Orange Tree Fruit Problems: How To Get Fruit On Orange Trees

Orange Tree Fruit Problems: How To Get Fruit On Orange Trees

By: Jackie Carroll

Growing orange trees is a great way to enjoy these sweet, tasty fruits straight from your own garden. But what happens when there’s no orange tree fruit? Finding that there are no oranges on trees can be quite alarming, especially after all of your hard work. So why won’t an orange tree produce? Let’s find out the reasons for an orange tree not fruiting.

Orange Tree Not Fruiting

There are several reasons why an orange tree may have no oranges. On trees that flower but don’t produce fruit, the problem may be that the flowers aren’t pollinated, especially when they are grown in a protected area such as a sunroom or greenhouse.

If the tree doesn’t flower, look at the location of the tree and the care it receives. Orange trees need sun, plenty of water, and regular fertilization. Also consider the age of the orange tree. Fruit is expected three to five years after you plant the tree.

Next time you wonder why won’t an orange tree produce, you should consider the most common possibilities for your situation. Here are some things that can prevent an orange tree from producing fruit:

  • The tree is not old enough to produce fruit
  • The tree doesn’t receive enough sunlight
  • The flowers are not being pollinated
  • Cold temperatures that kill the flower buds
  • Improper watering, fertilizing, or pruning

How to Get Fruit on Orange Trees

If the tree produces flowers but no fruit, it’s possible that the flowers aren’t getting pollinated. Give the branches a shake while the tree is in flower to shake loose the pollen and allow it to fall onto the pistil. You’ll have to do this regularly over a period of several days.

Did you have unusually cold temperatures or a warm spell followed by a sudden return to cold temperatures? Temperatures can cause the loss of flower buds or prevent the buds from opening. Throwing a blanket over the canopy of small trees may help prevent a crop loss.

Proper care results in a healthy tree that produces a good crop. Water the trees weekly in the absence of rain. Use drip irrigation or water slowly by hand so that the soil has a chance to absorb as much water as possible. If your soil is heavy clay and doesn’t absorb moisture well, give water frequently but in smaller amounts.

Orange trees need plenty of nitrogen, but too much prevents flowering. The best way to make sure you are giving your tree the right amount of fertilizer is to use a fertilizer specially designed for citrus trees. Read and follow the label instructions carefully. If your tree is in the lawn, remember that when you fertilize your lawn you are giving the tree an extra dose of high-nitrogen fertilizer. One way to prevent this is to cover the soil over the tree’s root zone with mulch so that you don’t have grass to fertilize in that area.

Prune young citrus trees to give them good shape and structure. If done properly, the tree will need very little pruning when it is old enough to fruit. Prune mature trees to remove dead and damaged limbs. Every three or four years, remove branches from the canopy so that you see dappled sunlight under the tree. An open canopy that gets plenty of light encourages good production. Removing only part of a branch, called heading back, encourages new growth at the expense of fruit and flowers.

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When Does an Orange Tree Bear Fruit?

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The delights of growing orange trees (Citrus sinensis) are many. The glossy-leaved evergreen trees bear fragrant, white waxy flowers in spring, followed by tasty decorative orange fruits. Orange trees grow outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11, and in zone 9 with winter protection. Below USDA zone 8, grow citrus in containers and bring them indoors during cold weather. The trees bear oranges after five to six years, and fruit takes seven to more than 12 months to ripen.

Citrus Fruit and Blossom Drop


Tales from a Desert Gardener
by Steve Fazio, Horticulturist

“My fruit tree is dropping all of its blossoms – my fruit tree didn’t bloom this year – fruit is falling from the tree.” These remarks are expressed by many gardeners in connection with citrus and deciduous fruit trees. What caused these problems? Some are related to cultural management practices, temperature others are normal plant responses.

Citrus trees will cause the greatest concern for most gardeners – they will shed many blossoms and later in the season, fruit as large as walnuts will fall to the ground. All varieties of citrus produce more blossoms than the tree can possibly set – approximately 98% will fall even under the best cultural management practices. If 2% of the blossoms set fruit, this would be considered a heavy commercial crop. This is a natural behavior of the trees, but failure for 2% to set fruit is related to many factors. Late spring frost that occurs during bloom period causes a weakening or death of the abscission layer. This layer of cells connects the flower to the tree – sub-freezing conditions injure the cells, and blossom drop will result.

Trees that were not fertilized prior to the bloom period often drop excess number of blossoms, especially if soil fertility was extremely low. The tree is reacting in a natural manner – it is ridding itself of a burden. Improper irrigation is also responsible for blossom drop. Fruit trees in the blooming stage require very special attention in connection with soil moisture – they should never be allowed to stress for water – this will weaken the connecting layer. Trees should not be over watered at this stage – irrigation should be maintained on the same level used during the growing season – irrigate when soil examination reveals a need for moisture, but do it on a more careful basis during bloom.

