How to grow lemon tree indoors


How to Grow and Care for an Indoor Lemon Tree

With sweet-smelling flowers, glossy foliage and tart, tasty fruit, an indoor lemon tree rewards your attention year-round. Regardless of your climate, you can grow a container lemon tree indoors and enjoy your own homegrown lemons. Growing indoor lemons isn't hard as long as you choose the right tree and meet its special needs. These basics on how to grow and care for an indoor lemon tree can have you drinking lemonade in no time.

  • Selecting the Best Lemon Tree for Indoors
  • Picking the Perfect Indoor Lemon Tree Pot
  • Planting Your Indoor Lemon Tree
  • Placing Your Indoor Lemon Tree
  • Watering and Fertilizing Your Indoor Lemon Tree
  • Pollinating and Pruning Your Indoor Lemon Tree

When grown outdoors in warm climates, regular lemon trees grow 20 feet tall and take up to six years to bear fruit.1 For indoor lemons, you need a tree that stays small and delivers lemons sooner. Growers graft indoor lemon tree varieties onto special dwarfing roots that speed up fruit-bearing ability and keep trees small.

Some of the easiest, most popular indoor lemon trees are actually crosses with other fruits, but some are true lemon trees that do well in pots. The best dwarf indoor lemon tree varieties include:

  • Dwarf Improved Meyer – The easiest indoor lemon tree, this cross between lemon and mandarin orange offers sweet, tangy lemons.
  • Dwarf Ponderosa – Another popular indoor choice, this lemon and citron cross bears large lemony fruit.
  • Dwarf Variegated Pink Lemonade – The green-and-yellow variegated fruit on this true lemon tree has pink flesh (but clear juice).

Most dwarf lemon trees sold by nurseries are two to three years old — old enough to start bearing fruit, but still immature. Container size helps limit a tree's eventual height, but most indoor dwarf Meyer lemon trees grow to at least 3 to 4 feet tall. Other indoor varieties can grow to 6 feet or more.

If you plan to grow a lemon tree from a seed, understand that the new tree won't be the same as the one the seed came from. Starting a lemon tree from a cutting will yield the same tree — from the ground up — but the process is challenging. Either way, your new tree won't have the small size and disease resistance of grafted dwarf trees, and you won't see fruit for many years.


Lemon trees fill your home with fragrance and fruit.


It's tempting to start your lemon tree in a pot worthy of its final size, but it's better to start out small. Overly large pots with excess soil make it difficult to tell when your indoor lemon tree needs water. For most young, nursery-grown trees, start with a 12-inch diameter container. As your tree grows over the years, slowly progress to pots double that size in width and depth.

Lemon trees do well in all kinds of pots, from porous terra cotta to lightweight resin. Just make sure the container has large, unobstructed drainage holes. Like other citrus trees, lemons prefer cool roots, so avoid black pots and other dark colors that heat up in sunlight.

Always use a deep saucer under your container to protect indoor floors from excess water. Consider putting a wheeled plant dolly underneath. Lemon trees get heavy and hard to move as they grow.


Lemon tree roots demand abundant oxygen, so proper planting and excellent drainage are key. When planting your tree, the flare at the base of the trunk should sit slightly above your eventual soil line.

Start by filling the new container's bottom with soil, then lightly tamp it down. Repeat until you reach the right depth for your tree's root ball. This helps provide a good foundation so your tree won't settle in too deeply. Always leave a few inches at the top for watering.

Indoor lemon trees do best when their soil stays evenly moist. Choose a well-draining potting mix designed for indoor palm trees or citrus. These mixes help prevent soggy soil while still retaining moisture, so roots don't get too wet or too dry.

As a final step, treat your newly planted lemon tree to Pennington UltraGreen Plant Starter with Vitamin B1, which provides micronutrients and reduces transplant shock.


Nursery-grown dwarf lemons bear fruit at a young age.


