Lemon Tree Care

(Question)

I have a lemon tree that I’ve started from seed. It’s just about to turn 5 yrs old and I’m looking for ways to speed or encourage flowering and fruiting.

Any advice on fertilizers, pruning or any other tips that will help keep the tree happy, healthy and fruiting as soon as possible?

Thank you!

(Answer)

Lemon trees typically flourish outdoors in warm southern climates with lots of sun.  But they can also be grown indoors, as you have illustrated in your photo.

Growing and harvesting your own lemons can be such a rewarding experience.  The blossoms have a lemony scent and the harvest can be prolific if all the growing requirements are met.

What are the growing requirements to achieve a harvest?

1.Water

2.Light

3. Soil and Food

4. Pollination

In terms of the age of your tree, five years is the average age at which a lemon tree will have blossoms and set fruit.  You should prune out diseased or dead branches.   Pinching the growing tips once the plant starts growing in the spring will encourage branching and you will have a fuller tree.  Do not prune too many leaves.  The tree needs lots of leaves to provide sufficient nourishment for fruit development.

Watering is the key.  Your tree should be consistently moist but not wet.  Water when the soil feels dry when you stick your finger into the soil up to your second knuckle.  Good drainage is essential and make sure the bottom of the pot does not sit in water.  Because our buildings are so dry in the winter, you may want to increase the humidity around the tree by placing the pot on a tray filled with water and covered with pebbles.  A daily misting of the leaves will also benefit the plant.

I note from your photo that your tree is located in a corner and that the leaves are quite large.  This is an indicator that your plant is not getting enough sunlight.  8 – 12 hours a day is essential, something that is generally not possible in our Ontario winters.  Place your plant near a south or south west facing window.  A full spectrum grow light is ideal to supplement additional daylight hours.

Lemon trees are heavy feeders so you will want to transplant your tree into a pot that is one size larger than the pot it is in.  Wide is better than high.  Use light soil with organic compost, not garden soil.  Garden soil compacts too easily.  During the growing season , spring to fall, fertilize once a month with a fertilizer slightly higher in nitrogen such as 3:1:1. Do not over fertilize! If you are unsure, less is better.

During the winter months, keep your tree at the low end of the temperature range of 15.5 degrees to 29 degrees that the tree can withstand.  In the spring, place in a warmer location and this will signal the tree that it is time for blossoms to develop.  As the blossoms develop, please ensure that the soil always stays evenly moist, otherwise the blossoms will drop.  If there are too many blossoms, the tree will naturally drop some of the blossoms so that it will only have as much fruit as it can sustain.

A lemon tree is a self-fertile plant so you will not need a second lemon tree for pollination.  However, since the plant is located indoors and there is no wind and there are no bees, you will have to pollinate the blossoms yourself.  Gentry swab the inside of the flower with a cotton swab or an artist’s brush to transfer the pollen into the pistil (the centre of the plant).  It will take 6 – 8 months for the the lemons to ripen.  They only ripen while they are on the tree so be patient only only pick the fruit when it is slightly soft to the touch.

Then sit back and enjoy a nice glass of freshly made lemonade!