How to Grow and Care for a Dwarf Orange Tree

Dwarf Orange Tree

Quick Overview

Plant Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Rutaceae
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Watering: Regular watering
Colors: Green leaves, orange fruits
Size: From 6 feet to 12 feet tall.
Hardiness Zones: 8-11 (USDA)
Soil Type: Well-structured, with good drainage
Soil pH: 6 -7.
Propagation: Semi-hardwood cuttings
Toxicity: Non-toxic. Animals recoil leaves

Dwarf orange trees have opened up the doors to people who always wanted homegrown fruit but didn’t have enough space. It is true, now you don’t need a big yard to grow your own citrus trees. They can grow inside or outside in a large planter pot. These trees do require a little effort on your part though. So if you have a little time and can handle a loose schedule, growing a dwarf orange tree will add fragrance, color, and edible fruit no matter where you live.

Whether you are an amateur or experienced gardener growing your own dwarf orange tree is rewarding and not too much work. Buy a young tree that is already at least a little bit established. If you buy seeds it will take a long time before you see growth and years before you can pick your own fruit. Your tree craves lots of sun! 8 hours a day. They also like food and water but not too much. If you fertilize on a schedule and keep the soil damp so the fruit will be sweet and juicy. Follow these few steps and you will be picking oranges off your very own tree!

Check out more details on the things you need to keep in mind when growing your tree and you will be an expert in no time.

Dwarf Orange Tree

About your Dwarf Orange Tree

Dwarf orange trees are part of the dwarf citrus tree family that also include lemons and limes. They were grafted into smaller rootstock to stunt their growth. Their height is only about 3 to 8 feet, perfect for a sunny spot inside, on a patio, or in a small yard. Yes, that may seem tall but a full size tree outside grows to at least 18 to 22 feet in height.  Having a dwarf is beneficial because you get full size citrus on a small tree. This means now you can home grow fruits in any size yard or home. Thank you to who figured out how to create these smaller versions of citrus trees.

Read also: How to Grow and Care for a Pineapple Plant

kumquat

How to grow your Dwarf Orange Tree

Growing your tree is pretty low maintenance. It has some preferences but nothing that will take up much time. If you want fruit sooner buy a young tree rather than seeds. Growing from seeds will take about 3 years before you have fruit to eat. No matter where your tree is, it likes sun. So plant it outside, in a container, or inside near a window with the maximum amount of sun exposure. Then keep the soil moist, well drained, and fertilize regularly. With these steps you will have homegrown fruit which is always tastier than store bought. 

Propagating your Dwarf Orange Tree

Once you have a thriving tree if you want more, propagate it from softwood cuttings rather than seeds. What are softwood cuttings? They come from branches that are not brand new or too old and dried out. You can tell if a branch is a good candidate to cut from when they snap if you bend them. New ones just bend and ones that are too old are brittle. Once you find the right aged branches and cut them take the lowest set of leaves off. Then plant in a small pot with potting soil & fertilizer. Place the pot in a sunny window. If you attempt to grow more trees from your own seeds you will probably not get any fruit.

Dwarf Orange Tree

Dwarf Orange Tree varieties

The Dwarf orange tree is one of the varieties of the Dwarf citrus and there are many types within this subset. Some are the following:

  • Calamondins are fragrant and produce fruit year round. They are a hybrid of a mandarin and kumquat. Their intriguing texture and scrumptious sweet and sour flavor are a favorite.
  • Tangerines are also a mandarin hybrid. Their fruit is sweet and the peel is firm. Have patience with these ones as it takes up to 1 ½ years for fruit.
  • Clementines are a favorite with kids because they are small and easy to peel. Plus, they are almost seedless. You can catch their sweet scent as you walk by.
  • Owari Satsuma are perfect seedless options for colder climates.  These trees are often grown in the southern United States.
Dwarf Orange Tree

Caring for your Dwarf Orange Tree

Watering and Pruning

Some water but not too much make your tree happy. You want to keep the soil of your dwarf orange tree moist although not soaked. If they sit in water the trunk starts to rot. Also, if you let the soil dry out too much you may get oranges that split from dehydration. Then your homegrown fruit will lose it’s deliciousness. It is a balance but not a difficult one. Stay on a watering schedule for your tree to keep the moisture consistent and grow fruit that is juicy.

Yes, prune your tree! Dwarf orange trees are not all that “dwarf” at all. If you don’t want a 10 foot tree prune them to control the height to what works for your space.  Also, cutting off all dead branches and thinning the plant to the 3 strongest trunks will help it thrive. Plus if you want to help your plant grow strong pinch the flowers the first year. This will prevent it from producing fruit just that first year and it will use all its energy to grow. Pinching the first year is  not required, although if you do the following years your tree will have more oranges.

Soil and Fertilizer

Dwarf orange trees are a little particular about where their roots are buried. They can handle a variety of soils but the most important rule is that it is well drained. Organic matter is their favorite. If you are up to the challenge of creating your own soil mixture include sand, peat moss, vermiculite, and non manure compost. Also a ph level of 5.5 to 6.5 is best for them. If it’s anything outside this you may see nutrient deficiencies.

Your trees will appreciate fertilizer on a regular basis. Give them the food they want and you will have stronger and healthier dwarf trees than if you only water them. When they are growing, in warmer weather, fertilize them a couple of times a month to help them along. Winter, requires less food; more like every 4 to 6 weeks. One important factor is to keep the fertilizer off the leaves so they don’t burn in the sun. It only goes on the base of your orange tree and soil surrounding your plant.

Dwarf Orange Tree

Light

Dwarf orange trees are sun worshippers. Plant your tree in the sunniest part of your yard or right in front of a southern facing window if it is inside. Give them at least 8 hours of brightness. If you don’t they may not produce fruit and isn’t that the reason you have the tree? To get homegrown fruit.

Harvesting

The exciting part of owning a dwarf orange tree is harvesting the fruit you’ve spent time caring for. They start off green and turn orange when ripe. Yet, that is not a the only indicator of their readiness. You can also look for a waxy shine on the rind and squeeze to feel if the skin has softened a little. Although, the best way to tell is to pick one and taste it. Clip or twist it off to prevent damage to the branch. If it is ripe you can pick the rest and enjoy. If it is not ripe leave the fruits on the tree and wait until they are fully ripe before you pick anymore. Why you ask? They do not continue to ripen or get sweeter once you pick them. When you do pick them you can store the ones you don’t eat right away at room temperature for about 2 weeks.

kumquat

Pests

This sweet smelling, fruit bearing orange tree attracts many pests. Aphids, spider mites, scale, and more like to enjoy your dwarf oranges as much as you do. You can control these better if your tree is inside. If you don’t want them around, and we are sure you don’t, spray dormant oil in the early spring. Then you can spray new growth with a horticultural spray.

Takeaways

Dwarf orange trees you to grow your own fruit even if you live in cramped quarters. When starting off buy an established tree in a container as seeds will take many years to grow into a plant you can harvest fruit from. They like consistent moisture in their soil but not soaking wet. A watering and fertilizing schedule makes it easy to ensure they thrive. Pruning is needed, but not difficult, to keep the size right for your space. Plus, importantly noted, an abundance of sun keep these trees happy and healthy.  Whether you are a new or expert gardener, you can enjoy the sweet smell and satisfying taste of home grown fruit.Are you ready to grow your own oranges? The task is not hard and is immensely rewarding. Share this article with your friends and you can all become avid citrus growers.