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).

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Step 1: 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

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

 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

 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

 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

 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

 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

 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.

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

 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.



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    162 Discussions


    4 years ago

    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

    1 reply

    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 ;)

    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.


    6 years ago on Step 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!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    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


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    9 years ago on Step 6

    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.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

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


    8 years ago on Introduction

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

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    8 years ago on Step 4

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


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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"