Eight Steps to Growing Blood Oranges in Containers
The blood orange tree provides delicious, sweet oranges with a deep red hue to the flesh. This popular citrus fruit also offers pleasant overtones of fresh berries. Blood oranges are great for sauces and sorbets.
Blood Orange Fruit:
- Named for its distinctively colored flesh, the blood orange’s red color is due to the presence of anthocyanins, the same antioxidant compounds found in purple grapes
- Moro is the most popular variety of blood orange
- Medium size fruit, with internal color from light orange-red to dark purple
- Rich flavor, with a hint of berries
- Easy to peel and usually seedless
- The fruit requires cool night temperatures to develop. The fruit’s flesh may not darken as consistently in humid areas
- The fruit matures typically from December to February
- Some oranges may contain a low number of seeds, however, the juicy flesh and pleasant flavor is refreshing
Blood Orange Tree:
- The blood orange tree is very easy to grow either indoors or outdoors.
- cold hardy tree
- It is a vigorous growing, medium size tree, with a tendency to bear in alternate years (heavy fruiting one year followed by light the next)
- The perfect weather needed to produce the best blood oranges are warm days for sugars to form and cool nights for the color to develop
Where Will Blood Oranges Grow?
With proper care, a blood orange tree will produce decades of delicious fruit. However, the growing regions in the United States where they can be planted in the ground are limited to areas in California, Arizona, South Texas, Louisiana and Florida.
If you do not live in those regions, we do not recommend planting your blood orange tree in the ground. However, we consider this a good thing, because it's going to make your citrus growing a lot easier.
Growing Blood Oranges Outside of Growing Zones
So how do you grow blood oranges outside of these growing zones? You do so by planting your tree in a container or pot. You can use a plastic barrel, a wooden planter, a nice decorative pot, or really any sort of container that has adequate holes on the bottom for drainage.
Another option, which we enjoy, are fabric smart pots which do not have holes, however, the entire container is made of a fabric mesh which allows proper drainage and aeration of the soil.
The Planting Process for Growing Blood Orange Trees in Pots
The actual planting process of our trees in pots is very straightforward, with standardized use of potting soil, watering and fertilizing schedules.
You can keep any citrus fruit tree pruned back, but the Blood orange is naturally a smaller dwarf type variety which gets to be about 4 to 6 feet, While still producing an abundant harvest.
Step 1: Container for Blood orange trees
The keys to an appropriate container are having sufficient drainage through the material either being some sort of mesh cloth (SmartPots) or having a few holes on the bottom of your planter.
Secondly, the size of the pot should be at least 5 gallons, with our favorite size recommend being 15 gallons. We find that anything above 25 gallons is quite difficult to physically move with only one person. so we recommend 15 gallons as the sweet spot.
Step 2: Soil for Blood orange trees
Choosing soil for your Blood orange trees is simple. All you need is any sort of potting soil. We do not recommend gardening soil or topsoil to use for container gardening. This is advantageous because even if you lived in a citrus growing region, you would have to take into consideration the type of soil.
For example, US Citrus is based in the Rio Grande Valley, and we have a wonderful sandy loam type soil which drains very well. Other types of soil such as different types of clay soils especially with limestone mixed in will have a very difficult time draining and this will adversely affect the root health of your tree.
With a standard potting soil for your container gardening, you do not need to worry about any of these factors. You also don't have to worry about the pH balance of the soil. We have just removed a large part of the headache of growing citrus by having all customers grow their citrus in containers and using any standard potting soil which is available at your local nursery garden center supply store.
Step 3: Watering for Blood orange trees
Watering is crucial, typically when citrus is planted into the ground there is a worry of proper drainage and overwatering your tree. Citrus trees planted in the ground prefer to have their roots a bit on the dry side. We have found that if there is proper drainage in container gardening it is difficult to overwater citrus trees.
The best way to figure out how much water your citrus tree needs is to actually look at the tree. If the leaves are wilted and dry, your tree needs more water. After watering, the tree’s leaves should perk up.
Overwatering Your Potted Blood Orange Tree
Overwatering is a possibility and we find that this especially happens when the trees are indoor and there's a garden saucer used underneath the pot. When there's a garden saucer there is impeded drainage, which is helpful while you're on vacation and cannot water your tree for a week, or when you have your trees indoors to prevent water seeping onto the floors and causing damage.
