Home / Blood Orange / Blood Orange Tree; cultivation and varieties

Blood Orange Tree; cultivation and varieties

Blood Orange

(Citrus sinensis)

 

Back Story:

About 4 years ago we were driving around San Diego County when I saw a line of cars ahead of me pulling off the hillside road we were on.  At first I figured there must be an amazing lookout view because so many cars were taking the risk to veer off.
I was disappointed to discover that there was nothing particularly picturesque to see, just an old orchard.  But I did see a line of people buying oranges out of the back of an old pickup truck.  I asked myself, “was this what everyone was stopping for; Oranges?!”

Worse, the oranges were small, so I had no idea what all the excitement was about.

I walked up closer and read, “Blood Orange” scribbled on a piece of cardboard.  Blood Orange?  Seriously, what the heck is this I thought?  Is this some kind of gimmick?   Besides, it was January, not October 31st.  Since I was already there, I figured what the heck, I’ll buy a bag of these things.   Unfortunately I didn’t try them untill I got home.   I say unfortunately because if I knew then what I know now, I would have bought 10 bags of them not just one.

cut

Cut blood orange

Blood Orange fruit appearance:

The fruit is about 1/2 to 1/3 the size of a typical grocery store navel orange.  But the skin of many of the oranges is splashed with red.

Fruit taste:

Blood Oranges can be tricky to peal because the skin is often thin and clings to the flesh.  The flesh of the fruit ranges from dark crimson to a mix of red and orange.

 

The flavor is sweet like an orange but also mixed with raspberry.  The combo is really wonderful.   Variable tartness.  Many believe that seasonal temperature is a major factor affecting the flavor and color of all blood oranges.

 

Blood Orange tree fruit season:

January/February

There are 3 main types of Blood Orange trees:

  • Tarocco blood orange tree (native to Italy). Less pigmentation than the other two.  This one the sweetest and most flavorful of them all.  It is not only my favorite blood orange… it is my favorite citrus of all time.  The tree is vigorous  and moderately productive. I have written a dedicated article about the Taracco Blood Orange with organized and compete instructions for growing/cultivating this tree.

 

  • Sanguinello blood orange tree (native to Spain).  Orange flesh with red streaks which is sweet and tender.  The fruit often matures in February, but can remain on trees until April/May.  The tree is small/medium in size, spineless, and very productive.

 

  • Moro blood orange tree (thought to have originated in Sicily).  It is the most colorful of them all; they can be ruby-veined to nearly black.   Sweet flavor with a hint of raspberry and dense flesh.   Some believe this orange is more bitter than the Tarocco or the Sanguinello.  However, I have found the flavor to be variable even within a subtype.  Some people have reported that the best flavor is often from fruit grown in inland valleys, perhaps from the heat.  Fruit can remain on trees until April/May, but flavor declines if on the tree too long.  Tree is of moderate growth/size and has a round-somewhat spreading appearance.
half2

Different intensity of color in Blood Oranges

Landscaping use:

Plant them anywhere that you would plant any other citrus.   They are a great long range focal point use.  The evergreen foliage can hide/screen undesirable areas.  Flowers smell awesome-even at a short distance.   See above subtypes for specific growth habits.

 

Soil:

A lot of sources say that you just put a citrus in the ground and it will be fine.  However, this has definitely not been my experience.  After planting more citris trees than I can count, I have found that they need more than they typical native California soil.  I dig a hole at least 2x the size of the pot it came in and liberally augment the soil.  I believe the extra nutrients reduce transplantation shock.  In addition, the extra organic material will cut down on your water bill in the long run.   I also inoculate the roots with micorriza.

Click here to see my 6/9/13 post on the best planting technique to avoid transplantation shock.

 

Water:

I water 1-to-2x/week in the summer.  Infrequent and deep-heavy watering is much better than frequent light watering.  You can usually cut way back on the watering in the winter after a tree is established.  Mulching always helps retain moisture.  Most citrus don’t like standing water.

 

Sun:

Full sun

 

Fertilization:

Balanced fertilizer in growing season (4x/y).  Most citrus also need micronutrients yearly, which I give at the beginning of growing the season.  Throwing in a random assortment of organic fertilizer whenever you have it is always appreciated (compost, worm castings etc).

 

Temp:

  • Typical citrus temps.  Citrus don’t like frost.  A Mediterranean climate seems ideal.
  • For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”

 

Pests:

Some kind-of rodent girdled one of my trees by eating the bark at the base of the trunk.  I think it was a squirrel or rabbit but I do not have direct proof.  I now put a wire cage around the bottom of all my citrus and I have not had any problems since.

 

Citrus leafminer is a big problem for all citrus in Southern California; but there are ways to effectively deal with them.

For more information, please see my 6/20/13 post for diagnosis and treatment of the Citrus Leafminer. 

 

Food use:

Eat out of hand, juice, salad, gelato, sorbet, Italian soda, vinaigrette-style dressings.

 

Misc:

The color of the flesh/juice is due to the presence of anthocyanins (antioxidant) which is a family of pigments uncommon in citrus fruits but common in many flowers and other fruit.

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.

71 comments

  1. Thanks for the insight. I tried one today (moro) variety for the first time. Never even heard of this type of orange

  2. As I was saying in my previous post before my new samung note 11 sent off the post before I finished. (Gotta blame someone or something). This moro orange is the best!!! I loved it so much that I am looking for a plant. Hopefully it will grow well in Florida. Thanks again.

  3. I’ve planted a Tarocco in 66% sunligt (no sun say til 10am) but it is in a windy location. How drought tolerant they are? I don’t know if I missed it in your review, but Citrus are not very tolrant to salt, so easy peasy on fertiliser dosage!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Steve.
      Good question:

      Drought Tolerance:
      The answer is that it depends. Overall, the drought tolerance has more to do with the root stock than anything else. Drought tolerance also depends on how long the tree has been in the ground. I have seen some neglected but established citrus trees scraping out a living on dry rocky slopes with no irrigation. That being said, they didn’t look too happy. Of course the overall climate (temp, sun, humidity) as well as the soil conditions will be major factors as well.

      For the most part I water all of my citrus the same after they are established (regardless of the variety). However, I err on the side of over watering in the first months after planting and keep a close eye on them the first year after that.

      Fertilizer:
      Traditionally, I have fertilized with 15-15-15 (in the late winter to early summer) in 4 divided doses. I also add in a single dose of citrus micronutrients in the spring. However, I am shifting a bit to add in a variety of different organic fertilizers: (compost, chicken manure, grow mulch, worm castings, etc). I am getting the sense that the citrus like the variety.

      Salt:
      Yea, I agree they can be salt sensitive. Another thing to consider: Less frequent but deep watering will help prevent salt buildup in the soil that is inevitable with our hard water (regardless of your fertilizer choice). Deep watering will also help to establish a strong deep root system.

