Oranges not ripening on the tree | Causes and solutions

Oranges will not ripen on the tree if they are getting too much shade, irregular water, not enough potassium or because of irregular weather patterns. To ensure oranges ripen on the tree plant them in an open, sunny position and use a fruit promoting fertilizer in Fall. Choose orange varieties like Hamlin and Havel that ripen early for oranges sooner.

Reasons oranges are not ripening on the tree

1. Temperature changes

Oranges that are expecting cold or warm weather will not ripen on the tree as quickly as usual. If the winter weather is too warm the oranges will keep the chlorophyll in their fruit, keeping it green for longer. This can delay their ripening to later in the season.

If left long enough, most oranges will eventually ripen as the weather cools down. The fruit can stay on the tree for longer than other fruits such as peaches and pears due to the high acidity of the oranges. Wait a little longer for your oranges to change color before you give up on them.

Oranges can take 2-3 months to ripen depending on the variety.

2. Irregular watering

Oranges prefer regular watering and times of dryness can slow their ripening and growth. For large, healthy fruit that ripens quickly make sure your orange tree gets regular water in the warmer months to set it up to grow healthy fruit in Fall.

Check the base of your tree regularly around the drip zone, which is under the edge of the tree canopy. If the soil is dry 1-2 inches down, give the tree a deep water to reach the deep roots. Keep the water on the ground near the soil to avoid splashing water on the leaves. This can reduce the risk of fungus infections.

If you get regular rain this will set your orange tree up to fruit well but if not, you will need to water your orange tree deeply at least once per week over the cooler months to help the fruit grow and ripen.

3. Not enough potassium

Orange trees that do not have enough potassium will not grow flowers, set fruit and the fruit will not ripen. Orange trees can be given a fruit promoting fertilizer in fall to make sure they have enough potassium to grow flowers for fruit.

Encouraging the orange tree to grow flowers and fruit in the cool months will give the oranges enough time to ripen before the weather warms up again.

4. Not enough sunlight

Oranges need bright sunlight for fruit to ripen so trim back branches of nearby trees and shrubs to make sure the fruit is exposed to the sun. This will ripen and develop the sugars in the fruit for a sweeter orange.

When planting a new orange tree, choose a sunny position in your garden with well drained soil. Improve the soil before planting with compost and aged cow manure to give the orange the nutrients it needs to establish a strong root system. This will set the plant up to grow lots of large fruit that will ripen in the next season.

How to know if oranges are ripe

Oranges will soften when they are ripe. The color can change to yellow or orange and still have some green on the skin. Oranges are ripe when their level of sweetness has developed so pick one once it feels like it has softened and taste it to determine if it is ripe.

Pick oranges that are darker orange color as they are more likely to be sweet.

When oranges will ripen

Oranges will ripen from winter through to Spring. Depending on the variety, this can vary from those that ripen early in the season from October like Parson Brown all the way to late season oranges like Valencia that will ripen in June.

Oranges ripen on the tree

Oranges need to ripen and develop on the tree so leave them on there until they have developed their sweetness. Oranges do not need to completely turn an orange color to be ripe, so the best way to tell if they are ready to pick is to pick one and taste it. If it tastes sweet they are ready to harvest.

How to pick ripe oranges

Choose fruit that are, large, round and have started to turn orange. Test the fruit by tasting one to see if they are at the level of sweetness you like. Oranges that are a similar size will ripen at the same time so they can all be picked or some left on the tree and picked at a later date.

Oranges can last for weeks on the tree before they are picked due to their high acidity. Pick them and place them at the bottom of your fridge if you want to keep them for longer and avoid any pests attacking them.

How long oranges take to ripen

Oranges can take 2-3 months to ripen on the tree depending on the weather. The more sunlight the orange gets, the quicker and darker color they will change. Oranges can take as little as 4 weeks to ripen up to 12 weeks for some varieties.

Orange Variety Ripening Times

Early (November-December)Early Mid-season (October-Jan)Mid-season (December-March)Late-season (March-June)
HamlinParson BrownPineappleValencia
  Blood oranges 

How to harvest ripe oranges

Harvest ripe oranges by choosing a fruit that feels like it has slightly softened and started to turn orange. Taste the fruit to make sure it is at the level of sweetness you want. Pick oranges by grasping the fruit in your hand and twisting it free of the stem.

Use secateurs to trim the orange off if you find this easier. Pick oranges that are a similar size and color as they are likely to be the same level of ripeness.

If you are not ready to eat all of the oranges on your tree, you can leave them on the tree for 2-3 weeks or store them in the bottom of your fridge to keep them for longer.

Oranges not ripening on the tree – Summary

The main reasons oranges will not ripen on the tree is lack of sunlight and changing weather patterns. While you can’t change the weather you can clear the way to make sure your oranges get the most sunlight possible. Leave your oranges on the tree for longer to give them a chance to ripen and taste one to see how close it is to the level of sweetness you like before picking more.

Happy gardening.

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