Once your lemon tree is in its new container, it's ready for its new environment. These two factors are critical to a successful indoor lemon tree:

  • Light: For peak performance — from blooms to fruit — your indoor lemon tree needs close to eight hours of sunlight each day. The more light it gets, the better your results will be. Lemons generally do well in front of unobstructed south- or southwest-facing windows. You can also add artificial light if needed.
  • Temperature: Indoor lemon trees grow best with nightly temperatures near 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which suits most homes fine. Lemon trees won't tolerate hot or cold drafts, so place them away from all air conditioning and heating ducts.

During warm summer months, consider giving your indoor lemon tree an outdoor vacation. Once all danger of spring frost passes, gradually acclimate it to the outdoors. The extra sunlight will do it good — and reward you with fruit. Before fall frost comes, move it back inside. Always move lemon trees gradually. Abrupt changes in light and temperature can make fruit drop.


To keep your lemon tree healthy, allow the soil to dry out about 3 inches deep before you water. Then water thoroughly until it runs through the pot's drainage holes. Keep the soil moist, not overly wet, but never let it dry out completely. Test soil with a moisture meter (available online and in garden centers) or use your index finger instead.

During active growth, especially if they're outdoors during summer, container lemon trees may need daily watering. During winter, water only as needed to keep soil moist. Timing varies depending on your indoor temperatures, your container and your tree size. Watch for warning signs such as yellow leaves, which signal soggy roots or nutrient problems.

To grow tasty fruit and beautiful foliage, your indoor lemon tree needs proper food. Like other citrus trees, lemon trees require plentiful nitrogen as well as other essential nutrients, including magnesium and iron.1 This is especially important for indoor lemon trees, which are restricted to containers.

A premium citrus fertilizer such as Pennington UltraGreen Citrus and Avocado Plant Food 10-5-5 provides indoor lemon trees with an ideal blend of primary nutrients and micronutrients at planting time, then it keeps feeding for up to four months.

As your tree grows older its needs will change, so follow label instructions for your indoor lemon tree's age and pot size. Feed container lemon trees every three to four months. Avoid disturbing shallow roots when you feed.


Indoor lemon trees look as good as their fruit tastes.


Unlike some fruit trees, lemons are self-pollinating. That means they don't need pollen from another lemon tree in order to bear fruit. But in nature, lemon trees rely on insects to pollinate their blossoms. Better pollination translates to more and better fruit.

With popular indoor varieties your tree should bear fruit on its own, but you can also help it along. When flowers are blooming and you stop to inhale the intoxicating fragrance, gently shake the branches to help spread pollen within the blossoms.

Indoor lemon trees typically need little to no pruning. Most indoor varieties are thornless, but some lemon trees have thorns. Wear long sleeves and gloves to prune away thorns and all shoots or roots near soil level. Most lemon trees fruit on outer branches, so wait until after fruit sets to avoid pruning away your prize.

By learning how to grow and care for a lemon tree indoors, you can enjoy a year-round parade of beautiful foliage, fragrant blossoms and shareable lemony treats. At Pennington, we're committed to bringing you premium plant fertilizers and expert advice to help you grow the indoor lemon tree of your dreams.

Always read product labels thoroughly and follow the instructions carefully.

UltraGreen is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company.

Pennington is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.


Resources:

1. J.H. Crane, "Lemon Growing in the Florida Home Landscape," University of Florida IFAS Extension.

How to Grow Lemon Trees Indoors

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In various cultures, lemon trees symbolize the goodness of life: love, light, and happiness, to name a few. They make wonderful holiday or housewarming gifts, or commemorative plants to celebrate special occasions. Whether buying a lemon tree for oneself or receiving one as a gift, it makes for an excellent, long-lived indoor plant offering attractive foliage, fragrant blossoms, and tangy fruit for year-round appeal.

Growing a lemon tree indoors is easy, but it does require a bit of specialized care in terms of light and fertilizer. Read on to learn how to grow a lemon tree indoors.

