Plants A to Z

How to Grow and Care for Meyer Lemon Trees

Meyer lemon trees (Citrus meyeri) are a wonderful experience to grow in garden pots or the ground. Not only do they yield a lot of fruit, but their spectacular white blossoms are also quite fragrant and lovely, and they have lustrous, black foliage that adds to the visual appeal.

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Meyer lemon trees are native to China and grow naturally shrub-like, but can easily be pruned into a proper tree shape. They can grow up to 10 feet tall when planted in the ground, but when grown in garden pots, they'll usually be smaller and grow to fit the size of the container. Seedlings grow slowly and should give fruit in approximately four years. After the risk of frost has gone, these trees are best planted in the early spring. They require warm weather all year to provide a healthy harvest, or they must be overwintered indoors.

The Meyer lemon is a hybrid fruit that is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, unlike the more common Eureka and Lisbon lemons. Meyer lemons are sweeter than other lemon bushes' fruit, and even the peels are pleasant and useful in the kitchen. In addition, they are smaller and have a more rounded shape. Like those of other citrus fruits, the skin and plant elements of the fruit are harmful to dogs and cats.

Meyer Lemon Tree Maintenance

Meyer lemon trees thrive in warm climates like Florida and California, where they're popular as low-maintenance container-grown plants for both outside and inside use. Although they are colder tolerant than Eureka and Lisbon lemon trees, they still require a protected and sunny location to grow. Because these trees don't fare well in wet weather, choose a location with good drainage. Build a broad mound of soil to plant your tree or place it on a slope if you're worried about standing water.

Light

The Meyer lemon tree, like all citrus trees, thrives in the sun. Though it can thrive in a somewhat gloomy area, it will grow and fruit best in full sunlight. This tree requires at least eight hours of direct sunlight per day.

Meyer lemon trees can thrive in practically any type of soil as long as it drains well. They prefer a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5 and flourish in loamy or sandy soil. It's a good idea to test your soil before planting to see whether it requires any adjustments. If necessary, you can apply lime to raise the pH of the soil or sulfur to lower it.

Water

Proper hydration is one of the most important aspects of cultivating any citrus plant, especially those grown in pots. The goal is to keep your Meyer lemon tree's soil moist but not soggy. Stick your finger into the soil at least up to the second knuckle to see if it's time to water your plant. Wait to water if you sense dampness on your fingertip. If your plant appears to be dry, water it until water runs out the bottom of the pot.

If your Meyer lemon tree is indoors, spraying the leaves with water will help maintain it healthy, especially in the winter when the heat is on. Pot feet, which enable water to flow out of the pot and keep the plant from becoming soggy, are a fantastic idea.

Humidity and Temperature

Temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for Meyer lemon trees. That means that unless you live in USDA growth zones 9 to 11, you should bring your tree indoors when temperatures begin to fall below this range regularly. When temperatures drop below freezing, even in zones 9 to 11, the tree should be protected. To assist capture the heat from the earth, use a covering that stretches to the ground.

Humidity levels of 50% and higher are ideal for citrus trees. Fill a tray with pebbles, pour water just below the tops of the rocks, then lay your pot on top of the rocks to raise humidity surrounding the plant if you don't have a humid enough environment indoors. Consider putting a tiny humidifier nearby as well.

Fertilizer

Feed your Meyer lemon tree either a high-nitrogen fertilizer or a slow-release all-purpose fertilizer during the growing season (early spring through fall). Three applications spread evenly throughout the growing season should be sufficient to keep your plant happy, thriving, and producing. Additional feeding with a liquid fertilizer, such as compost tea, liquid kelp, or fish emulsion, is beneficial to citrus trees, but it is not always necessary.

Meyer Lemon Tree Pruning

It's entirely up to you how you prune your Meyer lemon tree; the tree's general shape does not influence its ability to produce fruit. Many gardeners choose to cut the tree so that the trunk is exposed and the shape is conventional, while others want a hedge-like appearance.

In either case, don't prune the tree until it's between 3 and 4 feet tall. Because most of the fruit ripens in the winter, you should wait until that time to prune. Prune any dead or dying branches and any long, thin stems (which aren't strong enough to hold fruit), starting at the base. You can then cut any branches hindering the growth of others or preventing the plant from getting enough air.

