Cara Cara Orange Planting, Care, & Harvesting Guide - The Garden Magazine (2023)

Welcome to the world of citrus gardening! If you’re looking to add a burst of vibrant color and a deliciously sweet flavor to your garden, growing a Cara Cara orange tree is an excellent choice. The Cara Cara orange, also known as the pink navel orange, is a unique and highly sought-after variety that offers a delightful twist to the traditional orange.

With its striking pinkish-red flesh, tangy yet sweet taste, and numerous health benefits, the Cara Cara orange has become a favorite among citrus enthusiasts. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of growing Cara Cara oranges, providing you with all the essential information and expert tips to help you successfully cultivate these delectable fruits in your own backyard. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and embark on this citrus-growing adventure together!

What are Cara Cara Oranges?

Cara Cara orange, also known as the red-fleshed navel orange, is a unique and delicious citrus fruit. It is a mutation of the Washington navel orange and is known for its vibrant pink to red flesh, which sets it apart from other oranges. The exterior of the Cara Cara orange is similar to a traditional navel orange, with a bright orange rind that is easy to peel. The flavor of Cara Cara oranges is exceptionally sweet and tangy, with hints of cranberry and cherry. The flesh is juicy and tender, making it a popular choice for eating fresh or using in various culinary applications. It is often praised for its low acidity and lack of bitterness, making it a favorite among citrus enthusiasts. Cara Cara orange trees are medium-sized, evergreen trees that can reach a height of 20 to 30 feet. They have glossy, dark green leaves and produce fragrant white flowers in the spring. The fruit ripens in the winter, typically from December to April, depending on the region. When it comes to growing Cara Cara oranges, they thrive in warm climates with full sun exposure. They require well-draining soil with a pH level between 6 and 7.5. Regular watering is essential, especially during the fruiting season, to ensure proper growth and development. Pruning should be done to maintain a manageable size and shape, as well as to remove any dead or diseased branches. Overall, Cara Cara oranges are a delightful addition to any citrus garden, offering not only a visually stunning fruit but also a unique and delicious flavor that sets it apart from other orange varieties.

What do Cara Cara Oranges taste like?

Cara Cara oranges are known for their unique and delicious flavor profile. They have a sweet and tangy taste with a hint of cranberry-like undertones. The flavor is often described as being less acidic than traditional oranges, making them incredibly enjoyable to eat. The sweetness of Cara Cara oranges is balanced with a subtle tartness, creating a refreshing and satisfying flavor experience. Additionally, they have a distinct floral aroma that adds to their overall appeal. The combination of their vibrant color, juicy texture, and exceptional flavor makes Cara Cara oranges a favorite among citrus enthusiasts.

How to start Cara Cara Oranges from seed

Starting Cara Cara Orange trees can be done through seeds or grafting. However, grafting is the preferred method as it ensures the tree will produce true-to-type fruit. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to start a Cara Cara Orange tree:

  1. Obtain a healthy Cara Cara Orange scion: The scion is a small branch or bud from a mature Cara Cara Orange tree that will be grafted onto a rootstock. Obtain the scion from a reputable nursery or a healthy Cara Cara Orange tree.
  2. Select a compatible rootstock: Choose a rootstock that is compatible with the Cara Cara Orange scion. Common rootstocks for citrus trees include Trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) and Swingle citrumelo (Citrus paradisi x Poncirus trifoliata). Ensure the rootstock is disease-resistant and suitable for your climate.
  3. Prepare the rootstock: If you are using a potted rootstock, ensure it is healthy and disease-free. If you are planting in the ground, make sure the soil is well-draining and fertile. Dig a hole slightly larger than the rootball of the rootstock.
  4. Make the grafting cut: Take a sharp, sterile grafting knife and make a diagonal cut on the rootstock stem, about 1-2 inches above the soil line. The cut should be clean and smooth.
  5. Prepare the scion: Take the Cara Cara Orange scion and make a matching diagonal cut at the bottom end. The cut should be made at an angle that matches the cut on the rootstock.
  6. Join the scion and rootstock: Carefully align the cambium layers of the scion and rootstock, ensuring they fit together snugly. The cambium layer is the thin green layer just beneath the bark. It is important to match the cambium layers for a successful graft.
  7. Secure the graft: Use grafting tape or rubber bands to tightly wrap the graft union, ensuring it is held firmly in place. This will help the scion and rootstock to grow together.
  8. Protect the graft: Cover the graft union with grafting wax or grafting compound to protect it from drying out and to prevent infection. This will also help in the healing process.
  9. Provide proper care: Place the newly grafted Cara Cara Orange tree in a warm, sunny location. Water it regularly, ensuring the soil remains moist but not waterlogged. Protect the tree from extreme temperatures and strong winds.
  10. Monitor and maintain: Keep an eye on the graft union for any signs of infection or failure. If the graft fails, you may need to regraft using a new scion. Prune any competing shoots or branches that emerge below the graft union.

