indoor orange tree questions: fruit, soil, etc...

eggenaMarch 18, 2007

I have two small orange trees growing in pots in my home. I have no idea what kind of orange trees they are....I started them from seeds in a summer school class that I took when I was 11. I am now 24, so I guess that makes the trees 13 years old. My main question is whether or not the trees will ever produce fruit? I read somewhere that trees grown from seeds may not ever produce there any way that I can make them grow fruit? Or should I just assume they never will? Also, what kind of potting soil would be best? I recently repotted them using miracle grow potting soil...will that be sufficient? Should I add any sort of nutrients or sand to the soil? Obviously I am not exactly well versed in the ways of citrus growing, so any advice anyone could give me would be very much appreciated. Thanks!

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bencelest(z9 CA)

Citrus trees will bear fruit when they satisfy the node count they grew,that is how many leaves they have grown in the branches. It varies from the variety. On top of my head something like 350 counts. If you are pruning your tree, then you maybe right it will never produce fruit. 13 years old should most citrus bear fruit already.
Yes miracle grow potting mix as is is not very good can easily compacted and retain water too much possible of root rut. Good to add perlite, vermiculite, pine bark, BB size sand and slow release fertilizer like osmote and mix well together and you have a nice potting medium.
Your plant will appreciate it.
Very exensive to buy all of those but you can remove one or two ingredients if you must.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 9:56AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Even by adding a large amount of perlite and bark fines, you can turn (that awful) Miracle Gro into something useful. Chicken grit (from the feed store) works as a terrific amendment, too. Your tree will benefit from the addition of components that offer porosity, aeration, etc., and that will not collapse and turn into muck.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 11:07AM
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Eggena, most every tree nursery uses the same potting formula, and that is 1 part bark, 1 part coarse sand, and 1 part peat moss. In answer to your blooming and fruiting question, the answer is yes, your tree will begin to bloom and then produce fruit when it reaches maturity. As Mr. Bencelest wrote above, maturity will occur when your orange tree finally reaches the required node count. The required node count is no where near 350, but probably somewhere closer to 30,000 to 50,000 nodes. Normally an orange grown from seed takes 10-15 years to begin producing fruit when grown in an outdoor warm climate such as California or Florida, longer when grown as a container tree indoors. It is very important not to prune a citrus, as pruning will greatly delay the tree from every reaching the required amount of nodes, thus from ever fruiting.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 4:07PM
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Thank you all very much for your advice! I am heading to the greenhouse to get some better potting materials now. Also, I am happy to hear that they do have the potential to produce fruit!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 7:37PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

If what silica says is true about the 30,000+ nodes that are required for an orange tree to bloom (this is actually the number of nodes, starting at ground level and traveling up, going all the way to the tip of one branch -- it's not the total leaves or nodes on the entire plant, according to my understanding), then I seriously doubt you will ever see your tree bloom, since it would probably have to be AT LEAST 15 feet tall! No way, unless you have very high ceilings or an observatory, will you be able to accomodate a tree of that size. This is just one reason why most citrus is grown from rooted cuttings or grafts (of mature growth).

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 7:44PM
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A citrus tree does not mature one branch at a time. If this were true then bud wood would have to be selected and cut only form the few mature branches as they matured. This is of course not the case. The required node count is counted from the entire tree not just one branch. Dave in nova is certainly correct in stating that a seedling orange tree would be of considerable size when the tree finally reached maturity. Moving such a tree in and out of the house would be difficult. He is also correct in that it "is just one reason (among many) why most citrus is grown from rooted cuttings or grafts (of mature growth)."

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 12:00PM
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This is sad news. Either I will have to build a house with enormous ceilings, move to Florida and plant them outside, or just deal with the fact that they will never produce. Oh well, they are still nice looking plants. Thanks again, everyone.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 6:25PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

Silica, in fact each branch must have its own node count satisfied before it can bear. The entire tree does not magically transform all its growth to adult wood after a certain height is attained. Fortunately, most citrus are grafted from adult (bearing) scions. To my knowledge budwood is probably not harvested from seedlings very often, but from grafted trees (of bearing wood).

