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Growing Lemons

Category Fruit Trees
Lemons growing on a tree.
If you live in a warm climate, you may be able to grow a lemon tree. Being able to pick your lemons when you need them ensures they are as fresh as possible. This is a guide abut growing lemons.
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December 2, 20112 found this helpful

If you garden in a warm climate, you may want to consider growing a lemon tree. Even if you live in a cool climate, there are several dwarf varieties available that grow well indoors. The fruits are a phenomenal source of vitamin C and can used in a variety of ways in the kitchen. If you don't care much for lemons, the trees alone are beautiful enough to justify the effort.
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Selecting a Variety

Lemon trees are generally hardy to the warmer parts of the country (to zone 7), and each growing zone has specific varieties best suited to the local growing conditions. Before selecting a variety, contact a local nursery or your state's Cooperative Extension Agency to get advice from experts on which varieties grow best for where you live. Agricultural commerce among various "citrus regions" is strictly regulated in order to avoid transmission of disease. This means you will generally buy your plants locally anyway, unless you are planning to grow them indoors.

Site and Soil Requirements

All citrus trees, including lemons, like plenty of sun and heat, so if you live in the cooler edge of a variety's hardiness range, make sure to plant it in the sunniest, warmest, most protected part of the yard possible. If your area is very hot, some relief from the sun will be appreciate, especially at during the afternoon. If drying winds are a problem, consider protecting your tree with a windbreak.

Like other citrus trees, lemon trees prefer a soil pH that is lightly acidic-between 5.5 and 6.2. Many parts of the country feature alkaline soil, so unless you're growing trees indoors, it's wise to start with a soil test so you can make any necessary corrections well ahead of planting. Lemon trees can tolerate heavier soils, as long as they are well drained. They need ample amounts of moisture for growth, but they won't tolerate standing in water.

Planting

Because they bloom and produce all year round, lemon trees can be planted at any time of the year. Because the trees are almost always grafted, it's usually necessary to plant them a bit higher than they were growing in the nursery-ideally so that the graft union (usually seen as a diagonal scar near the base of the trunk) is between 4 to 8 inches above soil level. Water new trees thoroughly and keep a careful eye on moisture levels throughout the tree's first season.

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Supermarket lemon trees: It's possible to grow lemon trees from the lemons you buy at the supermarket, but if the seeds are from a hybrid variety, they may not produce lemons, or the lemons may end up tasting quite different than the original. Some seeds will actually grow into productive trees, however, so it's worth a try! To plant the seeds you have saved from a supermarket lemon, follow these 6 easy steps:

Care and Feeding

Watering: Lemon trees planted in the ground have shallow roots that extend well beyond the drip line. Although they need ample moisture to maintain growth, it's okay to let the top 4 to 6 inches of soil to dry out a bit between watering. Too much water can be just bad as too little. Constantly saturated soil may stunt growth, encourage disease and affect the taste quality of the fruits.

Feeding: Citrus trees need a good supply of nitrogen. Trees growing in lighter soils will benefit from a top-dressing of compost and well-rotted manure several times a year. Container plants should be fed a liquid organic fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen than phosphorus or potassium (3-1-1, or 2-1-1). Apply according to label directions.

Weeding: Keep the area around the base of your lemon tree free of weeds. The roots of the trees are shallow and may not compete well with other plants-even grass. Use mulch to suppress weeds and conserve moisture, just keep the area within 6 inches of the trunk mulch-free. If gophers or rodents are a problem in your area, avoid using mulch as it gives them a good place to hide.

Pruning: Your lemon trees will not need much pruning. In fact, a good scaffold of branches and ample foliage will protect the fruit and lead to greater yields. As lemon trees mature they may need some light pruning to keep their form round and compact. Always remove any dead, damaged, or diseased wood as soon as you notice it. Container-grown trees may need to be root-pruned every few years to control growth.