Meyer Lemon Tree Propagation

Lemon trees are less challenging to propagate than other citrus trees. This can be done at any time of year with semi-hardwood cuttings, but the method is more likely to succeed if the cutting is taken while the tree is actively growing. This means cuttings should be done in the late spring or early summer. The cutting should come from new, healthy growth and should not contain any flowers or fruit. Here's how to take a clipping and grow a new Meyer lemon tree:

  1. Take a cutting from a disease-free, mature mother plant with a segment that is at least 3 to 6 inches long.
  2. Except for the top four leaves on the wood, remove any leaves, blossoms, or fruit from the cutting.
  3. To prevent the cut end of the branch from decay or disease, dip it in a rooting hormone powder.
  4. Place a high-quality potting mix that has been carefully moistened in a medium-sized pot (approximately 1 gallon).
  5. Insert the cutting into the soil mixture, ensuring that the cut end of the brand is completely buried.
  6. Place the pot and chopping board in a brightly lighted area and cover with a plastic bag to keep the moisture in. Keep the soil moist (but not waterlogged) and spray the cutting now and again until it grows new roots (usually two months).
  7. Remove the plastic covering once the roots have formed and continue to care for your plant, as usual, keeping it indoors or in a sheltered position until the following spring.

Meyer Lemon Tree Repotting and Potting

Choose a five-gallon or bigger container at least 12 to 15 inches tall for potting a Meyer lemon tree (or repotting a tree that has outgrown its container). Make sure there are plenty of drainage holes in the container.

Remove the tree from its original container and fluff the roots if they are matted, then fill the pot halfway with a potting mixture (preferably one meant for citrus plants). Place the tree in the pot's center and fill in the gaps with the potting mixture just to the point where the crown of the roots can still be seen. Water the tree right away after pressing down the soil. Potted trees will need to be watered more frequently than their in-ground counterparts.

Meyer Lemon Harvesting

Lemon trees cultivated indoors often only bear fruit in the spring, whereas outside trees in warm climes bear fruit all year. Wait until your Meyer lemons are fully ripe before picking them, as citrus fruit only continues to ripen while still on the tree. Meyer lemons are an egg yolk yellow color when fully ripe and slightly soft to the touch. Cut the fruit from the branch with a knife or scissors to avoid damaging the plant by pulling off a larger piece than intended.

Common Plant Pests and Diseases

Whiteflies, rust mites, mealybugs, aphids, and scale are all common pests that attack Meyer lemon trees and citrus trees in general. At the same time, mature adult trees can resist these problems. Pest infestations are usually visible on the undersides of leaves or the fruit.

Begin by trimming away any dead, unhealthy, or infected sections of the tree to control and remove pest problems. Spray the plant with a diluted horticultural oil, such as neem oil, and reapply as needed until all signs of infection have gone away.

Meyer Lemon Trees: How to Make Them Bloom

Though Meyer lemon trees aren't known for their blossoms, getting them to bloom is crucial because they generate fruit. Meyer lemon trees do not flower during the first few years of their lives, so look for blooms around the third or fourth year.

The most crucial factor in a blossoming Meyer lemon tree is plenty of light—all citrus trees require a lot of light to bloom and will not bloom unless they receive at least eight hours per day. Consider potting your lemon tree (rather than planting it in the ground), so you can move it around and "chase" the light throughout the day if you don't have one spot in your lawn that gets that much light.

If your Meyer lemon tree is receiving plenty of light but isn't flowering, it's time to review your fertilization program. Fertilize your tree once a month, but no more—trees that are treated too regularly have just as much trouble blossoming as those that aren't fed often enough. Select a fertilizer designed exclusively for citrus trees.

When it comes to encouraging your Meyer lemon tree to blossom, the temperature is also vital. Throughout order to blossom, your plant will require a brief period of lower temperatures (about 60 degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter and early spring.

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Elissa Sanci
Elissa Sanci
Elissa Sanci, the owner of the website GardenProducts.org, graduated from Santa Barbara City College – a famous public school in California with many diverse training professions, and she majored in horticulture.