How to grow oranges in your orangery or conservatory
- Posted. 19 January 2021
- Tags. Family,
When winter rolls around are you ready to cuddle up in your warm and cosy home? Or do you dread the winter months because of the cold and draughts that creep in?
Draught proofing is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to make your home warm and energy efficient, though in time you may be tempted to invest in our high quality double-glazed or triple-glazed doors and windows to create the cosy home you crave. So if you’re worried about the cold winds blowing in off Exmoor this winter, now’s the time to draught-proof your home.
How to grow oranges in your orangery or conservatory
When we think of where oranges come from, most of us picture Mediterranean groves and hot summer sun. And we’re not really wrong! It’s absolutely true that only certain parts of the world have the natural outdoor climate required to grow oranges.
Oranges were first domesticated in and around Myanmar – oranges appear in Chinese literature around 300 BC). After that, they made their way westwards, arriving in Spain sometime around 1000 AD and in the Caribbean with Christopher Columbus. All of these places sit on or around the tropics, and are therefore very favourable to orange-growing. All of the big orange-producing areas in Spain, Brazil, the USA, China, India and the near East have average yearly temperatures of between 15 and 28 degrees centigrade.
On the other hand, we have southwest England — notoriously soggy, chilly and blustery.
This doesn’t mean you should give up on your orange-growing dream! In the 18th and 19th centuries, kings and lords across northern Europe decided that they, too, wanted to grow citrus fruit. To do so, they built glass-roofed structures to their palaces and residences called orangeries. Heated and well-lit all year round, they mimicked oranges’ natural growing conditions so well that they allowed citrus to be grown as far north as St. Petersburg!
The trend spread around the world. The orangery is now less common than its close cousin the conservatory, but both conservatories and orangeries can provide the perfect conditions for growing oranges.
Are oranges easy to keep?
Here’s the good news: oranges don’t have to be kept indoors all year round. They’re perfectly capable of withstanding temperatures above 9℃ with good humour, but begin to run into difficulty below that point. This means that as long as the night-time temperature isn’t dropping dangerously close to this limit, they can be kept outside in a sunny, sheltered spot. From late April till September, leave your oranges in the garden, water regularly and keep an eye out for any problems.
Even more good news: oranges, like all citrus trees, are evergreen. This can come as a pleasant surprise to new growers, because their leaves really don’t look evergreen at all! Orange trees have all the lustre of deciduous trees in full summer leaf, all year round.
Then, here’s the slightly less good news: oranges can be prone to various pests and parasites, require quite specific indoor care and can be temperamental at the best of times. With proper care, however, you’ll be able to minimise the risk of running into trouble and keep your tree hale and hearty.
How long does it take for an orange tree to bear fruit?
Because orange trees are evergreen, they flower and fruit all year round. Their white, bright orange flowers can be very beautiful! Generally, provided everything goes well, a flower turns into an orange twelve months after it appears.
However, the number of years a plant takes to reach fruit-bearing age varies. Like most fruiting trees, oranges can either be grown from seed or “grafted” to another plant’s rootstock. This latter process tends to promote earlier fruiting, as well as vigor and disease resistance. A seed-grown orange tree will fruit in six to seven years, while a grafted tree will fruit in three or four. Orange trees are also self-fertile, meaning they don’t need to be kept in pairs or three like other fruit trees.
This might seem like a long time to wait. Don’t worry! Most trees will arrive from nurseries, garden centres or florists with a good few years under their belt already, and some are even fruiting when they’re sold! If you are interested in growing your own orange trees from seed, however, this handy online guide might come in useful.
How fast do orange trees grow?
Trees grow at varying rates depending on their breed, rootstock and level of care. However, most orange trees grow pretty vigorously in the summer months. The average orange tree takes approximately ten to fifteen years to reach full maturity, but most potted plants are limited in their potential for growth by their small rootstock and only get up to six feet tall or so.
Sometimes a tree will shoot up some tall, twiggy stems that are unlikely to support much fruit and make the plant look a little strange. These can be pruned in late winter to promote bushier growth down where it counts. Similarly, in summer you can pinch out any vigorous new green growth with your fingers to promote additional flowering and fruiting.
How do I look after my orange tree?
Looking after an orange tree can be tricky, but the rewards are worth it.
The first and most important thing to remember is to protect your tree from the cold. This means keeping an eye on the minimum outside temperature as you approach the beginning of autumn and playing it safe once spring comes around. A cold tree is likely to sustain damage or even pass away completely.
Your orange tree should probably live inside your conservatory or orangery from early September to mid-April. Unfortunately, keeping the tree safe from the cold exposes it to another risk; dry, centrally-heated spaces. Orange trees like humidity and detest aridity. You can get around this by standing the pot on a large tray filled with wet gravel and replenishing it when the water level drops, as well as misting the plant daily.
Orange trees also struggle in alkali conditions, meaning owners with hard water can accidentally stunt or damage their trees. You can collect and use rainwater instead, but go easy — in winter, the day shortens and the plants naturally wind down. Water only sparingly, when the soil is already dry or the plant looks thirsty.