Say for instance a tree required 500 nodes (from the seed) before it would bear and you took a graft at about the level of 400. Since the scion 'remembers' its node count, it would still have to grow another 100 nodes before it could bloom. At least that's my understanding. So the tree would not have to be as tall to bear as the original seedling. But it would still be wiser to take scions from near the top of the seed-grown tree.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 8:39PM
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Dave, I stand corrected, but with greater knowledge than before, thank you. In reality, the node maturity question is of little importance to the citrus world, as few people bother with growing seedling trees. Except for trees grown for root stock purposes, and a small number grown by hobbyist, the vast majority are, as you ar aware, grafted. Probably 99.9 percent of citrus are grafted trees, which are, of course, totally mature trees from day one. Anyway I appreciate you assistance.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 4:38PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

Yeah, you're right. The industry doesn't really care. But how many times on this forum have people asked when they will get fruit from an orange or grapefruit they started from seed. It's not real easy to explain why they probably never will. At least not for me!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 10:44PM
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Help..I have an orange tree that I started from a seed 41 years ago. It has flowered and had oranges for several years. It looks like it is now dying. What is the usual life span or should I look for something that could be causing this? It is brought in the winter months, placed in sunny windows and moved out to the deck during mild weather. Same procedure for 41 years.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 3:15PM
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Hi Cabin. Congrats on getting your orange to fruit..(since it's started from seed.)

More info is needed though..for instance, have you done anything different this year than others? What about soil? When was the last time you added fresh soil and/or repotted? After a while soil loses nutrients..old soil.
Do you fertilize? If so, what do you use? How about minerals like Iron?

What exactly is happening? Are leaves browning, yellowing? Does foliage feel sticky? Do you see pests: webbing, white or brown bumps? Flying bugs.

Actually your tree is up there in age, and every living creature has its limits.
But age doesn't necessarily mean this is what's causing the problem.

Please detail your trees problems..The more we know, the easier it is to diagnose. Toni
PS, whatever, you've done a remarkable job growing an orange from seed..

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 5:07PM
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Could you guys post a couple pics of your tree's? I am interested to see what a tree that was grown from seed in a northern climate looks like.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 8:10AM
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Hey Cabin, how is your tree? I have one that was grown from seed that will be 35 or 36 years old this summer but it has never flowered. How old was your tree when it bloomed the first time? I gave up hoping years ago that mine would bloom. I live in Maryland and drag it in and out every gets heavier it seems with each passing year and remains closer to the back door!! LOL I am afraid neighbors will find one of us dead in the yard one year..either the tree from frost or me from the heart attack I have trying to get it up my back steps!! Hope your tree is now thriving again.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 1:36AM
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thanks for the tips on grafting ,I will give it a try and let you know if I have success

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 10:25AM
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New to this forum as of today. Our indoor orange tree (we live in snow country in northeast WA state with an inside temp of about 69 degrees)is almost touching our 8 ft. ceiling! HELP! I think it's about 4-5 years old (we got it as a plant) and no fruit yet (no blossoms) altho nice, healthy leaves.
I just read on this forum that "It is very important not to prune a citrus, as pruning will greatly delay the tree from every reaching the required amount of nodes, thus from ever fruiting."
How in the heck do we grow our orange tree indoors then? I'm pretty sure it's a miniature orange tree... don't think my hubby would have been silly enough to bring an outdoor tree inside to grow it!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 1:06PM
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I have some remarks.