However, if trees are over-watered, the plant leaves will wilt and may turn a bit yellow and look sad. Watering more will not improve the condition of the tree obviously, and you will likely notice that the soil is waterlogged at this point.
Giving your tree a break by taking it outside if possible or letting the soil drain without a garden saucer in the bathtub for a day is a good solution. Afterward, you can adjust your watering schedule appropriately.
Step 4: Fertilizer for Blood orange trees
Your Blood orange tree will need both macro and micronutrients, just like a human. The macronutrients that all plants need are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. You have likely seen fertilizers and soil which state three numbers together, this is the N – P – K system which shows the concentration and relative amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium respectively.
These machinations are very important for the color of the leaves, development of the root system, proper flowering, fruiting, and taste of the fruit respectively and appropriate photosynthesis and the growth of the trunk of the tree in general. See our blog article on nutrition for more information.
Micronutrients are also very important - think of these as vitamins for humans. They are needed in much smaller quantities and plants can have characteristic symptoms when they have a micronutrient deficiency. We will detail out micronutrients and symptoms of deficiencies in later articles.
However, our promise to you is that we make this simple. Between regular potting soil and the fertilizer we recommend, you will have all the macronutrients and micronutrients that your tree needs and a simple fertilizing schedule for easy and effective fertilizing when you get your tree and for every February, May, and August. See our fertilizer schedule below for amounts that we recommend.
Ounces to use every Feb, May, and Aug
Miracle-Gro for Citrus, Avocado and Mango (13-7-13)
Espoma Citrus (5-2-6)
Step 5: Sunlight for Blood orange trees
Sunlight is crucial to citrus trees, especially citrus being a tropical plant. In most areas of the United States, you want to maximize sunlight with full sun exposure. If you are planting indoors, make sure that it has full sun next to the window, but we would also recommend having a grow light.
Our Grow Light Recommendation
We love SANSI 24W LED grow lights. They have a clean white light because they are full spectrum. They have all the right mix of light spectrum for growth, leaf flush, flower blossoming, and fruit set. 24 watts is a good amount of power for indoor lighting. We recommend placing the grow light anywhere from 6 to 18 inches away from your tree.
Your tree needs 12-16 hours of light a day. You can be very flexible with your light. You can keep it on for many days straight. However, all citrus trees need some dark time.
You can easily use one grow light for 1-3 trees. An easy way is to use one light on a tree for 24 hours at a time.
All grow lights get hot. We prefer SANSI because they use ceramic sinks to dissipate the heat. We have found the majority of grow lights on Amazon to have disturbing safety profiles. Use standard safety precautions, don't let babies and pets stare directly into the light or touch the heat from the grow light!
Our socket/clamp Recommendation:
Blood Orange trees do best when it has at least six hours of sunlight a day. If the temperature is consistently above 90° especially for younger trees, there may be some wilting of the leaves. This wilting will reverse however and at this point, it would be advantageous to keep your tree by elementary and partial shade.
Step 6: Winter Protection for Blood orange trees
We recommend that under freezing temperatures, you move your blood orange tree into a warmer area such as a garage or indoors for the entire winter. At this point, you can utilize grow lights for continued growth.
There is nothing more frustrating than losing years of work and future decades of fruit than losing your citrus tree to a freak cold-snap which occurred while you were vacationing out of town! Citrus can die with exposure to temperatures in the teens for even up to 12 hours.
Blood orange actually needs cool temperatures at night to form its distinctive pigmentation. The areas with warm days and cool nights are referred to as the “Mediterranean climates”.
Step 7: Where do I buy my Blood orange tree?
First of all, if you live in the traditionally citrus producing states of California, Arizona, Louisiana, or Florida, you will need to purchase your citrus tree locally as citrus cannot be imported into your state because of USDA regulations.
Step 8: Harvesting your Blood oranges
Blood orange harvest season is winter to late spring.
Growing Trees is fun, and every tree we send comes with a 20-page care guide.
I have a 3year old blood orange we grew from seeds. It gets good sun exposure but it could use a little bit of fertilizer. Could you please tell me how much, please?