Lemon Tree Plant Profile

Looking to grow fresh lemons of your own? Learn to care for the lemon tree in this helpful guide.

 
Rachel Weill / Getty Images

Looking to grow your own citrus fruit and not sure where to start? Learn to grow lemon trees in USDA Zones 8 through 11. Citrus limon offers an awakening scent, color, and flavor. Young leaves are reddish, and mature to a dark green on the surface and light green below. Be aware there are often sharp thorns on the twigs of the tree. Mildly fragrant flowers come from reddish buds. These blooms are either solitary or in small clusters of two or more. Four or five petals make up one flower, each of which is white on top and subtly purple beneath. Light-yellow to warm yellow fruit is oval and dotted with oil glands.

Native to Asia, the specific origin of the Lemon is unknown. It may have come from the Punjab region of Pakistan and India, or the eastern Himalayan region of southern China and upper Myanmar. People in China already knew of the fruit in about 500 BC and reportedly it reached Europe around AD 1000-1200. Stories suggest Captain Cook introduced the fruit to Australia in 1788.

Tropical and semi-tropical climates are best for growing lemons. Commercial production is most successful in sub-tropical regions of the world. The "citrus belt" of the United States ranges from California along the Gulf Coast to Florida.

Botanical Name Citrus limon (Rutaceae)​
Common Name Lemon tree
Plant Type Broadleaf evergreen
Mature Size 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun 
Soil Type Well-drained fertile soil
Soil pH Slightly acidic and low in soluble salts
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 8, 9, 10, 11
Native Area Asia
Learn to care for a lemon tree in this helpful guide.
 Rachel Weill / Getty Images

How to Grow A Lemon Tree

Plant in late winter or early spring. The tree grows 10 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide. Space accordingly. Like other citrus, lemons thrive with low to moderate rainfall through mild winters and warm to hot dry summer heat. In Zone 8, plant a cold hardy variety such as Meyer, which produces nearly seedless fruit and a plentiful harvest on even a small plant. Try Lisbon and Eureka in Zones 9 through 11. Use a complete NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) fertilizer to encourage healthy growth and fruit production.

Light

The Lemon Tree thrives in full sun in a place that is protected from the wind. If freeze is possible in your area, plant on the southwestern side of the house along a wall for protection.

Soil

Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the root ball. If the root is bound, cut across the ball a few times; this will loosen the roots and encourage them to reach for nutrients in well-drained fertile soil. All citrus trees thrive in a soil of medium texture and moderate depth with a slight acidity.

Water

Fill the hole with soil halfway. Water. When the soil absorbs moisture, tamp down and fill the hole. Water again. Create a water trench. Water twice a week for the first month. Water once a week for the rest of the season or more often in the event of drought.

Seedlings can take a while to produce fruit. Consider grafting trees together. Prune young trees to encourage good branch structure.

Pests and Diseases to Consider

Mealybugs are among other common pests on the Lemon Tree. During heavy rainfall, keep an eye out for Citrus Canker and Citrus Leaf Miner on young trees, Red scale and Oriental Spider Mite during heavy rainfall, as well as Fruit Piercing Moth on the Meyer variety. When waterlogged, root rot or collar rot may occur.

Planting in Containers

If you're bringing the lemon tree indoors, place your plant in a well-lit location that is not too warm. In winter, low indoor temperatures similar to early spring will actually encourage flowering. Bring it outdoors in late May to encourage natural pollination and let the fruit grow in the warmer spring and summer temperatures.

Return the plant indoors in September. Pinch foliage to control shape and encourage bloom. It's natural for the flowers to develop into fruit and still take a year to mature to yellow and be mature for harvest. Leave the lemon on the tree to ripen. Like other citrus, it will not ripen off the tree.

Each fruit can give up to 7% citric acid and is rich in vitamin C. Welcome lemons into your garden and you'll have nutritious, cheerful fruits to last a lifetime.