How to Grow Oranges in a Home Garden

Oranges in home garden

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Oranges can be divided into three basic groups—sweet oranges, blood oranges, and sour oranges. Sweet oranges can be divided into two subgroups—navel oranges and common oranges.

Navel oranges and common oranges are the most commonly grown oranges both in home gardens and commercially. Navel oranges are mostly peeled and eaten fresh out of hand. Common oranges are mostly used to make juice, though some are also eaten out of hand.

Blood oranges can be eaten fresh out of hand or juiced.

Sour oranges—also called bitter oranges—are used to make preserves such as marmalade but are most commonly planted as ornamentals in the landscape.

See also: How to Grow Citrus

orange varieties
Sweet oranges ready for harvest

The difference between many oranges is the climates in which they are grown. Oranges originating in more tropical regions are thinner-skinned, juicier, contain less acid, and are paler in color than oranges grown in cooler or sub-tropical regions. The most flavorful oranges are grown in regions where the days are hot and the nights are cool. Sugar forms during hot days and acid during cool nights to create the tastiest oranges.

The orange does not get its name from its color but from the Sanskrit word naranga which means “fragrant”. Naranga became naranj in Persian and later became aurantium in Latin and arancia in Italian and later became orange in French and English.

Choosing an orange

When you choose an orange, consider first how you plan to use the fruit—for fresh eating or juicing.

Next, consider the size of the tree and the space you have in your garden to grow a tree or trees.

Then consider if the tree can grow where you live; can it survive winter cold, are the days during the growing season hot enough, and are the nights cool or warm.

Ask the citrus expert at the nearest Cooperative Extension Service which orange varieties grow best in your area. Check with the citrus person at a nearby garden center for which varieties are available.

Most home gardeners grow sweet oranges—either navel or common.

Types of oranges

There are three types of oranges: sweet oranges, bitter oranges, and mandarins.

Sweet oranges are most commonly used for eating fresh and for juice. Bitter or sour oranges are used for making marmalade and orange-flavored liqueurs, and mandarins–which are also called tangerines and are not really oranges but separate citrus—are used for eating fresh.

Bitter oranges originated in India and made their way to the Mediterranean region around 1000 AD. Today bitter oranges are mainly grown in Europe.

The sweet orange is believed to have originated in southern China and came to the Mediterranean region several hundred years after the bitter orange. Today sweet oranges are grown around the world but the largest crops are in Brazil, the United States, and Mexico.

Mandarins are thought to have originated in southeastern China and spread throughout Asia in the tenth century and to Europe in the early 1800s. Today they are grown mainly in Brazil, the United States, Italy, Japan, and Spain.

Both the bitter and sweet orange were brought to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 1500s. Mandarin was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s.

All oranges thrive in warm regions where the summers are warm and the winters are cool but the temperatures do not go below freezing. With their dark green leaves that stay on the tree throughout the year and their fragrant white flowers, oranges are considered among the most beautiful of plants.

The bitter orange generally resists cold better than the sweet orange and the mandarin is more resistant to cold than either the sweet or bitter orange. The bitter and sweet orange resists cold better than other citrus such as limes or lemons.

Sweet oranges have a sweet flavor—actually a blend of sugar and acid–and are round to oval in shape. There are three groups of sweet oranges:

Common oranges are the largest group of sweet oranges. They are sold as fresh fruit and almost all orange juice comes from common oranges. The Valencia orange—the most popular orange in the world–is a type of common orange. Other common orange varieties include Hamlin, Jaffa, Marrs, Parson Brown, Pineapple, and Trovita.

Navel oranges are sweet oranges that develop a small second fruit within the larger fruit at the blossom end of the orange which is at the end opposite the stem. Where the second fruit develops is an indentation that looks like a human navel and thus the name. The Washington navel orange is the original and best-known navel orange. Other navel orange varieties include Cara Cara, Fukumoto, Lane Late, Robertson, Skaggs Bonanza, and Spring.

Blood oranges are similar in appearance to common oranges but the tint of their flesh and peels range in color from pink to red to purple. The juice of blood oranges is red with some more red than others. Blood oranges have a rich, berry-tinged flavor. The best-known blood orange varieties are Moro, Sanguinelli, and Tarocco.

Bitter or sour oranges are usually not eaten fresh because their flesh is tart to bitter tasting. The sour flavor of these oranges is a result of the fruits’ acidic juices; the bitterness is due to the essential oils. The best-known bitter orange varieties are Bouquet de Fleurs, Chinotto, and Seville.