Pests and Diseases

Aphids, mealy bugs, and red spider mites can all attack lemon trees. They can be controlled to some extent by spraying with a strong stream of water or by using an organic, insecticidal soap. Fungal disease problems are much more prevalent in humid areas than they are in drier regions. Good cultural practices are the best way to prevent these diseases. Start with disease resistant root stock planted in quality soil with good drainage. Keep your landscape clean by destroying all plant debris and cutting off suckers as they emerge from the roots.

Harvesting

Lemons can be harvested year round, but like all citrus trees, they must be fully ripe on the tree before you pick them. It is sometimes hard to tell if lemons are ripe, but they should look bright yellow and smell lemony. If you have to work too hard to remove a lemon from the tree, it's probably not ripe yet. Lemons will keep quite a long time hanging in the tree, so there's no urgent need to pick them until you're ready to use them.

Container Trees

Lemon trees make fine container plants, especially in cooler climates. Grow them as small trees in containers on your patio in the summer, and move them to a sunny spot indoors to spend the winter. Their growing needs are the same as lemon trees grown in the ground-plenty of sun, the proper amount of moisture, and good drainage. Plants growing in pots should be put on a fertilizing schedule to ensure that they get consistent nutrients.

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Containers should be as deep and wide as you have room for (bigger is better), and should be placed on castors to make moving heavy pots outdoors as easy as possible. In spring, move them into partial shade first before exposing them to bright outdoor sun. In fall, do the reverse. Give them a bit of shade before moving them back inside to minimize the shock. Indoor air can be dry in the winter, so keep plants on a pebble tray or mist them regularly to maintain some humidity.

Lemon trees grown in containers are much more susceptible to cold and drought, so keep an eye on temperatures and moisture. Because these trees are almost always grafted, the main root stock may eventually send up suckers to try to overtake the tree. If you see suckers coming up from the base of the trunk, remove them with a clean pruning shears as soon as possible. Popular indoor varieties include, Meyer Improved Dwarf, Lisbon, and Ponderosa Dwarf.

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March 28, 20161 found this helpful

This is a guide about growing lemon trees from seed. Growing fruit trees from seed is fun, despite the long wait for them to reach maturity.

Lemon tree seedlings.

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

December 8, 2011

Has anyone out there ever grown a lemon tree from seed? I have heard it is done in Siberia. If they can do it, surely we can. Will supermarket lemons give good seed? Should I just buy a started tree? I now have a nice, sunny window and have wanted to give this a try since forever!

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By Coreen from Rupert, ID

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
Anonymous
November 19, 20160 found this helpful

I grew a lemon tree from a seed it is over 10 feet tall and this is first year it has had lemons and it is really loaded with lemons

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September 30, 20110 found this helpful

I have a Meyer lemon tree planted in a container that I keep outdoors. It has bloomed and produced plenty of lemons for the last 4 years. Earlier this year it bloomed and small fruit started to appear. We have experienced extremely hot weather, but I made sure the tree was properly watered. Eventually, the majority of the leaves, blooms, and small fruit fell off the tree. It did recover and is fully covered with beautiful green leaves but no fruit. What happened and what should I do?

By Willie B.

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October 5, 20110 found this helpful

I live in south georgia and I own a meyer dwarf lemon and the lady is correct on the too wet. Be sure you have good drainage and I planted mine in decomposed pinebark mulch and potting soil. I placed it in the sun and it got water each day or so but the bark held too much water so I repotted the plant got it right and it started to grow leaves now you can start to feed it and it keeps blooming and bearing year round if you don't freeze where you are. If too cold it will drop fruit, if you over feed it will drop fruit, too wet of soil, and otherwise it will bear year round. I place mine in a window in the winter sun shines in and it keeps on bearing. In winter less water is the key, only when dry or almost dry. The same in summer.

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April 17, 20130 found this helpful

3 months ago I planted, in a large tub, a Meyer lemon which thrived and has set a lot of fruit. Today I found four tiny fruit, size of a small marble, on the soil. I fed it citrus food last month and have watered only when the soil feels dry about 3 inches down. What have I done wrong? Please help!

By Joy

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December 2, 20140 found this helpful

I tried to fix my previous post. Do not feed your lemon tree beer- my stupid spell check put beer instead of totally cooled down to room temperature beet root water left over after cooking cooking your beers on top of the stove.