Remember, grafting can be a complex process, so it is recommended to seek guidance from a professional or experienced gardener if you are new to grafting.

When to plant Cara Cara Oranges outdoors

The ideal time to plant Cara Cara Orange trees is in the spring, after the last frost has passed. This typically falls between March and May, depending on your specific location. Planting during this time allows the tree to establish its root system before the hot summer months, which promotes healthy growth and fruit production.

Growing & Care Guide Cara Cara Oranges

Cara Cara oranges, also known as red-fleshed or pink oranges, are a delicious and unique variety of citrus fruit. To ensure the health and productivity of your Cara Cara orange tree, it is important to follow some best practices for care. Here are some guidelines to help you successfully grow and maintain your Cara Cara orange tree:

  1. Planting: Choose a location that receives full sun exposure for at least 6-8 hours a day. The soil should be well-draining, slightly acidic to neutral (pH 6.0-7.5), and rich in organic matter. Before planting, prepare the soil by incorporating compost or well-rotted manure.
  2. Watering: Adequate watering is crucial for the growth of Cara Cara oranges. Water deeply and regularly, especially during dry periods. The soil should be evenly moist, but not waterlogged. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot. Mulching around the base of the tree can help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
  3. Fertilizing: Feed your Cara Cara orange tree with a balanced citrus fertilizer regularly. Apply the fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions, typically in early spring, early summer, and early fall. Avoid fertilizing during winter, as it can promote new growth that may be susceptible to frost damage.
  4. Pruning: Pruning helps maintain the shape of the tree, improves air circulation, and encourages fruit production. Prune your Cara Cara orange tree during late winter or early spring before new growth emerges. Remove any dead, damaged, or crossing branches. Thin out the canopy to allow sunlight to reach all parts of the tree. Avoid excessive pruning, as it can reduce fruit production.
  5. Pest and Disease Control: Monitor your Cara Cara orange tree regularly for common citrus pests such as aphids, scale insects, and citrus leaf miners. Use organic insecticides or horticultural oils to control infestations. Additionally, keep an eye out for diseases like citrus canker, citrus greening, and root rot. If you notice any signs of disease, consult with a local extension service or a professional arborist for appropriate treatment options.
  6. Harvesting: Cara Cara oranges are typically ready for harvest in late winter to early spring, depending on your region. The fruit should be fully orange and slightly soft to the touch. Gently twist or cut the fruit from the tree, leaving a short stem attached. Store the harvested oranges in a cool, well-ventilated area or refrigerate them for longer shelf life.

Remember, growing Cara Cara oranges requires patience and consistent care. By following these best practices, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of delicious and nutritious citrus fruits from your Cara Cara orange tree.

Harvesting Guide for Cara Cara Oranges

Cara Cara oranges are a popular variety known for their sweet and tangy flavor, as well as their vibrant pinkish-red flesh. Here’s a guide on when and how to harvest Cara Cara oranges:

  1. Timing: The best time to harvest Cara Cara oranges is when they are fully ripe. This usually occurs during the winter months, typically from December to February, depending on your specific location. The oranges should have a deep orange color and feel heavy in your hand.
  2. Visual cues: Look for visual cues to determine if the oranges are ready for harvest. The skin should be smooth, glossy, and firm. Avoid harvesting oranges that have green patches or are too soft, as they may not have reached their full sweetness.
  3. Taste test: Perform a taste test by sampling a few oranges from different parts of the tree. The fruit should have a balanced flavor, with a good balance of sweetness and acidity. If the oranges taste slightly tart, they may need a bit more time to ripen.
  4. Harvesting technique: To harvest Cara Cara oranges, gently twist the fruit upwards while firmly holding the stem. This helps detach the orange from the tree without damaging the branch or the fruit. Alternatively, you can use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut the stem about half an inch above the fruit.
  5. Storage: After harvesting, it’s best to consume Cara Cara oranges fresh. However, if you have a surplus, they can be stored for a few weeks in a cool, dry place. Make sure to keep them away from direct sunlight and high humidity. If you need longer storage, you can refrigerate the oranges in a plastic bag, which can extend their shelf life for up to a month.

Remember, it’s always best to harvest oranges when they are fully ripe for the best flavor and sweetness. Enjoy the delicious taste of your homegrown Cara Cara oranges!

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