Growing lemons inside your home may sound a bit far-fetched, but actually it’s not. After all, an indoor lemon tree is just another plant – except that it’s a wee bit larger than a regular indoor plant. Not to worry, lucky for us there are dwarf lemon trees that do very well in containers and are small enough to grow indoors.
Some fruit plants do not look attractive as they grow, but lemon trees are an exception. The contrast between the green leaves and the lemons makes a really attractive addition to your home, never mind the fragrance and the pretty flowers that bloom a lot of the year.
If your mouth is watering at the thought of lemon cheesecake, lemon bars, lemon meringue pie or simply a refreshing lemon water drink in the morning, you may be interested to know about other benefits lemons offer. Here’s a short video with 8 health benefits that may surprise you.
You can grow a lemon tree from seed (not covered in this article) but you may have to wait 3 to 5 years before flowers form, or you can skip the early steps and purchase one anytime of the year. If you decide on the latter option and if you choose one with some fruit already developing on the stems, you’ll know that the tree will actually produce fruit.
Indoor Lemon Tree Variety
So, let’s get down to business. What type of lemon tree to buy?
In short, the home gardener can’t go wrong with a Meyer lemon tree. This is a compact tree that grows 6 to 8 feet in height, which makes it suitable for growing indoors. It is self-pollinating but only when grown outdoors, so you’ll need to manually pollinate the flowers.
The thin-skinned lemons are medium-sized, elliptical in shape and are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. They’re slightly sweeter than regular lemons, so keep this in mind when using them in recipes.
The Meyer lemon tree is a lovely looking tree that adapts well to being grown in a container. The tree produces fragrant flowers in late spring with fruits developing over the next 6 to 12 months. That means that there can be flowers and fruits on the tree at the same time.
Location and Light
Native to Mediterranean countries, the Meyer lemon tree needs a lot of sunlight in order to be healthy enough to produce fruit, at least 6 hours a day. The more sunlight the faster the growth will be. If possible, place your tree by a sunny window, but if that is not possible, full spectrum grow lights which mimic the sun’s rays are a perfect substitute.
With grow lights, you can place your tree almost anywhere in your home. Keep in mind that even if your plant is near a window, you may want to supplement the daylight with grow lights for faster growth.
A benefit of growing in a container is that you can move your indoor lemon tree outdoors during the summer months. But make sure you bring it inside before any impending night frosts.
Finally, all citrus trees require cool winters to produce fruit; a warm room could prevent the fruit from forming. For that reason, a cool room such as a spare room or a sunroom would be an ideal location.
Your pots should have multiple drainage holes to give the roots some aeration and prevent the soil from becoming sodden.
Good choices for container material are plastic or polypropylene since they are lightweight and retain moisture; the soil can dry out quickly with porous materials like terra cotta pots. Another benefit of the lighter materials is that the containers are easier to move around. Also, it’s advisable to avoid black pots which absorb the heat and can “cook” the roots.
Depending on the size of the tree you buy, it’s best to start small and then work your way up as your tree grows. If the tree is small, start with a container that’s at least 7” wide and 12” deep. Definitely don’t use a large pot for small trees. Of course, as the tree grows you’ll need to transplant it into larger pots.
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Lemon trees need a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. You can’t go wrong with a potting mix designed specifically for citrus plants, such as Miracle Gro’s Cactus, Palm and Citrus Potting Mix.
Citrus trees, including the Meyer lemon, are fussy about water. Too much or too little will impact fruit development, so a rule of thumb is to water as infrequently as possible to keep the soil moist but not soggy. When watering, the water should drain down to the roots and out the drainage holes. Then test regularly, until the soil feels a little dry at the top. But don’t let the roots dry out completely.
A soil test meter that includes a moisture meter will take the guessing out of watering and ensure the soil has the correct acidity too.
As mentioned earlier, with the absence of bees indoors, you’ll need to give your lemon tree some help with pollination. Without pollination, there will be no fruit.
So, when the tree has flowers, take a soft brush with a fine tip and gently brush the tip of the stamens (male parts), then brush the pistil (female parts) of another flower (the stamens encircle the pistil). Repeat this with all the flowers. Flowers of lemon trees bloom throughout the year, so there should be plenty of opportunity for the tree to produce fruit.
As a general guideline, fertilize your indoor lemon tree when new growth starts in early spring. Choose a fertilizer formulated specifically for citrus plants, such as Miracle Gro Shake ‘N Feed Citrus, Avocado, Mango Plant Food.
Regular pruning is important when growing citrus trees in containers. Through pruning, you can limit the tree size and boost the production of bigger, better fruits. Prune your plant when new growth appears in the spring. Also remove thorns, roots, and any shoots that form near the soil.
The color of the rind does not necessarily indicate ripeness, so it’s a good idea to taste test before picking. Since the fruit can be harvested over several months, to avoid a glut you can leave the lemons on the tree until you’re ready to use them.
Growing an indoor lemon tree will give you an abundant lemon crop if you treat it with the care it needs. In addition, you’ll have a beautiful plant to adorn your home that gives off a soothing fragrance. The fragrance is said to boost serotonin levels, which helps us feel happy!