Citrus

Growing orange trees in pots

Last updated on March 30th, 2022

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Even though oranges are native to warmer climates, you can still grow an orange tree in your UK garden if you grow them in pots. The process does require the right type of orange tree, soil composition, and container, but when done correctly, you will be able to pick fresh oranges off your tree. This does mean you need to be prepared to move them into a heated greenhouse or indoors for winter to protect them from our cold weather.

Pick the right orange tree to give you the best start

It’s essential to buy an orange tree, one that is already slightly grown rather than trying to start a tree from seed. It is far too time-consuming for most people to try and cultivate a tree from seed than it is to simply buy one from a local nursery or garden centre. 

You also want to buy the right variety of orange tree. There are many varieties, and some get unusually large, which obviously won’t do well in a smaller container. Most trees will reach up to 10 metres (or taller) in their natural environment but this obviously won’t be the case when growing them in pots because it restricts their growth.

They need warm temperatures

Orange trees require temperatures that remain quite warm. If you live in an area with colder weather and you don’t have the space to support a tree this big, you can grow a variety that won’t get more than one metre tall, however, be prepared to grow it in a large pot.

Washington Orange Tree perfect for growing in containers

An Orange Mandarin tree, Trovita Orange tree, or Washington Orange tree are the three recommended varieties for growing in pots. 

Mandarin orange trees

Growing Mandarin trees, for example, affords you a tree that survives in slightly cooler temperatures compared to most orange trees, and a tree whose size permits you to move it indoors over winter easily, which is essential. A plus side to Mandarin trees is that they typically bear fruit within the first year so you don’t need to wait multiple years before you can pick your own fruit. 

Clementines / Calamondin

Clementines and Calamondins are other great options. They are smaller, straightforward to peel and are a hybrid that falls under the category of orange trees. They can grow up to 2.5 metres in height, but if you grow them in pots, they will typically stay smaller than that. The Calamondin varieties have very small fruits and are usually more ornamental because they get smothered in tiny oranges.

Bestseller No. 1
Established Blood Orange Citrus Fruit Tree in a 6L Pot
  • Pick your very own delicious fresh blood oranges and add a Mediterranean feel to your home or garden!
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  • The segments of this lovely variety are straked with deep red anthocyanin pigment and conatin high levels of anti-oxidants, they are among the finest tasting oranges of all!
  • Not only that, this superb tree will produce highly fragrant, white blossom during late spring and early summer, with wonderfully sweet, blood oranges ready for you to pick from October each year.
  • Supplied as an established plant in a 6L pot, approx. 100cm tall, growing to a height of 2m (6½ft) and spread of 1.5m (5ft).
Bestseller No. 2
Large Orange Tree in a 6L Pot
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  • Supplied as an established plant in a 6L pot, approx. 1M tall.
Bestseller No. 3
Pair of Large Orange and Lemon Trees in 6.5L pots with Free 150g Citrus Feed
  • Yes you can grow fresh oranges and lemons in the UK with these commercial-grade trees!
  • In winter and early spring your trees will be covered with super-fragrant blossom.
  • Fruits mature and ripen over a whole year or so.
  • Grow outside in the summer and bring indoors in winter.
  • Supplied as 3-4ft tall, fully mature trees with FREE 150g soluble citrus feed (Plants may not be the same height).

Choose a container that is slightly larger than the pot it is already in

caring for orange trees

Once you have the right variety, it’s essential you purchase the right container. If you don’t give your orange tree enough room to grow or adequate drainage, it will stunt the growth and this will reduce the fruit you receive, and in some cases cause your tree to die. 

You need to make sure the container you choose is made of the right material and that it is the right size. A good rule of thumb is to purchase a pot that is twice the size of the one your tree comes in from the nursery or garden centre. Effectively you want a pot that is twice the size of the root ball for the tree. 

The material matters. Orange trees will get quite heavy as they mature and combined with the amount of soil you need, the last thing you need is to add extra weight to the total size by picking a particularly heavy container. Plastic pots are very cost-effective, they are lightweight so you can easily move your tree indoors and outdoors during the winter, they are durable, and you can add more drainage holes if there are insufficient holes at the bottom, using nothing more than a drill.