      Thanks!
      T

  4. Hi Thomas ; I just discovered your website-very informative and enjoyable! Appreciate the effort!
    I have 12 very healthy Moro trees on my small acreage farm @ 2900′ elevation on maui, Hi.these trees came from at least 2 different sources-4 or5 I grafted myself 10 to 12 yrs. ago, 3 of them are about 15 ft.x10 wide. All of my other citrus trees are thriving and highly productive.
    The Moros are the only ones that don’t flower (and,of course, don’t fruit) my soil building and mineral amending is very thorough. I thought I had the answer years ago when I learned how critical boron was for flowering and then,that manganese needed for fruit set. Needless to say these and other nutrients have been supplied! (I use a goodly amt. of kelp meal on all of my plantings,in addition to solubor and mangenese sulfate)
    Any ideas on how to get these trees producing-I really think I have the ideal warm days cool nights,nearly Mediterranean climate! Thanks for your consideration!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Stephen!

      Great question that is near to my heart:

      Background:
      I have close to 30 different varieties of citrus growing in my yard. With the exception of the seasonal leaf miner infestation, they have few problems, they all flower and fruit quite well.
      Except for those Moro blood oranges.
      I have both a standard and a dwarf Moro; it is the same story for both of them.

      So yea, I have asked around about why they don’t produce… It seems that you and I are not alone.

      Blood Oranges mature late:
      It seems that blood oranges in general just take a long while to mature to a flowering-fruiting age.

      -Moro: seem to take the longest.
      -Tarocco: take longer than most citrus, but not as long at Moro.
      -Sanguinello: I don’t have any direct experience with them yet.
      -Cara Cara: some will put Cara Cara’s in the blood orange category… So I will add it in here for completeness. Anyhow, they are delicious and the tree that I have has fruited at a rather young age.

      Anyhow, what to do about those elusive Moro’s?

      I have a friend who is a 3rd generation citrus grower. A few months ago, I asked him the same question that you just posted.
      His answer was something like “Yea, they can take longer to fruit”

      I asked more questions and…
      He doesn’t treat the Moro’s any different than the other citrus he has… but then again, many of his trees were planted by his grandfather. Those are old citrus trees.
      You and I clearly don’t have that kind of time to wait for fruit.

      Experiment:
      A few weeks ago I tried something different to see if I could get some movement from my standard sized Moro.
      -I pulled up all the weeds etc around the root zone.
      -In that root zone, I applied close to 2x my usual dose of standard citrus fertilizer. Then I added in extra micronutrients.
      -I watered it all in.
      -I then covered the root zone with a thick blanket of grow mulch.
      -More water.
      -Then I covered it all with weed cloth and rocks to hold the cloth down.

      Who knows if it will work… Ill keep you posted.
      Please let me/us know if you hear anything more.

      Thanks,

      Tom

  5. Thanks for the feedback, Thomas.
    After I posted my question to you, I found a comment on the Texas (rare) fruit growers site, the gist of which was something like withhold (fertilizer) if it doesn’t perform. Makes some sense, as we all know that too much nitrogen skews growth towards excessive foliage.
    After two years of withholding on my oldest tree I did get a few dozen flowers and about 6or8 (small,slightly pigmented, berry scented) fruits. As all of my Moros are deep dark green, I feel comfortable withholding for a while, as a strategy-as we growers always do; we’ll see!!
    Thanks again.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Interesting Stephen

      Thanks for the info.

      In addition to holding back on fertilizer, people have told me about stressing a plant in other ways to make it fruit.
      I have heard all kinds of things including, tying wire around branches, bending limbs, even girdling the bark.

      More specifically, some have told me physical stress is the way they can get their Buddha Hand Citron to fruit.
      However, at least when it comes to my citrons, I just treat them nicely, and the trees are packed with fruit.
      I have not tried any of those extreme physical stressors… it just doesn’t seem right to me.

      However, I have tried the fertilizer withdraw thing.
      For that standard sized Moro that I was talking about earlier, I have cut back on its fertilizer to the point that it is now yellowing.
      It hasen’t done me any good, so I am giving it back some feeding-love (as outlined in my last note).

      All that being said; my dwarf Moro has been fed like all my other citrus and it is not fruiting either.

      On the other hand, I consistently fed and pamper my Tarocco and it is flowering/fruiting.
      However, this could be confounding results because Tarocco’s tend to fruit at a younger age.

      Anyhow, considering that your Moros are now healthy green adult trees, holding back on fertilizer might just make them snap into fruiting.
      Or they could just start fruiting regardless because they are just now at that mature fruiting age.

      Either way, I am looking forward to hearing more about what you discover.

      Thanks for the update,

      Tom

  6. Well Hello

    I have one Blood Orange I planted about 10 days ago which shows plenty of new growth/leaves already here in South Louisiana

    After doing some more research seems like it may still get a little to chilly for it to survive during the winter:{

    However; I have another identical plant that I have not yet to planted, thinking about planting it in a large pot….Any thought’s? Anyone growing blood oranges in a pot successfully?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Snookie
      Interesting questions.

      citrus in Louisiana:
      While I have never personally grown citrus in Louisiana, I know that a lot of people do. There is a significant commercial citrus crop in Louisiana.
      Blood oranges should be about average in their cold tolerance compared to other citrus.
      Therefore, I would think that the temp would not be a problem for growing blood oranges in Louisiana.

      Microclimate:
      However, if your specific microclimate is on the chilly side, there are a few things you can do.

      For example:
      Don’t plant in low areas of your property that are shaped like a basin.
      Cool air is heavy and will settle in these low areas.
      Therefore, plant on a hill or gentle slope.

      Also, avoid planting in an area that gets lots of shade such as the north side of your house. This area will stay colder for a longer part of the day.
      On that note, keep in mind that in the winter the shadows are longer (shading more land), so you might want to account for that in your plans.

      Some people plant cold sensitive plants near a south facing wall.
      This has its pluses and minuses.
      On the plus side, this is likely the warmest area around.
      On the minus side, this is likely the warmest area around… And in the summer it can cook some plants.
      In addition, there can be all kinds of structural problems that can occur when you plant a tree too close to a structure/home.
      That being said, citrus roots are rather well behaved and are often planted close to sidewalks for this reason.

      Blood oranges in pots:
      I have actually grown Blood Orange trees in pots.
      They were not happy and I nearly killed them despite extra close attention.
      Nothing seemed to help.
      As a last resort I planted one of them in the ground as it was knocking on deaths door.
      To my surprise, it bounced back amazingly and is currently very healthy.
      Perhaps others have had success growing blood oranges in pots, but not me.

      Hope this helps.
      Best,
      Tom

      • Groovy

        Well, I planted my second blood orange plant in a very large plastic pot with the idea that I could wheel it into the house or garage to keep it going?

        We’ll see if I can make it an exception to the rule lol

        Later

        Thanks for the reply

        Snookie

  7. Good day Thomas
    What a pleasure to find your website. I live in South Africa and we don’t have blood oranges here. I will be attending a cardiology congress in Washington in September and was hoping to order a small tree to bring back. The only growers I’ve found so far is four winds but the delivery charges to Washington is very high. Do you perhaps know of anyone in Washington that can supply a small tree?

