It is possible to grow a lemon tree from a branch but it is a process that will require a bit of patience and effort. The first step is to locate a healthy branch from an existing tree. To ensure success, look for branches that are at least one year old, have many leaves and appear green and sturdy. Once the branch is located, it should be cut or removed with a garden saw and then the ends should be cut to a point. This will make it easier for the branch to be pushed into the ground and take root.
The next step to growing a lemon tree from a branch involves sterilization. Before ensuring it into the ground, the branch must be soaked in a solution of one part chlorine bleach and three parts water for at least fifteen minutes. This will kill any fungi, bacteria or other pests that might inhibit the growth of the lemon tree. It is also important to make sure that the soil it is planted in is nutrient rich and well drained.
Once these preparations are done, the branch can be planted into the soil two to three inches below the surface. The soil should be kept moist but not overly wet and the branch should be placed in an area that will get a considerable amount of sunlight. It should also be kept away from other trees, shrubs and plants to ensure it receives the air, sunlight and water it needs for adequate growth. Once the branch is planted and the soil is kept moist, it can take up to two weeks for small roots to form.
It is important to keep the soil moist and apply fertilizer and/or compost on a regular basis. The fertilizer should contain adequate amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and should be applied after the first sprouts have formed. Pruning the branches and providing it with proper drainage is also important to maintain healthy growth and avoid disease or fungal infections. With regular care, the newly planted branch should begin to show signs of growth within a few months and eventually become a full-sized lemon tree.
Preparing for Potential Setbacks
However, despite ample care, there is still a chance of failure when growing a lemon tree from a branch. Once planted, the branch may not take root or the roots may be weak and unable to sustain the tree. Poor soil conditions or too much or too little water can also inhibit growth or cause the roots to rot. In the chance of failure, it is important to have other backup options such as buying or obtaining another branch or growing a tree from seeds.
Alternatively, some nursery experts recommend grafting a branch instead of planting it into the ground. When grafting, two branches are cut at the same spot and then connected using tape or string, ensuring that the inner bark and sapwood connect. When done, the two branches should be treated as one. This method is not as common as planting but can be successful and is less of a hassle than starting from seeds.
Growing from Seeds
Finally, if issues arise with planting a branch or if grafting is not an option, it is also possible to grow a lemon tree from seeds. Lemon tree seeds can be found at local nurseries or they can be harvested from an existing lemon. Before planting, the seeds should be soaked in water for 24 hours. This will break the seed’s hard coating and increase the chances of successful germination. Once the seeds are ready, they should be planted in the same way as a branch. With proper care and regular watering, the seeds should begin to sprout in eight to twelve weeks.
Nutrition and Care
Once the tree has grown to a certain size, it should be provided with adequate nutrition. Depending on the type of tree, fertilizers rich in zinc, magnesium, iron and other nutrients should be applied every month. Applying insecticides, fungicides and other herbicides can also be beneficial for the prevention of pests and diseases. The tree should also be pruned and trimmed regularly which will promote the growth of healthy foliage and increase the chances of having a productive lemon tree.
Reaping the Rewards
With all the effort and care necessary for growing a lemon tree from a branch, it is certainly rewarding when the tree begins to produce lemons. Although the amount and size of the crop may vary depending on the species and size of the tree, the fruits should be larger and juicer than what can be purchased commercially. The yield can also be increased by ensuring adequate nutrition and frequent pruning.
Although not essential, cross-pollinating or hand-pollinating the tree can also enhance the yield of lemons each season. When hand-pollinating, a small paintbrush or cotton swab should be used to collect the ‘pollen’ (which is the male gamete) from the stamen of one flower and then spread it onto the stigma of another flower. This can be done for multiple flowers, allowing pollination to take place more quickly.
Harvesting the Fruit
Once the tree is mature enough and the fruits have ripened, it is time for harvest. Since lemon trees tend to be somewhat hardy in nature, the harvest season can be quite long, allowing for more lemons to be collected. As soon as the lemons begin to ripen, they should be picked and either kept for in-home use or sold at a local market.