How to Grow a Lemon Tree

The lemon tree is a small evergreen tree, commonly grown in home gardens as decorative plants and for aromatic fruits - lemons. The lemon tree is native to Asia, and it is grown all around the world.

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Lemons are rich in certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and are used for preparing refreshing drinks and in various meals.

One of the best things about lemon trees is that they are grown easily with minimum care. 

For home gardens, the best varieties are those that bear fruits year-long, like 'Eureka' and similar varieties. Such varieties can be grown even in larger pots and containers and when winter arrives, they are moved inside - of course, during winter, if no windows are open, one has to pollinate flowers manually.

Lemon Tree Soil Mix

The lemon tree is not very picky about soil, and it will tolerate a wide range of soil mixes. However, when grown in the right conditions, it will grow strong and bear plenty of healthy fruits.

If the plant is grown on its own roots or the plant is grafted to a true genus Citrus rootstock, a pH of 5.5 - 7.0 is acceptable, while a pH of 6.0 - 6.5 is the best.

If pH is above these values, lemon trees will start to be deficient in minerals like iron, zinc, manganese, and similar.

In that case, one has to acidify the soil - add organic matter like compost or humus, or if the pH is very high, add sulfur or some sulfur compound.

soil-test-kitIf the pH goes below these values, the lemon tree will look healthy but won't grow new leaves and flowers and produce new fruits.

In that case, one has to alkaline the soil by adding some limestone into the soil to achieve desired pH level.

If the lemon tree is grafted, the correct pH depends on the plant used for grafting. If you are not sure about it, keep the pH around 6.0 - 6.5.

In order to be sure about the pH of the soil, test it using Soil Test Kit (Amazon link, link opens in the new window).

When planted in the garden, a lemon tree requires at least 20-24 inches (50-60 cm) of soil, with good drainage.

If your soil is less than 20 inches deep, you can grow smaller varieties or grow lemon trees in elevated beds of adequate width and depth, or you can grow lemon trees in larger containers or grow them directly where you want; just protect them from strong winds and water and fertilize them more often.

If you have heavy soil with bad drainage, the best thing to do is to dig out a larger hole (for example, 1x1x1 yard, or at least 2x2x2 feet) and mix the soil with the sand and organic matter (humus, compost, aged manure, worm castings, etc.).

Then, put a layer of gravel on the bottom of the hole and fill the hole with the soil mix - be sure that the new soil level is at least 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) higher than before since some soil settling will occur. If you plan on planting lemon trees early in the spring, the best time to prepare the soil is autumn.

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Lemon Tree Planting Position

For optimal growth and fruit production, the lemon trees need full sun - depending on the variety, space them at least 10-12 feet (3-3.5 m) in the rows and away from buildings and other trees.

Lemon trees are sensitive to cold and especially cold winds, so plant them in south positions (or north positions, if you live 'down under') protected from strong winds.

If you grow your lemon tree in the container, when colder days arrive, be sure to move the lemon tree indoors before the first frost.

Frost can damage the leaves - the lemon tree can lose all the leaves (so much about the 'evergreen' lemon tree), which will grow back in the spring, but stronger frost can kill the lemon tree.

Fertilizing the Lemon Tree

To grow properly, lemon trees require a broad range of micro- and macro-elements to be present in the soil.

For home gardens, the best option is to use fertilizers in the form of aged manure, dried manure, compost, and humus and to dig it into the soil once or twice per year around the lemon trees.

NPK fertilizers can be used several times per year in a similar fashion - adding them more often (in lower amounts) will keep nutrients level more constant, without spikes which can even damage the plants.

Liquid fertilizers can be used before each watering or can be even added to water.

In the case of problems with the lemon trees, check the pH of the soil and add balanced citrus fertilizers, which may correct the mineral deficiencies in the soil.

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Watering The Lemon Tree

The lemon trees require constant water in order to grow and bloom.

During summer, water the lemon trees with 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) of water per month. Watering should be done on a weekly basis (10 days, at most). This of course depends on the local conditions - amount of rainfall, sandy soil, winds, temperature, and similar.

A dripping irrigation system may provide almost ideal growing conditions for lemon trees, but one should strive to promote strong roots, not shallow ones.

Note: lemon trees don't like soggy soil - it can lead to root rot and can cause other issues, which can decrease the crops and even kill the plants.

Mulching The Lemon Tree

Add mulch around lemon trees - mulch can decrease moisture evaporation and decrease the soil temperature around the lemons.

Also, it prevents weeds from growing (up to a point, of course) around the trees and, thus, decreases the competition for nutrients and water.

As the mulch decomposes, it feeds the plants and improves the structure of the soil, including the soil pH.

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Lemon Tree Growing Temperature

Lemon trees prefer warmer climates with an acceptable temperature range between 70 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 38°C), with the best temperature around 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29-30°C).

Above 105 degrees (40°C) lemon tree will stop growing, while below 50 degrees (10°C) lemon tree will go into dormancy.

Temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1°C) can cause plants to drop their leaves, while prolonged exposure to such low temperatures will damage the fruits and the tree, killing it in the end.


Few Final Words

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If you have a small free patch in your garden, consider growing a lemon tree - it is a very decorative, fragrant tree that can bear fruits almost year long, depending on the local conditions.

If you can't grow the lemon in your garden but have some free space on your terrace, balcony, or anything similar, lemon trees can be successfully grown even in the pot ...


For more information about lemons, feel free to check the following:

or check the following articles:

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If you have a garden, large balcony, or any kind of free space on a sunny position, protected from the cold wind, and you like the slightly acidic aroma of lemon, consider growing a lemon or two. No farmed lemon can compete with homegrown lemon in terms of aroma and taste.

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Health Benefits of Lemon

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