    Did your trees bloom at last?

    Jaco

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Jaco
      Thanks for the great feedback!

      Fruiting:
      Yes, I have some fruits growing on one of my blood orange trees now.
      Blood oranges seem to take a while/need to be older before they fruit.

      Regarding your question:
      It would be great to have blood oranges in South Africa.
      However, if the customs in South Africa are anything like the US or California, you might have some challenges.
      The import of citrus into different states in the US is highly regulated and many states are in total lock-down quarantine.
      The biggest concern is Citrus Greening (Huanglongbing). This disease is on the edge of wiping out the entire citrus industry in Florida and it is a big problem in many other states.
      Therefore, if I was in charge of agriculture in South Africa, I may have made some policies forbidding the importation of citrus from countries like the US.

      So the big picture is, I would look into South Africa’s rules on the issue.
      I wouldnt want you to go through all of the cost and hassle of getting a plant during your Washington conference/visit, only to have it taken away from you at the airport.

      South African Department of Agriculture:
      I found some contact info on the South African Department of Agriculture website.
      There is also a link (below) that talks about an application to import vegetative propagation material… I am not sure if this applies to potted plants or just propagation material.
      None the less, the contact info provided on that link might we worth calling to see what the deal is.

      http://www.daff.gov.za/daffweb3/Branches/Agricultural-Production-Health-Food-Safety/Plant-Health/Import-into-SA/Quarantine-services/Citrus

      If you get a chance, let us know what you discover.

      Best,

      Tom

  8. Dear Sir

    My name is Abe, as mention early, and I am a member of the Bjatladi Communal Association in Zebediela Citrus Estate, Limpopo Province, South Africa.

    we are trying to partner with Oranfrizzer which is an Italian juice company and the idea is for us to plant some several hundred hectares of blood oranges but the problem is quarantining the scions of something like that.

    I have been trying to get hold of the Dept. of Agric but have not yet received any response.

    please advise me on what to do to get the stuff ready for planting.

    your urgent and positive response shall be held in the highest esteem

    thank you

    yours truly
    Abe Jele
    jele.abe@gmail.com
    +27723771088

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Abe

      Dept of Agriculture:
      I am surprised that you are unable to get a hold of the Dept of Agriculture in South Africa.
      For me, this would be a key step.
      I wouldnt want to invest a lot of money and time into a big project like this before you got the approval of them.
      It would be terrible if you invested a lot and then were told you couldnt move forward.

      From a business standpoint this would be a critical step. If they are not responding to your email or letters, then I would go directly to their office. Well, that is what I would do. A little bit of extra effort now could save a lot of headache later.

      Ready for planting:
      There is a lot of things to do to get ready for planting.
      I could go in for days explaining all of the things you need to consider.

      The key to your success is planning:
      What I am really talking about it your strategy.

      Details:
      I would create a phased plan that takes many things into consideration.
      You need know your target market – secondary market, securing resources & infrastructure (water & electric), irrigation, funding/investors, transportation, labor, subject matter experts, evaluating assets and liabilities, zoning issues with pesticide use, expected cost of resources (pesticides, fertilizer, salaries, water, etc), local construction laws, facilities-processing buildings, soil evaluation, weather patterns, proof of concept testing on a small scale, local growing research, local pests(insects/animals and how to plan to deal with them), practice/growing techniques (organic or not-this will tie into your target market and growing practices), years to first crop for the species your planting, years to peak crop, expected life of orchard, expected years to profit, contingency plans-other plants to be grown in the same area for off season income or backup crop, companion crops, soil stabilization issues, drainage-flooding precautions, business management, leadership, business structure & communication plan, marketing, creating alignment with local partners in business.

      (to name a few).

      What might help is to find a few templates/examples for a detailed business plan and adapt that outline to your specific farm-business.

      Then, when you have all of that fully outlined in a complete business plan, funding, resources, personal, infrastructure… then you can think about digging in the dirt.

      Business-farm:
      A farm should be treated as a proper business to be successful.
      Farming on any scale is challenging-but on a large scale can be all consuming. Not having a detailed business plan up front can cost you tons of money and heartache. On the other hand, taking the time to think about all the angles, can put you in a position to be the most successful farm in the area. I have been around this for all my life and I have seen it go both ways. Trust me, the extra effort to create a detailed strategy will pay for it self many fold.

      Best of luck,
      Tom

  9. Have a question regarding frost and navel oranges along with all citrus in general. I live near the beach in So. Cali. so we normally don’t get freezing temperatures or rarely go below 40 F. Therefore, I have not had to deal with cold weather very often.
    Noticed on the weather forecast that we have 3 evenings in a row of temps in the mid to upper 30’s coming up over the New Years holiday.
    Should I water my trees early this week as scheduled? I heard that cold weather can really dry out citrus. Should I get up at 3am and go light my tiki torches surrounding my small backyard grove? (<:
    Any logical suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Paul, Great question.
      I just created a sort post for you on the topic.

      I dont think the torches will help much and they could fall over in the wind.
      Watering may help.. I am not sure, but we will be getting rain too, so it may not matter.

      Best,
      Tom

  10. Preparing to plant 3 blood orange trees in the next couple months. Was able to purchase more mature trees from my nursery in 15 gallon containers, special order. The Kara Kara has two fruit on it that are just about ripe now. The Moro has no fruit, as predicted. The Sanguinelli has not arrived yet and I’m not quite sure where I’m going to plant it, yet. I read also that you don’t want to plant blood orange trees until any possibility of a frost is over. Apparently, a frost just after planting will put the tree in shock immediately. In Texas they say wait until late March but in our So. Cal. coastal area, I feel that late February is about the time to plant.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Awesome choices in trees Paul; Cara Cara is one of my favorite tasting oranges.

      Cara Cara will fruit very young, Sanguinelli is next in age to fruit on your list and those Morro’s take their time… Moro blood oranges take about the longest of any citrus to be mature enough to fruit.

      Speaking of fruit, I would take all the fruit/flowers off the trees now and at planting.

      Regarding frost at planting time. Frost is going to hurt a plant if it is in a container or if it is in the ground. Perhaps if there is frost at planting then it is just one more stressful hit to the system that might be the tipping point or “straw that broke the camels back” kindo of thing. If you are holding off on planting for now, then do your best to keep them in a warm location (not in a valley, depression or shaded area that will collect heavy cold air). If it was me, I would plant in a warm location now, but take the time and specific root precautions that we discussed earlier.

      Good luck!