Indoor Lemon Tree Care at a Glance

Common Name: Lemon
Scientific Name: Citrus limon
Soil: Well-drained, pH 5.5 to 6.5
Light: Bright
Water: Medium
Food: Balanced organic or slow-release formula
Temperature and Humidity: 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, 50 percent humidity
Propagation: Rooted cuttings, grafting
Safety: Thorns, allergenic for some, nontoxic to humans, somewhat toxic to pets

Lemon Tree Characteristics

The lemon tree grows in semi-tropical regions of USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11, but it can be an excellent indoor plant in cool regions as well. It’s a relatively easy-going plant that prefers to spend the summer outdoors. Lemon trees require little pruning, moderate water, and a consistent supply of nitrogen-rich plant food. Arguably, their most vital growing requirements are bright light and good air circulation.

Cool overnight temperatures help to stimulate flowering, especially in winter and early spring. Like other citrus trees, lemons produce small white fragrant flowers. They are mostly self-fertile, so a single tree can offer high fruit yields with patience. Ripening may take up to a year before the lemons are ready to harvest.

Lemon tree leaves emerge with a reddish tint and develop to deep green above and lighter below. Flowers are held singly, in pairs, or in small clusters, and the aromatic fruits are dotted with oil glands that produce a lemony scent as they ripen.

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Although lemon trees can grow to 20 feet or higher when planted outdoors, they make quality specimens in containers, where they typically reach half that height. This makes them a choice gift for plant lovers. Lemon trees pruned and repotted every couple of years maintain a shrubby form around 5 to 7 feet tall.

Related: 20 Clever Household Uses for Lemons

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Types of Indoor Lemon Trees

  • Dwarf Improved Meyer Lemon is a cross between a citron and a mandarin that produces small, rounded yellow fruits with a semi-sweet flavor.
  • Dwarf Ponderosa Lemon is a cross between a lemon and a citron that bears large, traditional lemony fruit.
  • Dwarf Variegated Pink Lemon features green and yellow variegated fruit with deep pink flesh and clear juice.
  • Dwarf Lisbon Lemon is a vigorous tree that produces an abundance of juicy, flavorful thin-skinned fruits.

Selecting Soil for Lemon Trees

Lemon trees grow best in rich, well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. High-quality indoor-outdoor container mixes should be adequate. Apply fertilizer specifically designated as “citrus food” to help maintain the proper pH.

Potted lemon trees require both an adequately sized container and the right kind of potting mix to thrive. When repotting, incrementally increase pot sizes. For instance, a new lemon tree in a 3-gallon (10-inch diameter) pot should be transplanted to a 12-inch pot. Do not go too big all at once, or the risk of root rot increases. A 16- to 20-inch container will be the right size for a permanent home.

The Right Light

Good flower and fruit production demands full sun exposure, which ranges from difficult to impossible inside some homes. Most gardeners find success by moving lemon trees to a sunny location outdoors for the growing season and back to a bright room indoors on cold nights.

In springtime, transplant lemon trees to a bigger pot if more growing space is needed. When the danger of frost has passed, move the tree first to a bright filtered-light location outdoors. Gradually increase the duration of direct sun exposure daily over the course of 2 weeks. If cold weather is in the forecast, transition the tree back into a bright room—preferably one with large south-facing windows.

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Related: These Are the Most Popular Houseplants in America

Watering Lemon Trees

Water the plant deeply whenever the soil dries out to a depth of 2 inches. Probe the soil with a stick or quarter-inch dowel rod marked with a 2-inch depth indicator. Leave the dowel in the soil for 1 minute. Then, pull it out and look at the bottom end. If moisture is evident at the base of the dowel, don’t water the tree. If the dowel appears dry, thoroughly soak the soil and let excess water drain freely. Do not leave standing water in a saucer beneath the tree.

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Fertilizing Indoor Lemon Trees

For healthy plant growth and fruiting, lemon trees benefit from consistent feeding throughout the year. Choose fertilizer specifically formulated for citrus plants to help maintain a slightly acidic pH. A balanced fertilizer, such as 8-8-8, is best.

During the spring and summer growing season, apply granular organic fertilizer every 6 to 8 weeks; or apply slow-release fertilizer once in the spring and supplement it with liquid plant food semiweekly. At the end of the growing season, apply granular organic plant food or a second application of slow-release fertilizer to supply nutrition through the winter. Don’t use liquid fertilizer in the winter.

