Blood Orange trees can be cultivated indoors

April 16, 2014

Winters are enough to make your blood boil. But have too much blood and you might feel cheerful or “sanguine,” an adjective meaning “blood-red,” because in medieval physiology, if you had a lot of blood, you had a lot of what makes you happy.

You might try growing your own blood, or just a Blood Orange (Citrus sinensis) This tropical orange has purple or maroon flesh-like blood. The fruit is often smaller than an average orange, and the Blood Orange skin is sometimes rough. The oranges have a pleasant, distinctive flavor much like raspberries. In Sicily a popular winter salad contains sliced blood oranges and sliced fennel drizzled with olive oil.

The deep, dark flesh comes from the high concentration of healthy antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Though they might originally come from China, they have been grown in the Southern Mediterranean since the 18th century.

You could grow Blood Oranges just for their intoxicating fragrant blossoms. In spring Blood Orange trees will burst into bloom with dainty, white, fragrant blossoms. Medium-sized oranges form and ripen in late winter. The Blood Orange is only hardy to USDA Zone 9, but makes an ideal potted plant.

Ask a local nursery or garden center to order a potted Blood Orange for you, or try any of the mail-order nurseries such as Four Winds Growers (877-449-4637, Ext. 1 or online at or Logee’s (888-330-8038, 141 North St. Danielson, CT 06239 or online at

Pot up your blood orange tree in a container that is at least three to five gallons. Use a well-draining outdoor soil mix. Avoid potting soils that contain chemical wetting agents or fertilizers.

You can make your own by combining a good cactus soil mix with regular potting soil.

Plant the Blood Orange tree so the root collar or crown is just above the soil line with the top of the fibrous root mass just barely covered with soil. Keep loose soil away from the trunk of the tree.

Two or three times during the growing season feed your Blood Orange tree with a citrus tree fertilizer. Keep potted citrus trees at a steady indoor temperature at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you notice aphids or spider mites, spray with an organic antibacterial soap on the foliage and fruit.Young leaves that curl up might be the work of citrus leaf miner insect, and you can spray with Neem oil to control them.

Keep your potted Blood Orange in full sun. If you get less than six hours of direct sunlight, try adding grow lights. Stick to a watering schedule so the roots have steady moisture, but are not soggy or waterlogged.

You can make your Blood Orange tree look fuller with occasional pruning to trim out leggy branches. Blood Oranges, like most citrus, are self-fruitful indoors, so you don’t need pollination to set fruit.

If you have more than one Blood Orange tree you can hand pollinate them using a small, soft brush or cotton swab to brush pollen from one flower to the next.

Chase away the winter blues and pot up a Blood Orange tree to bring you fragrant blossoms, and maybe some juicy maroon blood oranges.

Don’t let the occasional citrus thorn give you a blood-curdling scream, and just relax and perhaps become “sangfroid” from the French, meaning “cool blood.”

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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