      Tom

      • Miklos Laczkovich

        Not:”Morro” it doesn’t mean anything,but:”Moro” !!!
        It means:”Black” or “Arab” in Italian.
        That’s a great pleasure to help,who speak what they don’t know…

  11. I’m growing Valentine pomelo, not because of your recommendation, but personal choice at least I think so. 🙂 Anyway, Valentine colors up (red flesh) much like to blood oranges due to its blood orange parentage. Some texts say that oranges color up better if the night time temps differ greatly from daytime. This obviously work in a desert’s favor, but what about you? Do you get consistently good color or some good some still orange?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Interesting Nate.
      As far as consistency.. Not much consistency here. All of my plants are confused by the strange warm weather we have been having lately.
      I just do my best to keep the plants happy despite the climate and enjoy what I get.
      How about you?
      T

      • So you often times get orange oranges and sometimes red oranges? My pomelo is flowering, but at the same time, leaves are dropping. If it continues, then I’ll snip the flowers off. For the keeping plants happy thing, there is always the hope that it turns around for the best for plants that don’t do well. A guy on one of the fruit forums I check regularly said that his lychee ad been struggling until he started adding fresh grass clippings it it. I think I like that philosophy.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          I have 5 lychee treess. They all struggled when I first got them in the ground.
          However, they are now growing very well.

          I didnt do anything to them to stimulate the recovery; they just all universally went through this process on their own.
          I have read the same thing from others… Lychee’s take a while to get established.
          Therefore, I wonder if the grass you mentioned did anything or if the lychee tree was just ready to turn the corner on its own.

  12. Here is the Cara Cara planted two weeks ago. Took literally a hundred blooms and infant fruit off the tree.
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/nmvg69f7keatq3b/cara%20Cara%20at%20planting%203%208%2015.jpg?dl=0

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Paul.
      Great job. I know it is painful to take off all of the flowers and fruits… but I firmly believe that a newly planted tree needs to have its energy diverted to getting established and not giving fruit. You will have a healthier tree in the future for it.

      Looks like the leaves are a bit yellow-green. Therefore your tree likely needs some nitrogen. However, I would hold off for about a month before giving fertilizer to a newly planted tree. Then I would go slow… perhaps start with dilute organic fertilizer and work up from there.

      Best,
      Tom

      • You know Tom. That was exactly my next question for you. Some of the leaves on both trees have been turning yellow. Have been watering lightly every 3-4 days as the moisture meter reads very wet on both trees.
        New growth is just starting to show, especially lower on the tree so that looks good. The new flush that was on the trees at planting has continued to grow. Just a bit yellow on some of the older leaves. I have thought that they might need a little nitrogen but have been afraid to do anything. Some of the newer flush is pale green also which sounds like need of nitrogen. Next week is one month so will use a very small amount of some EB Stone organic Citrus food.
        Here is a pic of the Moro at planting. It actually had 5 buds on it and it broke my heart to have to pull those off. Looks like a couple new buds coming in but only a couple. Can I keep those?…Please? (<:
        https://www.dropbox.com/s/u6j25lyqnyl21k3/Moro%20At%20Planting%203%2B8%2B15.jpg?dl=0

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Paul.
          Thanks for the follow up.

          Yellow leaves:
          The two most common causes of yellow leaves are not enough nitrogen and the soil is too wet.
          Actually, chronically wet soil impairs a plants ability to absorb nitrogen. Therefore, they are both nitrogen issues at some level.

          Wet soil:
          If your soil readings remain wet, I would continue to back off on the watering.
          Your trees roots might need a breather and as a result may not be able to get at nitrogen that is actually in the soil.

          How much to water?
          In general, infrequent deep waterings is much better that frequent light waterings.
          However, there is no exact number to the amount to water. On that note, the amount will be a bit of a moving target as the summer temps go up and the soil dries out faster.

          Based on what you mentioned, if it was me…
          I would cut back my watering to at least 3x a week and perhaps 2x a week depending on your local micro-climate and forecast.
          As you cut back on watering, keep an eye on things and just make sure that the soil doesn’t get bone dry between waterings.
          I start to get the water moving again (esp on new plantings) when the soil is dry below an inch (or so) deep.

          Indicators you have gone too far:
          Also, as you cut back on your watering, watch for drooping leaves as an indicator that you have gone too far in the other direction. Drooping leaves are often most apparent in the middle of an extra hot day. This is an important water stress sign to be sensitive to. If caught very early it is no big deal, just water immediately. However, if water stressed leaves left untreated (with watering your tree), this can cause permanent leaf damage and plant stress.

          So it is an art and a science.
          Young trees need to be babied but you also need to know when to back off and just watch… with bated breath. Its kindof like raising a kid.

          Moro flowers:
          Wow! you have Moro flowers on a small young tree. That is very unusual. Moro blood orange trees usually dont flower until they are relatively big and old. Comparatively speaking, they are usually one of the last citrus trees to flower and fruit per a given tree age. So you might be lucky… but it also makes me wonder if this is a Moro. Interesting. But if it was me I would sadly pluck the flowers. Humm actually, I might let 1 or 2 flowers stay on just to see if I actually had a Moro or something else.

          Thanks!
          Tom

          • Thanks Tom. The Moro and the Cara are stated to be 4 year old trees and came from the nursery in 15 gallon containers. Pretty sure that it is really a Moro since they marked it with a blood orange tag.
            The leaves continue to yellow so I will go with the small amount of organic fertilizer day after tomorrow.
            Also, some of the yellowing leaves are dropping off the trees. It appears that new flush is starting to arrive.
            Makes it hard to tell if the water is too much or not enough?

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Hey Paul.
            I would keep an eye on the soil and let the first inch dry out a bit between watering.
            In addition to the yellowing, too much moisture can lead to fungal infections.
            Dont want you to get any of that.

            Please let us know how it goes!

            Thanks,
            Tom

  13. Tom, the trees do not seem to be improving. I have cut way back on watering. They continue to have mature leaves drop after yellowing. The new flush is not progressing and appears dormant or stymied. I went up to the local nursery. They seem to think that the Gromulch is not good for this area here and holds too much moisture. This seems to be the case as the trees are not drying out even in previously hot weather. They are advising me to dig up and re-plant the trees in their more expensive Citrus mix. Can you please contact me off list?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Paul.

      Thanks for the note.
      Below are a few thoughts for you.

      My experience:
      I am not sure where your growing area is, but I am in Southern California… So that is my reference point and experience.
      I cant really speak from direct experience for other parts of the country, but I am guessing that most of this information is transferable/applicable to other areas.

      The native soil that I encounter is the typical Southern California stuff (depending on the part of my yard, the soil is either clay, sand, DG or a mix of those).
      This is very challenging soil to grow fruit trees in.

      The first few trees I tried growing here was a learning experience. However, with each planting I have perfected the process a little more than the last and now I feel very good about my method. I have planted -and I am growing- over 20 different varieties of citrus in my yard. Most of my citrus are growing and fruiting at an alarming rate.

      Citrus planting soil:
      I have been successfully using grow mulch for all of the trees that I have planted by hand.
      I am sure other types of soil additives would work.
      However, I have never spent the extra cash on soil that was branded as being specific for citrus trees.
      Therefore, I cant comment on if this is worth the effort or not.
      Perhaps another reader can add some insight.