Setting the Temperature and Humidity

An indoor lemon tree will thrive in average home climate conditions. A temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity around 50 percent works well for overwintering. However, use caution when transitioning the tree outdoors in spring. An acclimatized lemon tree may suffer shock from cool temperatures below 50 degrees, and it will be damaged by frost. It’s best to keep the tree indoors in spring until all danger of frost has passed and nighttime temperatures remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Summer sun and heat are no problem for potted lemon trees after a gradual transition period. At the height of summer, they can withstand high temperatures in the 90s, so long as they are consistently watered well. Watering frequency will need to increase during hot weather.

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Propagating Lemon Trees

Lemonade enthusiasts often wonder how to grow a lemon tree from a seed, but that’s not how it is done. Seed-grown fruit is extremely unpredictable in quality, flavor, and even tree characteristics. Professional growers and retail nurseries mostly sell grafted lemon trees.

To save propagation time and space, and to ensure identical genetics, nurseries fuse branch cuttings from one kind of plant with root cuttings from another. Everything growing above the graft union will exhibit the desired trait, but if any shoots appear from below the graft, they should be removed and discarded.

Instead of growing a lemon tree from seed, home gardeners can grow lemon trees either from rooted cuttings or by grafting. The easiest way to propagate the fruit tree is by taking a 6- to 8-inch branch from a stem with at least four side buds and no flowers or fruit in late spring, taking care to:

  • Remove leaves from the lower 4 inches of the stem
  • Dip the base of the cutting in rooting hormone
  • Stick the cutting into a 4-inch pot filled with premoistened potting soil
  • Place the cutting in a warm, brightly lit location and keep the soil moist but not soggy

The cutting should grow roots within a month. Use this method to grow new lemon trees on their own roots or to produce rootstock of trifoliate citrus for grafting. To graft new citrus trees, this T-budding method ensures a high success rate. Those in citrus-growing regions should follow local governance to avoid the spread of diseases.

Related: 14 Symptoms of an Unhappy Houseplant (and How You Can Treat Them)

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Safety Considerations

Of course, if anyone in a home has a citrus allergy, avoid growing a lemon tree indoors. The primary symptom of citrus allergy is contact dermatitis, an itchy rash similar to poison ivy. Otherwise, lemon trees are considered safe and nontoxic for humans. Essential oils found mostly in the fruits are toxic to animals, however, so those with curious pets should exercise caution.

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Some lemon varieties are thorny, and others are grafted to rootstock that might send up thorny shoots. Watch out for these stickers and be sure to prune any shoots arising from below the graft union.

Potential Pests and Diseases

Lemon trees are susceptible to mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects. These are generally avoided with favorable growing conditions such as good sun exposure, air circulation, proper fertilization, and consistent watering. If insect problems arise, treat them promptly by plucking bugs by hand or pruning away the affected area if it is small. Quarantine the tree and spray with an appropriate insecticide if necessary.

Feeding aphids may spread a fungal disease called tristeza, indicated by yellowing of foliage and rapid decline. Infected lemon trees may succumb to root rot. Always monitor for insects and treat them whenever they appear. In cool, damp conditions, the fungus Botrytis causes fuzzy gray mold-like growth to appear on stems and flowers. Keep lemon trees in a bright, sunny location and, as they mature, prune dense branches to improve air circulation.

FAQ About Indoor Lemon Tree Care

If you are considering adding a lemon tree to your houseplant collection, the following FAQ may help to clear up any lingering questions.

Q. Do lemon trees grow well in pots?

Yes, lemon trees grow well in pots. Dwarf cultivars are the easiest to keep, but even standard varieties can be kept in check with occasional repotting and root pruning.

Q. How long do indoor lemon trees live?

An indoor lemon tree can live for decades. With good care, some lemon trees can survive for 50 years or more.

Q. Where should you place a lemon tree when grown indoors?

Bright sunlight is critical for plant health. Choose a room with large south-facing windows and place the lemon tree as close to them as possible.

