Introduction: Growing a "Green" Orange Tree

Picture of Growing a "Green" Orange Tree

I'm a freshman in college. After moving into my dorm, I can't do a lot of the hobbies I had before college. Either I don't have enough space or enough money for almost everything I used to do.

When I was at home, I would grow a garden every year. As I was sitting at my desk eating an orange and drinking out of a bottle of water, I had an idea.

I happened to think "Hey, why can't I have a garden here?" After thinking it over, I realized that my dorm wasn't large enough for a decent garden, and I really didn't want to spend a lot of money on seeds.

I started trying to find ideas for a plant that produces fruit or vegetables in a dorm that would be long lived, have readily available seeds, and didn't cost too much top start and maintain.

Thinking this over, I was spitting my orange seeds out into the garbage can, I started thinking "what good are those going to do going to a landfill?" 

For me orange seeds seem to fit the bill:
~Orange trees might produce the fruit I want***.
~Orange trees live for years.
~Oranges are covered under my school's meal plan, so I have an almost unlimited supply of seeds.
~Most of the items needed are recycled and are free or low cost.
~I'm already paying for my meal plan, so why not?

***NOTE: This is a big "might". Most indoor fruit trees never produce fruit. Most don't get enough light and don't get large enough to fruit. Your chances get better if you put your plants outside during the summer (and maybe winter if you live somewhere insanely hot).

Step 1: Items Needed

Picture of Items Needed

 -Any type of citrus fruit- oranges, tangerines (which I like to call oranges too haha), lemons, limes, grapefruit, etc. (NOTE: some hybrid types of fruit can't be grown from seed. For example, navel oranges don't have seeds)
-a water bottle- The thick ones with straight rings around it are better, but almost any plastic bottle will work.
-Soil- I suppose you could use soil from outside, but the ground was frozen and something tells me the campus officials would have my head if I took any of their dirt. The first time I did this I used peat pellets. They retain water and don't have much nutrition. I went out and bought top soil from a local big box store.
-Paper towel
-Plastic bag

-knife- to cut the bottom of the bottle off. Remember cut away from yourself. Knives are sharp. Don't maim yourself. I'm not liable if you do.

Step 2: Eating... Just Like You Do (hopefully) Every Day

Picture of Eating... Just Like You Do (hopefully) Every Day

Get and eat your fruit. This is a Florida tangerine they're small and taste good, but more importantly, they have seeds!

Make sure to save the seeds. If you don't, you'll have to eat another. That isn't a bad thing, but I found that each one I ate had between 1 and 7 seeds in it. The average was about 5 seeds per fruit. You don't want to waste all of those trees do you?

Step 3: Husk the Seeds

Picture of Husk the Seeds

 Orange seeds have this annoying little husk on them. The husk keeps the seeds from soaking up with water and sprouting inside the fruit. If you peel this off, more of your seeds will germinate. They'll sprout faster too. Most of my seeds sprouted within a week (some varieties take longer, don't get discouraged if yours do) without the husk and I gave up waiting on the ones with the husk. I never found out how long it takes, but it IS a lot longer.

Step 4: Seed Soaking and Sorting

Picture of Seed Soaking and Sorting

 Put the seeds in the bottom of your water bottle with a little bit of water. Wait 24 hours. After 24 hours, throw out the seeds that are still floating on the top. Those are dead seeds and there's no point in waiting on them. 

Take the seeds that sink and proceed to the next step.

Step 5: Germinate the Seeds

Picture of Germinate the Seeds

 Put your soaked seeds on a wet paper towel, wrap them up, place them in a plastic bag, and put them somewhere warm. Label the bag, especially if you're growing more than one type of plant seed.

Check them every few days. When you see a root on a seed (I wait until the root gets to about 1/8", but you don't have to), take the seed and proceed to the next step. I've waited up to three weeks for the last seed to sprout. If they don't look like they're going to sprout at three weeks, I chuck them.

Step 6: The Greenhouse

Picture of The Greenhouse

 Start off by taking the label off from the bottle. Since I have mild OCD, I had to remove the glue and a little bit of paper with some naptha (lighter fluid) and a paper towel. It isn't very green, so I don't recommend doing it, but at least the bottle is clear now.

Step 7: Cut the Bottle

Picture of Cut the Bottle

 Cut the bottle down. The bottle I was using had a really convenient spot to cut. The bottle narrows down, goes straight for about 1/4 inch, then flairs back out. I cut the bottle right where the straight part meeds the flair on the bottom side of the bottle. This let me slide the top half of the bottle into the bottom half of the bottle.

Step 8: Fill the Bottom Half With Dirt

Picture of Fill the Bottom Half With Dirt

 Just like it says in the title. You can pack it down a little, but not a lot. You want the roots to be able to spread through it.