      Moist soil:
      Citrus trees definitely do not like constantly damp soil.
      The good news in California is that the air is so dry that this is an uncommon situation.
      If your soil is still too moist, then you have not cut back enough on your watering.
      If your trees soil is still damp even though you shut off their water weeks ago, then something is very strange.
      Perhaps there is so much clay in your soil that it holds on to the water like a sealed container.
      On the other hand, perhaps you have a water leak, you get runoff from watering elsewhere that collects around your newly planted citrus, or perhaps you live very close to an underground water source or near the water table.
      Its hard for me to know the exact issue from here, but the idea that you can go weeks without watering… and the soil is still very moist would be a dream for many in Southern California that struggle to keep up with a plants water demands and balance that against the water-drought restrictions proposed.

      Damage done:
      Prolonged damp soil can predispose a plant to fungal infection – which can be deadly.
      This type of severe systemic infection is unusual for citrus growing in the right conditions, but it could also cause the symptoms you have described.
      Treating fungal infections can be very difficult, but letting the soil breath is a necessity.

      Replanting option:
      Transplanting is a stressful endeavour for plants… more stressful than the initial planting.
      It is also technically difficult to dig up a newly planted tree and keep the root ball together.
      If the root ball falls apart, the roots will be significantly compromised.

      Your plants sound like they are very stressed already at the moment.
      Considering the described condition of your trees, transplanting could be an especially risky move.
      Since your trees may have little reserve left, transplanting now could be the death of them.
      On the other hand, if your trees are planted in an area that has intrinsically unsuitable soil conditions, then transplanting to a new location may be a necessary move for their long term survival.

      Good luck!
      Tom

  14. Tom, thanks for your input. Also live in So. Cal. but near the coast. Soil is also a challenge here and must be amended as you advise. Dug up one of the two trees yesterday (cara cara) and found it to be moist all the way down past the root ball but not soaking wet as I presumed. I believe that the grow mulch is not the best amendment for my particular microclimate and that the guys at nursery were correct.
    Was able to dig about 6-8 inches below the root ball and keep it intact. Roots were starting to grow out of the root ball sideways. I am heading out in a few minutes here to re-plant the tree. Will use a 50-50 mix of soil from another hole and the nursery’s more expensive “Citrus and Palm Mix” I am not going to reposition the tree or remove the soil mixture directly below the rootball that the tree is resting on. This is too risky and I feel this will stress the tree in excess.
    Good news is that even if the tree(s) don’t make it thru the transplant, the nursery will replace them at no charge.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks for the follow up Paul.
      Good job on being able to get the tree back out of the ground with an intact root ball.
      This is not an easy thing to do.

      The fact that you have seen healthy new roots growing out of the root ball is a sign that the tree was already on the mend.

      Good luck!
      Tom

  15. Hey Thomas
    Found your website last night and it has been very informative to me. We have only fractured granite soil here so my planting efforts have only been containers until I save up the 6 digit budget to terrace the slope and truck in soil. Water doesn’t puddle here. And the County is not happy when you disturb the slope before getting the survey or permit done.
    Wanted to ask you what is your watering system for your citrus and dragon fruit? Length of time and frequency. I’m on drip system due to water restrictions here.
    The citrus leaves are turning yellowish so I’m thinking too much watering? Or maybe everything is just draining out and I need to add nitrogen back in?
    Also have you used worm casting as an amendment? I’m in a urban area so have the gophers, coyotes, Hawks and one squirrel in the neighborhood but no commercial soil amendment facilities any where close. Someone told me I could setup a worm farm economically for my needs now (no smells for neighbors to complain about).
    Any tips would be appreciated I’m being selective about my purchases now to save up for the slope.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Cynthia
      Thanks for all of the great questions.

      Landscape:
      It sounds like you have a challenging landscape.
      A 6 digit landscaping job would make me feel sick.

      Watering system:
      I also use a drip irrigation system.
      However, when I moved to my current residence, nearly everything was on a sprinkler system.
      There were 12 zones of PVC pipes and sprinklers all over the barren granite and clay slopes.
      The only thing that grew in that wasteland was weeds… and the size of the water bill.
      After a lot of planning; I created paths, terraces, walls, bridges… and of course converted everything to a drip irrigation system.
      Needless to say I have saved tons on my water bill and now I have lots of wonderful plants.
      Specifically, my water bill now is about 80% less than it was for the owners before me, and I now have wonderful fruit trees growing and stabilizing the difficult terrain.
      I was thinking about doing an article about converting sprinkler irrigation systems to drip… Or just about the details using or maintaining drip systems. let me know if this is of interest to anyone.

      Citrus watering system:
      My citrus are on drip.
      The number of emitters and the flow of each emitter is proportional to the size of the tree.
      Most of them get a deep watering 2 to 3 times a week in the hot dry summer.
      In the winter I cut way back on the watering (sometimes also in the spring and fall if it is raining/wet).
      The way you plant the trees and the type of soil you use will also have a big impact on how much you need to water your plants.

      Yellow citrus leaves:
      Yellow leaves can mean a lot of things depending on the pattern of the yellowing.
      None the less, the 2 most common causes for yellow leaves are not enough nitrogen and too much water.
      Over watering in a container is difficult unless the container does not drain well.
      Not enough nitrogen is a common problem, but difficult to correct when growing in a container.
      Container plants are more sensitive to over fertilization than plants in the ground. Therefore many people recommend organic fertilizer that is not as strong and less likely to burn your plant.
      As you can imagine, anything organic is going to be a bit more expensive.
      Amazon does have some good options to consider, I use to use the Neptune brand before I put stuff in the ground.
      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OWBUSA/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000OWBUSA&linkCode=as2&tag=tastylands-20&linkId=QX433L5PFZACVIZ4“>Neptune’s Harvest Organic Hydrolized Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer 36 0zhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0030EK5JE/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0030EK5JE&linkCode=as2&tag=tastylands-20&linkId=7TE4PNZRXCBTJKFL“>Jobe’s 09226 Organic Fruit & Citrus Granular Fertilizer 4-Pound Baghttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002LH47PY/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002LH47PY&linkCode=as2&tag=tastylands-20&linkId=MZFZM2DRWYSMNJA6“>Worm Factory 360 WF360B Worm Composter, BlackReply

      • Hey Tom
        Thank you for your tips. Will have to look into those.
        I only started collecting my citrus last year so they are mostly in their original pots thinking to replant on the new slope area after they acclimated to my area for a few weeks. This is actually the 2nd time I’m saving for the retaining walls and yes, the cost went up A LOT this time around. I may have to transplant after all to save them.
        Also have you tried the soaker hose version of the drip irrigation?
        There are new connector types to connect soaker hose to regular tubing in a sort of patch work only around the target plant. I think that may be my problem with the watering of my containers. It drips straight through. On the other hand, the gophers may have a field day with the hose in ground.
        I joined the CRFG (Ca Rare Fruit Growers) last year to make sure I don’t kill my citrus and the San Diego Chapter is hosting the Annual Festival of Fruit in august this year.
        Haven’t been able to go to the major events due to prior commitments but the local monthly meetings have been informative and the members know a lot about exotic fruit I never heard of.
        Hey Tom, you might like the jujube fruit. Sweet and crisp like an apple when ripe and drought tolerant.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hi Cynthia.

