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Variegated Valencia Orange care

Variegated Valencia Orange

(Citrus sinensis)

Variegated Valencia Orange care

Variegated Valencia Orange

Variegated Valencia Orange tree overview:

  • The Variegated Valencia Orange is an interesting twist on a common orange.
  • This article was inspired to dispel some myths about this cool looking tree/fruit and also give you the tools for growing success.

 

Variegated Valencia Orange fruit appearance:

  • The Variegated Valencia Orange fruit is variable in its appearance.
    • Some of the fruit will look just like a normal Valencia orange.
    • However, other fruit (from the same tree) will have variable degrees of variegation (stripes) with ridges.
  • The variegation is most noticeable when the fruit is unripe because the areas without chlorophyll stand out as yellow against the green stripes.
  • As the fruit ripens and looses the green color, the fruit turns uniformly orange.
  • However, areas which were previously green and raised on the young fruit continue to be raised/bumpy/ridged.
  • Uncommonly, I have noticed that some fruit may even have a splash of red within the flesh.
  • The fruit that I am picking now are big as, and sometimes 2x larger than, a typical Valencia orange that you might find at a grocery store.
Variegated Valencia Orange care

Each Variegated Valencia Orange fruit may have a different appearance. This is an interesting variation.

Big Variegated Valencia Orange. Up to 4 inches in diameter.

Big Variegated Valencia Oranges. Up to 4 inches in diameter.

Variegated Valencia Orange taste:

  • The Variegated Valencia Orange tastes like a regular Valencia Orange… for the most part.
  • That being said, I have noticed some subtle differences in sweetness based on the outer appearance of the fruit.  However, it is very possible that to some degree this difference is related to the ripeness of the fruit; (riper fruit typically being sweeter).
Variegated Valencia Orange appearance

The fruit in this picture were all taken off the same Variegated Valencia Orange at the same time.  The fruit on the far left has a few spots of red in the flesh.  The fruit on the right has some green in the flesh. The stage of ripeness cannot fully explain the difference in the appearance of the flesh. The fruit are lined up from sweetest on the left to more acid/sour on the right.

Variegated Valencia Orange fruit season: 

  • I have read that Valencia Oranges typically mature in February.
  • However, for me (in San Diego) the fruit matures from March to August.
  • The fruit holds for a long time on the tree.
Variegated Valencia Orange care

Picture showing some variety of fruit appearance from the same Variegated Valencia Orange tree

Landscaping use: 

  • The interesting variegated leaves and variegated young fruit of this plant is a unique addition to a garden.
  • In addition to the verigation, the leaves are a bit deformed in shape and can look a bit rippled. Some leaves even turn upsidedown.
  • On the other hand, some branches from the same tree have totally unvarigated normal looking leaves and fruit. It’s a variety pack.
  • However, it is hard to appreciate the beauty from a far.  Therefore, I would recommend planting in an area where one can realize the details up close.
Variegated Valencia Orange care

Variegated Valencia Orange leaves

Myth buster:

  • The UC Riverside’s website mentions that this tree has grown weakly due to the decreased amount of chlorophyll in the leaves.  However, this has not been my experience. I have planted over 20 citrus trees in the yard, and this tree is running with the best of them.
  • See the “Sun” section below for more Variegated Valencia Orange myth busting.

 

Soil:

  • I have read that some people just plant citrus trees in the ground without much fanfare.  However, I have not had any previous luck with this Laissez-faire method of fruit tree planting.  Perhaps this is because the soil in Southern California is typically rather poor.
  • Therefore, I do what has worked for all of my other trees; I aggressively augmented the soil with grow mulch/compost, and inoculate the roots with Micorriza.  Click here for the planting method that I have used with great success.

 

Water:

  • I water most of my citrus trees around 2-3x a week in the summer (after they are established).
  • For established trees, I cut way back on the watering in the winter… Just because that is usually our wet season and you can get away with it.
  • Covering the ground around the base of the tree with a nice layer of wood mulch will help to retain moisture in the summer.

 

Sun:

  • Full sun.

Myth Buster:

  • I was told that because the leaves of this plant were variegated that they could not tolerate direct sunlight.  The rational was that the areas on the leaf with less chlorophyll/pigment would burn.
  • As a result of this advice, I initially planted this tree in an area that only got morning sun and was partially shaded in the mid-late day. Unfortunately in this environment, the tree became sick and rapidly declined in health.
  • Therefore as a last ditch effort, I decided to take the chance of stressing the plant out even more… and I dug it up. I relocated the tree to a south facing slope that gets full sun exposure all day long.  I figured, what do I have to lose?… this poor plant is about to die. To my delight, the tree began to come back to life and today it is super healthy.
  • The result is that there is only a minimal sign of sunburn on the undersurface a few of the southfacing leaves that have turned upsidedown (I think this upsidedown configuration would be a challenge for any leaf because the undersurface of a leaf is just not built for direct sunlight).
  • Disclaimer: Obviously, I can only speak for myself.  Specifically, a desert environment will experience more intense sunlight which could be a conceivably be a problem.  However, this tree is currently living 10miles inland on the South side of a small mountain… which would be plenty bright compared to most parts of California.

