Orange trees are known for their ability to produce delicious fruit, among their other benefits such as the appealing look of the tree and the shade it can create.
When it is time to decide whether an orange tree is a right fit for you, though, you’ll want to look past the promise of fresh-squeezed juice. It is important to question whether your environment is right for growing this citrus tree!
Orange trees grow their best when they receive 6-8 hours of full, unobstructed, sunlight on a daily basis. The direct sunlight that citrus trees crave is what helps them to bloom, grow taller, produce juicy fruit, sustain an even growth pattern, and more.
Hang out with us for a while to learn about the ins and outs of orange trees and sunlight. We’ll touch on the benefits of full sunlight, how to maintain an indoor tree, and even what happens if your tree receives the wrong amount of sunlight (too much or too little!)
Let’s get into it.
Why Is The Sun So Important To Orange Trees?
Different types of trees have different growing requirements, of course. Often, lots of sunlight is central to the success of a tree, but this cannot be counted on. Some trees grow lower, beneath taller species, and actually prefer less sunlight.
It’s so important, for that reason, to do your research and make sure you understand the needs of your tree. You may find yourself wondering what the difference is, and why trees need such varying levels of sunlight.
This need has a lot to do with the environment that species are from, as well as how they have evolved over time to best produce fruit, sap, or whatever other product they may provide.
Photosynthesis Is How Plants “Eat”
There is a process you might have heard of, which helps plants turn carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water into glucose. Glucose is used as energy and is critical to the survival and productivity of plants. That’s photosynthesis for you!
The sun, then, is a very important player in plants’ abilities to grow and develop into mature, strong organisms.
There are hundreds of species of orange trees, many sources will say 400-600+, and that means that there is a range of needs that you might want to accommodate.
Not sure how to get started? Reach out to a local arborist that is equipped to evaluate your specific orange tree. This will allow you to start out the right way.
Orange Trees As A Grouping
With so many species, it would be unfair to focus on just a few. So, we’ll be talking about orange trees as a general grouping today. You can use this piece as a foundation, to build your species-specific knowledge on top of.
So, we will talk about orange trees as a general grouping. You can use this as a foundation, and learn more about whatever species of orange tree you end up choosing.
Full sunlight conditions are by far the best for orange trees, and any other citrus trees, really. This means that your tree should get 6-8 hours of full, direct sunlight each day.
The reasons that orange trees rely on full sunlight are many, so let’s get into that now!
1. Sunny Conditions Promote A Healthier Orange Tree
Sunlight helps trees dry off after being watered, or sitting through the rain. The benefits of this are actually a big part of how successful an orange tree will end up being.
Believe it or not, orange trees are one of the trees that don’t have to be watered too often. That’s why having an ample amount of sun to dry excess water is always important.
Head on over to our article to learn more about how often orange trees should be watered to ensure optimal health for your tree!
Let’s go over some of the reasons that branches and leaves getting full sunlight can help promote an orange tree that is overall healthier.
Resistance To Disease And Rot
When your tree gets wet and is unable to dry off, it becomes fertile ground for fungus to grow, which eventually turns to rot that could destroy the tree.
It can also lead to disease because your tree will be in a weaker state that does not allow it to fight off other issues. If your orange tree grows in the sun, the way that it is meant to, it will be more resistant to both disease and rot.
Cool, damp areas tend to draw insects and other pests. This includes trees that have begun to rot, are too over-shaded, or are otherwise cool and wet.
The more water that sits on your tree, the more disease and rot that is possible, and thus follows the infestations that may occur.
This is a snowball effect that can quickly evolve and end up in your tree’s eventual demise.
Fruit With Stronger Skin
Another damaging effect of sitting water? The impact that it has on the fruit of your tree. Now, oranges are a bit of a different story than fruits with skin that is often thinner, like peaches, plums, and even apples.
However, even the thick skin of orange can succumb to sitting water. The peel may begin to crack or be weakened by sitting in water in a way that makes the fruit more susceptible to bugs and small animals getting to the fruit inside.
Unless this is your goal, to feed some local animals, you may want to avoid allowing water to sit on your oranges, when you can help it.
Of course, water is important, but, just like sunlight, too much can have negative effects just like too little can.
Setting Your Tree Up For Success
We like to recommend that you try out the CARPATHEN Drip Irrigation Kit as a way to avoid over, or under, watering your tree.