Mandarin oranges are a large and varied group of citrus that share several traits. Most notably, mandarins are loose-skinned fruits—so loose that they are sometimes called zipper-skinned. Mandarins are also generally smaller and flattened looking, and they typically are sweeter than sweet oranges. There are many well-known varieties of mandarins—some of which are also called tangerines: Clementine, Dancy, Encore, Fremont, Honey, Kara, Kinnow, Mediterranean, Pixie, Ponkan, Satsuma, and Wilking.

Sweet oranges and sour oranges

Oranges can be divided into two broad categories: sweet oranges and bitter oranges.

Sweet oranges have a sweet and juicy flesh and are found in both savory and sweet dishes. They are eaten out of hand, as a breakfast fruit, snack, or dessert. They can be sectioned and served in fruit salads or compotes, chicken or turkey salads, or as a topping for tarts. The grated rind or juice of sweet oranges is used to flavor soufflés, sauces, glazes or creams, mousses, and sorbets.

Bitter or sour oranges have a dry flesh that is too bitter for eating for eating out of hand. But the peel of the bitter orange is aromatic and flavorful and can be used to makes marmalades, candies, sauces, syrups and liqueurs.

The sweet oranges’ distinctive flavor is a blend of sugar and acid. Sweet oranges are round to oval in shape and can be further divided into three groups: navel, common, and blood oranges.

The bitter orange is said to be an ancestor of the sweet orange. Bitter oranges are not for eating out of hand.

The botanical name for the sweet orange is Citrus sinensis. The botanical name for the bitter orange is Citrus aurantium.

Sweet oranges described

Sweet oranges—navel and common–are the most widely grown and the most popular. Navel oranges are mostly used for eating fresh. Common oranges are mostly used for juicing.

Sweet oranges grow 12 to 16 feet tall depending on the rootstock. ‘Valencia’ common orange grows taller to about 20 feet. Space trees about 16 feet apart.

Sweet oranges can withstand colder temperatures than lemons but not as much cold as mandarins. The foliage of sweet oranges will be damaged when temperatures drop below 26°F; the fruit will be damaged at temperatures below 27°F.

Sweet orange flesh contains a blend of sugar and acid; sugar forms during hot days and acid during cool nights. The most flavorful sweet oranges are found where there is a wide daily fluctuation of temperature.

Navel orangeNavel oranges

Navel oranges have thick, rough, bright orange skins that are easy to peel. They are large and seedless with a rich, juicy flavor, and their segments are easy to separate. Sweet oranges develop a small second fruit within the larger fruit at the blossom end of the orange. Where the second fruit develops is an indentation that looks like a human navel and thus the name. The Washington navel orange is the original and best known navel orange. Other navel orange varieties are Cara Cara, Fukumoto, Lane Late, Robertson, Skaggs Bonanza, and Spring. The peak harvest for navel oranges is from mid-winter through early spring.

Navel oranges are grown for eating fresh out of hand. They have a crisp, sweet, rich flavor. They are easy to peel and the sections are easily divided. They are almost wholly seedless.

Navel oranges are usually not juiced; the juice is immediately sweet but after a short time it becomes bitter tasting.

The most widely grown navel orange is the ‘Washington’.

The navel orange gets its name from the small hole or protrusion at the end of the fruit opposite the stem. That hole looks like a belly button or navel. The hole is caused by the development of a small secondary fruit inside the larger fruit. The enlargement of the secondary fruit causes a small hole and sometimes a protrusion to form at the blossom end of the fruit. Sliced from top to bottom, the secondary fruit looks like a wedge-shaped segment at the end of the fruit.

Navel oranges grow best in subtropical California where days are warm and nights are cool. Sugars are formed during the warm days and acids form during the cool nights; the end result is a rich sweet-tart flavor.

Navels do not grow well in Florida where summer day and night temperatures do not vary much. In humid sub-tropic regions, navel oranges will be very sweet, but there will be little acid or complexity to the flavor. In cool regions, the flavor will be tart.

Generally, navel oranges ripen before the onset of cold winter weather; cold can damage the crop.

Navel oranges are genetically unstable and so can develop mutations; these mutations may affect only a branch or two on a tree; mutations are known as ‘bud sports’. When fruit on a bud sport has a desirable trait or traits, the sport can be developed into a separate variety. There are several ‘Washington’ bud sport varieties.