Step 9: Plant the Seeds and Put It Somewhere With a Lot of Light.

Picture of Plant the Seeds and Put It Somewhere With a Lot of Light.

Dig small holes in the soil and put the sprouted seeds in to them (I used a pencil stuck into the dirt to make the hole, but you could use almost anything. Really creative people use their fingers). You want the seed to be about 1/4" under the soil.

I put 3 seeds in each bottle. I intend to let them all grow up a little then pull out the weakest ones to leave 1 strong plant. I'll probably end up replanting the ones I pull out though.
Cover the seeds over with soil.

Put the top part of your greenhouse on and set the whole thing in a sunny window. Sometimes I tape the top of the greenhouse to the bottom so it doesn't fall off. Sometimes I don't. 

I water the soil whenever it dries out (about 3 times a month). If the soil dries out too often, I just put the cap on the bottle. That keeps the moisture and heat in, but it needs to be removed for a little while each day so your plant can breathe.

Step 10: Final Results

Picture of Final Results

 Here are some pictures after the seeds have grown a little. These pictures are from my first batch (I didn't wait for all of the seeds to sprout before I planted them. I ended up getting 2 seeds that sprouted, and four plants. They look great and seem really healthy. Maybe in 14 years I'll have a massive tree and some fruit.

I guess this isn't really worth it if your only goal is fruit, but they make really interesting plants, and are a great conversation starter. The trees are actually really attractive when they're full grown and they have a nice scent.

 I had to plant some for my friends that live on the floor, so I must've done something right. I hope you enjoy this instructable as much as they did.


XxelectricmanxX (author)2014-10-02

I just tried this... It ultimately failed, the seeds didn't start and even after my second attempt the plants never made it far, they died after a three weeks. I don't get it, I did everything instructed here... Haha

I'd suggest your plants dry out or get too much water since the water can't rinse away like in common pots. i'm going to try watering it with a thread and a can of water.. i guess there should be an instructable somewhere around ;)

1BAMAgirl4life (author)2012-03-27

I can't wait to try this! but instead of tangerines, I'm going to try doing lemons! :)

Lemons work great! I gave a lemon tree to my aunt and it's over a foot tall. I imagine it would be even taller if it were being grown outdoors in the summer.

farmerboyk (author)xfirexstarzx2014-07-23

Is it the exact same process for lemons?

xfirexstarzx (author)farmerboyk2014-07-29

yup =)

aheman (author)2013-05-10

I did this exact same thing, with your exact same method a few years ago! It's funny how people can totally have the same eureka moment. Only one of my trees survived, and has grown to be about 7 inches tall even though its about 4 years old. Its in a smallish pot, so it has become stunted and is more or less a bonsai now! It's neat, it has developed bark, and a cool gnarled trunk. Even more interesting is that for the past couple of years it has shed its leaves in its own miniature autumn, even though ones down in warmer climates don't do that, at least I don't think. Good luck on getting that fruit!

mraveendran (author)2013-02-21

hi i have tried out this today . i have just made moist out the tissue and then put those seeds in it and then i closed the bag over. i have used a local breed which grows on this place . iam from india in coorg . so i have took out the local orange and then i have covered it and kept it near the window. so that it would get sunlight . and i have just removed those white layer also .like that we should grow right ? can i do like that ?
and do the water get evoprate or it will stay there? and how long it will take excatly to grow? i hope u reply

astraley (author)2012-04-22

Thank you for posting this Instructable. I tried to grow citrus seeds before but never had as much success as with this Instructable. I now have 6 small but very healthy lemon trees growing in containers on my window sill.

Bergamot (author)2012-01-25

This is really really cool! Would a particular time of year be best to start this?

xfirexstarzx (author)Bergamot2012-01-30

You can start it at any time of the year. In my neck of the woods, they won't grow outside (except for the summer), so it doesn't make a difference. As long as they have plenty of sunlight and humidity, they should be happy.

Bergamot (author)xfirexstarzx2012-01-30

Awesome! Thanks a lot!

nrkey4ever (author)2010-01-23

a good way to remove a label from a bottle is to pour a little bit of boiling water in it (not a lot, especially not in a water bottle) cap it, and swirl it around until the glue melts off. It works great with pop bottles, I don't know about water bottles though.

jcaller (author)nrkey4ever2012-01-16

Good Tip! I normally use the steam of a kettle, It also melts the glue so you can clean it easy. ;)

build52 (author)2011-11-22

what does your tree look like now

anishi (author)2011-04-02

does it mater what type of plastic the bottle is because i was thinking of trying this with a sunny D bottle.

xfirexstarzx (author)anishi2011-04-04

I would try to find a transparent bottle, but you can try it with a Sunny D bottle. The worst that would happen is that the bottle doesn't let enough light through and you have to take the top of the bottle off.

ericCycles (author)2011-04-02

I've tried growing papaya from seed. They germinate very easily, but the plants didn't seem to like my soil or perhaps it wasn't warm enough in my house (about 63F in the winter).