It’s ¼ tubing, drip connectors, and drip emitters will help you to create a full irrigation system that is flexible to both your needs and the space you are working to grow your orange tree in.
As long as your orange tree is located in a space where it gets the recommended 6-8 hours of daily light, both even and direct, water damage shouldn’t be your biggest concern.
If you’re looking for other ways to avoid damage from sitting water, pruning your tree may be the way to go. The Gonicc 8.5” Professional Rotating Bypass Titanium Coated Pruning Shears are a great tool when you are looking to clear out any branches that might have fallen to disease or infestation.
2. Orange Trees Grow Much Faster In Full Sun
Each plant has conditions that best support its needs. You don’t see cacti in Maine, and you wouldn’t see a douglas fir growing in New Mexico.
Each place has an environment that is meant to support certain plants, thanks to the conditions that plants need.
Sunlight may be one factor, but your tree also needs the right kinds of fertilization, and amounts of water, and other general maintenance is done throughout the year.
For more on fertilizer, check out our article on the 3 best fertilizers for your citrus tree.
Even the plants that a tree shares its soil with will either support or inhibit your tree from getting the nutrients that they need.
Photosynthesis is triggered by sunlight and is the process most essential for a tree to create energy that helps it sustain new growth, like the oranges that we all know and love.
Photosynthesis And Its Workings
The process of photosynthesis creates a form of sugar, glucose, which acts like food for your plant. This only occurs when plants are able to take in and combine sunlight, water, and the gases in the air.
Everything from plants on land to algae in the water and even microorganisms go through photosynthesis and rely on the energy that it creates.
The more sunlight that a tree gets, the more energy it will have to draw from when it comes to producing fruit, flowers, and more.
3. Orange Trees Bloom Better In Full Sun
Sunlight doesn’t just support the speed of growth, it actually allows for more growth, thanks to your tree being healthier and getting more energy from photosynthesis.
Orange trees will always bloom more when they get lots of sun. This is not true for all trees, though, so don’t expect that all of your plants will follow this rule.
Some trees actually bloom better in full shade, while others prefer partial shade to do their best. Flowers like primrose, for example, will flower less than usual if they get too much sun.
If you’d like some premium full sun planting options, take a look at our guide on the best places to plant orange trees!
Better Bloom, It’s True!
It is very important to know the needs of your individual tree because each plant is going to have needs that differ. Orange trees just happen to be in the group of trees that thrive in lots of sunlight.
So, there are trees that actually need less sunlight in order to bloom better? Yes!
It may seem odd, but certain plants have evolved over time to fit into their environment, which often means that they have adapted to thrive in conditions that are less ideal. Some plants grow underneath taller ones, and they are used to the shade and damp conditions.
Orange trees are used to being the plant that grows over the shorter ones, so they need more sunlight to fare well. This helps to explain why they need these conditions, while other plants may need the opposite of full sun and warmth.
4. Orange Trees Produce More Fruit In Full Sun
Orange trees need full sunlight to produce the fruit that follows a bloom. This is allowed by photosynthesis, as well, which means that the tree will use its energy not only to survive but to produce food.
How does more sunlight impact the production of oranges?
- Higher energy levels: Since energy production is based on photosynthesis, and that process is kicked off by sunlight, there is a direct link between sunlight and energy. A tree with too little energy will not be able to be productive nor will the fruit be as good.
- Fewer structural issues: Structural integrity is also key when it comes to getting good fruit. The sun will help dry your tree and keep it from having negative impacts of sitting water. Therefore, your tree will have fewer issues like disease, rot, and infestation to fight off. It can put that energy toward fruit production instead of basic survival.
Most fruit trees thrive in full sunlight. For instance, we have a whole article dedicated to cherry trees and why they grow best in full sun! Find a sunny spot in the yard, or even indoors near a window, to plant your orange tree!
5. Your Orange Tree Is Shaped By Sunlight
Aesthetics are important, of course, but the looks and shape of your tree play a much larger role in the overall success of the tree.
On top of being nice to look at, you want your orange tree to be as strong, resilient, and adaptable as it can be. It might surprise you to learn that an even appearance can help to create a tree that is not only beautiful but also healthy. The best of both worlds!
A healthy tree, on the flip side, will also look better. This is a cycle that continues; as your tree gets fuller it will grow better, and as your tree grows more evenly it will be able to support the weight of more fruit.
We could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. A well-maintained tree stays in good shape, while an uneven, unhealthy tree will take quite some time to improve.