Common oranges

Common oranges are round or slightly oval and medium-sized with a thin, smooth rind. They have a sweet-acid flavor and are juicier than navel oranges. Common oranges also have more seeds and are more difficult to peel than navel oranges. Common oranges are sold fresh for eating out of hand, but more importantly almost all orange juice is squeezed from common oranges. The Valencia orange—the most popular orange in the world—is a common orange. Other common orange varieties include Trovita, Hamlin, Jaffa, Marrs, Parson Brown, and Pineapple. The peak harvest for common oranges is from late spring to mid summer.

Common oranges are usually juiced. They are only sometimes eaten fresh out of hand. They are juicer, seedier, and harder to peel than navels.

The juice of common oranges, unlike navels, does not turn bitter when stored. The juice can be used fresh, frozen, or processed.

‘Valencia’ is the most widely grown common orange.

Common oranges are adapted to all citrus-growing regions. They grow particularly well in Florida. They also grow well in Texas and the Gulf Coast states.

In Arizona, common oranges such as ‘Hamlin’, ‘Trovita’, ‘Diller’, and ‘Pineapple’ are sold under the name Arizona Sweets.

Common oranges do not have navels.

blood orangeBlood oranges described

Blood oranges are similar in size to common oranges but with a red blush skin and a streaked to full scarlet, crimson, or purple flesh. The blood orange is juicy and has a sweet-tart taste that is rich, flavorful and often hints of berry. Blood oranges are popular for eating out of hand, juicing, and as garnishes for sweet and savory dishes.The best known blood orange varieties are Sanguinello, Moro, and Tarocco. The peak harvest for blood oranges is from early winter to early spring.

Blood oranges are named for their reddish to reddish-purple flesh and juice.

Blood oranges can be eaten fresh or juiced. The fruit is harder to peel than navel oranges.

The flavor of blood oranges is sometimes referred to as complex; the flesh and juice have a rich-berry-tinged flavor. The juice is used to make sauces, sorbets, and desserts. The juice of blood oranges does not store well; it becomes off tasting when stored.

Blood oranges require warm days for sugars to form and cool nights for color to develop. The coloration of blood oranges varies in intensity depending on the variety, location, and tree maturity.

Blood oranges grow particularly well in the interior valleys of California. Their growth and yield are inconsistent in Florida and Texas where they may not develop red pigmentation.

Blood oranges ripen in early winter in warm-winter regions and in spring in cooler-winter regions.

Blood oranges reach a height of 20 to 25 feet and wide as standards.

sour orangeSour oranges described

Bitter or sour oranges usually have a thick, dimpled, deep-orange colored peel, and a sometimes pithy flesh. Bitter oranges are usually not eaten fresh because the flesh is too tart and bitter tasting. The sour flavor of these oranges is a result of the fruits’ acidic juices; the bitter is due to its essential oils. The peel and juice of sour oranges are used to make marmalades, candies, sauces, syrups, pies, flavorings, and liqueurs. The best known sour oranges are Seville, Bouquet de Fleurs (also called Bouquet), Chinotto, and Bergamot. Sour oranges are harvested beginning in late fall and the harvest continues through spring depending upon the region and climate.

Sour oranges are higher in natural pectin—a gelling agent—than sweet oranges. That makes them ideal for use in marmalades, jellies, and preserves.

Sour oranges are highly acidic and bitter tasting. They are more bitter tasting than limes. Sour oranges are also called bitter oranges.

Sour orange fruit is used to make marmalade, sauces, liqueurs, and drinks. ‘Seville’ is a favorite for marmalades.

The sour oranges are also used as street trees, hedges, patio trees, and for other ornamental plantings.

The rootstock of sour oranges is used for other types of citrus.

Sour oranges grow to 20 feet tall as standards; dwarf trees grow 5 to 10 feet tall.

Where to plant an orange tree

  • The orange is a subtropical species. The ideal winter temperature is 35 to 50°F. Fruit is damaged at 29°F. Dormant trees can survive brief temperatures of 25F.
  • Plant an orange tree in any warm, sunny spot sheltered from the wind.
  • Choose the warmest spot in the garden; allow enough room for the tree to grow to its mature size. A standard size tree will need 20 to 25 feet tall and wide.
  • Roots will extend beyond the tree dripline so choose a place where neighboring roots will not interfere with growth.
  • If planting in a lawn remove a 3- to 5-foot circle of lawn to eliminate competition from grass roots.

When to plant an orange tree

  • Planting time should allow for the longest period of mild or warm weather before extreme hot or cold temperatures; this will allow the plant to become established.
  • In freeze-prone area, plant in late winter or early spring after all danger of frost is past. In hot summer regions, plant in the fall; this will allow the tree to become established before very hot weather.
  • Plant in autumn in normally frost-free regions.

