Growing Meyer lemon trees in garden pots or the ground is a rewarding experience. Not only are they prolific fruit producers, but their showy white blossoms are incredibly fragrant and beautiful. They also feature shiny dark green leaves. The Meyer lemon fruit is sweeter than the fruit of other lemons, and even the lemon peels are tasty and great for cooking.
Although Meyer lemon trees are naturally shrub-like, they can also be pruned into tree form. When planted in the ground, they can grow to 10 feet tall. When grown in garden pots, they'll generally be smaller and grow accordingly with the size of the pot. Seedlings develop at a moderate pace and can be expected to bear fruit in about four years. These trees are best planted in the early spring.
|Botanical Name||Citrus x meyeri|
|Common Name||Meyer lemon|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf evergreen tree|
|Mature Size||6 to 10 feet tall and 4 to 8 feet wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil Type||Sandy loam, well-draining|
|Soil pH||5.5 to 6.5|
|Bloom Time||Year-round seasonally|
|Hardiness Zones||9 to 11|
How to Grow Meyer Lemon Trees
Meyer lemon trees thrive in warm climates, and they’re popular as container-grown plants both outdoors and inside. Plus, their care needs are minimal, as long as you're able to find the ideal location for them.
While the plants can tolerate a bit of shade, they prefer at least eight hours a day of direct sunlight. If you're growing your Meyer lemon tree indoors, a south- or southwest-facing window is ideal to get ample light. Moreover, these plants require well-draining soil, regular fertilization, and enough water to keep the soil moist.
All citrus trees love the sun, and the Meyer lemon tree is no different. It will grow and fruit best in full sun, though it can survive in a slightly shady spot. Opt for your sunniest window when growing your plant indoors, or use grow lights to supplement the natural sunlight.
Meyer lemon trees can grow in almost any type of soil with good drainage. They prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5 and thrive in loamy or sandy soils. Add lime to increase the soil pH or sulfur to lower it if necessary.
Proper watering is one of the keys to growing any citrus plant, particularly those grown in pots. The aim is to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Stick your finger into the soil at least up to the second knuckle. If you feel dampness at your fingertip, wait to water. If it feels dry, water your plant until you see water run out the bottom of the pot.
If your plant is indoors, particularly in the winter when the heat is on, misting the leaves with water can help to keep it healthy. It's also a good idea to use pot feet, which allow water to drain out of the pot and prevent the plant from becoming waterlogged.
Temperature and Humidity
Meyer lemon trees are happiest in temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That means unless you live in USDA growing zones 9 to 11, you should bring your Meyer lemon tree indoors when temperatures start regularly dipping below 50 degrees. If you live outside of its growing zones, bring your tree outdoors again during the spring when nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees. Place it in a sunny area protected from strong winds.
Citrus trees do best with humidity levels of 50 percent and above. If you don't have a humid enough spot indoors, fill a tray with rocks and pour water to just below the top of the rocks. Place the pot on top of the rocks, so humidity will rise up around the plant.
During the growing season (spring to fall), feed your lemon tree with either a high-nitrogen fertilizer or a slow-release all-purpose fertilizer. Typically three applications evenly spaced throughout the growing season should be enough. Citrus trees also respond well to additional feeding with a liquid fertilizer, such as compost tea, liquid kelp, or fish emulsion, but it is generally not necessary.
Potting and Repotting
When potting a Meyer lemon tree (or repotting a tree that has become too large for its container), choose a five-gallon or larger container that is at least 12 to 15 inches in height. Make sure the container has ample drainage holes. Fill the pot partway with potting mixture (ideally one made for citrus trees), remove the tree from its original container, and fluff the roots if they are matted. Place the tree in the center of the pot, and fill in the gaps with the potting mixture just to where the crown of the roots is still visible. Press down the soil, and water the tree immediately.
Periodically pruning your Meyer lemon tree isn't essential, but it can be beneficial. Pruning can structure the plant, so it fits in your space and the branches can support the fruit as it emerges. Cut back long, thin branches as they develop (these branches typically do not produce fruit), so the other branches can fill out and strengthen to hold the fruit. Also, remove dead, diseased, or damaged branches as you see them.
Lemon trees grown indoors usually just fruit in the spring while outdoor trees in warm climates will typically fruit year-round. Because citrus fruit will only continue to ripen while still on the tree, make sure to wait until it's ripe before picking. When ripe, Meyer lemons will be an egg yolk yellow color and slightly soft to the touch. Use a knife or scissors to cut off the fruit, so you don't risk damaging the plant by pulling off a larger piece than intended.
Varieties of Lemon Trees
Besides the Meyer lemon, there are several other types of lemon trees, including:
- Citrus limon: This is known as the true lemon tree, featuring light yellow, oval fruit that’s aromatic.
- Citrus limon 'Eureka': This is a medium-sized tree that produces fruit known for its very sour flavor and few seeds.
- Citrus limon 'Lisbon': This tree can grow to around 30 feet tall and bears fruit that tastes similar to ‘Eureka’ lemons, though it has more juice.