How to Grow Lisbon Lemon Trees

Lisbon lemon tree branches with yellow lemon fruit hanging

The Spruce / Sydney Brown

The Lisbon lemon (Citrus x limon 'Lisbon') is one of the most widely available varieties of lemon found in shops worldwide. Providing you live in a hot and dry region, you can grow Lisbon lemon trees outdoor and receive an abundant harvest. Their main crop is harvested in the winter, but, once mature, lemons can be found on the tree throughout the year if they have the right conditions. These trees thrive in containers, and in colder climates, can be overwintered indoors.

The lemons on these trees are bright yellow when mature, have particularly juicy, acidic flesh, and contain few seeds or none at all. Lisbon lemons are often confused with another popular lemon variety—the Eureka.

Lisbon lemon trees can be planted throughout the year in warm climates and generally reach maturity within three years. If you plan to overwinter them indoors, plant them in the spring after any danger of frost has passed. They can reach up to and over 15 feet when grown outdoors but are more dwarf-like when kept in containers. They also produce pretty white blooms that have a fragrance reminiscent of orange blossom.

Botanical Name Citrus x limon 'Lisbon'
Common Name Lisbon lemon tree
Plant Type Evergreen tree
Mature Size Up to 15 ft. tall
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Tolerant of a variety, particularly acidic types
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 9-11 (USDA)
Native Area Australia with Portugese descent
Toxicity Toxic to dogs and cats

How to Plant Lisbon Lemon Trees

Of all the citrus fruits, lemons are the most sensitive to cold temperatures. Although Lisbon lemon trees are a little hardier than other varieties, they still need warm and sunny conditions to thrive.

Lemon trees need to be planted in a site with good drainage. If you are concerned, you could plant your tree on top of a wide mound of soil or select a sloped position for better drain off.

These trees grow well in containers and can be moved inside if frost is expected during the winter. Make sure the pot is large enough, has good draining, and that you select a potting mix suited to citrus trees.

Lisbon Lemon Tree Care

Light

If you don't have a garden that receives plenty of sunlight, then the Lisbon lemon tree won't be for you. This species needs a full sun position to thrive.

Soil

Lisbon lemon trees can handle a variety of soil types but have a preference for those on the acidic side, and good drainage is an absolute must.

Soggy roots are a problem for all lemon trees, and pooling water around the trunk should be prevented.

Water

Getting the balance right with watering your Lisbon lemon tree can make a big difference in terms of their vigor and fruit production levels.

While your Lisbon lemon tree is getting established, it'll need more watering during the first few years. As it matures, it becomes more drought tolerant.

Young trees especially prefer the soil to remain moist during the summer. Slow and deep watering every fortnight is usually recommended, but it'll need to be more often in very hot or dry soils. Excessive watering, however, can lead to root rot. Be careful not to overdo it!

Temperature and Humidity

Although Lisbon lemon trees are sligthly more cold-tolerant than their Eureka relatives, it's important to remember that lemons are the most sensitive to cold weather of all the citrus fruits. This is particularly true of young trees that aren't so well established.

If you plan to keep them outdoors, you need to have guaranteed mild winters. If temperatures go below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, your tree may not survive outside. Their preference is for temperatures to be around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit to produce the best harvest.

Fertilizer

Given that Lisbon lemon trees produce such an abundance of fruit, they use up a lot of energy. Unless your tree is planted in particularly fertile soil, they'll appreciate a bi-annual feed of a fertilizer specifically designed for citrus fruits.

If they don't receive enough nutrients, your crop will be diminished, the growth of the tree can be stunted, and the leaves can become discolored.

Lisbon lemon tree branches with yellow and green lemons against blue sky
The Spruce / Sydney Brown
Lisbon lemon tree leaves and small white flowers closeup
The Spruce / Sydney Brown
Lisbon lemon tree branches with yellow lemons and leaves in sunlight
The Spruce / Sydney Brown
Lisbon lemon tree with yellow lemons hanging off branches in sunlight
The Spruce / Sydney Brown

Lisbon Lemons vs. Eureka Lemons

In terms of the fruit, the Lisbon lemon rind has a smoother texture and a more prominent mammilla (protruding nipple). Lisbon lemon trees are thornier than Eurekas, more tolerant of the cold, and produce more fruit. Unlike the Eureka, whose lemons are found on the outside of the tree, Lisbon lemons are located inside the dense, glossy, green canopy. The tree has a more upright and spreading growth habit, too.

Harvesting Lisbon Lemons

Don't expect a newly planted tree to produce a bumper crop instantly. It can take a few years before you'll start seeing lemons in the canopy. If you do spot any random flowering in advance of this, it can be a good idea to remove them to allow all the energy to be conserved to support appropriate early growth.

When the conditions are right, this type of lemon tree is known for producing a good crop throughout the year. However, the biggest harvest is usually in the winter or early spring.

As with all citrus fruit varieties, the Lisbon lemon won't ripen off the tree. It should remain there until soft to the touch and fully ripened and ready to use.

Pruning

Lisbon lemon trees have an upright, spreading habit, and regular pruning will help to keep their shape, produce a strong canopy, and encourage healthy and abundant fruit production.

Pruning is best done after harvesting, and it should involve a technique referred to as "skirting." Removing low-hanging branches allows better air circulation and reduces the chance of problems with fungal diseases and pests developing.

Propagating Lisbon Lemon Trees

Lemon trees are one of the easiest citrus fruits to propagate from cuttings. These are best taken in late spring or early summer from healthy, new growth that doesn't have any fruit or flowers yet.

It can be helpful to dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone and make sure it's potted in a well-drained medium. The medium should be kept moist throughout, and covering with a bag can help to create the desired humid, warm conditions.

Overwintering

Mulching isn't recommended with lemon trees as they don't like soggy conditions. If you're expecting frosts, it's better to keep them in a container that can be moved inside for overwintering.

Select a warm and sunny spot if you want your tree to continue producing fruit.