How to plant an orange tree

  • Dig a hole deeper than the root ball and twice as wide. Rough up the sides of the hole to let the roots grow out more easily.
  • Do not amend the backfill or add fertilizer to the bottom of the hole; feed the tree only when it starts to produce new growth.
  • Carefully lift the tree from its container; avoid jerking the tree from the container.
  • Straighten out any circling roots; cut away broken roots.
  • Plant the tree at the same level or slightly higher as it grew in the container; the color on the trunk will tell you where the previous soil level was.
  • Pack soil gently around the root ball eliminating air pockets.
  • When the hole is half full, fill it with water to settle the soil. Once the water has soaked in, finish packing the soil to the top of the hole and water again.
  • Create a watering basin around the newly planted tree; use garden soil  to about 6 inches high and wide; you can form an inner wall – creating a donut shape – to keep water away from the trunk.

Spacing orange trees

  • Space standard orange trees at least 16 feet apart.

Orange tree pollination and flowering

  • Orange trees are pollinated by bees and other insects. Orange trees are self-fertile and have a good fruit set; only a single tree is needed to set fruit.
  • Flowers are born in clusters of 2 to 6 sweetly fragrant white flowers. Flowers can be borne from spring through summer.
  • Only about 1 to 5 percent of flowers go on to produce fruit.
  • Fruit takes 6 to 8 months to mature after fruit set. a healthy tree should produce 100 fruits a season.

Orange tree propagation

  • Orange trees are usually grown from budded rootstocks.

Planting orange trees in containers

  • Both standard and dwarf citrus trees can be grown in containers. Because roots will be restricted in a container, the plant will grow smaller than it would in the ground.
  • A container at least 18 inches across should be sufficient for several years.
  • Make sure the container has drainage holes. Keep in mind, that moisture evaporates faster from porous pots than nonporous ones, necessitating more frequent watering.
  • A wheeled base such as a dolly will make it easier to move the plant to protection during cold weather.
  • Plant in light, well-drained potting mix. Do not mix fertilizer into the soil.
  • Set the plant at the level it grew in the original pot.
  • Allow e or 3 inches at the top of the container for water.
  • Firm the soil around the root ball and then water thoroughly.

Container culture – indoor growing

  • Keep the soil evenly moist for potted orange trees. Use a moisture meter or test the soil with your finger whenever the soil feels dry.
  • Water potted trees by pouring over the soil until water flows out the drainage holes.
  • Don’t let the plant sit in a saucer full of water.
  • Because container plants are watered so often. Fertilizer may be washed away quickly. Use a slow-release fertilizer that will not wash away with each watering.
  • Move potted citrus indoors if a freeze is predicted.
  • Orange trees grown indoors need bright light. Place the plant near a sunny window but away from radiators or heat sources.
  • Sudden changes in temperature can result in leaf and fruit drop.
  • The ideal humidity level for indoor citrus is about 50 percent. Overly dry air can result in leaf drop.

Watering orange trees

  • The orange tree is evergreen and needs water throughout the year.
  • Water to keep the soil moist, but not wet.
  • Water when the top few inches of soil are dry; use a moisture meter to determine how moist the soil is.
  • Water the root system but keep the trunk and bud union dry.
  • Deliver water to the roots by flooding a basin above the tree root zone or use drip irrigation. Irrigation should wet the entire root zone. Expand the watering area as the tree grows.

Feeding orange trees

  • Feed orange trees with citrus food high in nitrogen such as 10-5-10.
  • A slow-release organic fertilizer will feed the plant throughout the year.
  • Always follow package instructions on the amount and frequency of feeding.
  • Feed citrus trees after they put on new growth.
  • A nitrogen deficiency can result in leaves turning yellow; apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer.
  • A zinc deficiency can result in abnormally small leaves with yellow blotches between the veins; this can occur in alkaline soils. Treat the tree with a foliar spray.
  • An iron deficiency can result in young leaves gradually turning yellow between the veins. This can occur in alkaline soils that are poorly drained. Add a chelated iron to the soil.
  • A manganese deficiency can occur along with a zinc or iron deficiency; young leaves turn a light green between the veins. Apply a foliar spray.
  • A magnesium deficiency can cause older leaves to turn yellow between the veins. Apply a foliar spray or add magnesium sulfate to the soil.

Routine care – weeding, mulching

  • Mulch around an orange tree to eliminate weeds that compete for water and nutrients.
  • Mulch will keep roots cool and conserve soil moisture in hot weather. Remove mulch if a freeze is forecast; bare soil absorbs more warmth than mulch.
  • Compost and leaf mold are suitable organic mulches.
  • Keep mulch back from the tree trunk by about a foot to discourage rot.