Mango takes a long time to germinate. A heating mat helps. About $30, 15 watts. I've kept a few alive but no great successes (on the other hand, the mango trees i had shipped from Florida died in their first winter, indoors). Depending on the species, they can be monoembryonic or polyembryonic. The Atulfo mangoes seem to be mono, the big ones seem to be polyembryonic.

Pomegranate germinate very easily, grow like weeds. I'm still waiting to see mine flower though. It's over 3 ft tall and living in my greenhouse.

Dragon fruit are from cacti. The seeds germinate easily. They don't grow particularly quickly , but they seem very tolerant of my cold house. Hopefully they'll produce in a few years.

dmiller2606 (author)2011-03-29

do you have to wait 24hrs? please answer me bacause im 12 and i realy want to strat a orange tree =D

neverheidae (author)2011-01-07

I hate to make my first comment kind of a downer, so I will try not to, but it might seem like it at first. So...grain of salt, here, cause I don't want people to be disappointed with a lovely tree that makes icky fruit. You can totally grow an awesome fruit tree from most seeds. Apple, lemon, lime, orange, heck, even pomegranate. But there's kind of a caveat

Growing fruit from seed that you plan on eating can be really rough. Fruit trees for eating are generally started with cuttings. There's even folktales that all of Johnny Appleseeds apple fruit was inedible; but it made some banging applejack (strong liquor).

With oranges, you generally get 3 sprouts; 2 the genetic twins of the "mother" plant, and the 3rd is like a sexually reproduced baby; it's got whatever the mom and dad plant contributed....and the dad plant might not necessarily be tasty. So making sure to cut down the 3rd seedling to sprout (usually the biggest and strongest) will help. Buuuutttt, a tree grown from seed also might not produce fruit for 3-4 years after it seeded, and then only produce for a year or two. It's just how fruit roll.

That being said, just like Johnny Appleseed's hooch; that doesn't mean that you won't have a beautiful tree that produces fragrant blooms, and brings fresh air and greenery into your home or yard, or that there's no use for it's fruit. Just don't blame the tree toooo much if its fruit doesn't taste quite like the "parent"

madrobot3600 (author)2011-01-01

what if the seeds don't float at all? what if they just sink straight away?

Then they're good to go. Just soak them a little while to absorb a little more moisture before you go onto the next step.

chrstphr1961 (author)2010-01-28

 I had an orange tree I started from seeds... live in Ohio (USA) so kept it indoors in the winter, but planted it out in the flower bed in the summer... grew to be over 3 feet tall!  Then... along came my sister and her cat to live me for awhile, and that stupid animal used my lovely big pot and tree for a litter box and ended up killing the tree!  It was sad... the tree was 18 years old!  I think you've inspired me to start another tho!  No cats! 

Cheathum14 (author)chrstphr19612010-12-25

That's awful. I started a Ruby-Red grapefruit tree from seed and planted it outside the corner of my house when I was 5 years old. It lived for 11 years and grew to be 20 feet tall (with a trunk 13 inches thick!) before my parents cut it down :/. With a little luck, the shoots coming off the stump's roots will grow into another tree :).

jwoo2023 (author)chrstphr19612010-09-01

Hmm... Very sad ㅠ.ㅠ

Whales (author)2010-09-23

I'm growing a pepper plant next to my bed, since my bed is next to the window, I keep a bottle of water next to it to water it occasionally. Since i got the seeds out of an old packet of pepper seeds i had, i just let them sprout.

I took an idea from the "tree sculptures" and wrapped the two sprouts around each other, so they hold each other up. Works very well

bill3504 (author)2010-01-29

I just stuck some seeds [orange] in a 5 gal bucket  the plant was 6 inches tall before winter,
 i also use 2 litter pop bottles for green house starts

jwoo2023 (author)bill35042010-09-01


cwix09 (author)2010-01-21

SWEET INSTRUCTABLE!!  i cant wait to grow some oranges in my dorm!!

xfirexstarzx (author)cwix092010-01-21

 Maybe try moving one of the bottles from my side of the room to yours. Or you could get an orange out of the fridge. The soil bag is in my closet.

klw13 (author)xfirexstarzx2010-01-29

I'm guessing you two are roomates?

xfirexstarzx (author)klw132010-01-29

Haha yea... he thought I was crazy hoarding all these seeds... first oranges, then Florida tangerines, then mangoes, then papayas, apples, pears, and now grapefruit. Hopefully I can come up with some more fruit types that I can get for free. I'm looking into rotten fruit being thrown out right now... 

jwoo2023 (author)xfirexstarzx2010-09-01

maybe strawberries?

jwoo2023 (author)xfirexstarzx2010-09-01

or even AVOCADOES!

jwoo2023 (author)xfirexstarzx2010-09-01

kiwi? BANANA! ^^

MANGOES!?!?!?!?!?!? AWSOME!