 

Fertilization: 

  • I try to fertilize all of my citrus trees from late winter to mid-summer.
  • The rational is that I don’t want to encourage young leaf growth in the winter because of the risk of cold damage to the susceptible young leaves.
  • On the other end, I don’t want to encourage excessive young growth during leaf miner season which starts around July.
  • I generally use a balanced fertilizer such as 15-15-15 and apply it in 4 doses during the fertilization season described above.
  • I also give a single dose of micronutrients in the spring.  I have been trying different brands, but this organic one with a money back guarantee sold on Amazon looks really great.
  • Lately I have also been adding in all kinds of other goodies such as mushroom compost; grow mulch, worm castings, etc. I am getting the sense that citrus like the variety.  See my earlier post for how to get free compost.

 

Temperature:  

  • Many citrus will freeze when the temperature drops below 27-28°F.
  • In my years in San Diego, frost protection for my citrus has not been necessary.  Sure, they dont like the cold, but they get by without any special care. However, cold/frost protection is very important in cooler climates.
  • For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your specific area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”
  • I have also read that the Valencia Orange tree can grow well in the tropics.  However, because of the lack of cool nights, the fruit stays a bit green even when fully ripe.

 

Citrus Pests: 

  • The major pest for all of my citrus is the Citrus LeafminerClick here to see my post about the diagnosis and treatment of Citrus Leafminer. 
  • However, I recently also discovered a mealybug infestation on a few branches of my Tahitian Pummelo.  I quickly cured the tree of these sap suckers with a thorough blast of water, followed by horticulture oil spray and then Tanglefoot around the trunk (see Tanglefoot discussion below).
  • Citrus are also prone to attack from aphids, scale etc.
  • One of the most important things to do is to keep the ants out of the tree which often bring aphids, scale and mealybugs with them.  A great way to do this is to use Tanglefoot.  However, don’t apply Tanglefoot directly to the bark because the thin bark of citrus can be easily damaged this way.  Create a skirt of masking tape around the trunk of the tree (with the sticky-side out) or buy the Tanglefoot guard paper wrap.  Then add the Tanglefoot on that skirt/paper.
  • Citrus Greening AKA Huanglongbing (HLB) is currently wreaking havoc in Florida.  All other citrus growing states are on high alert and most are under quarantine.  The disease is incurable and will usually kill a tree within several years.  The disease is spread by the insect known as the Asian Citrus Psyllid. Leaves with HLB disease have a blotchy yellow pattern that is not the same on both sides of the leaf.  If you suspect this disease, it should be reported to the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline at 1-800-491-1899.
spinosid

White leafminer trails and yellow leafminer larva.  This picture is from a pumello leaf.

Fruit Use:

  • Use the Variegated Valencia Orange the same way you would a typical Valencia Orange.
  • This usually means juicing or cutting up the fruit so you can eat the flesh off the rind.
  • You can also peal this orange, but it is not particularly easy… and the septations of Valencia Oranges are on the fibrous side.

 

Variegated Valencia Orange Origin Story:

  • Many varieties of citrus have originated from mutated branches of a parent tree.  This is how the Variegated Valencia Orange got its start.
  • But not to worry, this mutation is not the type of scary mutation you would expect from Marvel comics.  This is just a genetic variation that happens occasionally but naturally.
  • Not all mutations are favorable, but when an interesting branch mutation pops up, you can take a cutting from that branch and graft it onto some root stock… and voilà you have a new variety of citrus.
  • According to UC Riverside, this particular mutated branch was first noticed growing off an otherwise normal Valencia Orange tree in Riverside, California in 1989.

 

Valencia Orange Origin Story:

  • The Valencia orange is categorized as a type of “sweet orange.”
    • However, the origin of the specific variety that we call the Valencia orange is a bit controversial.
    • I have read that the Valencia Orange variety has originated in Spain, Azores, India and California.  Obviously there can be only one…
    • However, considering where I live, I like the California origin story.  This history states that the Valencia was first hybridized by the California pioneer William Wolfskill in the mid-19th century on his farm in Santa Ana California.
    • Regardless of the actual origin, this orange was named after the city Valencia in Spain which at the time was known for its sweet orange trees.
    • In turn, the tremendous success of the crop in Southern California led to the naming of Valencia, California.
Origin of the Valencia Orange

Valencia on the East coast of Spain

About Thomas Osborne, MD

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

4 comments

  1. priscilla bertolet

    Great info. Thanks very much. I have a seedling orange tree about 18 inches tall. Planted it in yard a few months ago and leaves are now a light yellow green with green edge. I realized it was probably variegated and came online for help with it. It seems to be doing fairly good though some sunburn on centers of some leaves. I was ready to jerk it up and move it to more shady spot but though mostly yellow it seems to be doing fine. After reading your experience I might should leave it alone. Thanks again!!

  2. I would like your permission to use the photo of the leafminer trails for a Master Gardener blog.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey KJ
      Thanks for asking!
      If they are my pics of leafminer trails then you absolutely can have permission to use them.
      I only ask that you reference the pictures appropriately.
      Please share your Master Gardener article with us when you are ready.

      Note:
      As you might have noticed, some of the pictures in my leafminer diagnosis and treatment article are mine and some are not.
      If they are not specifically referenced as being someone else picture, then I took the pics myself, and you are welcome to use them as mentioned above.

      Best,
      Tom

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