It’s not uncommon to find a lemon tree in an orange grove, but can a lemon tree become an orange tree? Well, maybe. It all depends on the genetics of the tree. If your lemon tree is indeed a lemon and not a lime (or other type of citrus), then you may be able to grow it as an orange tree.
If you are trying to convert a lemon tree into an orange tree in your backyard, it is unlikely that you will succeed. Doing so requires grafting and the ability to change the genetics of the tree itself.
It may seem like a logical stretch to think one citrus tree can bear two different kinds of citrus fruit. After all, lemons and oranges are both great sources of vitamin C! While it may not be possible for you to do so at home, read on to learn what it takes to change a lemon tree into an orange tree.
You can’t simply graft or graft together two different types to get a hybrid with new characteristics because the characteristics are locked in at the DNA level. It requires years of study, implementation, testing, and more.
To grow a lemon tree as an orange tree, you must graft the trees. Grafting is the process of adhering one limb of one plant to an older plant that may be able to host it and let it thrive.
Besides an extremely green thumb and vast knowledge of horticulture, in order to succeed in grafting a lemon and orange tree, you’ll need to:
- Select the desired orange tree variety’s new growth with multiple leaf buds and accompanying bark to use as budwood.
- Remove the limb from the lemon tree, leaving behind 1 foot of branch. The lemon tree should be disease-free to avoid infecting the orange tree.
- Make a cleft in the center of the lemon tree’s limb using a cleft knife. Make a V-shaped cut on the bottom of the lemon tree’s limb using a grafting knife. The limb should be no longer than 1 1/2 inches.
- Push the orange budwood into the lemon limb until the green pieces line up.
- Cover the entire graft with a grafting compound. Watch for signs of growth on the lemon tree.
If you manage to successfully graft a lemon and orange tree, and it’s thriving, it still won’t produce oranges for quite some time.
The bad news is that it may take 10-15 years before your tree starts producing oranges. The good news is that your lemons will keep growing and tasting like lemons during this period.
If you want to speed up the process of growing an orange tree from a lemon tree, you need to provide the tree with additional light. As mentioned, commercial citrus groves are often shaded since there are so many trees grown very close together.
To get your tree to bud sooner, you can grow your tree in full sun since citrus trees prefer more light than other types of trees. An added bonus of more light is more fruits, so you’ll likely get more fresh fruit. But again, don’t expect oranges anytime soon, if at all.
Many are curious if there is a cross between a lemon and an orange. The short answer is no. There is no cross between lemon and orange. However, there is a cross between a lemon and mandarin oranges, and you can actually buy the hybrid fruit in grocery stores.
The citron hybrid is another type of “lemon” that is actually a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. This is why a lemon can be either yellow or green when mature. It’s a hybrid!
Lemons and oranges don’t cross because their flowers are self-pollinating. This means each flower will pollinate itself. Another reason these two don’t cross is that they belong to different citrus species.
Did you find yourself here because your lemon tree is sprouting orange lemons?
If the lemons on your tree are orange, why are the lemons on your tree orange? This is actually the more important question! If your tree is producing lemons, it’s most likely that your tree is an orange tree.
If the tree is a lemon tree producing oranges, there are a few possible explanations:
- The tree is genetically a lemon tree, but it was exposed to too much sunlight. This caused the tree to produce more mandarin oranges than lemons. Orange trees naturally produce more mandarins than lemons, so if you have too much sunlight, you’ll end up with mostly mandarins.
- Your tree has a disease. There are some diseases that can cause a tree to produce mostly mandarins. These diseases would need to be treated with chemicals and/or pruning.
If an orange tree needs to be pollinated, can a lemon tree pollinate it? No.
Lemons and oranges are self-pollinating trees, meaning they don’t need another tree nearby to produce fruit. Citrus blossoms only open for a few hours, and they only need one type of flying insect to pollinate them.
They don’t require another tree nearby to pollinate them. Unfortunately, if you have another tree nearby that produces a different type of citrus, its pollen will not pollinate your tree. This is because citrus blossoms are self-sterile. This means that a tree can only pollinate itself, not another tree.
This article explains how to grow a lemon tree as an orange tree. When your lemon tree is mature, you should provide it with more sunlight to encourage it to produce more oranges.
You can speed up this process by removing any other trees that are blocking sunlight from your lemon tree. You should also prune your lemon tree to minimize the amount of mandarin oranges it produces and maximize the amount of oranges it produces.