There is something about the fresh smell of a flowering lemon tree. Lush, dark green, oval leaves shining in the sunlight. Their fragrant, white blooms, sweet smelling and alluring quality makes one want to own their own tree. Too hard to do?
From Growing Wild Ceeds… “At the organic food store where I work we have a healthy lemon cutting producing massive fruit in a garage setting all year. It makes for an impressive sight during the dead of a Canadian winter!”
Lemon trees are bright and perky, and their fruit is very healthy. If you are a gardener who likes a bit of a challenge, growing and caring for a lemon tree from seed may be just the activity for you.
In this article, we share tips to help you grow lemons and other citrus fruit trees from seed indoors or out in any climate. Read on to learn more.
Can You Grow Lemons Indoors In Cold Areas?
You can grow lemons and other selected citrus plant varieties indoors in colder climates. These indoor plants do not produce as much fruit as those grown outdoors in tropical areas but are awfully pretty to look at, and the flowers are pleasant and fragrant.
Even if you don’t live in a tropical setting, you can keep your lemon tree alive and healthy indoors, all year round, even in the coldest climates.
Learn More with: Tips On Growing Citrus Indoors Zone 7 or Lower
Although lemon trees are usually started from root cuttings, there is no reason why you shouldn’t try growing one from seed. Although it may take as long as six years for your tree to mature and begin producing fruit, the journey is more than half the fun.
Lemon trees are pretty with their dark green, shiny leaves. At maturity, they produce small, lovely, fragrant white blossoms.
Choose The Right Type Of Citrus Tree
The key to successfully growing lemons and other citrus fruits indoors lies in making a wise initial selection. Naturally, citrus trees intended for commercial production are too large to grow in the house. Luckily, there are quite a few species that do very well as houseplants.
Here are a few you can choose from:
* Ponderosa lemons and Meyers Lemon tree are nice, small choices that do very well as houseplants.
* The Calamondin orange tree (Citrofortunella mitis) is an attractive, small, indoor orange tree. The fruits of the tree are quite small and cannot be eaten out of hand because they are very sour. They can be used to make marmalade, and they make a nice garnish for drinks and a wide variety of summer dishes.
* Otaheite Orange (Citrus limonia or Citrus taitensis) is a hybrid cross between tangerines and lemons. This plant is a dwarf, so it is perfect for indoor growing.
* Tangerine (Citrus reticulata) is another good candidate for indoor growing. One variety that does very well is the Satsuma orange (which is a tangerine).
* A couple of other sort of oddball citrus fruits that do well indoors are the Citron (citrus medica) and the Fortunella species of kumquat.
All of these citrus fruits, not just Lemon can be grown from seed following the instructions given here. This makes it easy to put together your own mini-citrus orchard indoors with just a little effort and imagination.
Simple Method For Growing A Lemon Tree From Seed
Purchase An Organic Lemon
Go to your local health food store and purchase an organic lemon. If you are growing your tree in a container and/or indoors, look for Ponderosa or Meyer Lemons.
It is important for your “parent” lemon to be organic. Those from big, commercial, non-organic growers often do not have viable seeds.
Use Good Quality Soil
Get a good quality potting soil rich in organic compost, vermiculite, perlite, and peat. This provides a nice, light, well-drained soil mixture that will support good root growth for your burgeoning tree.
Choose A Container
Choose a good container. Even though you may be planning to keep your lemon tree indoors in a large container, you should start out with a small seedling pot. Start your seeds in little peat pots or in clay pots no larger than eight inches wide.
This small size will help you maintain more control over soil moisture. When your tree begins to outgrow its starter pot, you can move it up to a slightly larger container.
To keep it in perspective, your tree should be ready to move into a ten or twelve-inch pot in a couple of years.
If you use a plastic or resin container, be certain that it has plenty of drainage holes, and be very careful not to over water.
Containers made of natural substances, such as terra cotta or wood allow better air circulation for the roots, and this is very important to help prevent root rot.
On the other hand, if you will be moving your tree in and out of the house, you’ll want a light-weight container. In this case, synthetic material or a homemade hypertufa container may be best.
Choose The Growing Location
Choose a good setting for your citrus seed to get its start and grow happily. Citrus trees need lots of light, so you’ll want a setting in a nice, sunny window. You may also want to set up some artificial light.
To sprout successfully, your lemon seed will need between ten and fourteen hours of sun exposure daily. A southern window with full sun exposure is ideal. If you are not able to provide this, give it light with a 40-watt fluorescent grow light bulb.
Prepare Container And For Soil For Planting
Get ready to plant your seed. Begin by pre-moistening the soil by placing it in a bowl or bucket and adding room temperature tap water that has been allowed to air for 24 hours.
Thoroughly soak the soil and stir it up well. Transfer the pre-moistened soil to your starter container. Leave an inch of space between the top of the soil and the top of the container.
Selecting The Lemon Seeds (or Other Citrus Seeds)
Slice your lemon lengthwise to avoid cutting the seeds. Locate the plumpest lemon seed and pry it out of the lemon. You’ll want to clean the seed, and you can do this by wiping it off with a paper towel or putting it in your mouth to suck off all the lemon pulp and juice.
When it no longer tastes lemony, it’s clean. Don’t allow the seed to dry out before planting it. It needs to be moist to germinate well. You can just hold it in your mouth until you are ready to put it in the soil.
Planting The Seed
Poke a hole in the soil. It should be about half an inch deep. Pop the seed into the hole and cover it up with soil.
You needn’t worry too much about the orientation of the seed. The pointy end should face up, but if it doesn’t work out that way, the plant will grow toward the top, no matter what.