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Q. Are lemon trees hard to grow?

Lemon trees are not difficult to grow if your home has a bright location for overwintering.

Q. How can you tell if a lemon tree is overwatered?

A lemon tree that has been consistently overwatered may develop yellow leaves and root rot. Avoid these problems by watering deeply and consistently and by removing standing water from the container’s saucer.

Q. Why are my lemon tree leaves turning yellow?

Lemon tree leaves turn yellow in response to overwatering, underwatering, lack of fertility, or cold stress. Insect damage may also lead to patchy yellow patterns on the leaves. Follow the best growing practices outlined above and be vigilant against bug infestations to avoid these issues.

Looking for more information on tropical or semi-tropical plants you can grow indoors? Check out our guides on caring for bird of paradise plants, rubber plant, and pineapple plant.

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Practical tips for growing a lemon tree in a pot

Tips

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Next time you eat a lemon, save a few seeds to grow your own tree. Even in the cold season, a productive lemon tree can grow in your home. Lemon, an evergreen citrus plant with a pleasant fresh aroma and large snow-white flowers, is not only a beautiful decorative element, but also a source of delicious, natural fruits that will give you and your loved ones a vitamin boost at any time of the year.

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BEFORE PLANTING

Carefully cut the lemon and remove the seeds. Select 12-15 large seeds with a smooth surface without deformation, otherwise they will either not germinate at all, or will not give healthy shoots. The bones must be washed to get rid of the mucous membrane: it can cause rotting of the seeds. It is best to leave the seeds in a glass of warm water overnight, this will not only clean them, but also help them germinate faster.

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GETTING READY FOR LANDING

The main criterion in choosing a pot for a lemon tree is the presence of drainage holes. Excess water should not accumulate in the pot, as this will lead to the death of the plant. Place a large tray under the pot and pour water into it: this will help maintain the necessary humidity. The depth of the pot should be chosen based on the estimated height of the lemon tree. For seed germination, a container with a volume of 0.5 liters or more is considered the best option, and already germinated seedlings are recommended to be placed in a larger pot. Choose a low-acid potting mix to fill the pot: Lemons grow well in peat moss soil and in soil designed for growing cacti.

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Find a well-lit, warm place to plant your tree. A place that receives direct sunlight for 8-12 hours a day is suitable. If there is no such place in the house, you can use special phyto-lamps for plants. At a temperature of + 25-28 ° C, the first shoots will appear in two weeks. Since lemon trees grow in humid climates, it's a good idea to install a humidifier in the room.

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PLANTING

  1. Fill the pot with soil 2 cm from the edge.

  2. Gently spray the soil with warm water from a spray bottle.

  3. Cover the pot with plastic wrap or a plastic bag, secure the edges and make small holes. Do not forget to monitor soil moisture: periodically remove the film and moisten the soil.

  4. After two weeks, when the first sprouts appear, remove the film. When the tree has grown significantly, choose a suitable size pot for it.

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MAINTENANCE

Water the lemon tree once a week. It is important to monitor the level of humidity: the soil should not be wet, because of this, brown rot may develop, but if it is too dry, natural salts that the tree itself secretes will accumulate, which will lead to its death. Remember to ventilate the room in which you grow lemons. If it's too cold outside, put a fan near the plant - this will mimic its natural habitat. It is useful to periodically fertilize the soil with compounds rich in nitrogen. Fertilize the tree every three weeks in warm weather and once every six weeks in the fall and winter.

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When fragrant white flowers bloom on the tree, pollinate them with a brush. Run the brush over the stamens and transfer the pollen to the center of the flower on the pistil. Repeat artificial pollination every day. A lemon tree can bear fruit without it, but by carrying out such manipulations, you increase the likelihood of large, juicy fruits.

