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Orange, citrus x sinensis, is a hybrid citrus fruit, most likely originating in China, widespread in cultivation in all areas with a mild climate in the world, as its fruits, oranges, are very appreciated for fresh consumption, or for the preparation of juices, fresh or long-life. Also in this case, as for the lemon, it is not a botanical species, but a hybrid, generated hundreds of years ago, whose cultivation in Europe dates back to the times of the ancient Greeks, which began the first cultivations in Sicily; from Sicily the citrus fruits did not have a sudden migration to other parts of our continent, it would be necessary to wait until the fourteenth century because the Portuguese sailors, after returning from their long commercial journeys, brought some orange trees. From Portugal this fruit then quickly spread to Spain, Italy and Greece, and followed by Europe also reached the American continent. As evidence of these origins, in most Italian dialects the orange is still today called portugal. The orange trees are of medium size, and an adult specimen can reach 7-10 m in height, producing a wide crown; the foliage is evergreen, oval, dark green, slightly leathery. The flowers bloom from the spring, they are white, with fleshy petals, very fragrant; the fruits ripen starting from November, but there are many varieties of orange, with flowers that bloom late, so that it is possible to have fruits that ripen from the beginning of November until late May. The orange fruits, oranges, are generally roundish, with the skin of the typical light ranch, or dark, or even reddish; only in Italy about forty varieties of orange are cultivated, from the larger and more meaty ones, with the thick skin, suitable for raw consumption, up to the small ones, with thin skin, more suitable for preparing juices; then there are particular oranges, with reddish pulp, of the sanguinelle, or the famous tarot, with the fruit that has the typical navel (navel variety).

Sweet orange

Most of the cultivated oranges come from varieties of the so-called sweet orange; there are also very particular varieties, with variegated leaves, with fruits with red skin; the trees form a beautiful wide crown, and in the cultivation areas they are periodically rejuvenated, every 5-7 years, to avoid that the dimensions become excessively imposing. In Italy, orange is grown in Sicily, Calabria, Puglia and Liguria; being a hybrid, it is not possible to obtain one orange tree taking a seed from its fruit, as we will probably get a tree that does not bear fruit, or that produces a poor quality fruit. To propagate these plants it is necessary to insert them.

Bitter orange

It is a tree very similar to that of orange, with numerous long spines, the trunk; the major difference between the two citrus species is the flavor of the fruit pulp, which in the case of bitter orange (citrus x aurantium) is precisely bitter. These oranges are cultivated to extract the essential oil in the peel of the fruits, used as a flavoring in various fields of industry, but also very often they serve as rootstock for sweet orange, as they are more resistant to cold and disease. A particular type of bitter orange is the chinotto (citrus x myrtifolia), a small tree with minute leaves, very reminiscent of those of the myrtle, with small and firm fruits, bitter taste, not edible when fresh.

Cultivate orange

As with most citrus fruits, orange trees also adapt well to a Mediterranean climate, characterized by mild winters and warm summers; for some weeks, between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, the oranges have a short period of semi-vegetative rest, during which it is possible to dedicate oneself to new grafts, prunings and other works of this kind; pruning in general are of slight entity in adult specimens, only in the young saplings is the form of the crown prepared for cultivation. As it also happens for the lemon, the oranges begin to bloom in spring, some still present the fruits of the previous year in maturation, and therefore we can have a flowering tree, which also presents fruits already ripe or in maturation. They are moderately delicate plants, which must be placed in a very bright, even sunny, location with winter temperatures that do not drop below 4-5 ° C; frosts, especially late ones, can cause all flowers to fall, and if they are important, they can lead to the death of plants. Orange trees do not like the wind, neither in summer nor in winter, it is therefore good to find a position sheltered from the air; the roots tend to be shallow, and therefore, in areas where winters are very harsh, in addition to covering the entire plant, it will also be necessary to mulch the soil around the stem, or cover the vase if appropriate. We grow our orange in a loose and drained soil, but remember that the watering should be very regular, especially during the summer months; in fact to these trees of semitropical origin, do not like the hot Italian summers, it will therefore be advisable to intensify the summer watering, avoiding to leave the soil dry, especially if for long periods of time. If we grow our orange to obtain juicy fruits, we will have to provide it with the necessary watering using an irrigation system. The fertilizations are regularly supplied, spreading every 3-4 months the slow release granular fertilizer at the base of the plant; often with citrus fruits, foliar absorption fertilizers are also used.