Keep Soil Moist
For germination, your container should be kept in a warm, still area. You can keep the soil in the container moist by covering it with some breathable plastic.
Alternately, you can just set the container in a sheltered area that receives bright, indirect light and keep a good eye on it to be sure it doesn’t dry out.
Seed Sprouts Emerge – Now What
Within a couple of weeks, you should see a tiny sprout emerging from the top of the soil.
At this point, you can remove the plastic and place the baby tree in an area that gets direct sunlight, but keep an eye on it. You don’t want it to dry out or burn up.
Keep Temperatures Warm and Soil Moist
Keep the temperature warm and the soil evenly moist, never soggy. If you are growing your seedling indoors, you’ll need to combat the dry air that is typically generated by central heat and air conditioning.
Do this by misting the soil (and later the seedling) lightly with a spray bottle every day. You may also wish to set up a pebble tray under the growing plant to generate humidity around it.
Alternate Germination Method
Note that some people peel the seed and place it in a damp paper towel, wrapped in plastic and stored in a dark place for a couple of weeks before planting. This can help speed up germination. This gardener does just that:
If you have a friend who has a mature citrus tree, you may wish to try propagation by cutting. To do this, you’ll need a shoot that has hardened up just a bit.
It needs to be young enough and pliable enough to take root, but it should not be very immature and soft as this will tend to rot. Take a cutting in the springtime or the summer when the plant is actively growing.
Root it in fresh, sterile potting mix kept slightly moist. Repot as needed as the plant grows.
How To Take Care Of Your Growing Lemon Plant
You are entering into a years’ long relationship with your little tree. If you take good care of it, you will be able to enjoy watching it grow for decades. Here are some tips to help you keep your little lemon tree strong and healthy and fruitful.
Lemon Tree Fertilizing:
Be sure to provide your lemon tree with good fertilizer we like staying organic. After your seedling has grown its first set of true leaves, give it a top dressing of vermicompost or another completely organic soil amendment.
Lightly disturb the surface of the soil around it gently with a fork at watering time. Sprinkle a layer of organic compost around the plant and work it into the soil lightly.
Proceed with watering. Henceforth, you will only need to do this a couple of times a year, once in the early spring, and once around mid-summer.
Alternately, you can use a commercial water-soluble fertilizer formulated for plants that prefer acidic soil.
Mix up a half-strength solution and only use it early in the spring and again toward mid-summer. Less is more. Be sure not to over-fertilize your little tree.
Watering Lemon Plants:
Take care never to allow your lemon tree to stand in water. It’s hard to set a precise schedule for watering as frequency depends a great deal on the conditions surrounding your plant; however, generally speaking, expect to water your lemon tree once or twice a week.
Remember that the soil should be lightly and consistently moist at all times. Once your seedling is well growing well, deep, infrequent watering is best.
Poke your finger into the soil daily. When the top several inches feel dry, it’s time to provide a thorough watering. Use room temperature tap water that has been left out to air for at least 24 hours to eliminate chemicals in the water.
Light and Warmth For Your Lemon Tree:
Provide consistent light and a steady temperature. Citrus trees need 10-14 hours of bright, indirect sunlight during germination and measured direct sunlight once established.
Mature plants need at least 8 hours of bright natural or artificial light daily. Daytime temperature should be at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit with a drop of five or ten degrees overnight.
What Kind of Potting Soil For Lemon Tree?
Remember the soil should be light and contain a lot of organic matter, such as compost, peat moss, coco coir or leaf mold.
Citrus plants like a slightly acidic soil, so peat moss is a good addition because it will lower the soil pH levels.
If you want to make your own potting mix, a combination of equal parts sterile potting soil, vermiculite or perlite and peat moss or coco coir is a good recipe.
Citrus plants are prone to spider mite, whitefly and scale infestation. Wipe the leaves clean with a slightly damp cloth once a week or so.
Wipe both topsides and bottoms of the leaves. Dry them gently with a soft, clean cloth. If your plants are bothered by an insect infestation, natural remedies are always best.
Add a little Neem insecticide oil to the water you use to dampen the cleaning cloth. You may also wipe off heavy infestations with a cotton ball or cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol.
If the leaves of your plant are wilted and then recover after watering, you are not watering enough. If you notice your plant’s leaves turning yellow and not recovering after watering, you may be overwatering.
How To Stimulate Fruit Production.
Remember that fruit trees need pollination if the blossoms are going to become fruit. If your citrus plants are kept indoors, you probably will not have natural pollinators (insects) present to pollinate your plants.
In this case, give the blossoms a light shaking to simulate pollination and you will have a greater chance of getting some fruit from your little trees.
In cold climates, citrus houseplants may enjoy spending time outdoors in the summer.
Be sure to acclimate them properly before leaving them outdoors for extended periods of time. Monitor sun exposure to avoid having tender, indoor leaves burn.
You can acclimate your indoor citrus to being outdoors in summer by starting them out under a shade tree or on the north side of your house so that exposure to direct sunlight will be limited.
Keep them in this location for several days to give them a chance to adjust, then move them slowly to a brighter setting. Reverse the process when the days begin to cool and get them back indoors before the first frost.
It really isn’t hard to grow lemon trees and other citrus plants, whether you live in a tropical setting or a cold climate.
Getting fruit indoors can be quite a challenge, and some people feel that lemon trees and other citrus trees planted from seed will not grow large enough to produce flowers and bear fruit, and indeed this is a very long process (3-6 years).
Nonetheless, it is an enjoyable pursuit that (if nothing else) produces a very pretty houseplant. [source]