Growing Orange Trees in Conservatories
A conservatory is the ideal place - apart from the Mediterranean - to grow an orange tree. It's warmth and sunshine during the winter months will keep it alive and allow it to start flowering and producing fruit earlier than if it were outside. Although they can be grown entirely in the conservatory it is nice to be able to bring them outside on the patio during the warmer summer months.
So, what do you need to know about growing orange trees in a conservatory?
What type of climate do orange trees like?
- The minimum temperature they should be exposed to is about 7C. Be aware that it is likely that you require some form of conservatory heating in order to achieve this minimum temperature
- If its left in your conservatory during the summer then make sure it doesn't exceed about 30C. This is easily possible.
- If you wish them to flower and produce some fruit then they require a temperature of more than about 13C. Below this they become dormant. Above 13C they will start to flower and produce fruit in about 4 weeks.
- Orange trees like good sunny locations but try and avoid exposing them to the mid-day sun during the height of summer.
- It is suggested that between September and May you keep the orange tree inside the conservatory. Between May and September you can put it outside in a sheltered, sunny location on your patio but just be aware of the temperature limitations if you wish it to bare fruit. Play it by ear on precise timings due to the weather.
- Although citrus fruits like some humid conditions try and avoid getting it too humid as it can encourage pests.
What type of soil or container do orange trees prefer?
- A container will mean that you can move the orange tree inside the conservatory during the late Autumn/Winter and move it outside during the late spring/summer.
- The container should be just a little bit larger than the root ball. That is don't dwarf them by putting a small plant in a huge container.
- If you have to re-pot your orange tree then do it in the spring before the main growing season has started.
- They typically need re-potting every 2-4 years depending on growth but be very careful with them.
- Citrus trees like low lime soils i.e. acidic soils.
- Can buy special citrus potting compost with prices around £6 for an 8 litre bag. This will have the right pH.
- Typically orange trees only develop shallow root systems. This means that to an extent the diameter of the container is more important than the depth.
- It is very unlikely that conditions will mean you can plant them outside in the garden!
Feeding your orange tree
- During the winter months in the conservatory you can buy special winter citrus feed at around £5 a tub.
- During the summer a high nitrogen fertilizer will do the job or you can again buy specialist summer citrus feed for £5-10 per tub.
- Aim to feed once per month.
- Every year its worth removing the top layer of compost (down to the root ball) and replacing it with say a citrus potting compost.
Watering your orange tree
- Do not water little and often
- Water when soil is quite dry and soak thoroughly. Just be aware that if its still in your conservatory over-watering it could damage your conservatory floor!
- If the soil is constantly wet you can end up with a diseased root system which will need cutting out.
- As orange trees do not like alkaline conditions try and use either filtered water or rain water rather than tap water as it will contain lime. This is especially true of areas with hard water. Look in your kettle for limescale.
- Water them in the morning which will allow the soil to dry out better during the day.
- If you over water the leaves will start to curl up. Let the soil dry out somewhat and then feed and the orange tree should recover.
Pruning Your Orange Tree
- Ideally in spring before the main growing season
- Remove any dead growth
- Remove any shoots growing into the middle of the tree.
- Clean back any broken or diseased branches
Getting some edible fruit from your orange tree.
- In the right conditions it will produce 4-5 periods of flower/fruit in a year
- Can hand pollinate to encourage fruit production
- Requires >13C temperature in order to flower and produce fruit. Therefore, be careful about bringing it out of your conservatory too early or leaving it outside too late.
- Remove fruit with secateurs rather than pulling/twisting off. Leaves both the fruit and tree in the best condition.
Pest Control on Orange Trees
- Commercial sprays are a available for a wide variety of pests. Be aware that there are limits to number of applications per year especially if you desire to eat any fruit that is produced.
- Aphids can be controlled using a light soapy solution.
- Ants are a real problem for container trees on patios. You do not want to bring them into your conservatory! Ant bait/traps are a good solution and do not harm the tree.
- Encourage spiders and ladybirds on your orange trees as they will naturally regulate a wide variety of potential pests.
Orange Tree Problems - Symptoms
- Yellow leaves possibly curling
- Over watering - let it dry out
- Soil too alkaline - Add a acidic fertilizer such as Miracle Gro or you can make your own using tips here
- Too cold - Bring back in conservatory
- Root rot
- Over watering - let it dry out and reduce watering. If very wet weather bring it back inside the conservatory.
Summary of Conservatory Orange Tree Growing
- Keep them in the conservatory when the temperature is ideally below 13C and definitely below 7C.
- Don't let them get too hot in your conservatory i.e. above 30C
- Don't over-water.
- Keep soil acidic
- Watch out for pests every couple of weeks.
Although during hot weather orange trees are perfectly happy outside in a sheltered spot on the patio it is better to have a conservatory ( or winter heated greenhouse) to protect them and enable them to continue growing during the late autumn to late spring time when it would otherwise be too cold in the UK.
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