A lemon tree, Citrus limon, is a citrus tree native to Asia and known for its sour, acidic fruits. It’s important to understand what a lemon tree needs in order to foster healthy growth and fruit production. Lemon trees require adequate nutrition, consistent and ample water, light, and pruning.
Nutrition is essential for enabling a lemon tree to grow and bear fruit. Commercial citrus fertilizers that can applied directly to the soil around the tree should provide the specific nutrients needed. Organic matter, such as compost, should be added directly to the soil once or twice a year for added nutrition.
New and established trees must have consistent access to water. Initially, trees should be provided with frequent, deep watering several times a week. Once trees are established, water cycles should be adjusted to match weather conditions. Ground should be kept slightly moist at all times, but not soggy. Newly planted trees should be monitored closely, as they are more susceptible to drought.
Most lemon tree species prefer direct sunlight and need approximately 8 hours of sun a day. Areas where sunlight is limited may require a few hours a day or week of supplemental lighting indoors. It’s important to gradually acclimate lemon trees to full indoor light, by starting off with a low light environment.
Finally, pruning activities should be performed regularly on young lemon trees. Pruning allows for focused nutrition allocation and the removal of diseased parts of the tree. Pruning supports fruit production capacities and helps to increase air circulation around the tree. Any large, conflictive roots too close to the tree should be removed before planting.
Propagating lemon trees from existing specimens is possible and involves taking a cutting from an existing tree. Cuttings should be between 8 to 12 inches in length and should include 3 or 4 buds. Cuttings should be during active growth season and treated with a rooting hormone, before being placed in potting mixture. Moisture levels around the cutting should remain moist, but not soggy. If propagating indoors, supplemental lighting will likely be required in order to nurture the cutting.
Common pests and diseases
Lemon trees can suffer damage from scale, aphids, and other pests or diseases. Awareness and inspection of trees should be performed monthly, looking for signs of small insects, yellowing leaves, or wilted branches. If you detect an infestation, make sure to remove affected parts of the tree, and treat any infection with an appropriate pesticide.
Fruit production by a lemon tree is dependent on a sufficient number of days with temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, accompanied with adequate nutrition and sunlight. Fruits should be harvested when they reach full size and have a deep yellow color. Under-ripe fruits may be left on the tree to continue ripening. Fruits should be picked before cold weather hits, as this will prevent them from spoiling come winter.
Harvesting and storage
Fruits should be harvested either with a garden shears or a picking pole. Fruits should be stored at room temperature and should not be left in the sun. They can be stored in the refrigerator, either in or out of a bag, for several weeks, depending on their ripeness. For longer storage, fruits should be frozen or dried.
Lemon tree varieties
The Meyer Lemon is a popular lemon tree variety that is a hybrid of Citrus limon and is slightly sweeter than most other varieties. The Eureka Lemon is also a hardy variety with good cold tolerance. The Lisbon Lemon variety, with its oval shape, is the most common commercially produced lemon and is often grown in Asia. The Ponderosa Lemon is an especially large variety, that can grow up to 5 inches in diameter. And the Bearss Lemon is another popular variety, typically smaller and having fewer seeds.