How to make a lemon tree grow
The 7 sure shot tips you need to grow lemon tree in a pot
You can successfully grow a lemon tree in a pot – read on to get all the details!
Those who follow my gardening life on Instagram may know that I have been struggling with a lemon tree planted in my garden. It is finally showing some signs of flowering and fruiting. I will share with you in another post on the steps I took to make my lemon tree productive.
So in your enthusiasm, you have brought home a lemon plant from the nursery…
What is to be done now??
This post is all about growing a lemon tree in a pot or growing a lemon tree indoors. It is very much possible, and sometimes, a better option than growing in a garden, because of the controlled environment. Sometimes, unseasonal rain, and lack of sun in the spot where your lemon tree is growing can cause a lot of damage, which can be easily rectified if your lemon tree is in a pot.
So are you all set to grow a lemon tree either on your sunny balcony or in a sunny spot in the garden? Imagine the steady supply of juicy lemons for lemonades, mojitos, salad dressings and pickles! My mouth watered a bit, even as I typed that.
So start dreaming about all this already, because at the end of my post, you will feel confident enough to undertake this project.
Trust me, I have scoured the internet – both websites and Youtube videos and not found all this information in one place. It’s a lot of research that I’m compressing into one easy post for you!
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1. SELECTING A LEMON PLANT
Select a good quality, high yield plant from the nursery. A grafted lemon plant works best as it will start yielding fruit in the same year. A plant grown from seed will take nearly 5 years to start fruiting. Choose a plant with a couple of fruits and a few blooms, so you know that it is a fruiting grafted variety. Ask your nursery people for more information. I would highly recommend making a trip to the nursery and not ordering this online.
2. SELECTING A POT FOR LEMON TREE
While you are at the nursery, pick up a 14” pot – plastic works well because it retains the heat which a lemon plant loves. If you prefer terracotta, that is fine too. Make sure the pot has a good number of holes for proper drainage.
3. THE ALL IMPORTANT SOIL MIX FOR LEMON TREES
Now for the mix. Lemon or any other citrus plant needs well draining light soil. A compacted mass of a soil in the pot will not help the growth of the feeder roots from the tap root system. After a lot of reading and research – I have come to this formula. A regular potting mix is equal parts garden soil, cocopeat and compost. For lemon, instead of 1 part garden soil, I dilute the garden soil with 50% sand for faster draining and lighter soil. You can buy sand from any garden / construction store.
So ideal potting mix I have prepared for a lemon tree is:
20% garden soil
I learnt from a gardening series with expert Monty Don to use thermocol (styrofoam) bits at the bottom of the pot. This not only lightens the pot weight but also ensures the roots don’t stay soggy. To pot the plant, put in a layer of thermocol bits at the bottom of the pot. Top with 3-4 handfuls of compost. Tap well to remove any air pockets. Place the plant on top of this (minus any plastic cover it came in) and shovel the prepared potting mix all around the plant so that it is held in the centre. Top with 1-2 inches of the prepared mix as well. Water well until the water comes out from the drainage holes.
A lot of websites and experts recommend keeping the top layer of the plant covered with mulch, to avoid the weeds which lemon plant hates.
5. POSITION OF THE LEMON TREE
When it comes to a lemon tree, it is all about location. Keep your newly potted plant in semi shade and not full sun, so that it gets adjusted to its new home. Once you see new leaves cropping up, time to move it to full sun, where the plant gets at least 5 hours of good sunlight. South-facing is the most optimum position for the plant. If you are growing the lemon tree in a pot in the balcony, then keep note of the direction of maximum sunlight and place accordingly.
6. WATERING THE LEMON TREE
A newly potted plant needs to be watered well every alternate day – deep watering is essential so that the root ball gets the necessary hydration. Once the plant is somewhat established, watering can be tapered to twice a week and then once a week or so. A good test is to poke the soil with your finger. If more than one inch of the soil is dry, then better to give the lemon tree a watering. Summers may need more watering so keep an eye on how dry the soil is. Lemon tree in a pot needs more careful watering than that in the ground as the roots cannot spread outside of the pot in search of water.
7. LEMON TREE FEEDING
Citrus plants are demanding in terms of nutrition, so make sure you feed it adequate well rotted compost every two months, apart from any other nutrients that it may specifically need, such as potassium, magnesium etc. When you are growing lemon tree in a pot, each of these problems can be addressed to separately.
So this is my lemon plant in a pot and I have potted this today. You can see that I’ve chosen a plant with a few lemons on it already. Fingers crossed while I continue to dream of a bumper crop this winter!
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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.
1. J.H. Crane, "Lemon Growing in the Florida Home Landscape," University of Florida IFAS Extension.
Practical tips for growing a lemon tree in a pot
- Getty Images
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.
- Getty Images
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.
- Getty Images
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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Fill the pot with soil 2 cm from the edge.
Gently spray the soil with warm water from a spray bottle.
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.
After two weeks, when the first sprouts appear, remove the film. When the tree has grown significantly, choose a suitable size pot for it.
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.
- Getty Images
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.
- photo 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.
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. Planting depth - no more than 2 cm. Wait for shoots to germinate from three to five months, then select the best shoots. Further, everything is practiced as described above.
A tree at home requires special care - in order to wait for flowering and fruit, you must follow a few rules for growing lemons in the house.