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HARVESTING THE FRUIT

The lemon tree usually bears fruit about three years after planting. When clusters with fruits appear on the plant, remove about 2/3 of them. This will make room for the others and the lemons will grow bigger. In addition, a large number of fruits can overload the tree, leading to its exhaustion. To understand that the fruit is ripe, pay attention to its color: it should be bright yellow. You can also touch the fruit: a ripe lemon is soft to the touch. Once harvested, fruits can be stored for 1-2 months in a cupboard or refrigerator.

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9000 However, a plant can be not only beautiful, but also useful - for example, fruit-bearing, like a lemon. Have you tried to plant a bone before, and it didn’t work out for you? To grow lemons at home, you need to know some tricks. Then in a few years you will enjoy fragrant tea with your own lemons.

What kind of plant?

Lemon is considered an evergreen shrub, belongs to the rue family. Leaves and twigs of lemon in large quantities have glandular cells with pores that secrete phytoncides and essential oils - from this the house is filled with a wonderful aroma and health is strengthened.

Lemon looks interesting - this is a small tree, although it all depends on the variety - there are trees up to three meters. The lemon has fleshy glossy dark green leaves, and there are small spines on the trunk. Lemon blooms beautifully - these are red-pink outside and white inside flowers. Previously, lemons were exotic, but today they are not so rare even in our apartments with a far from tropical climate.

Seedling or stone?

It is easier to grow a lemon from a seedling (sprouted small tree), although it is possible to grow it from a lemon seed. Many people think that a bad lemon will turn out from a stone, and there will be no fruits on it, although this is not true. In about five years, it is quite possible to grow a fruit-bearing bush, thus lemons are bred in Italy, Spain and South Asia. It is more difficult to grow lemons here because of the climate, but at home the climate can always be created according to the requirements of the plants.

If you intend to buy a lemon seedling from specialized shops or a botanical garden, then you will be asked which variety you would like. And you need to know that only six main varieties can be grown at home - these are Genoa, Maykop, Meyer, Eureka and Novogruzinsky lemons . Of these, Maikopsky will be especially fruitful, and low ones - Eureka and Genoa, they can even be placed on a warm windowsill.

If you want a lemon from Escape

This is an easier way and is recommended for inexperienced botanists to start with. Escape is usually acquired in specialized amateur societies or botanical shops and gardens. When buying, ask for a one-year-old shoot so that it has at least three to four leaves. It is necessary to buy and plant a lemon at the end of February or March - these are the most natural growing conditions for a lemon in nature. At other times, the escape simply does not want to take root.

Special soil is important - it should be loose soil and a mixture of humus, turf and leafy soil, they must be taken in equal parts, sand from large particles must be added to this earth mixture in a 1: 1 ratio.

Lemons grow only in clay pots of very wide diameter and depth. Soak the pot in water a few hours before transplanting lemon into the ground. At the bottom of the pot in the place of the hole, put a clay shard so that it looks up with a bulge and closes the hole. A layer of fiberglass, a drainage layer of sand, small pebbles or expanded clay are placed on it (they can be perfectly replaced by charcoal). On top of this, a layer of dry manure (no more than 1 cm) is laid and the stalk is planted in the ground. Make sure that the root neck of the seedling is at the level of the edge of the pot or below it.

Pour the stalk with warm settled water and close it with a jar (700-gram or liter), this will protect the seedling from moisture loss. The jar can be removed only when the seedling takes root.

Seed lemon

To germinate a lemon so that it also bears fruit, you need to know the intricacies of its cultivation. Select the largest and most intact seeds from the fruits, place them in small containers like cups from curds with 3-4 drainage holes made.

For best results, treat the seeds with a natural germination stimulant, usually a sodium gummate solution (found in flower shops). In a diluted solution, the seeds should lie for a day. This will give a good development to the root system of the tree in the future, and seedlings - strength for growth.

After soaking in this solution, many recommend treating seeds and seedlings with extra-epin and zircon to accelerate the growth of seedlings and form resistance to dry air and low light in apartments.

From 10-15 seeds, select the most germinating ones and plant them in loose soil - it should be loose soil and a mixture of humus, sod and leafy soil, you need to take them in equal parts, to this earth mixture you need to add sand from large particles in the ratio 1:1.


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