Sunlight’s Role In Shaping
That’s all well and good, but how is sunlight such a big part of this cycle?
New growth gravitates toward the sun, to get the energy it needs to continue growing. So, the dispersal of sunlight decides whether a tree will be lopsided, patchy, and unhealthy or full, even, and stable.
Partially shaded areas might lead to a tree that leans, as many of the branches on one side compete to get some of that sunlight that they need.
A Tree’s Need For Sunlight
For example, consider a mint plant that might be growing in your kitchen window. First of all, cheers to sustaining your own mini-herb garden. Very cool! Have you ever stopped to notice that the mint often leans toward the window, though?
In the same way that the leaves and branches of an orange tree by for the sun, your mint tree needs to soak in some rays, too.
Almost all plants need that sunlight throughout the day to keep producing more growth. So, an outdoor tree with unobstructed access to light will be much more even and have a fuller canopy.
There are some unwanted effects that trees, including your orange tree, will experience if they receive too much shade:
- Weak branches: Branches with less access to sunlight will have a weaker attachment to the tree, as they try to reach further to get sunlight. The branches themselves will also be weaker, thanks to this.
- A lopsided tree: Sunlight that is only available in inconsistent patterns will cause new growth that is also inconsistent. Spots that get more shade will be thinner and less productive, while the areas in fuller sunlight may be more robust and have better conditions to grow fruit.
- Less Canopy Space: Growth gaps mean that you end up with a smaller, less productive, and uneven canopy. So, prepare for less fruit, less shade, and more work to maintain any semblance of an evenly shaped canopy.
An orange tree with access to full sunlight without obstruction will be able to grow taller, faster, more even, and more. This all plays into the structural integrity of the tree, which ties into its core health.
Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Sun For An Orange Tree?
Orange trees need the sun. So no amount of sun can be too much, isn’t that a fair assumption? Not quite, actually.
Too much of any good thing is known to become bad. Sunlight is not an exception to this rule.
The Effects Of Too Much Sun
As we get into this, we should note that it is most often a combination of heat, dryness, and then sun that ends up causing issues. Generally, the sun alone won’t cause lasting damage, though it is possible in extreme cases.
There are a few signs of damage that you can look out for:
Trees can get sunburnt just like people can. If they receive too much direct sunlight for too long, they can end up with a nasty sunburn. This occurs mostly in high heat and UV levels that are higher.
Wondering what this looks like? Sunburn can manifest in similar ways on a tree that it can on a human!
People get skin that often is red, peeled, and drier than usual. It is the exact same for trees!
The bark may become drier, appear discolored, and even peel off, eventually. At the least, the bark will be noticeably looser and weaker following the sunburn.
When an orange tree has received too much sun, it can also impact the way that the tree can access water. Heat and dryness that come with the sun will end up causing a lack of water for your tree to utilize.
A tree under water stress will often have discolored leaves, and weaker bark and the soil around the tree will appear drier than usual.
Your tree will be made unable to absorb the nutrients necessary for its growth when faced with water stress.
Really, anytime we take away certain basic necessities, plants turn their energy toward survival, and are less concerned with prosperity.
How (And When) To Protect Your Orange Tree From Too Much Sun
Hold on a second. How on earth is there such a thing as too much sun, if we’ve spent this whole piece talking about orange trees’ need for the sun?
Even a little tree sunburn can’t be that bad, right?
Well, ensuring that your tree avoids sunburn and water stress is a part of the maintenance that it relies on to survive. So, yes. There is a thing as too much sun and it could make a big difference for your tree.
Trees don’t necessarily need our help with this, thanks to a little process called photoprotection. Photoprotection is a process that has evolved over time and acts as a natural defense against the harshness of the sun.
Photoprotection is what keeps leaves from being oxidated and bleached, or what we would refer to as ‘sunburnt’, by that full, direct sunlight, you can compare photoprotection to putting on a pair of sunglasses when it is bright outside!
Essentially, this barrier is activated in full sunlight but can be turned back off immediately once a leaf is shaded. This shade could come from a building or structure, another leaf, or even just as the evening progresses and sunlight becomes weaker.
Tree wraps are the perfect way to solve the problem of too much sunlight, and any negative impacts that may bring.
Dalen Protective Tree Wrap and Breathable Material helps work as a ‘sunscreen’ for your tree, as a light-colored wrap that helps to reflect the harsh rays of sunlight that could overpower a tree.