          Soaker hose:
          There are 2 styles of the soaker hose that I know of (major differences based on size).
          1. There is the poly tube/garden hose sized version.
          2. There is the drip irrigation 1/4″ emitter sized tubing.

          In my experience:
          1. The poly tube sized stuff is not specific enough with the watering and leads to water waste.
          2. The drip irrigation sized stuff is made of foam that clogs up and does not work after a short amount of time.

          For gophers:
          I have hidden most of my irrigation poly tube just under the soil and mulch. There seems to be miles of the stuff and gophers have only eaten into it 2x in 5 years. So it can happen but it is not a huge problem.
          However, those freeking gophers are a major problem with the roots of valued plants.
          The best thing I have done to fight this scourge is to create protective gopher cages for the roots.
          Check out the article I wrote on a simple way to build a gopher cage:

          JuJube:
          Thanks on the recommendation.
          I actually have a JuJube tree but it has only been in the ground 2 years and I havent gotten a chance to do an article on it yet.

          Best,
          Tom

  16. Hello Thomas again,
    Reread your reply and realized that you must have a huge yard to have the terraces, walls and bridges. Somehow the 20+ varieties of citrus trees seemed reasonable to have over time.
    I’m saving for a couple of retaining walls to terrace my slope to plant on.
    On further research, our area also has hard water and very alkaline soil conditions (what little soil that has been trucked in and not blown away).
    So taking your suggestions and adding more pH adjusting amendments is my next plan.
    Thank you for your suggestions.

  17. Picked up a Tarocco blood orange from Clausen’s in Vista yesterday. Hole is dug and it’s going in the ground tomorrow on the holiday. Nice looking tree in a 15 gallon pot. He says it’s a semi-dwarf but looks very mature with thick trunk and one root popping out the bottom of the container.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Paul
      Awesome pic! The Tarocco is a really tasty orange.
      It took a few years for it to fruit for me, but well worth it.
      Best,
      Tom

  18. Here is one just after planting and another in the can. Tom, I used to have good luck with watering really heavy at planting but not lately on the last two trees.(Cara and Mori) Is it ok if the soil is wet only about 5-6 inches below the surface or more water?

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/gwbphyh2892ktl0/Tarocco%20Blood%20Orange%202015%20From%20Clausen.JPG?dl=0

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/ykn2rxrdk88o0sf/Tarocco%20Blood%20Orange%202015%20From%20Clausen%202.JPG?dl=0

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Paul.
      Looks like you picked out a nice looking tree.

      My method of planting also involves using a lot of water.
      In my experience, over watering in this critical early stage is better than under watering.
      In addition, deep heavy watering at planting will also help to work out air pockets in the new soil surrounding the root ball.

      However, if you have heavy soil with a lot of clay… or if your area does not drain well for other reasons then you might run into some problems in the long run. From what you mentioned, I wonder if this could be challenge for your yard.

      One thing you can do to check if you have a soil draining problem is to dig a hole for the plant and then only fill that hole up with water. Then come back about 1 hour later. If the hole is still full of water when you check back, then you might have a drainage problem.

      However, if this is a problem for your yard, not to worry, there are things you can do to work around it. For example, digging a really big hole and mixing good draining materials in with the soil (like small rocks and sand) will help to disperse the moisture. Mounding a bunch of soil up above the normal ground level is another option that works great in problematic areas. Planting in big garden box that is open to the ground below is another option for similar reasons.

      Of course you can also combine techniques. For example, dig a big hole and fill half way with great draining healthy soil. Then plant the root ball so it is partially above the ground level. Then mound up a bunch of soil around the sides of the exposed root ball so it looks like a big stubby volcano with a tree coming out of it.

      Hope this helps.
      Best,
      Tom

  19. Thanks for the ideas, Tom. Watered again yesterday but only lightly. Checked late in the day and the mixed and very loamy soil is wetter further down than before. Tree made it through the night just fine and looks good this morning.
    Beginning to think that the southern side of my yard may be problematic for some reason. All my other trees seem healthy on the north and east sides of the yard. Does not seem to drain as well. Also, their are some liquid amber trees (decidous trees with spiked fruit) on the back of the property that have surface roots and are trying to extend into my fruit trees to rob them of water and nutrients. Have removed some pretty big roots in the last couple weeks. May have to remove those amber trees.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      That’s a really good point Paul.
      Adjacent plants will definitely compete for resources.
      I don’t have much experience with amber trees, but that sounds like a big job.
      Good luck!
      Tom

  20. After much struggling my 3 month ,in the ground semi dwarf trees, are starting to flush out. The Cara Cara looks to be developing blooms as well as leaves. The Moro is covered head to toe with brand new flush. Kind of reminds of the first time I saw freshly fallen snow when I was a kid. lol

    Extremely nervous that the bugs are going to just tear this new flush to pieces as we are in or approaching leaf miner season out here in So. Cal. Aphids, scale and mites are also common.

    What would be best for me to protect this long awaited new flush from these critters so my trees can continue to thrive? Do I dare spray with my usual spinosad+oil mix? Should I use a weaker solution? Soap? Afraid of using anything harsh that will hurt these young fragile trees.

    Should I just save myself a lot of trouble and go with Bayer or some other product containing imicacloprid?

    Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

    Paul

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thats awesome to hear Paul.
      New growth!
      lol; regarding your analogy to a fond early childhood memory.

      I suspect that the heat has a lot to do with the new growth you are seeing.. heat is expected to stimulate citrus to flush out.
      However, all the other good things you did for your trees this last year is also an essential part of how well they are doing now.

      So the leafminer question…
      Yea, they love a tender young leaf.
      And they can really hurt a young tree that is putting all its energy into the new leaves.

      Harsh chemicals question:
      So, it sounds like you are concerned about damaging the young tender leaves with the bug juice.
      Totally understandable.
      Leaves can be burned with horticultural oil.
      However, I have been using the leafminer mix described in my article for years on lots of citrus without a problem.
      And I specifically target the young leaves with the spray because I know they are the main leafminer target.

      An important factor to avoid damage your leaves with oil is the time of day you spray.
      I have seen and heard about how spraying horticultural oil on a hot day can burn leaves.
      That is part of the reason why I spray in the late evening.
      The other reason to spray in the late evening is that it is better for your bees.
      All of this explained in the article.

      Other options:
      Horticultural soap is good for a lot of bugs but wont do a thing for leafminer.
      (On the other hand the leafminer oil+spinosad spray will also kill aphids, scale, etc).

      Strong systemic pesticides like Bayer will likely wipe out any leafminer problems for a while as well.
      However, systemic pesticides also kill tons of other things including a healthy soil mix of beneficial bugs… There is also concern that some of these systemic pesticides are responsible for killing tons of bees.
      I also dont want systemic pesticides to get into the food I am eating, even if the label says it is ok.