Yes :) Mangoes are awesome, you should do an instructable about them :)

xfirexstarzx (author)ManyuX952010-05-24

 The mango seeds that I tried to start all died off =( maybe next time I get a mango I'll truy something different.

jwoo2023 (author)2010-09-01

right now, im growing a a mandarine tree. It's been there for 3 months? i think. It has sprouted and grown about 5.5 inches. One seed came out as 3 trees!

SirJohnLane (author)2010-08-07

I bought kits fron our local Lidl shop Kits include a mini pot, soil and seeds. kits cost approx €2 euro each Bought Orange, Lemon, Bonzai, Peppermint, Coffee and Monkeynut. Instructions said stick them in the soil, water every day, keep out of direct sunlight. Shoots should appear within 2 weeks......Week 2 nothing ! Im an Amateur when it comes to plants, so i did a bit of googling, bought a plastic see thru container and an LED Light. Put 7 of the plant pots (Watered again) and the LED light in the box and closed the lid. Left 3 pots out of the box, as a comparison in case something might happen. Its now 2 weeks day 3, no shoots yet. I open the lid every second day to let the plants breath as it gets humid in the Container, the LED is not very hot to touch so gently warms the Container, container does get humid after a few hours. Is there anything else i can try to get them to grow ? Im also new to this Site and am finding it a great resourse for info. xfirexstarzx love the informative article on growing oranges. Should i unssed mine, peel the skin off, soak them for 24hrs, re-pot, re-try ?

xfirexstarzx (author)SirJohnLane2010-08-26

How did your plants end up turning out? Did the seeds sprout?

xfirexstarzx (author)SirJohnLane2010-08-09

hmmm I'm not quite sure. Mine took a while for the seeds to sprout. I would wait until week three. If you don't see anything, try digging up a seed to see if it sprouted or just rotted. If it rotted, try planting another.

guilhermecahu (author)2010-07-09

Very nice, xfirexstarzx, thanks for this instructable! =D But I have a question... What did you do with these trees, after? Maybe you live in a house and planted them, our gave them away, right? Well, I live in an apartment and I like gardening a lot, so, do you think it's easy to start a bonsai whith and orenge tree (lol), or... Is this pot able to keep plants or vegetables in it, to use it as definitive?

I gave most of the trees away to friends and relatives and kept a few for myself. I re-potted all of the trees I kept after seeing that the main roots were coiling up on the bottom of the water bottle. I wouldn't keep a tree in a container like this too long, because the roots need to be able to grow down. You should be able to grow veggies as long as they don't get root bound. If you want a bonsai there are people that know a lot more about it than I do. I'm not really sure about a bonsai orange. I seem to have enough trouble keeping them healthy without torturing them =P I've been keeping the trees out on the porch at home (in western New York). We had a wind storm earlier in the summer, so I brought all of the trees inside and put them on the kitchen counter. It must have been too humid because I got a case of powdery mildew on my plants. I treated the plants with a fungicide, but all the plants I kept for myself but a tangerine and a grapefruit died off. Here's the tangerine tree out on my porch. It has all of 12 leaves!

I don't want to torture them... It's not the intention.. ^_^" But thanks for the reply, and good luck to you and your tangerine tree! o/

haha I'm just kidding. My trees aren't very big yet, so I'm still not too sure about how hearty they'll be once they get a little bigger. good luck!

lol The nice part of having a bonsai is that you have a little tree a home and you can get it's fruits! \o/ xD I'd like to live in a house, not in an apartment... =/ Well, whatever -lol Good luck for you too! o/

acardart (author)2010-08-03

3 months later, I am the proud owner of 3 orange tree saplings! I'm giving away two soon to make room for a try at lemon trees next!

acardart (author)acardart2010-08-03

most recent photo of the sprouts and lemon tree in the making

xfirexstarzx (author)acardart2010-08-09

Awesome! I love seeing results. Mine don't have any sort of bark yet... Do yours? It's been a while since I've seen a mature orange tree in person, and I was only five way back then so I'm not even sure what the mature tree will look like or when it'll get bark.

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