Photo: By Olha Solodenko (Shutterstock)
Having your own lemon tree at home is often a luxury that we assume is reserved for people living in citrus-friendly areas like sunny California or humid Florida. That doesn’t mean those in the Northeast, Midwest, or other regions of the country can’t simply indulge in their own freshly squeezed lemonade. With a little attention, you can grow a lemon tree right in your home.
How to Grow and Care for a Lemon Tree (Without Moving to Florida).
The best lemon trees to grow indoors
Lemon trees that thrive outdoors with lots of space won’t work well in an enclosed setting, so knowing the specifics of the different breeds and their sizes is important. In general, a dwarf tree is best for smaller spaces. Dwarf fruit trees can grow up to two to three meters tall, which is certainly larger than the average houseplant but smaller than the average lemon tree. Dwarf trees can also grow in pots and containers indoors instead of in soil, and they are easier to prune and their size is easier to maintain because the roots are shorter than other varieties. Best of all, they ripen faster, so you get fruit sooner than you expect.
Choosing the right type of tree also depends on what type of flavor you like and how much work you want to put into it. If you want a tree that requires less maintenance and produces lemons on the sweeter side, go for the Zwergmeyer lemon tree. Meyer lemons are a mix of sour lemons and sweet oranges that make them sweeter than your average lemon. They get by without great heat and are easy to care for. Dwarf eureka lemons grow all year round, but are rather tart. Eureka lemon trees need a lot of light to thrive, however, so make sure they are near a south-facing window when growing these lemons indoors.
How to choose the right planter for your lemon tree
The right plant pot is essential for the healthy growth of your lemon tree – and the most important element is its drainage holes. You don’t want the plant to stand in water as this can encourage root rot. Terracotta pots are particularly suitable for drainage, but you can also use plastic or glazed pots with sufficient drainage holes.
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Apartment therapy recommends that the plant pot be at least twice as large as the root ball of the plant – this gives the roots enough space to grow and carry fruit. The soil should be a mixture that also drains well. If you’re making your own soil, Apartment Therapy suggests mimicking your natural soil by mixing equal parts potting soil and sand.
Caring for an indoor lemon tree
Lemon trees grown indoors are in a different care class than outdoors. For example as Garden know-how explains, “If the variety of lemon you are growing normally has a hardiness zone of 7, the lemon tree is in a container a winter hardiness zone of 8. ”Therefore you should water and fertilize accordingly. Water at least two to three times a week – sometimes daily during the growing season– and make sure you soak the plant enough that you can see water escaping through the drainage holes. Keeping the plant moist (but not soaked) will give the roots the right amount of moisture to keep the leaves healthy; You should never let the plant dry out completely.
Fertilizer is another key element for your lemon tree. Planting company Pennington says that “lemon trees need plenty of nitrogen as well as other essential nutrients, including magnesium and iron.” Fertilize every three to four months, being careful not to disturb the shallow roots, which can damage the plant.
Here’s How To Tell If Your Indoor Lemon Tree Is Having Problems
There are signs that your potted tree may be in danger. Pay attention to yellow leaveswhich can be a sign of sodden roots (meaning the pot is not draining properly). You should also pay special attention to your lemon tree in the winter months, as it is very susceptible to the cold.
Also pay attention to “Sucker branches“That begin to grow at the root of the plant and can take over the tree – prune as soon as you see them. If you follow these steps, you’ll have juicy lemons year round.