      Clearly differing opinions out there, but I personally try to stay away from the systemic pesticides.

      Hope this helps.
      Congrats on the success Paul!
      T

  21. Hi Thomas, thanks for your prompt reply.
    Have been using the oil+spinosad combo on the more mature trees and it seems to be working fine.

    Have been using 4 tbsp. spinosad to 3-4 tbsp. oil. Do you think that I should maybe reduce the ratio to 2 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. per gallon for the first spray on the young trees or go at it full force?

    Have also been spraying in the evening hours only. I saw a couple bees on another tree this morning just after I sprayed last night. Hope that they are ok. Here is a pic of the Cara. If you can enlarge it you will see the new flush and bud.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/tf331z1r0edxlko/Cara%20June%2025.jpg?dl=0

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Paul

      You got a great looking flush on your Cara Cara.
      Quite a difference.
      I can understand how you dont want to take any chances with that healthy looking part of the tree.

      The proposed reduced dose of oil+spinosad is an interesting idea.
      However, I would just stick the the recommended dosage that is outlined on the label.

      According to several articles I have read, bees should not be harmed by spinosaid that has been given a few hours to dry before they come in contact with it (I recently added those articles them on the leafminer article). So spraying in the late evening safely addresses that bee issue.

  22. Just found your site.Yes! Great stuff Man! Thank you for doing this.I have been slowly adding to my edible landscape, Pecan Trees are so good. I’m in SW GA.Anyway, I planted several MBO’s ( got 4 total) and two of them had over 8 oranges on them. Is there some kind of hormone the nurseries can put on them so that they fruit? I also have a cherymoya (7 yrs) that I grew from seed. It got killed back several times, but the root ball survived. I moved it to the back of the house and it is now close to 6 ft tall. I saw there was a article on cherymoya so I’ll ask if needed after I read it. I’m leaving the fruit on the MBO’s, maybe they’ll be alright. Thank you again for the effort you put into this well thought out site. Peace

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Bruce
      Thanks for the great feedback!

      Moro Fruit:
      That’s a really good question about if farmers use chemicals to stimulate Moro’s to fruit.
      Other than typical fertilizer, I am not aware of any.
      But I would not be surprised if some have chemically stimulated fruiting.
      Perhaps someone else can chime-in if they have any info on the topic.

      Fruit at planting:
      My unpopular advice for planting fruit trees is to remove all the flowers and fruit.
      I know this is a painful idea, but those fruit are a costly investment for the tree.
      With limited available resources, I would rather the tree redirect energy to getting established with a good root system, etc.

      Cherymoya regrowth:
      That is interesting to hear how resilient your cherymoya has been.
      Most think of them as strictly subtropical plants.
      That is great info for anyone who is thinking about growing them in your area.
      Thanks for the insight.

      Best!
      Tom

      • Ok, that probably helped the tree more than it hurt my feelings. I got 16 off of one and 9 off of the other. I’m thinking the whole time, ok, Harvard Doc and avid citrus grower suggested this- you can by some from the store come December. I’m going to order some Cara Cara trees next go around, tried them earlier this year and they might be the greatest. Can’t imagine what they are like fresh off the tree. Peace to you Man. Good luck with the water crisis out there. And thanks for the follow up.

  23. I have a question about color. I have a 3 year old plant and I have kept most of the fruit off other than one orange in year 2 and this year. In both cases even though I took fruit off in early to mid Jan I got just a slight hint of red, hardly noticeable. Can you tell me if I picked the fruit too soon or am i doing something wrong.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Moro Fanatic
      What types of blood orange are tree do you have?
      Best,
      Tom

      • Moro – Atleast that is what is on the tag and what I paid for. Also, I have compared the flowers on my tree to other Moro blood orange trees they look the same and not being an expert I could be wrong too.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Moro Fanatic

          Thanks… should have guessed you were interested in Moro info considering your awesome name.
          (just wanted to confirm b/c each variety of blood orange acts a bit differently).
          For example, it is pretty typical for a Tarocco blood orange to have considerably less pigment compared to the others.

          Outside color:
          Of course, baseline all fruit need to be ripe to taste great.
          So this baseline requirement needs to be met before anything else matters.

          However, this can be tricky with citrus b/c the outer (peel) coloration can be significantly impacted by sun and heat regardless of ripeness… which may cause fruit to turn yellow/orange before they are actually ripe.
          Alternatively, ripe citrus fruit may stay green in warmer climates. M
          ore discussion about this issue and how to deal via my article. Why are my lemons not turning yellow?

          Inside color:
          The inside color for ripe blood orange fruit seems to be strongly impacted by air temperatures.
          (sure other factors such as soil, water, etc play a role.. but for the Moro it seems to be strongly about the temp).
          So here is the tricky part: it seems that the fruit to need to be both hot and cold.

          Thats crazy right?
          So here is what I mean…
          The growing fruit seems to develop and sweeten best in warmer temps (in places like the inland Southern California desert).
          But more nighttime chill brings out the deep dark rich color (this also happens in the inland Southern California desert).

          That being said, the coastal mountain ranges of Southern California also seem to work just fine…
          and depending on where you plant your tree in your yard, you might be able to find a microclimate to match those needs in many other parts of the country.

          Best,
          Tom

          • Thanks you Tom for the detailed insight.

            I live in AL36203 which is near north area. The summer is hot so the day time temps are around 80 – 100 during the summer but the nights are relatively cool upper to lower 70’s. During fall and winter the day time temps range from 60’s to 40’s and the night time to 50’s – 20’s so it is a mix.

            What do you think, with these temp. ranges will I get real Red Moro fruit or just nice tasting “Orange Moro” oranges.

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Great question
            As you alluded to earlier… you first want to be sure what type of citrus you have.
            The anatomy of the flower can help, but many citrus flowers look vary similar. So it can be tricky.
            In the absence of fruit, I personally like to use other factors such as the leaf anatomy, thorns, general tree shape.

            As far as your climate relationship to your moro fruit color.
            Hard to tell.
            Seems like it should work based on the info you presented.

            Perhaps they need a bit more time to develop and ripen?

            Best,
            Tom

  24. A few questions here.

    I have six blood orange seedlings that are just about a year old. Not sure exactly what type, the seeds came from store bought fruit. I planted three seeds and two of them sprouted multiple seedlings. This should mean that at least two of my baby trees are clones of their parent tree.

    They’re in containers (hopefully large enough to keep them in with regular maintenance for several years at least), and just recently were moved outside. Aside from being battered about by a wind storm, they’re doing fairly well, and I’ve taken steps to prevent more wind damage (got a sort of mini-greenhouse around them built from tomato cages and clear plastic sheeting, open at the top so it doesn’t get too hot. I hope).

