It takes time for a fruit tree to grow to its full height, and some grow much faster than others. Citrus trees are among the fastest-growing fruit trees, especially lime, lemon and orange. You only need one tree to produce fruit, as they are self-pollinating.
Different Types of Oranges
There are several different types of oranges within each broader category. The most popular are sweet oranges, like Jaffa, Hamlin and Valencia; these are usually used to make orange juice. Then there are navel oranges, which are so-called because they have a small circular bump that resembles a belly button. Believe it or not, these "navels" are actually second fruits growing from the oranges. Better-known navel orange varieties include the Washington, the California and the Cara Cara.
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Bitter oranges taste just the opposite, either sour or tart. Their extracts are used in flavoring, and some people enjoy them in marmalade. These oranges are also used to make essential oils and perfumes. Blood oranges have red pigments and can be either sweet or bitter (and sometimes both). You may already be a fan of blood orange sodas and sorbets. The last group includes acid-less oranges, which have a milder taste and are not usually sold in stores.
Standard-sized orange trees can be about 18 to 22 feet high, and dwarf varieties top off at about 12 feet. They usually start producing fruit from ages 3 to 6, depending on the climate, tree health and how well they are cared for. Flowers normally appear when there is regular precipitation and warm weather, and you may see flowers and fruits at the same time.
Orange Tree Growth Rates
Orange tree growth rates start off slowly, but pick up after a tree has been in the ground for a year. Growth rate varies by variety and growing conditions. Growth rates are faster with the proper spacing, quality of nutrients and ability to stave off or survive any diseases or infestations. If all is well, you can expect to see flowers after about two years.
Not all the flowers survive to become fruit; many drop right after opening. After pollination, many fruits will start dropping as well, and it will take anywhere from seven to 14 months till fruit harvest. Orange trees max out on height and size after about 10 to 14 years. They may also produce less fruit after that, but the trees can live more than 100 years.
To make orange trees grow faster, plant them in full sun. The soil should be well-draining and the trees should be watered regularly, but not too much to saturate the soil. You can use a slightly acidic fertilizer that is heavy in nitrogen. Add this once a month throughout the active growth season, but just once or twice in dormant periods.
Small Citrus Trees
If you want to experience the taste of just-picked citrus fruit but don't have room for a big orange tree in your yard, consider a small (dwarf) citrus tree. These trees are fairly easy to grow, they look attractive and they are prized for their delicious smell. Their heights range from 8 to 12 feet, but if you keep them in a container, they will remain petite.
Dwarf citrus trees do not do well outdoors in USDA zones below 9, but you can grow them in containers and bring them indoors during the colder months. Some popular dwarf orange varieties include versions of the Washington navel, Palestine Jaffa, tangerines and clementines. There are also dwarf lemon, lime, kumquat and grapefruit trees available.