Thinning and pruning orange trees

  • Prune an orange tree only when necessary. Citrus trees bloom and fruit on new growth; removing new growth reduces the harvest.
  • Allow branches to grow close to the ground in intensely sunny regions. The low growth will protect the bottom branches from sunburn and give a bigger harvest.
  • In humid regions, trim up lower branches to improve air circulation and deter diseases.
  • In freeze-prone areas, avoid pruning in fall or winter; pruning can stimulate new growth that can be damaged by cold.
  • Snip off suckers (rootstock growth) below the bud union on the trunk or underground. Root suckers will not bear the same fruit as the scion above the bud union.
  • Remove watersprouts—upright growing shoots that appear on branches or in branch crotches.
  • Remove growth that makes the tree lopsided.
  • Prune away dead or broken branches.
  • Remove dead wood and unproductive twigs and stems; this will allow light and air into the center of the tree.
  • Remove the upper limbs if the tree grows too tall.
  • On alternate bearing trees that produce a big crop one year and a light crop, the next remove some of the fruitlets on a heavy crop year.

Orange tree pest controls

  • Control ants with a sticky band on the trunk or use soap spray or ant baits.
  • Remove aphids with a strong jet of water or apply soap or oil sprays.
  • Remove mealybug cottony masses by hand or hose them off with water or apply soap or oil sprays.
  • Mites can attack citrus that is underwatered.
  • Scale insects can be suffocated with an oil spray.
  • Handpick, trap, or bait slugs and snails.

Orange tree disease controls

  • Black rot and fungal diseases caused by rainy weather can be prevented if copper fungicides are applied early enough.
  • Greasy spot fungal disease can occur in hot, humid climates; spray the tree with an oil or copper fungicide.
  • Fruit brown rot can occur if fungal Phytophthora spores splash on the lower part of the tree; this can cause brown spots on the rind. Prune to improve air circulation.
  • Foot rot or gummosis is caused by a Phytophthora infection; sap oozes from cracks. A systemic fungicide may treat the disease.
  • Sooty mold feeds on the excrement of aphids and mealybugs; hose off sap suckers

Treating environmental problems

  • Trees that are alternate bearing can be thinned in heavy fruit crop years.
  • Flower and fruit drop can occur if the tree has more flowers or fruit than it can support.
  • Fruit splitting can occur if watering is irregular.
  • Regreening can occur if ripe fruit remains on the tree during hot weather.
  • Sports—leaves or fruit of a different color or shape—can occur occasionally.
  • Cold damage can cause leaves and twigs to appear watersoaked. Remove damaged wood and fruit when temperatures moderate.
  • Excessive fruit drop can be caused by sudden changes in temperature.
  • Sunburn of stems and branches can occur in hot-sun areas; wrap the trunk with paper or cardboard bands.
  • Wind damage can occur if trees are not protected from hot, drying winds.

How to harvest oranges

There are differing peak seasons for oranges depending upon variety. Valencia oranges are in season from late spring to mid-summer. Navels are best from mid-winter to early spring and blood oranges peak from early winter until early spring. Sour oranges are harvested beginning in late fall and the harvest continues through spring depending upon the region and climate.

  • Oranges ripen only on the tree, not after being picked.
  • Ripeness is not always reflected in rind color; the best way to tell it citrus is ripe is to pick a sample and try it.
  • Fruit will hold on the tree and can be picked as you need it.
  • Harvest the entire crop if a freeze is predicted; put the crop in cool storage.
  • Harvest citrus by giving it a quick twist as you pull it or by clipping the stem with a hand pruner. Pulling fruit from the tree can result in broken branches or fruit that leaves some rind behind on the stem.

Storing oranges

  • Ripe oranges will keep on the tree.
  • Place ripe harvested citrus in cool storage.
  • Oranges will keep in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator for up to a month, or they will store in a cool, dark place in the kitchen for a week.

Oranges in the kitchen

Select. Select a firm, smooth and thin-skinned orange that is fully colored and heavy for its size. Color is not a good indicator of quality; some oranges are dyed and some fully ripened oranges such as Valencia may regreen. Brown surface patches do not mean the orange is unripe or spoiled, but rather that it was grown in a very warm and usually humid region. Avoid oranges that are soft or moldy. Select an orange that is firm and heavy for its size. A heavy orange will be a juicy orange. Avoid oranges that are spongy or have mold. Rough brown russeting on the rind of an orange will not affect the flavor or quality. A slight greening of the orange rind will not affect the quality. An orange with a green tint to its rind can be ripe and ready to eat.