    My question is, should I gradually edge them out into full sun, or keep them in partial shade? I live in high altitude desert, so it’s very hot and dry in the summer and we have quite a lot of wind. They’ll be staying in the containers, since they’ll need to come back inside over the winter. I’m already watering about every other day to keep the soil pretty evenly moist, at the height of summer I expect I’ll need to water a couple of times a day. Setting up any sort of irrigation system isn’t currently an option.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Jennifer
      This is an important but tricky question. I dont think there is a single correct blanket answer.
      But overall, I think you are rightly concerned because you know that young plants are more sensitive than older plants.

      Sun:
      If you want to err on the side of caution, citrus will grow in partial shade. Citrus do fruit much better in full sun…. but fruit production is a few years away anyways so no big deal for now.

      Water:
      Container growing is difficult for a lot of reasons. A major issue is that the containers get hot and the soil dries out fast.. esp in the dry desert air. To keep the roots from drying our you may be forced to water a lot.

      My concern is the possibility of over watering. Although you dont want citrus soil to get bone dry, you also dont want to flood them every day… multiple times a day. The roots need a break to breathe. If you water too much, the soil can also get rank and the roots can rot… Then game over.

      Growing in partial shade will help to reduce your need to water as much. Another thing that will help is to protect the container from direct sunlight.

      Good luck and keep us posted.
      Tom

      • Thanks for your reply.

        I was kind of leaning toward keeping my young trees in partial shade, it’s going to be 10 years or more before fruit becomes a concern and I was worried that they’d be crisped out here. It’s good to hear that they don’t absolutely require full sun to be healthy. Where I’ve got them, they get maybe an hour or so of sunlight actually on the container because of how the shadows fall, and that right after sunrise. The leaves get a bit more, plus day long bright reflected light off our light colored ground- there is no such thing as hard shade here.

        I think I’ve got part of the issues with needing to water frequently addressed fairly well. There are no saucers under the containers, and they’re sitting on a pallet to raise them up a few inches from ground level. I should be able to thoroughly drench them and not have them standing in puddles, and if I keep them where they are now maybe once a day will be enough, which should let the roots breathe.

        They still look really rough from the beating they took from a windstorm, but they are recovering. My ‘mini greenhouse’ has since stood up to three other similar blows with no further damage to the trees. I’m seeing new growth and they’ve not dropped any leaves beyond those that got ripped off by the wind that first time.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Yea, its a long time investment to get a citrus seedling up to fruiting age… even more so for blood oranges.

          As far as watering:
          I would try to cut back as much as you can.
          Every other day might be a goal if it is not too hot and dry.
          (Basically I wouldnt want you to foster poor soil conditions that could lead to root rot.)

          But as you do cut back, you will have to keep a very close watch for signs of wilting.
          Things can get ugly fast.

          Of course, as you know, this is tricky in the desert… esp with summer coming.
          It is a difficult balance for anyone growing in containers, but more so for your climate. The type of soil you use will also make a difference.

          Another thought; growing in larger containers can be more forgiving because it takes longer for the soil to get bone dry.

          Best of luck,

          • As much as possible, I’ll try to avoid watering every day. Unless it’s a very mild summer, though, there will be several weeks at the height of summer that I’ll have to. Having the pots set up so they drain freely should help keep the soil from getting dank and waterlogged.

            The wind break I’ve got around them will help also, the wind dries things out as fast, if not faster than the sun does.

            They’re in just about the largest containers that I can handle by myself, and the containers are a lot larger than the little trees need yet. They got moved into those a month before they went outside. Barring disaster (or insanely fast growth), it should take them 3-5 years to outgrow these pots.

            I’ve got a lemon tree that I sprouted at the same time as the oranges. It’s going to live inside, no way those broad leaves would survive the wind and it’s already over 3′ tall. Seems quite happy with its spot in my big south facing window.

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Sounds like a great plan.
            I dont think you can do any more than what you described.

            Side note:
            Lemons have been known to fruit inside a home if given a nice sunny spot.
            Lemons and limes also do pretty well in partial shade… But may do better in full sun.
            (The long hours of sun helps to make most citrus sweet, and thats not a major concern with lemons and limes)

            Best,
            Tom

  25. Thought I’d give a brief update. I had to move my orange trees closer to the house, so they only get direct sun for a couple of hours each around sunrise and sunset. I noticed that younger leaves were wilting around midday even when the soil was plenty moist with them getting more sun. They seem to approve of the change, there is new foliage that’s getting visibly bigger by the day all over all six of them and I’m not seeing mid-day wilt in any of them now. The plan for winter is move them inside and put them under LED grow lights.

    The lemon is throwing off some branches, and has added several inches of height. It gets a combination of direct sun and very bright indirect light (when the sun is straight overhead). I turn it, along with all my indoor plants every week or two, to keep them growing somewhat straight.

    All of the citrus have been lightly fed with a commercial citrus food, and I’ll feed them again in a couple of months (I figure I’ll feed three times over the course of the summer).

  26. Hello Dr. Osborne,

    I’m in San Diego, CA. About 4 years ago I purchased a dwarf blood orange tree (originally with oranges maturing in Dec) and it’s now planted in a 3’x3′ lined wooden box. The tree has been way off schedule with producing fruit now – fruited last summer (2015), nothing in winter, nothing this year and oranges never fully matured – no red streaks and tasted quite tart. I don’t have any blossoms this winter and sadly the tree has been attacked by leafminers. I spray it now and hope to see healthy growth soon. I’m not sure this tree is very happy in the box, although when purchased from a good nursery, I was told it would be fine.
    My questions:
    1. Would this tree be better off with someone who had a yard in which to plant it?
    2. If you have experience with this, what types of blood orange trees would be appropriate for a box or even a pot?
    Many thanks!
    Michele
    PS: If you need a photo, I can send via email.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Michele
      Yea, growing in containers is challenging for a a lot of reasons… but not insurmountable.
      3 foot x 3 foot sounds like a good sized container.
      If your going to grow citrus in a container, a dwarf plant is the way to go… so your off to the right start.

      Regarding some of your growing questions and challenges:
      1.
      A bad leafminer infection (or any infection) will set a plant back and they may not have the energy to produce flowers/fruit. If you want, more info about treating leafminer via my article here: Citrus Leafminer: Diagnosis and Treatment

      2.
      The red streaks in a blood orange show up as a result of fruit maturity and environmental factors (such as cold nights). Its weird I know, but cold (not freezing) nights are important and not always possible in southern California. Different varieties of blood oranges have slightly different considerations.

      3.
      Citrus usually grow when its warm, so at this time of year you may not get mych/any additional growht. That is normal.

      4.
      The easiest/best way to grow citrus is in the ground… But with some additional effort you can grow in containers. The problems of growing in containers is that it is more challenging to do most things.
      Specifically, its harder to get the soil moisture and nutrient levels correct.
      Most of the time, its easy for the soil to dry out and harder to get the right amt of fertilization. Organic fertilizer is much more forgiving. Then… there is also the problem of getting root bound (roots too big for the container) which can happen even in a large container. Bigger containers always better.

      5.
      Photos always help diagnose other potential issues. If you can upload images to a social media site (pintrest, twitter, etc) and send the link that would be great.

      Thanks,
      T

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