Lemon tree, magnificent fruit trees

A healthy lemon tree branch with two ripe yellow lemons.

Lemon tree is a rather easy citrus to grow. It looks magnificent, too!

A summary of Lemon tree facts

NameCitrus limon
FamilyRutaceae (Rue family)
Typefruit tree

Height – 10 to 16 feet(3 to 5 meters)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – well-drained

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – March to July
Harvest – winter

Planting, caring and pruning it are steps that help enhance fruit-bearing and avoid diseases on your lemon tree.

Planting a lemon tree

The planting of the lemon tree is an important step that influences its further development, lemon production, and lifespan.

Lemon trees are demanding trees that require well drained and rich soil to develop well.

Planting a lemon tree outdoors

Planting lemon trees in the ground is possible only in mild-wintered areas. They are vulnerable to freezing and need temperatures that never drop below 41 to 44°F (5 to 7°C) in winter.

Plant your lemon tree preferably in spring, after the last frost spells. Choose a sheltered spot well-endowed with sunlight.

  • Dig a hole about 2 times as deep and wide as the soil clump is.
  • Place a drainage layer at the bottom of the hole with gravel or clay pebbles.
  • Mix garden soil with planting soil mix. Settle the plant down in the middle of the hole.
  • Fill the hole in with the same mix and then water.

Potted lemon tree

If it freezes in your area, try to grow your lemon tree in pots with shelter for winter.

Lemon trees can’t survive indoors in winter, so they will need an outside unheated greenhouse, or horticultural fleece if the climate stays mild enough.

Pruning a lemon tree

Pruning isn’t really needed, but if you don’t prune it, your lemon tree will quickly grow very large. Yellow lemon trees are particularly vigorous, and require pruning, especially if grown in pots.

Season for lemon tree pruning

Pruning is best in spring, ideally during the months of March, April or May. You should never prune before or during winter, this would make the plant vulnerable to freezing.

How to prune your lemon tree

Using a disinfected hand pruner, cut each new shoot back to more or less half its length, taking great care to cut just above a leaf.

  • You must cut just above a bud facing outwards (the bud is located at the base of a leaf).
  • This will result in your tree keeping a nice, tight shape.
  • You might need to do this several times a year.

Remove dead wood regularly and clear the inside branches to let light penetrate to the center.

Watering lemon tree

White flower of the lemon tree.If planted outdoors, normal rainfall should be enough to provide for the lemon tree’s needs, especially if the climate in your area is wet. However, during the first year and in case of high temperatures or prolonged dry spells, it is best to water from time to time.

  • You know if your lemon trees need water when their leaves start drooping or bending over.

In pots, water as soon as the soil is dry, without flooding the pots. It is best to water with collected rain water, because they are vulnerable to calcium ions in water. Tap water often is too hard, leading to chlorosis.

Caring for your lemon tree

Unripe lemon fruitLike most citrus, lemon trees are quite difficult to grow directly in the ground when winters are cold.

Regularly give them citrus-specific organic fertilizers to give them the best chances of developing well.

Growing them in pots is most adapted, because that makes it possible to bring the lemon trees to a spot where it doesn’t freeze in the winter.

Lemon trees aren’t indoor plants, and can’t bear staying in a heated environment all year round. They need relatively lower temperatures from October to May, especially during the night.

  • If you’re looking for citrus plants that cope well with growing indoors, check out calamondin trees, or kumquat, one of the calamondin’s ancestors.

Diseases commonly found on lemon trees

Lemon tree diseases and parasites are the same that would attack most citrus plants.

Rotting fruit, aphids or scale insects don’t spare lemon trees and you’ll find proof of their presence on leaves.

  • European brown rot – lemons rot while still on the tree
  • More severe: Citrus foot rot – the trunk starts to burst with gummosis, lemons turn brown and moldy, fall off.
  • Scale insects – whitish masses colonize leaves
  • Aphids – leaves curl up and fall off
  • Thrips – streaks of silver appear on fruits and white patches dotted with black dots on leaves

Learn more about the lemon tree

A close relative to Citron, one of the three original citrus, lemon has long been grown in many civilizations. Lemon health benefits are renowned, and in culinary use it has thousands of applications.

In the garden, too, you can use lemon to repel ants and keep them from climbing up your fruit trees where they tend to aphids. Simply cut the fruit into slices and tie them around a tree trunk. Block all passageways by overlapping the slices a little.

Smart tip about lemon tree

Pick the lemons as soon as they easily break off from their branch.

Learn more about citrus plants


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Lemons on tree by John Englart under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Lemon tree flower by Ulrike Leone under Pixabay license
Unripe lemons by Free Photos under Pixabay license