Pests and diseases

Among the typical pests of orange, surely a place of honor is to be left to the cochineal, which nestles both under the leaves of the specimens grown in the open, and under those of the specimens grown in pots, which can spend some periods in the greenhouse . The dry climate of the cultivation areas contributes to the proliferation of this insect, which can cause huge and very harmful infestations; together with the cochineal, often in summer the orange trees are infested with red spiders. Both small animals must be quickly eradicated, as they can ruin the shoots, and affect all the foliage of the plant, with consequent problems also on the fruits; scale insects and mites move away from the trees periodically using white oil. This insecticide is used in autumn and spring, but when the flowers are not present on the plant; summer use is advisable only during the coolest hours of the day, as with temperatures above 35 ° C the white oil becomes phytotoxic. Other insects that attack oranges fruit flies, against which it is good to carry out timely treatments, and aphids, which ruin young and tender shoots. A problem for oranges is also represented by branchy mushrooms, which can penetrate immediately after pruning; the protection of the cutting surfaces with pruning mastic is fundamental in this case.

Propagate the orange

The orange seeds are fertile, so it is sufficient to use a small seed extracted from a fruit, washed and dried, to obtain a new plant; all citrus fruits, however, are hybrids, so our new plant will probably not produce flowers and fruits, or, even if it were, they will never be the same as the orange from which we took the seeds. For this reason, oranges are propagated by vegetative means, that is by cutting or grafting. Typically, the method most used by plant producers and growers is grafting, also because it allows grafting the orange we have chosen onto a more vigorous and resistant citrus fruit, such as drought or pests, in order to obtain a vigorous plant, which actually produces our favorite oranges. The grafts are split or crowned, much depends on the size of the rootstock. For us mere mortals it is possible to propagate an orange by cuttings; the plant that we will obtain will be identical to the one from which the cutting was pruned, but we will not have the advantages derived from grafting it on a more resistant plant. The cuttings are taken in late spring, or in summer, cutting the tips of the branches that do not bear fruits or flowers; the twig is prepared by removing the leaves in the lower part, immersing the base in the rooting hormone and then burying it in a mixture of sand and peat in equal parts, which should be stored in a cool, sheltered and not excessively sunny place, watering regularly. what we will not see that the twigs sprout. The plants obtained in this way will be kept in pots for at least 2-3 years before being able to be placed in the chosen place.

A citrus in a vase

Citrus fruits are very decorative trees, their aromatic and evergreen foliage, the very fragrant flowers and also the delicious fruits make them useful plants, but also very beautiful. For this reason it often happens that citrus fruits are also grown in areas where winters are excessively rigid for these plants, and therefore it is preferred to grow small specimens in pots. Pot cultivation undoubtedly presents some peculiar problems, due to the fact that trees are forced to live in a container that prevents the root system from developing at will; for this reason most of the citrus fruits grown in pots are small, as the pot forces them to develop nano. However, remember that, although the vase makes it easier to repair plants from the cold, as they can easily be moved to a place sheltered from freezing, other treatments to take to the plant cannot be neglected, as the vase (especially if it is small) it requires constant care, and even brief forgetfulness can cause the branches of our orange to dry up. The plants of orange in vase they need very regular watering throughout the year: let's avoid letting the whole loaf of earth dry up, and remember to water it before it happens, even in the middle of winter, but especially in the hot season. We periodically supply a good fertilizer, mixed with the water of the waterings, or in granules to spread on the surface of the ground; every 2-3 years we repot the small tree, using a container a little bigger (at least two thirds of the diameter of the foliage), and a good loose soil, well drained and rich.
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