Bitter orange - plants, care and overwinter

The Content Of The Article:

The bitter orange is a robust plant with a rustic charm and rich flowers. But she needs some care for that. By the way: The bitter orange is also easy to multiply.

Plant bitter orange

The bitter orange (Poncirus trifoliata) represents the only representative of the genus Poncirus and belongs to the Rautengew├Ąchsen. Not to be confused is the three-leaf lemon with the closely related, also called bitter orange citrus fruit, a cross between tangerine and grapefruit. Bitter oranges grow to about three to four meters high and have a great advantage - the hobby gardener can bring even in regions with less mild climate Mediterranean charm in the garden, because the bitter orange is hardy, robust and easy to clean.

plant Description

While oranges can grow up to ten meters high, the trefoil lemon only reaches a maximum of four meters in growth height. The shrub has a green bark, flattened branches and strikingly strong thorns. The leaves are in three parts, which has the name three-leaf lemon. Already in autumn, the bitter orange lays the buds for the next year. Unlike the bitter orange, the bitter orange is not evergreen, but discards its leaves. The leaf fall is accompanied by a pretty, yellow-orange autumn color.

Distribution and benefits

The bitter orange is native to northern China and Japan. In its wild form, the trefoil lemon grows predominantly as a hedge. Some hobby gardeners may be skeptical and doubt the winter hardiness of bitter orange. Due to its natural occurrence in the Himalayas, however, the plant is sufficiently cold-tested and survives the winter in German gardens.

Already in the 10th century the bitter oranges reached Europe via the Orient and North Africa. A first cultivation is handed down from the Spain of the 11th century. An exotic has remained Poncirus trifoliata in our latitudes until today. Quite wrongly, it is the frostiest citrus plant in Europe. In addition, bitter oranges are a good finishing base for citrus plants.

When does the bitter orange blossom?

The first flowers often appear already in April and thus before the foliage. The flowers have a diameter of about four centimeters and show the close relationship to the bitter orange. Each flower has five petals and yellow stamens. If the bitter orange is in bloom, it surrounds a beguiling orange scent. The fruits appear green at first and are surrounded by a furry fluff. In the following period begins the yellowing.

The fruits are not enjoyable but edible. They contain a lot of seeds and only a little pulp. The ornamental value is always higher than the value of the bitter oranges.

Bitter orange sometimes two

Without wishing to cause confusion, here is a brief outline of the species of bitter orange. As already mentioned, the bitter orange actually means two different plants.

┬╗Bitter orange (Poncirus trifoliata)

  • Rautengew├Ąchs, own genus Poncirus
  • hardy
  • deciduous
  • Growth height up to four meters
  • Fruit edible but without economic importance

┬╗Bitter orange / bitter orange

  • Rhombus plant, citrus
  • not hardy
  • evergreen
  • Growth height up to ten meters
  • Fruit edible, versatile use

Plant bitter oranges

Robust and easy to cultivate, the bitter orange is an invitation to bring southern flair to your home garden. What should be considered when planting, can now be read.


For the bitter orange a warm and sunny location should be found. The Rautengew├Ąchse feel particularly well in a protected location, not far from a south-facing house wall.

" Tip: The group planting of bitter orange can also be created in the form of a hedge. The strong thorns will make it difficult for intruders.
In single planting, the three-leaf lemon makes a good match with lavender, blue-stemmed or other blue or purple blooming flowers and perennials.

The ideal location in keywords:

  • bright
  • warm
  • sunny
  • protected

ÔŁŹ Substrate:

The bitter orange makes no special demands on the ground. Of advantage is a good permeability of the substrate. This can be achieved in the bed by subduing coarse sand. Bitter orange tolerates no waterlogging, so the liquid should always drain well. A weakly acidic soil with a low lime content is ideal for the plant.

The suitable substrate in key words:

  • relaxed
  • permeable
  • slightly sour
  • limepoor

ÔŁŹ Planting instructions:

Ausw├Ąhlen Select location
Lock Loosen, clean up, upgrade the floor
Aus Lift planting hole
W├Ąss Water bitter orange
Einsetzen Insert plant
Auf Fill the substrate
Ang Water the plant well

The best season for the three-leaf lemon is spring. Then the plants get enough time to grow vigorously and to prepare for the winter. The soil should be loosened up well. Barren soils can be upgraded with compost. Waterlogging protects against rough water. The planting hole should be dug approximately twice the width of the root ball. During the first weeks after planting, the bitter orange needs plenty of water.

Cultivate the bitter orange in the bucket

The K├╝belhaltung the plants is just as easily possible. If the three-leaf lemon is placed in a planter, it can bring southern flair to the balcony or terrace. Container plants require regular water and should be fertilized during the growth phase. So that no waterlogging arises, a drainage of gravel or potsherds should be placed on the bottom of the vessel.

Repot bitter orange

The bitter orange grows quite fast, but then shows by a rather slow growth their relationship to the citrus plants. Repotting will only be necessary every two to three years.

" Tip: If the plant shows signs of stunted growth, the root ball has penetrated the plant pot and the substrate is depleted or waterlogged, should be immediately repotted.

The new planter should be chosen a few inches larger than its predecessor. It is also important to ensure sufficient drainage holes so that the irrigation water does not accumulate in the vessel.

This is how to properly cultivate the bitter orange

Bitter orange fruit

To water:

In the growth phase, the bitter oranges are abundantly poured. A touch of tact is needed, so that the fine roots are not harmed by wrong casting behavior. The root ball should not dry out. Waterlogging is important to avoid in any case. Likewise, preference should be given to rainwater. Tap water has a high lime content, which gets the plant less well.