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November 10, 20110 found this helpful

How do I cure scale on my lemon tree?The branches have a green slime and a fungal scale 30mils in diameter on average is present on the branches.

By Colin

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November 13, 20110 found this helpful

Frugal is correct. The extension service will give you the best advice. I have had scale on a few plants and it is very difficult to eradicate. But they will give you the best advice.

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By 0 found this helpful
May 10, 2007

My lemon tree is having problems with it's leaves curling. Anyone have any ideas what is causing this and what to use to eliminate it?

What is the best stage to pick the lemons? Often the fruit looks ripe but the inside is dry and even brownish. Could this be due to picking too late or could it be part of the above problem?

A photo of the leaf problem is attached.

Hardiness Zone: 9a

Donna from Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
By guest (Guest Post)
May 11, 20070 found this helpful

I live in Florida and that looks very much like a citrus leaf problem that suddenly appeared here just after Hurricane Andrew blew through (it may have come all the way from Africa). If it is the same thing, there should be an insect larva inside the curl with some webby stuff holding the leaf in the curled position. I think some kind of moth may develop. I generally take the leaves off and seal them up tight in a plastic bag before disposing of them and then spray the tree with a good general purpose citrus pest spray. It does not seem to hurt the fruit as long as there are enough healthy leaves to keep the tree well fed and sunned. I have noticed that my newer trees don't seem as bothered by the problem as some of the older ones although they still seem to get some curled leaves. I just deal with each tree as they need it. I find it helps to keep them cut back and fairly small. I don't know what caused dry brownish fruit. It also may help that my lemons are Myers lemons, a native citrus that is so hardy that it does not require grafting.

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By 0 found this helpful
December 13, 2015

I am overwintering my 8 month old lemon tree, that was grown from seed, in the bathroom. I pinched off the new growth in October and it produced 2 new limbs. Will the top ever grow back? I use 1 tsp fertilome for citrus and organic fertilizer. There are ladybugs on the leaves. There is some older leaf damage from overwatering months back. I live in Texas, zone 8.

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October 30, 20130 found this helpful

Why do my seedlings grow tall with large leaves, but none have branches? Should I cut them back and inch or 2?

Thank you.

By Karen

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June 30, 2011

This semi-dwarf Meyer lemon tree is losing the fruit. Can anyone tell me why? It had hundreds of blooms. It set many lemons, and now more than 3/4ths of them have fallen off. There are still several larger fruit hanging on.

Next to it is a "Pink Lemonade" tree that has been in the ground for 6-8 years, and it has never set a fruit. It also has many blooms, but all of them fall off. I would appreciate any information about this. Thanks

By Great Granny Vi from Moorpark, CA

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By 0 found this helpful
July 15, 2010

Why are my lemons from the lemon tree getting less juicy and are getting a brown round patch on the stem end? I always have very juicy, large, and seedless limes/lemons. I don't know what happened this year!

Hardiness Zone: 10a

By Vidya from Irvine, Orange county, CA

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

By 0 found this helpful
May 23, 2010

I love this group. I planted a lemon tree 2 years ago that's just bushed out and bloomed beautifully, but all my blossoms fell off. Why? Thanks so much.

Hardiness Zone: 9a

By TX from Conroe

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By 0 found this helpful
July 29, 2008

My poor little lemon tree looks like it's dying. The leaves are drooping bad. I have an orange tree that is twice the size of the lemon tree and it's doing okay. It is rainy season here and it was fine until about 10 days ago. I brought it in to the overhang where it can still "see" sunlight but the rain can't get to it. I made a spray of 1 tbsp epsom salts to a gallon of water and misted the leaves only. I also cut off the baby lemons it had growing on it. Is there anything else I can/should do? I do give my trees citrus fertilizer once a month. Any help would be appreciated.

Hardiness Zone: 10b

Irene from South Florida

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

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By 1 found this helpful
November 21, 2011

We brought our small Meyer lemon indoors because it was getting colder out. It seems to think it's spring because it started flowering right away.

By Jess from Hillsboro, OR

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