Amount. Three medium-sized or 2 large oranges equal about one pound of segments.

Store. Oranges will keep at room temperature for up to 1 week and in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Whole or segmented oranges are not recommended for freezing. Orange juice can be frozen in plastic containers for up to one year.

Prepare. To eat an orange out of hand, wedge your thumb between the peel and flesh and pull off the peel a piece at a time. Break fruit into sections.

Run a sharp knife between the peel and flesh in a spiral fashion to remove the orange peel and the bitter white membrane beneath.

To juice an orange, roll the fruit on a firm surface to soften the flesh then ream on an orange or lemon juicer.

To grate orange peel for zest, rub the colored part of the rind only against the small grater holes or use a zester or vegetable peeler to remove the rind and then chop finely.

Common sweet orange varieties

Common oranges are sweet oranges that are not navel oranges or blood oranges.

Common oranges are juicier than navel oranges, but they also have more seeds and are more difficult to peel.

Because the juice of common oranges is sweet and does not have a bitter aftertaste or turn bitter when stored—like some other sweet oranges, the common orange is ideal for fresh and frozen juice.

Two popular common orange varieties are Valencia and Trovita. These are popular oranges for juicing.

Valencia common orange is a round or slightly oval medium-large orange that has a thin, smooth rind. Its juice is a delightful balance of sweet and acid tastes. It is slightly more acidic than the Washington navel.

Valencia has a deep golden rind and few seeds. It can be eaten out of hand, but it is not easy to peel. iI has abundant juice.

Valencia originated in Portugal but is named for a region in Spain where it is widely cultivated. It can ripen in midwinter in warm regions of its range and at the beginning of summer in cooler regions.

Valencia is cultivated in Spain, South America, Australia, South Africa, and in Arizona and Texas in the United States.

  • Arizona Sweets: non-navel oranges often grown in Arizona; includes ‘Diller;, ‘Hamlin’, ‘Marrs’, ‘Pineapple’, and ‘Trovita’. Plant tags may only specify ‘Arizona Sweets’, not the exact variety. Some common oranges are sometimes referred to by the general name Arizona Sweets. These common non-navel oranges are popular in Arizona where they ripen before the first hard frost. Arizona Sweets include the varieties Hamlin, Marrs, Pineapple, and Trovita. Sometimes these oranges are grouped together and marketed as Arizona Sweets.
  • ‘Diller’: small to medium fruit with few seeds; juicy, sweet flavor; bright orange flesh; use for juice; not easy to peel; holds well on tree; early ripening; small to medium tree; above-average cold tolerance; adapted to desert; an Arizona Sweet.
  • Jaffa’, also called ‘Shamouti’, is a medium-large to large, thick-skinned common orange that is nearly seedless. It has a light orange rind and few to no seeds. It has excellent flavor and can be eaten out of hand or juiced. It ripens from winter into spring.
  • ‘Hamlin’: small to medium-size fruit, usually seedless; tender, sweet, and juicy flesh with low acidity; excellent for juice; easy to peel; very early ripening; medium to large tree; tolerates cold; grown primarily in Florida, along Gulf Coast, and Texas; one of the Arizona sweets. Hamlin is a medium-small, seedless common orange that is low in acid and excellent for juicing with a sweet taste. It has an orange rind and few to no seeds. It ripens fall into winter.
