A "Dwarf Washington Navel" tree produces full-sized fruit.

How to Care for a Dwarf Washington Navel Orange Tree

by Bridget Kelly

When you have a toddler, you know that small packages don’t necessarily produce small things. Like the little kid who produces big noise, the "Dwarf Washington Navel" orange tree (Citrus sinensis "Dwarf Washington Navel") grows to only 6 to 8 feet tall but produces full-sized, juicy oranges. Better yet, the fruit is seedless, so you won’t be picking up spit-out orange seeds off the dining room floor. "Dwarf Washington Navel" orange tree is hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 10, but you can grow it in a container in other areas and bring it indoors for winter.

Water an in-ground orange tree with 1 1/2 inches of water in spring and summer whenever the soil is dry to the touch. Potted trees should get 1 inch of water and you may need to water more frequently because the soil will dry out quicker.

Fertilize the potted "Dwarf Washington Navel" with a citrus fertilizer, such as 5-2-6, at the rate of 1 teaspoon per 4 inches of pot diameter. Use 2 teaspoons for pots over 12 inches. Apply the fertilizer in late winter, late spring and late fall by sprinkling it on the soil beneath the tips of the tree’s branches. Scratch the granules into the top 1/4 inch of soil. Water the tree until water drains from the bottom of the container after fertilizing. Feed the ground-grown "Dwarf Washington Navel" orange tree at the rate of 2 pounds for trees up to 3 feet in height, 4 pounds for trees that are from 3 to 6 feet in height and use 6 pounds for trees that are 7 to 9 feet in height. Water the "Dwarf Washington Navel" tree with 1 inch of water after fertilizing.

Sterilize your pruning shears by giving them a five-minute soak in a solution containing 1 part of household bleach to 3 parts of water. Remove branches that cross over other branches and those growing straight up by cutting them back to a main branch. Do this pruning in late winter or early spring. Remove sprouts from the base of the tree by cutting them off. These sprouts are known as suckers and they won’t produce fruit and may drain energy from the tree. This is the only pruning the "Dwarf Washington Navel" orange tree needs.

Inspect the "Dwarf Washington Navel" orange tree regularly for signs of pests during the growing season and use horticultural oil spray to control them. Mix the oil with water at the rate suggested on the label. A general rule of thumb is to mix 5 tablespoons of oil into 1 gallon of water and pour it into a spray bottle. Water the tree before spraying and spray the oil on all surfaces of the tree, including the undersides of the leaves, to the point of runoff. ensure that all surfaces of the tree are covered with the spray.

Items you will need

  • 5-2-6 citrus fertilizer
  • Measuring spoons
  • Pruning shears
  • Household bleach
  • Horticultural oil
  • 1 gallon container
  • Spray bottle


  • Use chemical pesticides only for heavy insect infestations, advises University of Florida IFAS Extension.
  • Grow the "Dwarf Washington Navel" tree in full sun outdoors year-round if temperatures remain between 55 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the growing season and between 35 and 50 F in winter. Otherwise, grow it in a container that can be moved to a sheltered spot when temperatures dip below 30 F. Only use a pot with drainage holes in the bottom.


  • Rates vary among fertilizers, so follow the instructions on the fertilizer package.
  • Keep children and pets out of the way when you're using any kind of garden chemical.
  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and eye protection when spraying plants.

About the Author

Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at Trulia.com, SFGate.com, GardenGuides.com, RE/MAX.com, MarketLeader.com, RealEstate.com, USAToday.com and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.

Photo Credits

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