Who doesn’t love the citrusy zest of a fresh lemon? They’re one of nature’s greatest miracles.
Ok, that might be a bit over the top! They’re still great though. And so is having your own to eat whenever you want.
But how do you grow a lemon tree?
Well, that depends. Where do you live? Have you got a garden? Just a patio? What’s your climate like? How about your soil? There’s a lot to think about.
If you’re looking for a simple solution then container lemon trees are probably your best option. They allow you to grow your tree in cooler climates without the need for a garden or large area – a patio or terrace will be ideal – but still give it all the basic requirements for success. And thankfully growing lemon trees in containers is fairly straightforward.
This guide to growing lemon trees in pots will give you all the information you need to get those lovely citrus fruits all year round.
We’re going to show you how to grow a lemon tree in a pot, how big they grow, how to care for them, the best fertilisers and much more.
So, let’s gets started!
Can Lemon Trees Grow in Pots?
Simply – yes. Nature intended them to grow outdoors in the ground, so that’s what they prefer. But whilst they tend to grow smaller in pots: 3-5ft (1.5m), they will thrive in containers with care and attention. With the right compost and humidity you will have some lovely little lemon trees.
How to Grow a Lemon Tree in a Pot
Growing a lemon tree in a pot is very similar to a lemon tree in the ground.
The first thing you will want to do is pick the correct variety. Further down we will look at the different options in depth but for now you should be looking at dwarf varieties.
Avoid starting from seeds unless you’re very patient! It can take up to 4 years before you see any fruit. And a plant that’s already flowering is likely to drop as it gets used to its new environment.
Either find yourself a nursery/greenhouse that are specialists in citrus and ask them which varieties they would recommend or go for a semi-mature plant from:
- Improved Meyer
- Dwarf Eureka
- Lisbon Lemon
You should have no problem finding one of those online. Although as lemon trees in containers don’t grow very big you can use almost any variety.
Choosing a Pot/Container
Terracotta pots are best suited for lemon trees. You don’t want to overwater them, waterlogged soil will damage their growth. Terracotta loses moisture easily and has good air flow, making it perfect for your newly potted citrus tree.
Beware of the weight though – these pots can be heavy. Fibreglass or resin planters are a lighter alternative if necessary. Or you could opt for a plant dolly with wheels for easy moving and repotting.
Go for a lighter color pot too – darker will absorb the sun and cause too much heat.
Your soil will be key to getting the best lemon trees you can. Make sure it isn’t soggy as citrus trees like evenly moist soil. You can buy potting mixes designed for citrus and palms that will do a good job of keeping the soil moist.
Your lemon trees roots need a nice amount of air so don’t plant them too deep. Aim to have the part of the trunk that begins to flare out of the soil. Don’t forget to leave lots of space for watering too.
How do you Care for a Lemon Tree?
Without too much hassle, thankfully. They are fairly similar to your common houseplants and so their needs aren’t particularly special.
Watering & Feeding
Overwatering is bad but so is drying out. To make sure you’re watering at the right time test the soil regularly, either with a soil moisture tester or by hand. Let the top few inches of the soil dry before watering thoroughly. Remember that in growth months, i.e spring and summer, your lemon tree will require daily watering. Winter you can stick to keeping the soil from drying out.
Lemon trees need a lot of light. Ideally more than 6 to 8 hours if you can. If that much sunlight isn’t an option then using grow lights is an acceptable way to make up any lost hours.
Don’t forget to move your trees as the seasons change, as the natural light will alter with them.
Your regular household temperature will be fine for a lemon tree. They’re pretty hardy and can take pretty harsh cold weather in short spells.
Frost is a danger, however. They a live outside in the summer but any time there could be frost – autumn, winter, parts of spring – then move them indoors. When placing them outside do so gradually so they get the chance to acclimatise. Doing so too fast may result in them dropping their fruit.
Do so regularly. It helps to promote bigger fruit and will stop your tree getting too large. Make sure you wait until your tree has flowered first though, otherwise you might prune your fruits. You can also trim away thorns or roots that grow on/around the soil.
FAQ and Tips
Can I Grow a Lemon Tree in the US?
Yes. They like warner climates and can withstand droughts, whilst being affected by frost and colder weather. Very high temperatures (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit / 38°C) are tolerated but require extra care and water. Their optimal for growth is 77 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit / 25 – 30 °C.
Can I Grow a Lemon Tree in the UK?
Yes, but they aren’t very robust. Keep in mind they aren’t native and the colder weather of the UK will impact them negatively. The south tends to be warmer so will be more successful at growing lemon trees. They can handle temperatures as low as 10°C / Fahrenheit, although some varieties will tolerate 5°C at a push.
How Big do Lemon Trees Grow in Pots?
Not too big, if that’s a worry! The average grow to 3-5ft when grown in a pot or container, although if the rootstock is good and they’re well cared for in perfect conditions then they can grow bigger. Dwarf varieties
Do Lemon Trees Need a Lot of Sun?
Yes. Lemon trees need a lot of bright, natural light. 6-8 hours is good although the more the better. Use growing lights to make up the hours if that amount of natural light isn’t available.
How Long Does it Take to Grow a Lemon Tree?
It can take up to a few years after planting a lemon tree before it produces fruit. The actual tree itself will grow quicker than that but you will have to wait before getting some juicy lemons.
How Often Should Lemon Trees be Watered?
Depending on the type of soil citrus should ideally be watered every 7 to 28 days. Leaving it too long can lead to fruit and flower drop. Don’t overwater them though as that will also cause wilted leaves.
Ensure that your pot is never sitting in water by watering it in a sink and then draining the soil fully before returning it to the patio/terrace.
Problems you May Encounter
Growing a lemon tree in a pot is likely to create a few issues. As natured didn’t intend it to grow in a container this puts extra stress on the tree. So you have keep a close eye on it.
Being grown in a container makes it more susceptible to the dry and the cold. So whilst a regular lemon tree would be able to withstand some frost and cold weather, your potted tree may not.
Also look out for sucker branches. These grow from the rootstock and can try to take over your lemon tree. Prune it immediately if you spot one.
I hope this has helped you to grow lemon trees in pots. It’s definitely not as difficult as it might seem and you will end up with some lovely, juicy citrus fruits.