  • ‘Marrs’: medium to large fruit (on a small tree) with few to many seeds; yellow-orange rind; juicy, sweet flavor, low acid; often juiced; not easy to peel; ripening late in the season (fall into winter) for best flavor; small, naturally dwarf tree; fruit borne in clusters near the outside of tree; grown primarily in Texas and Arizona; an Arizona Sweet. ‘Marrs’ is a navel-less sport of ‘Washington’. Marrs is a medium-sized, low-acid orange that is juicy but best eaten out of hand. Marrs is a navel-less sport of Washington that was discovered in Texas. It has an orange rind, few to many seeds, and a sweet to low acidity taste. It ripens from fall into winter.
  • ‘Midsweet’: Medium size fruit, moderately seedy; dark juice; ripening midseason; medium size tree; hardier than ‘Pineapple’.
  • ‘Parson Brown’: medium to large fruit, very seedy; pale yellow flesh; juicy sweet; excellent for orange juice; very early ripening; large tree; heavy crop; cold tolerant; best grown in Florida where it was once the main crop but is being replaced by ‘Hamlin’. Parson Brown is a small, yellow-fleshed common orange. It is seedy and is best used for juicing. It has an uneven flavor. It ripens from fall into winter.
  • ‘Pineapple’: medium to large size, orange fruit, moderately seedy, thick skin; rich and sweet flavor, pineapple fragrance; very juicy; good for fresh eating; not easy to peel; midseason ripening; does not hold on the tree well; medium to large thornless tree; bears heavy crop alternate years; sensitive to frost; grown primarily in Florida, Texas, and Arizona; an Arizona Sweet. Pineapple is a small to medium-sized orange with a glossy deep-orange colored rind that is quite seedy. It has a sweet flavor and rich pineapple aroma. It has few to many seeds and is popular for juicing. It ripens fall into winter.
  • ‘Shamouti’ (‘Jaffa’): medium to large, light orange fruit nearly seedless; firm, fragrant, sweet flesh; pebbly rind; easy to peel; fruit holds on tree; medium size, thornless tree; popular in Europe, also in California.
  • ‘Trovita’: small to medium fruit, few seeds; sweet and juicy, flavorful without high heat; good eaten fresh, also a juice orange; juicier than navels; ripening winter into spring; adapted to desert and coastal California—wider range than ‘Washington’ navel; fruits in deserts of Arizona and California; tends to bear heavily every other year. Trovita is a sport or mutation of the Washington navel orange but has no navel. Trovita is a medium-sized orange–slightly smaller than Washington–with few seeds. It has an orange rind and is excellent for eating out of hand or for juicing. It is juicier than Washington and is pleasantly sweet tasting. It ripens from winter into spring.
  • ‘Valencia’: medium to large orange fruit, few seeds; very juicy and sweet; slightly more acid than a navel; abundant juice—best of the juice oranges; more difficult to peel than navels; slightly acid in cool regions; ripens midwinter in warm regions, beginning of summer in cool regions; subject to cold damage; fruit holds on tree for months; large tree, tends to alternate bear heavy crops; adapted to wide range of conditions; quality improves as fruit hangs on tree; in hot weather fruit can re-green, revert from orange to green skin, but quality is not affected; widely adapted; known for excellent quality; most commonly grown of all citrus.
  • Improved ‘Valencia’ types: new varieties developed from ‘Valencia’ include ‘Delta’. ‘Midknight’, ‘Rohde Red’. There are three improved Valencia varieties that are also popular: Delta is a seedless South African variety that ripens 2 to 3 weeks earlier than Valencia. Midknight is another seedless South African variety that ripens 2 to 4 weeks before Valencia. It is a big orange with a full orange flavor. Rohde Red is a deep-orange Valencia type that is also seedless.