" Tip: Rolled leaves indicate a problem with the water balance. It was either too little or too much poured.


During the growing season the plants receive liquid fertilizer weekly. Here, a citrus fertilizer can be used. Pay attention to a high amount of nitrogen. Furthermore, sufficient trace elements such as iron, copper, magnesium or zinc should be included.

Rear section:

Too radical should not be done when cutting the bitter orange, because the plants grow slowly. Regular removal of dead branches gives the decorative appearance of the plant. The crown should be brought into shape with a parenting cut and kept in shape.

" Tip: From a radical pruning the plant recovers only with difficulty.

The right time for cutting is spring. If the crown is to be shaped, it can be used again in autumn for scissors.

Pests and diseases:

If care mistakes are avoided, the bitter orange is a robust and resistant plant that rarely aches. Nevertheless, the close relationship to the citrus plants makes the three-leaf lemon also vulnerable to pests that target citrus plants.

These include:

  • spider mites
  • Citrus psyllids
  • Black flies
  • Scale insects
  • aphids

"Spider mites

These are tiny arachnids, which settle on the undersides of the leaves and are therefore often overlooked. If the tiny chicks, which are about one millimeter in size, begin to suck the sap from the leaves, this will also be visible on the leaf surface. There are first silver-gray shimmering spots, which later turn gray. Even on the fine webs can be an infestation. These become particularly visible when the leaf orange gets a shower with the hose or the plant sprayer.

What should I do?
Preventively, the plants should be sprayed frequently, especially when prolonged dryness prevails. Spider mites have also been sprayed with soap suds. In order to eliminate the complete infestation, frequent spraying is required.

┬╗Citrus leaf fleas

The leaf fleas are among the plant lice, are about three millimeters in size and move jumping. Leaf fleas have natural enemies with the fungus Entomophthore sphaerosperma, ladybirds, spiders or gallmicks. The control of fleas is generally difficult and usually requires the use of chemical agents.

"Black flies

During infestation, it is easy to detect an infestation with black-and-white mosquitoes, because the insects fly out of the substrate. The damage appears rather low, the infestation is annoying. One danger is the black fly for young plants. The larvae of the pest feed on the tender roots, which young plants usually do not survive.

What should I do?
The plants should be transplanted. If a complete soil exchange takes place, the danger should be averted. At the oviposition, the pests are hindered when on the substrate around the plant coarse sand is scattered.

"Scale insects

Often it is not the scale insects themselves that fall into the eye. If the bitter orange seems to be in the general interest of the ants, the scales are usually not far away, because ants are attracted by the honeydew, the excretions of the Schildlaus. Scale insects are well camouflaged, but can be seen with the naked eye. Longer drought attracts scale insects. Therefore, the plants should be sprayed more frequently.


Especially young bitter oranges are attacked by aphids. The delicate shoots and buds are considered the favorite food of the pests. The problem is not only the aphids alone, their excretions leave a sticky film on the plant, which in turn attracts other insects or encourages fungal attack. A shower with soapy water helps against aphids. Ladybugs or lacewings are considered natural predators.


Common is the multiplication by seeds. The three-leaf lemon contains plenty of seeds, which are extracted and dried in the autumn. In spring you start to grow the plants on the windowsill.

Cultivation by seed step by step

Bereitstellen Provide cultivation tray
F├╝llen Fill the culture vessel with a loose substrate
Einsetzen Insert seeds about one centimeter deep
Nur Keep the floor slightly damp
ÔŁ║ Growing tray provided with a plastic or glass lid
ÔŁ╗ warm, bright stand missing
ÔŁ╝ germination after a few weeks

If the plantlets have reached a size of about eight centimeters, they are placed in individual planters and initially cultivated in the room on.

" Tip: When transplanting the original seed core should not be removed. It contains important nutrients.

The propagation through cuttings

Schneiden Cut the cutting
Ent Debark the cuttings and remove the buds
Ta Immerse the cutting in rooting powder
Setzen Place the cutting in a plant pot filled with soil
Auf Place the cuttings in a warm and bright location
ÔŁ╗ Cover made of plastic or glass promotes sprouting
Gleichm├Ą├čig Keep the cutting uniformly moist

In this phase, the bitter oranges grow quite fast and it is after the shoot time to put the plant in a larger planter. If garden soil is mixed with sand, a permeable substrate is found. If the plant has developed well after a few weeks, it can be put outdoors.


Citrus fruits and frost do not seem destined for each other. The three-leaf lemon is a welcome exception and shows up to temperatures of -25 degrees as absolutely hardy.

There are some exceptions. Young plants are more susceptible to frost. The winter sun can cause frost cracks. The bitter orange in the tub is preferably overwintered in the house. This can be done in a frost-free place. Bright, the three-leaf lemon does not necessarily stand, as there are no leaves on the plant in winter. The soil should be kept evenly in winter, but not too wet.

Cultivate the bitter orange as bonsai

The bitter orange is an attractive bonsai plant that is quite easy to cultivate. In the field, the bonsai needs a sunny and sheltered location. Casting should be preferred with rainwater. It can also be used on tap water which has been diluted with distilled water. Between the individual watering the soil may dry a bit. Waterlogging is urgently to be avoided. The growth can be supported with liquid fertilizer for bonsai plants.

The bonsai is cut after flowering. All unneeded shoots are removed. All common forms can be bred out. Particularly popular are the semi-cascade or the upright growth. The bitter oranges can be wired from spring to autumn. It should be noted that it does not come to the ingrowth of the wire. Bitter oranges have to be replanted as bonsai about every three years.

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