Of course, some people want ceramic or wood over plastic if they don’t plan on moving the container regularly, or they are confident they will still be able to move the container. Wooden and ceramic pots offer a more substantial base that adds extra support against any wind and prevents the tree from being knocked over. This is a big plus for taller orange trees that are being grown more like a standard tree.


Planting your orange tree

planting citrus orange trees

As mentioned, you need a container that’s twice the size of the root ball because these trees grow very quickly. That being said, you will need to transplant them into slightly bigger pots every three years or so depending on how fast they are growing. When you transplant, you can use the same process you did planting the first time.

Use a mixture of John Innes Potting Compost mixed with 30% grit or buy a specialist citrus compost

Fill your new container to 75% of its capacity with potting soil. Only potting compost will have the right nutrient mix (such as John Innes potting compost) mixed with about 30% grit. Don’t use garden soil from the ground or raised bed soil because it doesn’t have the right nutrient mix, plus it can contain diseases and pests.

Place the orange tree in the centre of your new pot, then backfill the area around it with the remaining potting compost. You shouldn’t fill it any higher than the point where the stem meets the soil. 

Westland Citrus Potting Compost Mix and Enriched with Seramis, 8 L
  • This is a specialist blend that can be used by anybody who wants a strong and healthier plant that is provided with optimum water and nutrient availability.
  • The added SERAMIS granules do a fantastic job at regulating the plants water intake to ensure optimum water and nutrient availability.
  • This mix is loam rich to retain nutrients and for fruit development.
  • This 8L bag will fill a 28cm Pot.

Feeding and watering

Right after you plant your orange tree, apply a citrus fertiliser because this will help it to adjust quickly to its new environment. Water your tree for approximately 30 seconds so that the fertiliser can dissolve. You can repeat this process of watering once a week. 

You typically won’t have to water more than two or three times per week, even in the warm weather. If the soil in the container is dry to the touch on the surface, it means it’s time to water.

You can learn more about watering and feeding citrus trees in this guide by clicking here

Vitax 200g Citrus Feed for Summer
  • High nitrogen content is ideal for citrus plants
  • Discourages premature ripening, fruit drop and leaf discolouration
  • Apply weekly from April to September
Vitax Citrus Feed for Winter Soluble Plant Feeds,
  • Carefully balanced to maintain growth
  • Helps prevent premature leaf fall and discolouration
  • Apply weekly from October to March

Place it in a position where it gets lots of direct sunshine

Orange tree winter care

Your orange tree needs as much sun as possible. If you have placed it outside, make sure it is in an area where it gets between 8 and 12 hours of sun if possible. If your tree is indoors, place it near a window, where it gets as much sunlight as possible.

When you bring your orange tree indoors during the winter, it won’t get as much sunlight as it does in the summer and that’s just fine. Make sure you put it in front of a window where it gets as much light as possible.

Learn more about overwintering citrus trees in this guide.


General orange tree care

When it comes to maintaining your tree, make sure you water it properly. In addition to watering at regular intervals, you want to water in the evening or early in the morning to minimise evaporation and protect the leaves from getting burnt.

On an annual basis, you should fertilise the tree to help supplement any nutrients in the soil. Only fertilise when there are no flowers or fruit on the tree.

You can prune your tree to better fit the space you have or to help you fit it inside when you move it during the winter. Pruning will promote better tree growth which incidentally increases the number of oranges you get.

Repotting

As mentioned, you should transplant your container every three years or so, and again make sure that the new container is twice the size of the current root ball.

Harvesting oranges

When it comes time to harvest, you can pick the oranges off the tree when they are ripe. If you try to pull them off the tree where there isn’t any give and they are firm, they probably aren’t ready, but as soon as they are soft to the touch ever-so-slightly and come off the tree easily, it’s time to harvest. 

Remember, cold weather can damage your tree so try to keep it in an area that’s warm all year round. Too much water can lead to root rot so only water when the tree needs it. Similarly, darkness will kill your plant, so give it as much sunlight as you can find. 

Last update on 2022-03-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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