is indoors, you can get rid of branches that crossover on each other. You can also remove any that are diseased or unhealthy looking. In the summer when your tree is outdoors you can pinch back the stems of your flowers which will encourage healthy growth.

Best Orange Varieties for the UK

Many orange varieties can be successfully grown and fruited in the UK climate. Oranges are a surprisingly hardly plant, and can cope with temperatures as low as 4c. Many robust orange hybrid varieties are being developed meaning the orange has a promising future in UK gardens.

Seville Oranges

Easiest Orange Plant To Grow in the UK

The Seville Orange (Citrus × aurantium) can tolerate a minimum temperature range of 3-5c meaning it can be grown outside in warmer areas of the UK. Seville oranges are a bitter orange variety, meaning most gardeners will use its fruit for producing marmalade. Commercially it is also used in the production of essential oils.

In the UK, it needs a full sun position in well drained soil if grown outdoors. In a greenhouse or conservatory use a loam based potting compost.

Navelina Orange Trees

Easy Care Eating Orange

Another firm favourite with UK citrus fruit gardeners is the Navelina Orange. This popular orange variety is a type of navel orange. It produces full sized oranges on a semi dwarf tree, making it a great plant for greenhouses or conservatories. It is easy to care for, and will produce fruit after around 12 months.

If you’d like to try to grow your own eating oranges at home, this is a great tree to experiment with. It will not enjoy centrally heated environments, so in winter it’s best stored in a conservatory or greenhouse.

Blood Orange Trees

Need a Little More Care

Blood orange trees produce deliciously sweet fruit with ruby red flesh. You’ll need to pay a little more care and attention to successfuly grow fruit with the trademark red flesh, but it’s very worthwhile. The distinctive red colour is produced by temperature differences, meaning you may need to move the plant between patio and a warm spot indoors. The effort is well worth it however, the satisfaction of growing such an exotic fruit at home will be immense.

How To Grow An Orange Tree From Seed

To grow seeds from oranges, you need to collect the orange pips and give them a rinse, ideally in tepid water. You can germinate them using a wet paper towel or you can plant. You need a pot with good drainage and then plant the pips about half an inch deep. The soil should be moist but not too wet. You can cover the pot with a plastic bag and pop it in a warm place. Once you see signs of sprouting you can take the plastic off and pop in a sunny location. Once the seedling looks good and strong you can pop in a new pot in your preferred location.

Orange Tree FAQ’s

Still looking for some extra tips to get the best from your orange tree? Read our FAQs below as we answer all those pressing queries.

How Big Will An Orange Tree Grow?

The average size of an orange tree is 1.8 metres (6 ft) and they can spread to 1.5 metres.

How Fast Will Orange Trees Grow?

Grafted orange trees will grow quite slowly but will need repotting every few years to allow plenty of space for the root growth. You can expect one to reach its full height by the time it’s 10 to 15 years old.

How Do You Pollinate Orange Trees?

You can transfer pollen by hand if you wish to pollinate your orange tree. Swab the ends of the flower stalks with a cotton bud or small paintbrush. Then transfer the pollen from one flower to another, effectively doing the work of busy insects.

Do You Need Two Orange Trees To Produce Fruit?

You only need one orange tree to produce fruit as they are self-fertile.

Can you grow orange trees in the UK?  

Orange trees can grow very successfully in the UK as long as extra care is provided for them during cold weather.

How to ripen oranges off the tree?

Ideally, oranges should be left on the tree until they’ve ripened fully as they don’t typically continue ripening once picked. It is believed the cold weather can help turn oranges into their proper colour.

Can you grow oranges in a greenhouse?

A greenhouse is a great location to grow oranges and get your tree to fruit successfully. You can also grow oranges in a conservatory, or on a sunny patio during summer months.


Orange Flowers and Fruit

Orange trees will normally flower in May, but if grown indoors they can flower at all times of the year, even December. They are self-pollinating (you will only need one tree to produce fruit) but very few of the blossoms will turn into fruit, and you will find that many of the young fruit drops from the tree at various stages of their growth. Misting the flowers daily, however, will prevent this from happening.

As the fruit develops it will get larger and larger, and start to turn orange around Christmas time. It is thought that the cold weather acts as a trigger for the colouring of the fruit.

Common Orange Tree Problems

Like many citrus trees, such as lemon and lime, orange trees can suffer from pests and diseases. It’s important to be aware of the signs of a problem so you can take appropriate action to protect your tree.

Orange Trees and Leaf Drop

Some leaf drop is normal but if large numbers of leaves fall check to see if the soil is too dry. Water well and mist the plant every day to increase humidity. Too much water can be fatal though, so if the compost is very moist, let it dry out before watering again. Make sure the tree gets plenty of light, as this can encourage the leaves to drop also.

Orange Trees and Pests

The most common pests to affect orange trees are aphids and mealy bugs. They will hide under the leaves and in the stems of the tree and suck out the sap from the leaves and the fruit. Mealy bugs leave little deposits all over the plant that look like cotton wool, and both pests will secrete a sappy substance, which covers the leaves. This can potentially kill the plant as the substance stops the leaves from being able to breathe properly, and a sticky black soot can form on them, preventing any light from reaching the leaves.

The best way to deal with aphids and mealy bugs is to wash them off the leaves and stems and regularly inspect the tree for signs of them. You will also need to sponge down the leaves to remove the sappy secretion and black soot, so they can breathe properly. If you do resort to chemical sprays you will still need to remove the pests from the tree and wash it down, so it’s easier to leave the sprays and deal with the problem naturally (this will also help the plant recover more quickly).

Pests are not very common on citrus trees, however, so you shouldn’t have too many problems. If you do have to deal with an infestation, all your hard efforts will be worth it when you get your first taste of a delicious orange, plucked straight from the tree.

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