We all love ’em. Sweet Texas oranges are those little juicy bites of sunshine that we can buy year round at local grocery stores. Lots of our oranges come from Florida and California (thick skins, pretty, not as juicy) and South Texas and Mexico (not as pretty, super sweet, super juicy). With a little care you can grow your own oranges on your own beautiful orange tree right here in Southeast Texas.
According to the Texas Aggie Horticulture website, we can grow oranges here because they love our warm, humid conditions. Our oranges will typically be thin-skinned, yellowish orange fruit with yellowish orange flesh that is super sweet and juicy. Areas with slightly cooler climates like California and Arizona produce fruit that is brightly colored with thick bright orange peel. Oranges can be found growing all over the world in tropical and subtropical areas, but they grow the very best in subtropical areas.
The Aggies remind us that sweet oranges are native to northeastern India. They are the most widely grown species of citrus. The orange tree was spread quickly by travelers along the trade routes between Asia, Europe and Africa. Christopher Columbus is known to have introduced a planting of oranges in Hispaniola on his second voyage in 1493. You can today walk along the streets of Sevilla, Granada and other cities in Andalucia, Spain and be shaded by the orange trees growing above you. How much more inspiration do you need to have your own orange trees?
Find orange trees for our area and plant them in deep, well-drained soils. They prefer loam and will not thrive in clay soils or boggy locations. Aggie horticulturalists tell us to plant orange trees on the south or southeast side of the house for maximum cold protection. They need to be at least 12 feet from garages or driveways or walkways to allow for their growth. They need full sun. If we get a rare hard freeze, be ready to protect. Mature orange trees can tolerate temperatures in the middle to low 20s without damage. Prolonged temps in the mid-20s will hurt mature fruit on the trees so cover if that happens. Check with our local Texas Aggie Extension Service office for detailed literature on growing oranges and all sorts of citrus. Call me when your crop comes in.