Last Updated on November 10, 2022
In this article, we look at how to prepare the best soil for orange trees. Having your own orange trees either in your garden or in pots on your balcony is very satisfying. Much like a homegrown tomato, a good homegrown orange just tastes better. I get great joy out of picking oranges off my various trees and bringing a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice to my lady in the morning. Read on to find out how to formulate the best soil for oranges that gives you sweet, healthy fruit.
What Is An Orange Tree Firstly?
This may sound like a silly question to ask – we all know what an orange tree is right? Well, I learned the hard way that if you grow a plant from an orange seed, that you get a knobbly lemon!!
Orange trees are hybrids of various species of the Citrus genus that produce plants that make a decent type of fruit. These mother plants are then used to provide branches that are grafted onto rootstocks. In this regard, if we take the example of the Washington Navel Orange, all of the original branches that have been grafted to create this cultivar comes from this tree!! The tree is nearly 150 years old. I have seen a tree cultivated from an original branch cutting from this tree growing in South Africa, and that tree was the mother tree of much of the citrus industry here.
Citrus breeders have produced many types of orange tree cultivars, some of which have specks of red in the fruit, and all sorts of other novelties. Oddly enough, the color orange is actually named after the fruit!
What Is The Ph Of The Best Soil For Orange Trees?
Typically, you would want the soil to be in the range of 5-6 pH units, which is about average for most soils worldwide. If you are worried about your soil, get it tested by a lab – those little pH testers you buy online do nothing meaningful. You may as well point your finger at the ground and come up with a number. It will be just as accurate.
The majority of potting soils will come in at this pH range, and if you have compost in your soil, it will tend to stabilize in this range. Under very rare conditions, soils will have a higher or lower pH than this range and you can use soil amendments to bring the pH in line. Follow the advice from the lab that does your soil tests.
Citrus trees are however very tolerant of pH that is a little bit outside this range, and you may just pick up some small nutrient deficiencies – which can be amended by foliar feeding of a micronutrient spray such as this.
What Is The Best Soil For Orange Trees?
If you are planting a tree in a pot, buy good potting soil such as this. This soil is specially formulated for citrus trees in fact and will provide them with what they need in a pot.
If you are preparing outdoor garden soil to plant an orange tree in the ground, the best soil for orange trees will have to be what you have!! And you can adjust this soil to make it better. There is an old saying that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, and the second best time is now. I always plant citrus trees as soon as I move into a new house. It takes about two years for a lemon to bear fruit this way, and about three to four for an orange to bear meaningful crops.
To get citrus soil healthy, you need to ensure that the soil has drainage and an abundance of compost. I normally dig a square hole that is three feet wide and four feet deep. Remove all of this soil. At the base of the hole place a bit of gravel (drainage) to a depth of 5 inches, and then fill the hole with a compost soil mix, into which you have added a few pounds of bone meal. Mix up to a third of the volume of the hole of pearlite into the soil. This ensures that the young tree will have nice fluffy, well-drained nutrient-rich soil. Your tree will grow at great speed with such soil.
How To Plant An Orange Tree
Now that we have shown how to prepare the best soil for orange trees, you will need to plant the right tree in this! Your local nursery should have cultivars that do well in your area. Ask the nursery people what they recommend. I am a big believer in Valencias, Washington Navels, and Cara care Navels (the color is amazing pink). If you plant these three in a row, you will also have citrus on your trees for three to five months of the year, which is useful.
Bring your citrus sapling home – it will normally be in a plastic bag. I dig a hole just deep enough for the bag and place half a cup of bone meal at the bottom of the hole (this helps the young roots). Put the bag in the hole and remove it using scissors. Inspect the roots – if the roots are very tightly bunched together either take the tree back or make sure to open the roots out – a root-bound tree will just die in a year or two. This isn’t very pleasant when it happens.
Fill the hole with soil, packing it gently around the tree. I believe in painting the stem of my young citrus trees white – this protects the stems from sunburn and increases the chances of survival.
Caring For A Potted Orange Tree
Potted orange trees are a lot of fun. These can look beautiful, and when they are covered with fruit they look stunning. Ensure that you use a good citrus potting mix as detailed above, and your tree will thrive. Plant it much the same as you would a tree in the ground as detailed above.
The big trick with citrus is not to overwater it – this will strip nutrients from the soil, and if your pot is not well drained, it will damage the roots. Water citrus and allow the soil to get nearly dry and then water again. In this way, the trees will thrive!!
I believe in spraying micronutrients on the leaves of my potted citrus. It is also useful to give your trees a teaspoon of Epsom salts in their irrigation water once or twice a year. This helps them green up and provides magnesium and sulfate.
How Fast Do Orange Trees Grow?
Orange trees grow a few feet a year under optimal conditions. Expect slow growth in the first year, and as the tree gets established it will grow faster and faster. They do not grow as fast as lemon trees – lemon trees such as Eureka grow very fast, and you should seriously consider planting one as well!
Conclusions On The Best Soil For Orange Trees
I hope this article has helped you understand how to make the best soil for orange trees. Go out there and plant away! If you are planting citrus in the ground, remember that trees will die – that is just a fact of life, so plant a few more than you need – it is easier to subtract a tree a few years down the line, than to plant a tree a few years ago in the future! I always plant more trees than I need, and cut the ones that are surplus out as the orchard matures.