Some varieties of citrus may fail to produce blossoms – gardeners will often state, “Last year my tree had a profusion of blossoms, and I had a heavy crop of fruit – no blossoms are evident this year.” This condition is common with some varieties of mandarins – the Kinnow mandarin is one of the main culprits. This condition is referred to as “alternate bearing” – a heavy bloom one year and none the next. This occurs on other citrus varieties, but not as pronounced as the mandarins. Commercial growers will often state, “My orange and grapefruit crop is on the light year cycle.” Others may state, “My crop is on the heavy cycle.” Trees that produce a heavy crop one year will usually produce a lighter crop the following year – this is alternate bearing on the light side.

The heartbreak of growing citrus is called “June drop.” This occurs when fruit the size of a pea or as large as a walnut fall from the tree. It is caused by high temperatures and low humidity – it will be evident starting in May and extending through the month of June. Trees should be checked at frequent intervals during the stress period for soil moisture – fruit drop is aggravated by moisture deficiency.

How to Get My Orange Tree to Blossom

Gardeners love orange trees because of their delicious fruit. Orange trees also make attractive ornamentals with delicate, fragrant blossoms. However, these beautiful trees have very particular cultural requirements. When these are not met, orange trees can develop a host of problems. One of the most frustrating of these problems is failure to flower. Without blossoms, your orange tree will not produce fruit. To get your orange tree to blossom, you must first discover and fix the underlying problem.

  • Gardeners love orange trees because of their delicious fruit.
  • To get your orange tree to blossom, you must first discover and fix the underlying problem.

Wait for the orange tree to mature. Most orange trees are mature enough to blossom and fruit when they have been in the ground for five or six years. A miniature orange tree grown from seed, rather than from a cutting, may not fruit at all.

Feed your tree with a high-quality citrus tree fertilizer. If you are using a non-citrus specific fertilizer for you citrus tree, it may not be getting all of the nutrients it needs. General use fertilizers provide nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but they are often missing essential micronutrients your tree needs to flower, including boron, copper, magnesium and zinc.

Follow the application rates recommended for your citrus tree fertilizer exactly. If you over-fertilize your orange tree, it will produce foliage at the expense of blossoms.

  • Wait for the orange tree to mature.
  • General use fertilizers provide nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but they are often missing essential micronutrients your tree needs to flower, including boron, copper, magnesium and zinc.

Remove any grass growing around the base of your orange tree. Grass robs citrus trees of water and fertilizer, and your tree may not be producing blossoms because it is not getting enough nutrition. Remove all grass and weeds within the tree's drip line and put down a layer of bark mulch starting at least 1 foot away from the trunk of the tree.

Check your orange tree for pests or disease. Orange trees are susceptible to a host of diseases and insect pests that could interfere with their ability to flower.

Cover your orange tree whenever you expect a deep freeze. If winter temperatures fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, your orange tree's blossom buds may be killed before they can flower.

  • Remove any grass growing around the base of your orange tree.
  • Grass robs citrus trees of water and fertilizer, and your tree may not be producing blossoms because it is not getting enough nutrition.

If your orange tree still will not blossom, consult a tree doctor. Be aware that some hybrid orange varieties grown from seed will not produce blossoms or fruit.


Seasonality of fruit-bearing depends on the cultivar. Early-season varieties ripen in the fall. "Hamlin" produces small to medium oranges in late September, as does "Marrs." Navel oranges are the premier type for eating out of hand. Seedless fruits ripen in late September, from seven to 12 months after fruit set. Mid-season oranges mature from November into early January. "Pineapple" has medium large fruits, 15 to 25 seeds and good juice and ripens before Thanksgiving. "Jaffa," of Israeli origin, has small to medium yellow fruit with smooth flesh and nectarlike juice. Harvest is around Christmas. Late-season fruits are ready in February and March. "Valencia," the world's most-planted orange variety grown for both juice and eating, is ready in February.

Cathryn Chaney has worked as a gardening writer since 2002. Her horticultural experience working in the nursery industry informs her garden articles, especially those dealing with arid landscaping and drought-tolerant gardening. Chaney also writes poetry, which has appears in "Woman's World" magazine and elsewhere. Chaney graduated from the University of Arizona in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Propagating Satsumas

You can propagate satsumas from leafy cuttings, using rooting talc, but the usual way they are grown is by grafting, as with most fruit tees. The best time to get cuttings is in summer during active growth. Satsumas grown from cuttings will remain tender and vulnerable for the first two years, so wait before planting them outside. It's important to know that American citrus crops can be vulnerable to certain location-specific diseases and the USDA recommends not moving or transplanting citrus trees from one state to another. There may be quarantine boundaries to be observed consult your local department of agriculture, Cooperative Extension or horticulture department of a local college.

Watch the video: How to Control Pests u0026 Diseases on Citrus Trees