Do Orange Trees Respond Well To Cloudy Days?
By now, we can see that orange trees crave sunlight, and that is a large factor in their growth. It’s clear that a lack of sun can negatively impact your tree in more ways than one.
So, then, what is the line, the point of no return, that will cause your tree to lack viability?
It isn’t a cloudy day, so let’s start there. Your orange tree is not going to be drained of all the energy it has produced through photosynthesis the minute that clouds begin to block the precious sun. In fact, it can still create some energy even on a cloudy day.
Have you gotten a sunburn, or seen someone get burnt, on a cloudy day? Yeah, it’s like that. The sun is still there, and so are some of its UV rays, which allow photosynthesis to continue regardless of the weather.
A Cloud’s Impact On Photosynthesis
Really, cloudy days just slow some of the processes of your sun-craving tree. The production of fruit, bloom of flowers, growth of the canopy, and other ‘secondary’ processes that your tree performs may be set aside so that the tree can put its limited energy toward staying stable and healthy.
Too many cloudy days in a row where you live may impact the overall growth of your tree, but this isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker if sunlight is still common enough throughout the year.
Your Tree Will Have Lower Energy Levels
Your tree will just run on lower levels of energy because photosynthesis will not be as constant in its production of glucose.
This results in less fruit, and your oranges will likely be a little smaller and not quite as juicy.
This is a factor that needs to be considered, as well, when it comes to indoor trees. If the light is not properly coming through windowpanes, or if your tree doesn’t receive enough of it, your oranges may be few and far between.
A solution to this frustrating problem? LED lights!
WTINTELL’s LED Plant Grow Light with Stand is a good way to add some extra light, especially to your indoor trees.
How Do Indoor Orange Trees Get Enough Sun?
Are you in an area that doesn’t leave you much yard space, but really want access to fresh-squeezed orange juice? We can make that happen!
Think of the mint plant from before, the one that grows on the windowsill but gravitates toward the sun in order to get the amount of sunlight it needs. The same concept applies to larger plants, like trees, that live indoors but can still access the benefits that the outdoors provides.
Whether it is via a large window, LED lights, or from taking the tree outside every so often, make sure that your orange tree gets lots of sun. Mix that with regular watering and some fertilization, and your oranges will be growing steadily!
Try a product like Jack’s Classic No. 1.5 20-10-20 Citrus Food Fertilizer to help best maintain your orange tree. This will help it absorb and retain all of the necessary nutrients.
Read our article on the 7 easiest indoor fruit trees for more indoor harvest tips!
Orange You Glad This is Over?
Okay, okay. I know. Horrendous joke aside, we’ve come to the end.
Orange trees visibly thrive in conditions that allow for 6-8 hours of unobstructed, direct sunlight daily.
Also, before planting it’s good to familiarize yourself with the areas where orange trees grow best! Head on over to our article to learn more.
There are a number of reasons that your orange tree does best in this type of lighting, and we’re going to recap why.
5 reasons why orange trees grow best in full sun:
- Sunny conditions promote a healthier orange tree
- Orange trees grow much faster in full sun
- Orange trees bloom better in full sun
- Orange trees produce more fruit in full sun
- Your orange tree is shaped by sunlight
Sunlight matters, but too much and too little of a good thing can both be bad. The same goes for water. Finding the right balance of conditions to support your tree is going to be the key to success.
Keep an eye on your outdoor orange tree to see that it avoids water stress, sunburn, sitting water, dangerous limbs, and anything else that could contribute to issues down the road.
Feeling nervous about the prospect of evaluating your orange tree by yourself? Don’t forget that there are local arborists that you can ask for help. It’s their job, after all!
Burns, A. J. (1976). California-Arizona Fresh Oranges: Marketing Patterns, Prices, Costs, Margins, and Grower Returns (Vol. 638). Economic Research Service, US Department of Agriculture.
González, Z., Rosal, A., Requejo, A., & Rodríguez, A. (2011). Production of pulp and energy using orange tree prunings. Bioresource Technology, 102(19), 9330-9334.
Lacirignola, C., & D’onghia, A. M. (2009). The Mediterranean citriculture: productions and perspectives. Citrus tristeza virus and Toxoptera citricidus: a serious threat to the Mediterranean citrus industry. Bari: CIHEAM. Options Méditerranéennes: Série B. Etudes et Recherches, 65, 13-17.
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