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How to Grow an Orange/Citrus Seed

Updated on January 9, 2013

Growing Trees From Seeds

This is a simple "how to" page teaching you what's worked for me to get citrus seeds to sprout and grow into seedlings. Whether its Satsumas, Navels, Mandarins, Grapefruits, Lemons, Limes, Kumquats or Tangerines, these tips should get you on your way to starting your own fruit trees from seeds.

Step 1

Obtaining your seeds

The first thing you'll need to do when attempting to grow citrus fruit seeds is to go to the grocery store and buy yourself some fresh fruit. An important thing to remember, and I know it sounds obvious, but make sure you're not buying seedless fruits, because those won't do you any good for growing.

It may be a good idea to buy several fruits just to be sure you get enough seeds to improve your odds of some sprouting, because not every seed will sprout.

After you've collected several seeds, or if you're ambitious, handfulls of seeds, it's time to prep them.

The Seeds

Kumquat seeds
Kumquat seeds

Step 2

Preparing the seeds

Now that you have your seeds, rinse them in lukewarm water and dry them thoroughly with a paper towel, you'll want to be sure they aren't very slippery for this next step.

-Take a seed between your thumb and index finger and point the sharpest end of the seed towards yourself.

-With your other hand use your thumb nail to break off the point of the seed. ( the thick layer of seed coat around the inside part of the seed contains germination inhibitors, in order for your seed to sprout you must completely remove this outer coating)

- Gently peel the outer seed coat from the seed, being careful not to damage the soft, fragile seed inside, do this for all of your seeds and then rinse them again.

How to Hold the Seed

Proper Seed Holding Technique
Proper Seed Holding Technique

How to Peel the Seed Coat

Proper Peeling Technique
Proper Peeling Technique

Step 3

Soaking the Seeds

The thick seed coat that you just peeled off in step two played a crucial role in preventing water loss, without it the seed will quickly dry and become unable to germinate. To combat this and boost the sprouting time of the seeds put them in a clear plastic container with at least enough water in it to cover the seeds. Any sort of container will do, a plastic condiment cup, a beverage bottle or peanut butter jar with the label removed.

* To give you an idea of how little the container matters, I recently dropped several mandarin orange seeds into one of my aquariums and after about a week, most of them had begun to sprout!

Place the container closely under bright fluorescent lighting or in a window sill, but be sure not to let it get so hot it cooks the seeds and kills them.

After a week or so at least some of your seeds should have begun sprouting. If no signs of sprouting have occurred be sure you didn't damage the seed in the peeling process from step 2. As long as the seeds seem in good condition and no mold is growing on them it can sometimes take a couple weeks for the seeds to sprout, keep in mind some seeds may not be able to sprout, even in the right conditions.

Soaking the Seeds

Soaking the Seeds in a Condiment Container
Soaking the Seeds in a Condiment Container

Without Soaking - Avoid Drying Out Your Seeds

Dried Up Mandarin Seeds
Dried Up Mandarin Seeds

Step 4


Once you've noticed your seeds are starting to sprout there is no need for immediate action, there is no need to fear that your seedling will drown as soon as it begins to sprout under water, you still have even a few days before you need to remove it.

As soon as you've decided you can't wait any longer and you'd like to remove your sprouted seeds from the water there are two things you need to keep in mind:

1) you need to provide the seedling space to grow


2) the freshly sprouted seed is still very vulnerable to drying, so it must be kept damp

The way I do this is by putting some wet soil into a clear plastic drink cup with a clear plastic lid and i just lightly poke the soil, not to make a hole, just a little dent, and then nestle the sprouting seed in it and put the lid on and place it back under the light or in the window sill.

* Because these plants are tropical they really do best in moist, light, and humid climates, this is especially important when starting the seedlings. As they get older the plants become more tolerant of changes in climate and a few missed waterings here and there.

Sprouted Seed - This seed did not stay wet enough and dried up after sprouting

Dried up Sprouted Seed
Dried up Sprouted Seed

Satsuma Seedling

Satsuma Seedling
Satsuma Seedling

The Goal - A Young Citrus Tree of Your Own

Lime Tree
Lime Tree

Other Resources

Purdue Horticulture Search Engine

Below is a link to my favorite fruit tree website, simply type in the name of the fruit, followed by the word propagation, for example "tangerine propagation" and it will show you links to Purdue pages that explain the fruit you're researching in great depth and provide specific information about how to grow trees, maintain them, and even farm them and it will tell you everything you could've ever wanted to know about them. I highly recommend looking into it!

Orangetastic Products!

Do you love Kumquats?

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      laurenrich 4 years ago

      Thanks for the great information. I am thinking of growing citrus fruits at home. Thanks for sharing.