Growing Lemons – How To Grow A Lemon Tree

By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

Growing a lemon tree isn’t that difficult. As long as you provide their basic needs, growing lemons can be a very rewarding experience.

How to Grow a Lemon Tree Outdoors

Lemons are more cold-sensitive than all other citrus trees. Due to this cold sensitivity, lemon trees should be planted near the south side of the home. Lemon trees need protection from frost. Growing them near the house should help with this. Lemon trees also require full sunlight for adequate growth.

While lemon trees can tolerate a range of soils, including poor soil, most prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Lemon trees should be set slightly higher than ground. Therefore, dig a hole somewhat shallower than the length of the root ball. Place the tree in the hole and replace soil, tamping firmly as you go. Water sufficiently and add some mulch to help retain moisture. Lemon trees require deep watering once weekly. If necessary, pruning may be done to maintain their shape and height.

Lemon Tree Growing Indoors

Lemons can make excellent houseplants and will be comfortable in a container as long it provides adequate drainage and room for growth. Heights of around 3 to 5 feet can be expected for a lemon tree growing indoors. They also prefer well-draining, slightly acidic soil. Keep the soil evenly moist and fertilize as needed.

Lemon trees thrive within a normal temperature range of about 70 F. (21 C.) throughout the day and 55 F. (13 C.) at night. Keep in mind that they will usually go into dormancy when temperatures fall below 55 F. (13 C.)

Lemon trees require lots of light; therefore, they may need to be supplemented with fluorescent grow lights during winter.

Lemon trees can be placed outdoors during warm periods, which is also recommended in order to increase their chances of bearing fruit. When you grow a lemon tree indoors, bees and other insects are unable to pollinate them. Therefore, you should place them outdoors during summer unless you want to hand pollinate.

Propagating for Lemon Tree Cultivation

Many lemon trees are container-grown, purchased straight from the nursery. However, they can be propagated through cuttings, air layering and seed. The variety usually dictates the best method used; yet, different people see different results using different methods. Therefore, it’s best to find the method that works for you.

The majority find it easier to propagate lemons by rooting large cuttings. While seeds can be used, the seedlings are usually slow to bear.

When choosing to grow from seeds, allow them to dry out for a week or two. Once dried, plant the seeds about an inch deep in good potting soil and cover with clear plastic wrap. Set the pot in a sunny location and wait for it to reach 6 to 12 inches before transplanting outdoors or to another pot.

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How to Grow Lemon Tree Indoor Or Outdoor

Lemon Tree Planting Tips and Tricks

Unless you have a greenhouse, lemon tree planting should probably best be restricted to those living in tropical or sub-tropical climates. Lemon trees grow where temperatures get no colder than 60 degrees F. (15 degrees C.). It is possible to grow a small version of this plant in cooler regions, but most likely, the tree will not produce fruit.

A lime tree is a plant that can be a part of your herb garden. The lime tree is a plant that grows mostly in the tropical and subtropical regions, where the temperatures are usually in the range of 60-75 degrees Celsius. The lime tree can grow properly, only if the temperatures do not fall below 50 degrees Celsius.

Related Questions

1. How often should I prune the lemon three?

As you may know, pruning is a very important process when growing any type of plant which also means lemons. When it comes to removing dead leaves and branches from your lemon tree, you should do it very carefully and not too often.

The best solution would be to do it once a year. If you notice dead and dry leaves or any type of infection on the leaves and the tree, prune that part because it can seriously affect the lemon tree’s growth.

2. Do I need to pollinate lemon tree?

Even though your lemon tree will most likely grow lemons without the pollination, if you want larger and juicier lemons, you should pollinate your plant. Since indoors there won’t be insects to do it, you will have to help your lemon tree.

You can do it very effortlessly and by using only a simple paintbrush. You should transfer the pollen from the stamen to the pistil at least once a day and the lemon tree will need around nine months to harvest.

3. When is the time to harvest the fruits?

You can simply check if your lemons are fully grown by pressing them with your thumb. If the inside of the lemon feels soft, it is time to harvest them.

Also, the lemons will stop growing as soon as they’re good to harvest, and their color will be rich yellow.

4. The leaves on my lemon tree have become yellowish, what does that mean?

Yellow leaves are a sign that your tree isn’t getting enough water. That means that you should water your lemon more frequently and check the moisture level with the soil meter if possible. Only in this way you can be completely sure that the amount of water is right.


Mulch is very important for lemon trees. I already mentioned the term fibrous roots. These small roots are very sensitive and important to trees.