I grew a grapefruit from seed in circa the late 1980s. I'm not sure of the exact date but this tree definitely did already exist in 1991, although it was little more than a shoot at the time. I live in Switzerland and at the time was living with my parents who had a garden. The tree would spend the summers in the sunniest spot in the garden and come indoors in the winter. When I was at university my mother took care of this tree for me. However, circa 2000 the tree suffered a vey nasty attack by sticky mites and I had to prune the tree back quite heavily as washing or spraying didn't help. The tree recovered from this remarkably quickly, with new leaves sprouting out of the stubs within weeks after pruning. In 2003, the opportunity arose to move the tree to my parents' holiday home in the south of Spain. Basically this was a container with a lot of furniture and the tree didn't take kindly to being locked inside that dark and hot container for several days while being knocked about on the back of a truck and so lost most of its leaves. With days of being planted in the garden there it lost the rest of its leaves and I left it for dead. Returning the next year, however, it had sprouted fresh branches. Some years later, during my absence, my father had a gardener in who pruned the tree back heavily. The gardener also wanted to rip it out and replace it by a nice one from his garden centre and I had to do a lot of arguing to make him understand the significance of that tree and my dad wasn't exactly helpful. Then things went from bad to worse as in 2006 my mother passed away and she was the only person besides myself to really care about the tree (or in fact anything in the garden). The last time I saw the tree was in 2007 and that year the tree had about 4 blossoms (the first in its life), one of which had already swollen and there was the beginning of a grapefruit, already half an inch in diameter. The tree was no more than about 4 foot tall and to me it was a very happy sight. However, my dad picked up a strange girlfriend who hated anything that had anything to do with my dad's previous life including the fact that he had kids or that anything was important to us. The house was sold even though the guy who bought it put in a lower bid than I would have bid had I known it was up for sale. The new owner ripped out the garden for a swimming pool. A very sad story.

But I decided not to give up and I have a three year old grapefruit grown from my seed on my balcony right now. I hope one day to see it flower and bear fruit.

I also have a miniature orange tree which I bought from a local garden store. It is laden with fruit all year round. I guess it must be grafed but I cannot say where as I think I can recognise a graft when I see one but this tree doesn't seem to have such a place.

My next project is to get a three-leaf orange. I understand this is the only citrus tree that can be planted outside in my type of climate (sustained sub-freezing temperatures in winter plus plenty of snow). Does anybody have any experience with these?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 10:15AM
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I have had a trifoliate orange, Poncirus trifoliata 'Flying Dragon' (contorted and true from seed) for a number of years (10 to 15 at least) and it has never been protected. I live near Dayton, Ohio where we have heavy clay soil. The tree is about 7' tall. The fruit is 1" to 1 1/2" in diameter, dull gold with an unattractive fuzz (removable) and it ripens in October here. I would say that its best feature is the scent. A few can perfume a room for a week or two. I have made marmalade with it which is best mixed with orange juice and sometimes flavoring; vanilla or curacao are among the better (2 marmalade to 1 orange juice but I am still experimenting with this). I do not wish to give the impression that many would like the marmalade. I am the only one I know who will eat it. It is bitter. The recipe is in the book "Rosemary and Bitter Orange Marmalade" and is mostly the candied peel. The juice is discarded (or absorbed). It is used in Chinese medicine and to assist in dieting. More information can be found on Pubmed (just Google it) and on this forum.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 2:57PM
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I have saved a orange tree from my aunts brown thumb. It was not doing well so I repotted it. It was beautiful when she got it!! Had almost died, I cut it back as easy as I could. It was doing great, saw little leaves coming out on the twig. Now it looks like it needs move love. I'm in it is cold now. Still have the tiny leaves showing. Bit the top is turning brown what should I do now. Should have never bragged about it!! HELP!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 3:49PM
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I would water it with rain water or distilled water to flush the pot of salts because sometimes leaf browning is caused by excess salt. I would make sure that I did not keep the soil too wet by sticking my finger in the pot as far as it would go (or by using a stick) to test for the right time to water because citrus roots are sensitive to being kept too wet. I would give it as much sunlight as possible. And finally I would be hopeful because it is past the end of January, the sunlight is strengthening and the citrus are beginning to strengthen as well in reaction to it.

I am not an expert but there are some on this forum who are and who may give you more information. Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 9:21PM
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I have an orange tree grown from seed approx 18 years ago. This is the first time I have had fruit come to maturity. Three only. It has just started to flower again since the hours of sunlight have begun to get longer. This tree has been kept pruned to 6' in order to fit in a 6'x10' picture window facing north. Not optimal, but it has always been healthy and the fruit is a bonus!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 10:20PM
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Hi Larry..Strong work!

It is so encouraging to see one can get flowers and fruit from seeds and you did that. Congrats and thanks for showing any who may want to give it a shot.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 3:47PM
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