How to Grow and Care for Meyer Lemon Trees in Pots

Meyer lemons

Chris Hunkeler/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0 

Growing Meyer lemon trees in garden pots is a rewarding experience. Not only are they prolific fruit producers, but the blossoms are also incredibly fragrant and beautiful. The ​Meyer lemon fruit is also sweeter than the fruit of other lemons. Even their thin skins are tasty and great for cooking.

Though Meyer lemon trees are naturally shrub-like, they can also be pruned into tree form. When planted in the ground, they can grow up to 8 to 10 feet tall and up to 12 feet wide. When grown in garden pots, your plant will be smaller and grow accordingly with the size of the pot.

  • Botanical name: Citrus × meyeri
  • Common name: Meyer lemon
  • Plant type: Fruit-bearing shrub
  • Mature size: 8 to 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide
  • Sun exposure: Full sun
  • Soil type: Loamy, good drainage
  • Soil pH: Between 5.5 and 6.5
  • Bloom time: Fall and early spring
  • Fruit color: Yellow-orange
  • Hardiness zones: 8 through 11 USDA
  • Native area: China

How to Grow Meyer Lemon Trees

Meyer lemon trees will thrive if you provide the right conditions. Care includes finding the ideal location for them: They need at least eight hours a day of direct sunlight, preferably from the southwest direction. Meyer lemon trees are most successfully grown from grafted rootstock (seed-grown trees tend to be less healthy and may never produce fruit). They require well-draining soil, regular fertilization while growing, and enough water to keep the soil moist but not wet.

Light

All citrus trees love the sun, and the more the better. When your plant is inside, give it as much light as possible. This can be done by placing it in a sunny, southwest-facing window, or by setting it under grow lights or shop lights fitted with one cool and one warm bulb.

Be careful about giving the tree too much direct sun as this can burn your plant. If all else is handled well, you might be able to keep your lemon alive with enough bright, indirect sun as well.

Soil

Meyer lemon trees can grow in almost any type of soil with good drainage, but they thrive in loamy or sandy loam soils. Add lime to increase the soil pH or sulfur to lower it if your mixture is too acidic.

Water

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 wet. 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 it run out of the bottom of the pot.

If your plant is indoors, particularly in winter when the heat is on, misting the leaves with water can help keep your lemon tree happy. It's also a good idea to use pot feet, so your citrus tree doesn't sit in water.

Temperature and Humidity

Meyer lemon trees are happiest in temperatures between 50 and 80 F. That means unless you live in USDA zones 9 to 11, you should bring your Meyer lemon tree inside when temperatures start regularly dipping below 50 degrees.

During the spring, if you live in a cold climate bring your tree outside when nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees. It's a good idea to slowly acclimate any plant to outdoor conditions by hardening it off. Once it is used to being outdoors, place it in a sunny area protected from the wind.

Indoors, 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 and humidity will rise up around the plant.

Fertilizer

During the growing season (spring to fall), feed your citrus plant regularly with either a high nitrogen fertilizer or a slow-release all-purpose fertilizer. Citrus trees also respond well to additional foliar feeding with a liquid fertilizer like compost tea or liquid kelp or fish emulsion.

Potting and Repotting

Repot in a five-gallon or larger container that is at least 12 to 15 inches in height and has good drainage. Fill the pot partway with potting mixture, 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 with potting mixture just to where the crown of the roots is still visible. Firmly but gently press the soil down and water immediately.

Pruning

Periodically pruning your Meyer lemon tree is important both for structuring the plant so that it fits in your space and so that the branches can support the fruit as it emerges. Cut back long leads as they develop (these branches typically do not produce fruit) so that the side branches can fill out and strengthen to hold the fruit.

Harvesting

If you keep your lemon tree indoors for the winter, your fruit can take up to a year to ripen. 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 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.