What’s more delightful than a lemon tree? With fragrant dark green leaves, delicate blossoms and brilliant yellow fruits, a lemon tree on your patio or in your sunroom makes an excellent addition to your garden – and that’s not even taking into account the fruit that adds zest and brightness to many a dish or drink! So why doesn’t everyone grow their own lemons? Simply put, cold winters – temperatures below 30°F can kill a lemon tree plant outright.
But don’t give up hope for a crop of your own, homegrown lemons just yet…with the many varieties of dwarf lemon tree now available, there’s sure to be one that will top your citrus list, and growing a lemon tree in a pot gives you the option of brining it inside when the temperature drops. You may even opt to keep an indoor lemon tree year-round!
How to Grow a Lemon Tree in a Container
Did you know most any variety of lemon tree can be grown in a pot? If you remove a seed from a store-bought true lemon, you can get the seed to sprout by wrapping it in a damp paper towel, putting the paper towel in a plastic baggie to keep it moist, and storing it in a dark, warm place for a week or so. Once it sprouts, you can transfer it to a container filled with citrus –friendly soil, and your tree will grow, staying smaller than its outdoor-grown counterparts!
Lemon tree care is fairly simple, but you’ll get the best results by choosing a dwarf lemon tree for indoor growing. There are many dwarf versions of full-sized lemon trees (like the pink lemon tree), but for beginners choosing a dwarf Meyer Lemon tree is an excellent choice.
What is a Meyer Lemon?
Meyer lemons are a small, roundish, sweet hybrid lemon. They’re thought to be a cross between a Eureka lemon tree and a mandarin orange tree. They have a smooth, thin rind with a deep yellow hue. Their sweet, floral taste makes them excellent for desserts, cocktails and many other dishes. Like their fruit, Meyer lemon trees can be hard to come by locally, but you can find a high-quality Meyer lemon tree for sale from Citrus.com.
Meyer Lemon Tree Care in Winter
A container lemon tree’s care is quite similar to outdoor lemon tree care: it needs plenty of sunlight, good drainage, consistent and regular watering, and regular fertilizing. Here are five areas to keep on top of while caring for your lemon tree care during the off months:
- Lighting. This is probably the most important thing for your dwarf lemon tree. Citrus trees need about 8-12 hours of light, and while an artificial light can help, sunlight is best. With the shortness of winter days, make sure you find a bright spot that that captures multiple angles of sunlight during the day. Tip: “light” doesn’t mean “warm” – not overly warm, anyway. During the winter months, a temperature of 55-68°F is ideal for indoor lemon trees.
- Watering. When it comes to watering, lemon tree leaves are the best indicator of what your tree needs. If the container the lemon tree is growing in is allowed to dry out, the leaves of the lemon tree will fall off. If, on the other hand, you overwater your lemon tree, yellow leaves are a distinct possibility. Providing humidity for your tree can help you find the sweet spot – put your lemon tree over a pebble tray, or mist it daily.
- Pest control. Insects can be a big problem, especially when you bring in a tree from outside. To prevent infestations, carefully wipe off the leaves of your lemon tree with a damp cloth each week.
- Fertilizing. Your growing lemon tree will also benefit greatly from regular fertilizing – but not in the wintertime, or you might encourage growth during the tree’s most vulnerable time. A specially formulated, slow-release lemon tree fertilizer will help your tree stay healthy and encourage it to produce lots of fruit, but hold off until spring or early summer.
- Pruning. Because pruning (like fertilizing) tends to encourage growth, you’re best off doing that in the spring – if you need to do it at all. Indoor lemon trees need very little pruning.
Growing lemon trees in containers allows you to provide a healthy environment for your tree in a limited amount of space, so you don’t need to be kept from growing your own lemons if you live in a colder climate. With a little care and attention, you’ll soon be enjoying your own fresh-grown lemons, any time you like!