When an orange tree loses leaves, its owner quickly fears the worst. But instead of panicking, he should first take a look at the calendar sheet. It makes a difference whether the leaf loss occurs in summer or winter. The good news is: At any time of the year, the problem can be dealt with as soon as the causes are identified and eliminated.

Leaf loss in winter

As a Mediterranean plant, the orange tree is intended for a mild climate. Under growth-friendly living conditions, with plenty of light and warmth, nature leaves it all year round with its leaves, including flowers and fruits.

In this country we can only offer him his ideal environment outdoors in summer. In winter, the challenge is to get him through this cold season in good health without the tree visibly suffering. In winter quarters, however, it can quickly lead to unwanted leaf loss.

Causes in warm winter quarters

An orange tree is often overwintered in heated rooms. His owners think they are doing him a favor, and sometimes there is no other winter alternative available. However, warmth is a growth signal that needs to be accompanied by sufficient light. In winter, however, it is problematic to achieve a balanced ratio of heat and light.

  • winter is less light than summer
  • Double glazing reduces the usable light energy
  • a dark location offers little natural light

If the quality of light does not match the needs of the plant, it cannot produce enough photosynthesis and sheds its “useless” leaves. This is a natural protective mechanism so that your strength is not drained.

Causes in a cold quarter

In a cold quarter, everything is easier at first because the low temperatures put the tree into a pause for growth. Its light requirement is low and is compatible with the actual light intensity. In late winter and spring, the good conditions can change radically, especially when the orange tree is in a glazed greenhouse or winter garden.

  • the sun shines more and more often, longer and stronger
  • if necessary, sun rays can reach the tree
  • the thin leaves heat up quickly
  • they are reached by more light
  • Tree then wants to grow
  • but the ball of the earth remains cold
  • Roots cannot provide the necessary care
  • the leaves lack water and nutrients to grow

Since not all the conditions relevant to growth are met, the tree reacts by shedding its leaves.

Move to suitable winter quarters

Avoid a warm and at the same time dark location, as well as the combination of light and cool. Offer your orange tree the optimal wintering quarters if you want to stop or avoid completely leaf loss in the cold season.

  • frost-free greenhouse, garden shed or garage
  • Unheated stairwells are also suitable
  • each with window or plant lighting

Avoid living rooms as they are way too warm. Likewise warm basement and storage rooms.

Increase the amount of light

If the available neighborhood offers temperatures above 12 degrees Celsius, the required amount of light of 1,000 lux will certainly not be achieved in winter either. The tree has the best chance close to a south-facing window without curtains.
In order for the orange tree to keep its leaves in a warm location even when there is little daylight, you can install a plant lamp that supplements the natural light.

Tip: You can buy a light meter in stores that you can use to measure the amount of light. In the meantime, however, there are also free smartphone apps that offer this function.

Keep the winter short

Numerous plant species have to be brought into a protective quarter at the first danger of frost. You will overwinter in it until the ice saints in mid-May. However, this long wintering is not necessary for an orange tree.

  • Keep the winter short
  • November to March is often sufficient
  • Leaf loss in summer

Warmth and light are available in summer, but the orange tree can lose leaves. If this happens only sporadically, there is no need to worry. The foliage is renewed regularly, so older leaves occasionally fall off. A massive loss of leaves, which makes the branches increasingly bare, has nothing to do with the natural change of leaves. You must find the causes and eliminate them as quickly as possible.

Change of location

An abrupt change of location, as the orange tree has to experience every year, can cause stress and lead to leaf loss. The greater the differences between winter quarters and summer locations, the more detrimental this affects the foliage.

When the wintering quarters are cool and dark and the tree is taken out of it relatively late, a location that is now very warm and bright awaits it. These differences in temperature and light cannot be compensated for quickly enough, which is why the orange tree loses a large part of the leaves that are still green.


One of the causes of leaf loss is an excessive supply of water, which hardly any plant likes.

  • first of all, the roots are damaged
  • as a result, can no longer supply the tree optimally
  • Leaves turn yellow
  • fall off afterwards

The yellowing of the leaves is a clear indication of a problem with moisture. Long-term undersupply due to waterlogging can also lead to brown leaf tips.

Over Fertilization

If the leaf color turns brown, it could also be due to an oversupply of fertilizer. The beginning often starts with the tips, which first turn brown. Over time, the leaves dry up and fall off completely.

Over-fertilization can occur if the dosage instructions are not observed. The season also plays an important role, as there is only a need for nutrients during the growing season.

Once leaf loss has started, it is difficult to stop. There are no quick solutions here because the tree reacts sluggishly. However, that does not mean watching idly now. The causes need to be figured out so that they can be changed and avoided in the future. Then you have to be patient and wait for the new growth.

Repot the orange tree

If the roots are badly damaged by moisture or the soil is overloaded with nutrients, the first step should be to replace the substrate. Cut off any damaged roots with sharp, disinfected scissors. If the old pot does not have drainage holes, you should replace it with a more suitable one.
Find out about the two maintenance measures watering and fertilizing as soon as possible so that you can avoid these two causes of leaf loss in the future.

  • Water as required and depending on the weather
  • when the top layer has dried
  • only fertilize during the growing season
  • find out about suitable fertilizers
  • always adhere to the recommended amount
  • After repotting, apply fertilizer for about 6 weeks
Tip: A moisture meter or the tried and tested finger method are helpful in determining the moisture in the soil.

Optimize location

Carefully review the current location. Does the tree get a lot of warmth and light? The orange tree sprouts again when the following conditions are met:

  • full sun, warm location outdoors
  • South-facing terrace
  • it has to be bright in rooms (winter garden)

Correct move

The orange tree can and should leave its winter quarters early if the weather permits. The ice saints do not necessarily have to be waited for. If the move to the open air is late for any reason, you should only get used to the tree slowly and gradually to more sun.

If you unknowingly placed the tree in a heavily sunlit place, you should correct this quickly so that you do not subject the tree to further stress.

Important instructions

Do not cut tree

Bare branches often suggest that you should use scissors, a courageous cut should encourage new growth. In the case of an orange tree that has lost its leaves, this should definitely not be done. The tree grows slowly and can only make up for this loss of pruning with great difficulty. Only remove individual branches when they have died. You can easily recognize this by the brown color.

Do not increase the watering quantity

Yellow or falling leaves are often associated with a lack of water, which is then immediately “remedied” with an extra helping of water. This hasty and incorrect diagnosis leads to waterlogging and adds yet another cause of leaf loss to the existing problem. But the tree is overwhelmed with so many challenges, turns its bare branches black and dies completely if you do not recognize the error as quickly as possible.

Choose insensitive citrus varieties

Not only orange trees exude a southern flair that reminds us of beautiful vacation days. Some citrus varieties cope better with a lack of light, which means that wintering works even under less favorable conditions without the tree losing its leaves. The following varieties should have this tolerance:

  • Meyer Lemons
  • Calamondin orange

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