15 Things You Need To Know To Grow Lemons
When life gives you lemons………. you know how to care for your lemon tree properly! Lemons have so many uses, from cleaning solutions to lemon meringue pies. They are generally heat loving plants, but you can grow them in containers and greenhouses as well. Read on to get your 15 tips for growing a healthy lemon tree with a high yield.
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1) Lifetime of a Lemon Tree
Since a lemon tree will not typically breed true from seeds, most lemon trees you find have been propagated by grafting. Lemon trees will take between 3 – 5 years to produce fruit, but they are long lived trees. A well cared for plant can live between 50 and 100 years. You will probably find that the production decreases in older trees though.
2) Varieties of Lemon Trees
These varieties can be grown outdoors in zones 9 – 11. Dwarf trees are the best choice for container gardening.
Meyer Lemons are excellent for container growing. They are a cross between a table lemon and an orange that originated in China. They will produce some fruit throughout the year, but most of the fruit is harvested in the winter. The fruit is sweeter with less acid than other lemons.
Ponderosa Lemons will fruit and bloom at the same time. Fruits can be left on the tree ripe for several months. They will fruit year-round and have large fruits that almost resemble a grapefruit in size.
Eureka Lemons have nearly no thorns. They bear fruit and flowers throughout the year. They are seedless and have a tangy citrus flavor. These are one of the most commonly found varieties.
Lisbon lemon trees are almost as big around as they are tall. If you grow them in containers you can prune them to a narrower shape. It is an heirloom variety with a thick, smooth skin.
3) How many lemon trees do I need?
You only need one, as they are self-pollinating. You do not need insects to pollinate the trees. Also, you will not need to hand pollinate the flowers.
4) Temperatures for Lemon Trees
Lemon trees, like all citrus trees, like it hot. The ideal temperature for setting fruit is between 70 F and 85 F. The lowest nighttime temperature should be between 50 – 55 F. Trees will become damaged when temperatures drop below 29 F.
5) Soil for Lemon Trees
The optimal pH range is 5.5 to 6.5. When planting in containers use a good soilless potting mixture. This will be mostly perlite, peat moss and vermiculite.
6) Lighting Needs
When planting outside place the tree in an area with 6 – 8 hours of full sunlight. Indoors you can try to place the tree by a sunny window or use supplemental lighting. LED lighting would be a good choice. You should run your lights for at least 8 -12 hours.
There are fertilizers specifically for citrus. Citrus requires a fertilizer high in nitrogen. You can use a liquid, granular or slow release fertilizer.
Lemon trees typically do not require pruning. You do want to remove any diseased or dead branches. For bigger trees you can prune for better light penetration.
9) Watering Your Lemon Tree
You should water lemon trees in containers often. Keep them moist, but not wet. Lemon trees don’t like wet feet. Be sure to use soil that drains well. Stick your finger into the soil 2”. If it is dry, it is time to water.
For lemon trees growing outside you will not need to water as often. The lemon trees have a large feeder root system. If you scratch the surface of the soil under the plant, you will find a network of feeder roots. If you keep the lemon trees outside well mulched it will help to retain any moisture.
Although lemon trees are relatively trouble free, you may encounter these problems. If you encounter these problems and are not sure how to diagnose them properly you can take a leaf to your county extension agent and they will help.
- Dropping Leaves – This may be caused by overwatering.
- Leaves turning yellow – Lack of water, insects, pests, nutritional deficiencies.
- Fruit drop – This may be caused by the fact that there is just more fruit than the tree can support. It could also be due to improper watering, improper fertilization, disease, insects or too vigorous pruning.
11) Growing in A Greenhouse
Keep the temperature above 50 degrees in the greenhouse. Once the temperature outside has reached 55 at night you can move the plant outside for the summer. Keep in mind that your tree will probably be in a 10-gallon container at least. Make sure to have a container that is on wheels to facilitate the move. Also, keep in mind that some greenhouses have narrower doors. Be sure that you will be able to move the plant in and out of the door that you have.
12) Growing in the Ground
Picking an area that has well drained soil is critical. Also, be sure to get a spot that gets at least 8 hours of full sun every day. Pick your variety based on your climate. Also, make sure that you will have room for the mature tree when planting. Do not overcrowd.
13) Growing in Containers
You should always use containers with drainage holes. But you need to be aware that containers will dry out faster than plants in the ground generally. Lemons like a lot of humidity. You can supply this by misting your trees daily or by placing pebbles in the saucer the pots drain into. You can also run a humidifier in the dry winter months when the heat is running in your house. The pot size will determine the plant size. Use a 10 – 15-gallon pot size. You should buy dwarf varieties to grow in a container.
14) Storage of Lemons
We have all seen the beautiful baskets of fresh lemons hanging in the kitchens on TV. This is a great way to store lemons if you are going to use them in less than a week. I don’t seem to go through them that fast. I just place my cleaned lemons in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.
Lemons can be juiced, and the juice can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container. The juice can also be stored in a freezer in ice cube trays. I then place the ice cube trays in a sealed bag. This gives you some portion control when it is time to thaw the juice.
The zest can be removed and place in a sealed jar or frozen.
15) Usage of Lemons
Well, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or you can use the zest and juice in many ways in the kitchen. Who doesn’t love a lemon meringue pie? They are great squeezed over many dishes to brighten the flavor. The list goes on and on.
Lemon juice can be used for cleaning many different items. It can be used from cleaning your glass shower door to being used to polish copper and brass.
Lemons can also be used to help eliminate odors.
Lemons are fun and easy to grow. These plants will last a lifetime once you get them growing properly indoors and out.