There’s nothing like a cold glass of homemade lemonade made with fresh, sunshine-yellow lemons on a hot sunny day. Now that we’re smack dab in the middle of the summer, wouldn’t it be convenient to grab a couple of lemons from your backyard and enjoy that refreshing lemonade whenever you feel like it?
We’ve got some fantastic news for you – lemon trees are one of the easiest plants to grow and look after. Whether you want one in your backyard or indoors, we’ll be going over just how simple it is to grow and care for a lemon tree. Stay tuned and keep reading!
Table of Contents
Meet the Lemon Tree: Basic Knowledge & Origins
The lemon tree is a member of the Rutaceae family and is a mid-sized evergreen tree. It was discovered in regions of Northeast India and some parts of China. They spread across Europe and then the Middle East.
Now they are produced globally and available across the globe.
Lemons are used in countless recipes and herbal remedies worldwide, becoming a staple ingredient in every household. Besides the consumption of lemons, lemon trees are also planted for decorative purposes. Their dense green foliage and bright yellow lemons serve as a treat for the eyes.
Lemon trees are popular amongst home growers due to their resilience and ease of care.
|Common Name||Lemon Tree|
|Botanical Name||Citrus Limon|
|Size||3-6m in height|
|Native Area||Northeast India & China|
|Sun Exposure||Bright, indirect sunlight|
|Soil Consistency||Fertile, Well-draining|
|Toxicity||Toxic to house pets|
|Soil pH||5.5-6.5 (slightly acidic)|
|Common Pests||Citrus leaf miner, aphids, scales, citrus rust mite, mealy bugs|
Varieties of Lemon Tree
I bet you didn’t know there are various types of lemon trees, each with a unique fruit that varies in size, shape, color, and flavor.
The Meyer lemon is unique because it’s a hybrid cross between a lemon and a mandarin. It is popular amongst home growers due to its low maintenance. The Meyer produces fruit within two years.
The Avalon lemon is also known as Avon lemon. It is on the larger side of lemons and has a distinct rind. Avalons have a distinct sweet-tart flavor and are rarely sold commercially.
Their primary use is in juice concentrates.
The Bearss lemon is what you would find in your local grocery store. These plump yellow fruits have the distinct sour taste we all are familiar with and love oh-so-dearly. They are primarily sold commercially due to their juicy pulp and efficient growing time.
How to Care for a Lemon Tree
Let us look now look at how you can nurture your resilient, evergreen lemon tree.
The lemon tree loves direct exposure to bright sunlight. To maintain a healthy lemon tree, you’ll have to place it in direct sunlight for at least 6-8 hours a day. Without direct exposure, the lemon tree will lose its vibrancy and experience stunted growth along with wilting branches.
If you live in a predominantly cloudy environment or want to keep your lemon tree indoors, then you should definitely invest in some decent fluorescent grow lights.
The lemon tree is a resilient plant that can survive in various soils. But, the goal is to have your lemon tree thrive and not just survive.
For a lemon tree to thrive and reach its full potential, you’ll have to pot it in well-draining fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH (5.5-6.5).
Since the lemon tree thrives in long spells of direct sunlight and dry conditions, it needs optimum hydration. The lemon tree will usually need to be thoroughly watered about once or twice a week, depending upon the dryness of the soil.
Water your lemon tree till you see water draining from the bottom holes of the pot. Also, only water the tree when the top 2-3 inches of soil feel dry to touch.
The ideal temperature range for a healthy and happy lemon tree is 10-22 degrees celsius. You’ll have to keep a close eye on the temperature while keeping the tree indoors. Don’t let the temperature fall below 5 degrees, as this will result in the foliage frosting and dying.
The spring and summer months are optimal for fertilizing your beloved lemon tree. Use a citrus-specific fertilizer once a month during this time.
Remember to add fertilizer to the top of the soil only; do not mix it in.
Potting a lemon tree is simple and can be easily done at home. Select a sturdy well-draining pot almost double the width of the tree or root ball. Place the tree in the pot at a depth where the root ball is submerged. Fill the pot with a well-draining nutrient-rich soil mix and proceed to water the pot until drainage is established from the bottom holes.
If you feel the drainage is insufficient, you can always drill additional drainage holes at the bottom or add perlite to the soil mix.
The best times to pot your lemon tree are spring and summer.
This video on potting has some fantastic tips to simplify your experience!
The need for re-potting depends upon the growth rate of the plant. Lemon trees usually need re-potting every 3-4 years. At the time of re-potting, you have two choices. You can either shift the plant to a larger pot or prune the root ball and place it in the same pot again.
This is an excellent time to check the health of the roots and snip off any dead roots. The spring season is the ideal time for re-potting, encouraging new growth.
Pruning is an essential step in any plant’s lifecycle. It helps promote new growth and keeps the plant healthy by getting rid of the old dying foliage. It also helps shape the plant to keep it looking forever fresh.
You can prune your lemon tree by cutting the shoots and branches halfway at a 45-degree angle with clean, sterile scissors. Prune the limp and unhealthy-looking branches; leave the healthy, thick branches alone. Also, snip away the dead leaves and branches.
The ideal time for pruning your lemon tree is early spring; this will give way to new healthier growth in the spring and summer.
Here’s an informative video to guide you through the process of pruning.
You can propagate your lemon tree in two ways. You should propagate your beloved lemon tree in spring for optimal results.
Propagation through Cuttings
Choose a healthy stem with three or more nodes and four to five leaves at the tip. Once you’ve selected the ideal stem, cut it using sterile scissors. Place this cutting into a pot with well-draining nutrient-rich soil and cover it with a plastic sheet to create a hot and humid environment. Water the soil until it’s moist, and check the plant until substantial roots have formed. Transfer the plant into a new, bigger pot once you’re satisfied with the root growth.
This process may take up to 2-3 weeks.
Propagation through Seeds
Choose a healthy, plump, and juicy lemon and take out its seeds. Make sure to wash the seeds, so they don’t have any sugary residue left over. After the seeds are ready, place them in a nutrient-rich perlite mix and gently press them into the soil with your fingers. Cover the seeds with soil and lightly water them, so the soil is moist. Cover the container with clear plastic and leave it in a brightly lit spot. Once the seedlings have sprouted, remove the plastic and let the seedlings grow till a few leaves appear. Once 2-3 leaves appear, you can shift this plant to a bigger pot with well-draining soil and fertilizer.
Problems with the Lemon Tree
Lemon trees tend to struggle with multiple kinds of pests. If these are left unchecked, it can be fatal for the plant. Let us look at some of the most common pests you’ll encounter.
These pests can be dealt with homemade organic solutions or pesticide sprays.
These appear as brown, black, or white specs on the leaves that suck the sap and damage the fruit and plant.
Aphids also love munching on the lemon leaves, causing them to curl up, dry, and eventually fall.
This little fly punctures the fruit and lays eggs inside. The egg maggots use the fruit as nutrition and leave the fruit inconsumable.
These small red insects love eating the leaves and stems of the lemon tree.
Ask Away: The FAQ Section
This is most likely due to a lack of nutrients. You should have your soil tested for nutrients and supplement it with a citrus fertilizer.
A lemon tree takes about 2-4 years to bear initial fruit if you had planted it as a seed. After the initial harvest, you can expect fruit yearly during the winter.
The size of the lemons is a better indicator of when they need to be harvested than the color. Start picking your lemons once they’ve reached 2-4 inches in size and firm. The lemons will continue to ripen even after they’ve been picked.
If you leave them on the tree for too long, the lemons will start to rot and fall off.