The Meyer lemon tree (Citrus × meyeri) has rounder fruit and fewer seeds than most lemons, with a smooth, thin skin that turns deep canary yellow when ripe. Sweeter and less acidic than other lemons, the Meyer is a hybrid between a lemon and a sweet orange or mandarin. Brought to the United States from Beijing, China, in 1908, this tree is a prolific fruit producer with showy white and fragrant blooms that emerge against dark foliage.
Grow the Meyer lemon tree in containers or outside, but their naturally shrub-like growth makes pruning and maintaining the plant easier than other fruit trees. If planting outdoors, wait until the final frost passes and expect fruit to bear after four or more years. Warmer climates will produce better results, including year-round produce. Keep Meyer lemon trees away from pets, as the skin, fruit, and plant contains toxins similar to other citrus fruits.
|Citrus × meyeri, Citrus x limon
|Tree, Shrub, Fruit, Perennial
|6-10 ft. tall, 4-8 ft. wide
|Loamy, Sandy, Moist, Well-drained
|Acidic to neutral (5.5 to 8.0)
|Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
|Zones 8-11 (USDA)
|toxic to dogs, cats and horses
«Meyer» Lemon Tree Care
Meyers love sunshine, warmth, and well-drained, slightly acidic soil. They are more cold-tolerant than actual lemons. In the Coastal and Tropical South, use them as specimens or large hedges in ornamental and edible gardens. They grow six to 12 feet wide and tall and respond well to pruning. In the Upper, Middle, and Lower South, grow them in containers and bring them inside during cold weather.
For containers, choose a well-drained potting mix and a fertilizer specially made for citrus. Water consistently to keep the soil slightly moist but not wet. Never leave your container in a saucer of standing water. Use a soil moisture meter to determine whether your plant needs watering. When your tree is actively growing and fruiting (early spring through late summer), feed it regularly.
The Meyer lemon tree loves full sun exposure, at least eight hours daily. These citrus trees can survive in partial sunlight, but the more direct sunlight, the more showy blooms, and better fruit bearings.
Meyer lemon trees adapt to most soil types and prefer an acidic pH. Loamy, sandy, and well-draining soils are best. Drainage is critical for growing Meyer lemon trees as it prefers moist but not soggy soil. Test and adjust the soil nutrients as needed.
Balancing water drainage helps Meyer lemon trees thrive, especially container plants. Keep soil moist but well-draining, and only water when the top few inches are dry. Ensure proper drainage in containers and adjust for rainfall when planting trees outdoors. Use a spray bottle throughout the colder months to provide moisture without oversaturating the container.
Temperature and Humidity
Meyer lemons prefer temperatures between 50°F and 80°F degrees. Once temperatures drop below 50°F, prepare to bring your tree inside and stop feeding. Place your lemon tree near a south-facing window in a sunny location. Keep it away from heating vents, which can dry out the leaves and make it attractive to spider mites. Deter these pests by regularly misting the foliage with water or treating them using an insecticidal soap or organic neem oil.
Meyer lemon trees need fertilizer during their growing season. Use a granular or slow-release fertilizer high in nitrogen starting in the spring and continuing three to four times until the fall. Leave enough time between fertilization for the lemon tree to grow and produce. Organic material, such as fully decomposed coffee grounds, adds nutritional benefits to lemon trees because it contains nitrogen and calcium.
Types of Lemon Trees
The Meyer lemon tree is a hybrid citrus tree known for its sweet, fruit-bearing qualities. This tree is popular with gardeners but is one of many lemon trees available. Here are some other lemon tree varieties to know:
- Lisbon Lemon: This medium-sized lemon variety is a vigorous grower, heat-tolerant, and produces fruits several times a year.
- Pink Eureka Lemon: This lemon has a tart flavoring and a variegated white and light green lemon with fragrant foliage.
- Ponderosa Lemon: Often used in dessert dishes, this lemon has a bumpy rind and is high in vitamin C.
Cosmetic pruning helps maintain the Meyer lemon tree’s shape but does not impact fruit production. Wait until the winter after the fruit ripens to prune, and ensure the tree is at least three or four feet tall. Start by removing dead or dying branches near the tree’s base, and continue working to eliminate branches that are not strong enough to support bearing fruit. Provide the lemon tree with enough space to encourage airflow between the foliage.
Propagating «Meyer» Lemon Trees
When «Meyer» lemon trees actively grow in late spring or early summer, propagate the plant with cuttings. Here’s how to propagate a «Meyer» lemon tree:
- Select branches with no fruit or flowers to make a hardwood cutting using a sharp knife or pruning shears.
- After cutting, remove any remaining foliage at the bottom, leaving only two to four leaves near the top.
- Dip hardwood cutting into a rooting hormone if desired. Rooting hormone can help stimulate new growth and protect the new tree from fungi or disease.
- Fill a container or pot with potting soil. Water the soil and allow it to drain, so it is moist.
