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Growing Meyer Lemon Trees in Garden Pots

It's easier than you might think

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container gardening picture of meyer Lemon Tree

Meyer Lemon Tree Blossoms

Photograph © Kerry Michaels
container gardening picture of meyer Lemon Tree

Meyer Lemon Tree in a Terra Cotta Garden Pot

Photograph © Kerry Michaels

Growing Meyer lemon trees in garden pots is hugely rewarding. Not only are they prolific fruit producers, the blossoms of Meyer lemon trees are incredibly fragrant and beautiful. The Meyer lemon fruit is also sweeter than the fruit of other lemons and even their thin skin is 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 8-10 feet tall and up to 12 feet wide. When grown in garden pots, depending on the size of the pot, your plant will be smaller.

What Meyer lemon trees like:

  • Full sun
  • Protection from the wind
  • High quality potting soil
  • A large garden pot with good drainage
  • Consistent watering - soil should be damp not wet
  • Regular feeding (except during the heart of winter) with either all-purpose or high nitrogen fertilizer
  • Temperatures between 50-80°F though will survive down to 32°F

What Meyer lemon trees don't like:

  • Wet feet (too much water will kill them)
  • Freezing temperatures
  • Not enough or too much fertilizer
  • Not enough light
  • Strong winds

Sun and Temperature: All citrus trees love sun - the more the better. They are happiest in temperatures between 50-80°F. That means, unless you live in USDA zones 9-11, you'll want to bring your Meyer lemon tree inside when temperatures start regularly dipping below 50°F. In spring, bring your tree outside, and put it in a sunny protected spot when nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50. It's a good idea to slowly acclimate any plant to outdoor conditions by hardening it off.

Growing Meyer Lemon Trees Indoors: When your plant is inside, you'll want to give it as much light as possible. This can be done by placing it in a sunny window (though be careful that too much direct sun can burn your plant), or by setting it under grow lights or shop lights fitted with one cool and one warm bulb. However, you might be able to keep your lemon alive if you give it enough bright, indirect sun.

Feeding: 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 of fish emulsion.

Watering: Proper watering is one of the keys to growing any citrus plant, but particularly those grown in garden 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.

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 it is still on the tree, make sure to wait until it's ripe before picking. Meyer lemons, when ripe will be an egg yolk-y yellow and will be slightly soft to the touch. Use a knife or scissor to cut off the fruit so you don't risk damaging the plant by pulling off a larger piece than intended.

Special thanks to Nicholas Staddon of Monrovia, for advice and information on care of Meyer lemon trees.

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