So you should protect this root system for the sake of your tree. Mulch can protect them from harsh sunlight of summer and colds of winter. Mulch also saves water to evaporate in hot summer days.

Always use a thick layer of mulch. You can use different kinds of mulch to protect the root system like dried leaves, clippings of grass or wood chips.

Plus these mulch will decompose with the passage of time and turn to organic fertilizer and provide nutrients to your tree.

7 tips to successfully 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…

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!


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.


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.


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:

30% compost
30% cocopeat
20% garden soil
20% sand

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.


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.


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.


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!

How to Grow Lemons in the North (Plus a Recipe)

I’ve been watching this sweet little Meyer lemon tree for months — and it’s finally ready to harvest. Yes, you can grow lemons in cold climates (even here in Minnesota), if you have a sunny window and give them some outdoor time each summer.

In May, the tree (on the steps behind the rhododendron) spent about a week going in and out of the house as it got used to outdoor conditions.

I got this lemon tree sometime in late 2016 or early 2017. It was just a little stick when it arrived, but I transplanted it into a good-sized container and gave it two homes. From early October until late May, it resides in our sunny front window, which faces south. In summer, it moves out to the back patio, where it enjoys about 6 hours a day of sun and the benefits of rain, which is so much better for plants than tap water. I admit to being skeptical about whether it would flower or fruit, despite assurances from fellow northern gardeners that Meyer lemons are the best ones to grow indoors.

Sure enough, in late March 2018, it started blooming! I was so excited that I immediately looked up whether I would have to pollinate the flowers like an oversized bee to get fruit. Fortunately, Meyer lemons are “self-pollinating,” meaning they do not need other plants or bees to create fruit, though if you have more than one tree, you probably will get more fruit per tree. The flowers have a beautiful scent and I admit to waving my hands around to blooms to see if I could help the pollination.

Lemon blossoms are beautiful and fragrant. Just the thing to perk up a gardener at the end of winter.

It must have worked because by the time the tree moved outdoors for summer, it had eight tiny lemons on it! During the summer, the lemons got bigger and bigger. The tree is a bit lopsided because most of the fruit grew on one side. Even with all the squirrels, birds and rabbits in my back garden, seven of the lemons survived the summer and came inside to finish maturing. It takes a long time for lemons to mature in the North, but this past week, I decided to harvest a few to make a lemon pie.

This is what the lemons looked like on October 20. They needed a bit more time on the tree. Be patient when growing lemons in the North.

Before I get to the recipe, here are a few tips on growing Meyer lemons:

  • Meyer lemons can take a more cold weather than other types of citrus, but you don’t want to leave them outside once the first frost hits. I moved mine indoors about the 10th of October here in USDA Zone 4.
  • In the house, seek out the sunniest spot you have. My south-facing front window works great for a Meyer lemon tree.
  • You don’t need to go overboard with watering. I wait until the soil in the pot starts to feel dry about an inch down. This is about every two weeks. When I water I give the pot about 8 cups of water.
  • Do not fertilize during the winter!
  • The only fertilizer I put on my tree is fish emulsion. In 2018, I gave it a small dose in April after the blossoms formed and more in June, July and August. There are special fertilizers formulated for citrus, and the usual recommendation is to fertilize monthly from April to September.
  • Be patient. It takes a long time for citrus to ripen, especially in the North. My Meyer lemon fruit was green all summer and finally started to change color in September. I tested one lemon in October and it was good, but not quite ripe. When I juiced the fruit for the pie last week, it was perfect.
  • You will be rewarded! Compared to store-bought lemons, my homegrown Meyer lemons were incredibly juicy. It took just four small lemons to get more than two-thirds of a cup of juice for the lemon pie I made.

  • Crust. I love making pie crust. If you don’t, no shame. Buy a frozen one. They taste good and are very easy to use. You do have to bake the empty crust before adding the filling.
  • Filling. This is basically a fortified lemon curd. Adding the corn starch will make the pie set up more firmly and cut neatly. You do need to strain it as it’s almost impossible to make without a few lumps.
  • Tartness. I like a tart pie — and this one is really lemony. You could reduce the lemon juice to maybe half a cup for less tartness. The flavor also mellows out the longer the pie sits. Making this early in the day or even the day before you plan to serve it is fine. Keep it chilled.
  • What do I do with eight egg whites?? You could make a meringue to top the pie. My family likes it better with whipped cream on top. I whipped the whites, added cream of tartar and sugar and made a meringue cookie. You could also use them in omelets and other egg dishes.

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