- Plant hardwood cuttings in potting soil and gently pack the soil around the cut end.
- Use a plastic bag or container to enclose the entire hardwood cuttings and pot, stimulating the humidity. Place the container in direct sunlight and continue watering the soil, so it’s moist but well-drained.
- In about two months, new roots will emerge from hardwood cuttings. Gently tug on the hardwood cutting to feel for resistance to test if roots have emerged.
- Repot cuttings into a larger container or outdoors after the final frost passes.
How to Grow «Meyer» Lemon Trees From Seed
Typically not started from seed, you can grow «Meyer» lemon trees from germinated seeds if you prefer, but the fruit it bears might taste different from those started as cuttings or a young sapling and can take about 15 years to produce. Here is how to grow a «Meyer» lemon tree from seed:
- Using a «Meyer» lemon, cut it with a sharp knife and remove the seeds. Rinse seeds in warm water to remove any remaining flesh.
- Place seeds on a paper towel in a cool, dark location if you don’t plan to plant them immediately. It’s best to plant seeds immediately for successful germination because it reduces the possibility of drying out.
- Place seeds on a paper towel inside a sealed plastic bag to store in a refrigerator. Keep seeds cool.
- Remove seeds from the refrigerator in early spring and soak them in a container filled with warm water for at least two to three hours before planting. Discard floating seeds.
- Fill a container with potting soil and plant seeds at least one-fourth of an inch under the soil.
- Water seeds and continue watering to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Use your hand to feel the top inches of soil to know when to water again.
- Place the container in a warm location—at least 70°F or higher.
- After about two weeks, the seeds should start to germinate. Move seedlings to a sunny location or place under artificial light. Make sure plants receive at least six hours of daily sunlight.
Potting and Repotting «Meyer» Lemon Trees
Meyer lemon trees occasionally need repotting if it outgrows their current container. Always select a pot with plenty of drainage holes and large enough in diameter to comfortably contain the roots. Here’s how to repot:
- Fill the new container with new potting soil.
- Grab the base of the lemon tree and gently remove it from its existing container. Brush excess soil off roots and remove clumps.
- Place the tree in the new container filled with potting soil. Continue filling the container with potting soil and gently packing it around the rootball. The tree’s crown should be visible.
- Water the plant and keep the soil moist but well-drained. Transplanted trees require more frequent watering as it establishes their roots.
If growing a lemon tree indoors, move the container near a south-facing window with direct sunlight. The tree should still receive at least six hours of daily sunlight. Transplant outdoor lemon trees inside when temperatures reach 40°F. Try to avoid exposing trees to freezing temperatures.
Keep the plant in an area that maintains temperatures between 55°F and 70°F. Don’t place plants near heating vents, as it will dry out the trees. Since citrus trees require humidity, a humidifier to simulate a greenhouse can help promote a warmer climate throughout the winter. Continue water and sunlight care. When ready to move trees outside, use a slow-release fertilizer before transplanting to help encourage growth.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
A «Meyer» lemon tree is relatively pest-free and disease-resistant. Keep trees healthy by pruning away dead, damaged, or diseased branches and keeping them open for adequate airflow. If pests, such as aphids, whiteflies, rust mites, mealybugs, or scale persists, use an organic horticultural oil such as neem oil. Combine neem oil with water for a less harsh spray to create a diluted solution.
A copper fungicide applied on foliage before and after the summer season can help prevent diseases from emerging. Rot and blight can occur with an imbalance of water and sunlight.
How to Get «Meyer» Lemon Trees to Bloom
Lemon trees blossom based on environmental conditions, maturity, and health. Young trees will often only bloom after three to four years, encouraging bearing fruit, which can take even longer. Continue properly caring for trees, including enough daily sunlight, water, and fertilizer. Depending on your area, growing lemon trees in containers might be better suited to your climate. Lemon trees need plenty of sunlight and consistent temperatures, including introducing lemon trees to colder temperatures during winter and early spring to encourage blooming.
Common Problems With «Meyer» Lemon Trees
Even though «Meyer» lemon trees are typically easy to care for, these citrus trees still experience some problems that need addressing. Here are a few things to look for when caring for lemon trees:
Leaves Turning Yellow
Overwatering is the main reason lemon trees» foliage will turn yellow. Consistently oversaturating the roots can lead to root rot and an imbalance in soil nutrients necessary for the tree to thrive. Use your fingers to feel the top inches of soil to know when to water. If it is dry, then the plant needs more water, but make sure it drains entirely.
Drooping leaves can signify Armillaria root rot is present, a fungal infection that will destroy plants if not treated. Branches might die back, and the foliage might become yellow in addition to leaf droop. If the disease is in its early stages, treat it by removing sections of the rootball containing the «mushroom-like» clusters near the tree’s base. Do not replace the infected roots with soil. If the disease is widespread, you may need to remove the entire tree and start a new tree in a new location.
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- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Lemon.