You don’t have to live on the Mediterranean to cultivate your own lemon tree. You can grow your own succulent lemons at home in almost any climate, as long as you properly care for your plants.
While it’s true that those in perpetually hot & sunny regions can enjoy lemon trees outdoors no matter the season, lemon trees can also thrive in colder climates. If you live in an area that gets hit by snow and freezing temperatures, just bring the plant indoors when the temperatures drop! Lemon trees have been known to bloom right through freezing winters even when placed in a garage. The sight of their dark green, glossy oval leaves and the citrusy fragrance produced by their pretty white flowers is enough to cheer up a gardener on the gloomiest of days.
It’s simpler to grow a lemon tree from a cutting, but they’re not always widely available. That’s why we’re going to outline how to grow a lemon tree straight from seed. As with all gardening, patience is key. It usually takes between 3-6 years for a lemon tree to bear fruit. Naturally, it’s well worth the wait!
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll get to witness the growth of your very own lemon tree:
1. Cut open an organic lemon. Most any variety will do. Those who expect to grow their tree as an indoor houseplant may want to try a Meyer lemon, which is smaller and typically grown as ornamental fruit. Pick out a seed from the lemon that seems healthy. Wash off any fruit residue, then place it in a glass of water (the seed must not dry out!).
2. Chill the seed to kickstart germination. Lemon seeds need to experience a brief cold period to push them into germination mode. You can create the ideal environment by placing your seed in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. Wrap your seed in a paper towel, folding it so the seed is securely nestled inside. Put the paper towel in a plastic baggie or food container, then place it in the veggie compartment.
3. Time to plant! After you remove your seed from the fridge, soak it for a few hours in water. Then pre-moisten potting soil so that it’s thoroughly damp. Fill a 5-6 inch deep container/pot with the soil, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Now plant the seed about 1/2 an inch below the soil. Cover it with soil, then water with a squirt bottle. Cover the pot with a sheet of plastic with holes punched into it. This ensures the plant stays moist.
4. Keep things warm. Identify a sunny location for your newly planted lemon seed, and transport the container there. A window sill that receives direct light is ideal. If that’s not possible, invest in a grow light! They’re cheap and make a huge difference. You’re aiming to give your plant about 10-14 hours of direct light a day. Observe the container and the soil every day, making sure it doesn’t overheat or dry out. If you think things are heating up too much, go ahead and remove the plastic covering. Also, make sure the potting soil doesn’t get too dry at any point.
5. Give your lemons plenty of TLC. About 2-6 weeks after planting, you may notice some sprouts shoot up. At this point, if you’ve still got the plastic cover on, you can remove it. Water your plant regularly and feed it with a water soluble, organic fertilizer weekly once foliage develops. If the plant gets too big for its container, just transfer it to a larger one. If you live in a region that experiences a cold season, make sure the tree is kept inside in a warm place for at least the first– and potentially every– winter. Enjoy your beautiful plant in all its stages of growth! With a little love and patience, you’ll have a thriving lemon tree.