Orange flowers

Navel sweet orange varieties

The navel orange is a type of sweet orange that is large, seedless, and has a rich, juicy flavor that is delicious for eating out of hand.

There are several varieties of navel oranges. They all have thick, rough, bright orange skins that are easy to peel. The segments of the navel orange are easy to separate.

The navel orange gets its name from a depression or hole at the blossom end of the fruit opposite the stem that encloses a small undeveloped secondary fruit. The depression looks like a human navel and thus the name. (As the secondary fruit enlarges, the navel enlarges.)

The original navel orange was the result of the mutation of a common sweet orange growing in an orchard at a monastery in Brazil in 1820. A cutting from that tree was sent to Washington, D.C., in 1870 for propagation. As a result, the original navel orange variety came to be called the Washington navel orange.

In the late nineteenth century, Washington navel oranges were distributed around the United States for general cultivation. They were so well suited for the climate of Southern California that they spawned the California citrus industry. The navel orange is the most commonly grown orange in California today.

The Washington navel orange ripens from fall into winter, and the fruit will keep on the tree for 3 to 4 months.

Other navel orange varieties are sports or mutations of the original Washington. When plant mutations result in desirable traits, they are often developed by growers into separate varieties.

  • ‘Cara Cara Pink Navel’: large, deep orange fruit with small navel; seedless fruit; salmon-pink to deep red flesh; excellent flavor (navel orange flavor—does not have the berry-like flavor of blood oranges); though pigmented this is not a blood orange; early ripening; fruit holds well on tree; small to medium-size tree. Cara Cara is a navel orange with flavorful, juicy pink flesh. Cara Cara is sweet and mildly acidic. Its flavor is reminiscent of strawberries and raspberries. Cara Cara was discovered on a Washington tree growing in Venezuela. Sometimes Cara Cara is called Red Navel. It ripens from fall into winter.
  • ‘Fukumoto’: newer variety with excellent flavor; orange-red rind similar to ‘Minneola’ tangelo. Fukumoto is a sweet and juicy navel with a reddish-orange rind. This is a medium-sized orange that ripens about one week before the Washington orange.
  • ‘Late Lane’: Lane Late is similar to the Washington but has a smaller navel and smoother skin. This variety was discovered in Australia in 1950. Lane Late ripens 4 to 6 weeks later than the Washington. The Lane Late is sometimes called a summer navel.
  • Riverside’: this navel orange is the original Washington navel orange by a different name. A cutting of the Washington was sent to Riverside, California in 1870. This was the Washington orange that started commercial orange growing in California. (Bahai is yet another name for the Washington and Riverside navel orange. Bahia is the region of Brazil where the original Washington was discovered.)
  • ‘Robertson Navel’: medium to large fruit; moderately juicy; identical to ‘Washington’ but fruit is smaller; ripens two or three weeks earlier than ‘Washington’; small, slow growth habit for home gardens; more heat resistant than ‘Washington’. Robertson has medium-large fruit just like the Washington but this variety ripens 2 to 3 weeks earlier than the Washington. The Robertson, which is moderately juicy, bears its fruit in clusters.
  • ‘Skaggs Bonanza’: bud sport of ‘Washington’ navel; bears at an earlier age; ripens two weeks earlier than ‘Washington’; rich and sweet flavor; moderately juicy; better choice than ‘Washington’ where frost is a concern. Skaggs Bonanza is a medium-large to large navel orange that bears more fruit than Washington and ripens 2 weeks earlier. Skaggs Bonanza has a rich and sweet flavor and is moderately juicy.
  • ‘Summernavel’: large fruit with thick rough rind; flavor similar to ‘Washington’ navel; moderately juicy; ripens late; bud sport of ‘Washington’ navel; a good choice for espalier.
  • ‘Washington Navel’: large fruit; thick orange rind; seedless; excellent, rich flavor balance of sugar and acid, moderately juicy; easy to peel; the standard eating orange; fruit ripens fall into winter; best navel variety; produces poorly in desert and cool coastal areas; can produce fruit where winters are colder.
  • Other Navels: ‘Atwood’, ‘Beck’, ‘Everhart’, ‘Fischer’, ‘Newhall’, ‘N33E’, ‘Thompson’, ‘Tule Gold’.’

Blood orange varieties

  • ‘Moro’: medium, red-blushed rind, almost seedless fruit; violet or deep burgundy flesh; juicy, pleasant sweet-tart flavor with distinctive aroma; very early ripening; develops good flavor in cool coastal areas; fruit holds in clusters on tree but becomes musky if left too long; medium size tree; tends to bear heavily in alternate years. The Moro blood orange has a rich citrus flavor and a deep raspberry aftertaste. It is juicy but firm and has a seedless pulp. The Moro is a full-blood orange—meaning the flesh ranges from orange-veined with ruby coloration to vermilion to vivid crimson to nearly black. It is the most colorful of the blood oranges, and its flesh darkens as the season progresses.
  • The Moro is a small- to medium-sized citrus and its reddish-orange rind is thick with a medium-fine grain. It can be difficult to peel. The Moro is thought to have originated at the beginning of the nineteenth century in Sicily.
  • ‘Sanguinelli’: small to medium, oblong fruit with few to no seeds; deep red rind, orange flesh with red streaks; juicy; distinctive tart-sweet excellent flavor; rind usually blushed deep red; most popular blood orange; holds well on the tree; small to medium size tree, almost thornless.
  • ‘Tarocco’: medium to large fruit with few seeds; firm, juicy flesh, rich, raspberry-flavor; high juice content; does not hold well on the tree; medium size tree; grows best in the interior of California.

Sour orange varieties

  • ‘Bergamot’ (sour orange-lime hybrid): medium to large fruit, very seedy; aromatic rind; small to medium size tree; not cold tolerant.
  • ‘Bouquet des Fleurs’: small to medium size deep orange fruit; aromatic flowers, considered most fragrant of all citrus; small, thornless tree; an ornamental tree for patios with aromatic flowers; blossom oils used in perfume; use for hedge.
  • ‘Chinotto’: small, flattened, deep orange fruit; juicy and sour; fruit used for making jellies and preserves; small, thornless tree; good ornamental, container tree or hedge to 7 feet tall.
  • ‘Seville’: medium size, flattened fruit; juicy but very sour; use in marmalade; medium size thorny tree; excellent ornamental tree for home gardens.

Also of interest:

How to Plant, Grow, Prune, and Harvest Citrus

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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