Washington Navel Orange Trees are round-topped, have a somewhat droopy canopy. These fruit trees produce white, fragrant blooms that produce seedless fruit. The flesh of Washington Navel Orange is deeply colored, firm and delicious. It is also juicy and has sweet and tangy taste.
The origin of the Washington navel orange tree is a little bit clouded since the growers from Bahia, Brazil where the bud sport originated from tell different stories. However, it seems likely that this fruit tree formed from a mutation of a Laranja Selecta orange tree around 1810-1820.
The Navel Orange from Bahia, Brazil was first introduced to Australia in 1824 and to Florida in 1835. In 1870 they were received from Australia by the Superintendent of gardens and grounds for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, William 0. Saunder. The twelve cuttings from Australia were immediately propagated and distributed. Some were transplanted to Riverside, California in 1973 and started producing sweet, juicy, seedless fruit that has a crisp texture and an easy-to-peel skin. Because of its availability in winter and its other great qualities Navel oranges became popular – widely known as Washington Navel Orange, named after its origins – and soon became the foundation of California’s citrus industry.
Navel Orange citrus trees are not particularly vigorous trees. They are round-topped, have a somewhat droopy canopy, and grow to about 8’-12’ in height when they reach maturity. These fruit trees produce white, fragrant blooms that lack viable pollen causing it to produce seedless fruit. The flowers’ insufficiency in producing pollen translates to it not being able to pollinate other citrus trees, and its inability to propagate more navel orange trees on its own. Therfore, navels must be propagated thru grafting onto other varieties of citrus trees.
Citrus Tree Care
When you buy citrus trees keep in mind that although they are cold/drought hardy and need minimal care it does not mean that they should be neglected and left to grow on their own. If you want your Navel Orange Tree to grow healthy and become a prolific fruit tree, follow the tips we have prepared below so you can start enjoying sweet-tangy, juicy, seedless Washington navel oranges in no time.
Growing citrus trees need as much sunlight as they can get, about 6-8 hours if possible, for adequate growth. Furthermore, the more hours your tree is exposed to the sun the heavier the flowering will be and the more fruit you will have on your citrus tree.
They may no longer be seedlings but citrus trees that you purchase are normally still young, so when you buy one, make sure that you water it once a week once you plant it in the ground. Water your new tree 2 to 3 times a week if planted in a container. Just remember that orange trees, just like other citrus trees, do not like wet feet so do not over water; keep the soil moist but not soggy.
Remove weeds and clear debris from under the orange tree canopy. To retain moisture, provide nutrients and oxygen and discourage weed growth, spread 2-3 inches layer of organic mulch or compost around the tree. The mulch should be kept 4-6 inches away from the tree trunk to avoid root rot.
Orange trees do not need pruning to shape them. However, if you see any branches that are rubbing against each other or the citrus tree branches are broken, diseased or dead make a 45-degree angle cut on the affected branches to prevent further damage to the navel tree.
For an indoor, potted citrus tree to help with pollination it would be wise to provide pollination assistance to your tree by collecting pollen from the bloom with the use of a small, dry, fine-tipped brush. Just stick the brush into the center of the bloom, swirl it around and do the same thing to the rest of the blooms. Do not wash the brush you used and repeat the process once a day until the blooms have pollinated.
Growing citrus trees are heavy feeders and they need nitrogen, phosphorus and other micronutrients like boron, copper, magnesium and zinc. Young trees should be given citrus fertilizer as soon as you see growth. Use a granular or liquid fertilizer for citrus trees in May, June and July; place 2 tablespoons of ammonium sulfate 21-0-0 fertilizer evenly in a ring around the tree, around the outer edges of the canopy. After applying the citrus fertilizer, water the soil around the tree thoroughly. Repeat the process every 3 months during growing season.
If you are living in USDA growing zones 8 to 11 you can plant your Washington Navel Orange Tree in the ground without worrying too much about possible frost damage since temperatures are warmer compared to other areas. However, if you typically experience extremely frigid winters like in USDA growing zones 4 to 7 it is advisable to plant your tree in a container so you can move it indoors.
Fruit & Harvesting
Washington Navel Oranges are seedless and in general are large, have a spherical or ellipsoid shape with a base that is somewhat collared and the apex is often slightly protruded. They have a navel-like spot found on the blossom end of the fruit, thus the name Navel Orange. The rind of this fruit is slightly thick, moderately tender and is colored a deep orange. The deep-orange rind is also roughly pitted and moderately pebbled. The flesh of Washington Navel Orange is deeply colored, firm and delicious. It is also juicy and has sweet and tangy taste.
Washington Navels are great eaten fresh from the rind, juiced or added in salads and desserts.
Aside from its incredible taste and size, it is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B complex and other minerals that are said to help boost your immune system and improve your overall health.
The harvest season for Washington Navel Oranges is from December to March. You can use the skin color of the fruit as an indicator of its ripeness but it is not always accurate as there are instances when the fruit rind is still green but the flesh inside is already ripe and ready for consumption. There are also cases when the rind is already well-colored but the fruit inside is still sour.
