Growing Meyer lemon trees (Citrus × meyeri) 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, and their shiny, dark foliage adds additional interest.
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 after the danger of frost has passed. They need warm conditions year-round to produce a good harvest, or they will need to be overwintered indoors.
Unlike the more common Eureka and Lisbon lemons, the Meyer is actually a hybrid and is thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. The Meyer lemon fruit is sweeter than the fruit of other lemons, and even the lemon peels are tasty and great for cooking. They are also smaller and have a rounder shape.
|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, USDA|
|Toxicity||Toxic to cats|
How to Plant Meyer Lemon Trees
Meyer lemon trees do well in warm climates like Florida or California, where they’re popular as low-maintenance container-grown plants both outdoors and inside. They are slightly more cold-tolerant than Eureka and Lisbon lemon trees but still need a sheltered and sunny position to thrive.
These trees don't do well in saturated conditions, so pick a spot that has excellent drainage. If you are concerned about standing water, build up a wide mound of soil to plant your tree on or position it on a slope.
Meyer Lemon Tree Care
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. This tree prefers at least eight hours a day of direct sunlight. 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 that, unless you live in USDA growing zones 9 to 11, you should bring your tree indoors when temperatures start regularly dipping below this range.
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 that humidity will rise up around the plant.
During the growing season (spring to fall), feed your Meyer 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.
Are Meyer Lemon Trees Toxic?
Dogs and cats should be kept away from your Meyer lemon tree if they will be inclined to have a little nibble. As with all lemon varieties, the compounds found in the fruit, skin and plant material are problematic for them and can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested and skin irritation.
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 the fruit off so you don't risk damaging the plant by pulling off a larger piece than intended.
How to Grow Meyer Lemon Trees in Pots
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 a 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. Pot grown trees will require more frequent watering than their in-ground counterparts.
Periodically pruning your Meyer lemon tree isn't essential, but it can be beneficial. Pruning can structure the plant to fit in your space, and the branches can support the fruit as it emerges. Cut back long, thin branches as they develop as they typically do not produce fruit. The other branches can then fill out and strengthen to hold the fruit. Also, remove dead, diseased, or damaged branches as you see them.
Propagating Meyer Lemon Trees
Lemon trees are easier to propagate than some other citrus varieties. This can be done using semi-hardwood cuttings at any time of the year, but it will most likely succeed if the cutting is taken when the tree is in active growth. This means late spring or early summer cuttings are recommended.
The cutting should be from healthy, new growth, and it shouldn't have any flowers or fruit on it. It should be planted in a moist, well-drained medium, and it should be kept consistently warm while waiting for it to root.