To be sure if your fruit can be harvested pick one fruit from the tree and do a taste test. Grasp a fruit firmly in your hard and twist it gently until it breaks free from the branch. If the juice inside the fruit is sufficient and the flavor is sweet then the rest of the fruit can be harvested. You do not have to rush in harvesting the oranges as they can hold well on the tree for weeks.
The Washington Navel Orange Tree can reach 8’ to 12’ in height when planted in the ground but tend to be smaller when planted in a container. You can maintain this citrus tree at 6’ or the height you desire by regularly pruning and pinching the tree. It is great for indoor growing but the fruit still needs heat to sweeten.
The blooming season of Washington Navel trees is in spring and fruit season is in winter, making it available during the Christmas season. Although cold hardy this citrus tree must be protected from frost damage and temperatures below 28°.
Pests and Diseases
Scales and mites are the most common pests attracted to Navel Orange trees.
Scales are brownish insects that look like bumps on the branches of a citrus tree. They suck the sap and nutrients out of the plant and secrete honeydew that promotes mold-growth. To get rid of scales you can spray diluted alcohol or targeted foliage cleaner on your citrus tree. The spray will make the tree leaves slippery causing the scales drop off the tree.
Mites are tiny insects that cause the leaves to curl and brown. Manage mite growth by spraying your citrus tree with dormant oil in early spring followed by insecticide later in the growing season.
Other pests that attack navel orange trees are the Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri), aphids, California red scales, citrus cutworms, citrus leafminers and mealybugs. These pests can be controlled using predator insects that feed on them, horticultural oils, insecticides and pesticides.
Phytophthora (gummosis) root rot – This disease caused the demise of one of the two parent Washington Navels planted by Eliza Tibbets in Riverside, California. Affected trees will have dark water-soaked areas along the bark that emit a sour smell when wet. You will also see brown necrotic sections extending to the cambium and wood. Once the disease has reached an advanced stage, the leaves will turn yellow and foliage will be sparse. Later on the dead bark will dry, shrink, crack and fall off the citrus tree resulting in an open canker.
Root rot can be prevented by cultural and hygiene measures; properly watering your citrus tree and having good water drainage to avoid water retention. You can also spray copper fungicide to effectively stymie brown rot.
Can a Washington Navel Orange Tree be grown from a seed?
Yes you can grow a Washington Navel Orange Tree from a seed but remember that the fruit may be different in size, quality, or taste as compared to the parent tree. Also, while growing a citrus tree from a seed is possible and can be a fun project, remember that it can take as long as seven to ten years for a citrus tree grown from a seed to produce fruit.
How long will it take for a Washington Navel Orange Tree to grow fruit?
Grafted Washington Navel Orange Treeswill begin to consistently produce fruit after two to three years in the ground or in a good-sized container. Differences in fertilizer schedules, water frequency, sunlight, climate, planting or growing location, and other environmental factors can all affect citrus fruit yields. Citrus trees grown from seed will always take longer to reach full fruit-growing age (as long as seven to ten years).
Will another type of citrus tree pollinate my Washington Navel Orange Tree?
Washington Navel Orange Trees will grow fruit with only one tree but they perform best when pollinated by bees, so trees grown outdoors will produce more fruit. Two cross-pollinating trees grown outside will grow more fruit than a solitary citrus tree. If you want to grow more fruit in this manner, a second navel of any type will work to cross-pollinate an existing Washington Navel Orange Tree.
Is this Washington Navel Orange tree genetically modified (GMO)?
No. The Washington Navel Orange Trees we sell are all NON-GMO.
Will squirrels eat the fruit on a Washington Navel Orange variety of citrus tree?
For the most part, squirrels do not disturb or try to eat citrus. It is possible that some squirrels may attempt to eat citrus in the most sever cases of drought.
I have a mature lemon tree already planted. Will that cross-pollinate with this Washington Navel Orange, or do I need to plant more?
It is self-fertile, but will produce a better yield of fruit if it has a second pollinator tree. The second pollinator tree would have to be a type of tangelo for them to cross-pollinate.
Does a Washington Navel Orange tree need a second tree of the same type near it so they can cross pollinate?
The Washington Navel Orange Treeswill grow fruit with only one tree but they perform best when pollinated by bees, so trees grown outdoors will produce more fruit. Trees grown inside can be pollinated by hand. Two Washington Navel Orange Trees, (or even two tangelo trees of different types) growing near each other outdoors will produce more fruit than a single tree.
Can I plant a Washington Navel OrangeTree in a container?
Yes. Start by potting the newWashington Navel Orange Tree in a 5-gallon sized pot that has holes in the bottom for drainage. Repot the Washington Navel Orange Tree in a bigger container after one year. Repot each year into a larger pot until you get to a 17 to 20 gallon sized container. A wider, shallow pot is better than a tall narrow design. All pots must have adequate drainage. Once in the largest container, you can prune the roots and repot the tree every two years to encourage good growth and fruit production.
How long will it take a Washington Navel Orange Tree to produce fruit?
Grafted citrus trees will begin to grow fruit after two to three years in the ground or in a suitable container. Variations in fertilizer, water, sun, temperature, and other environmental factors can all affect how soon and how much fruit a given citrus tree grows. Citrus trees grown from seed will take much longer to mature to fruit-growing age.