I’ve always been fascinated by growing lemons and other citrus fruits. You can’t go wrong with a tree full of bright yellow bulbs of sunshine. The thing is, you can’t ignore climate when it comes to planting citrus trees.
Generally speaking, lemon trees grow in tropical and subtropical climates. That’s one reason you don’t get oranges from England or lemons from Canada. More specifically, we’re talking USDA Hardiness zone 8 and higher for lemons. In the U.S., that means you won’t be growing lemons outdoors unless you live in California, Florida, and other parts of the country with similar climates.
But don’t despair! Some varieties of lemon trees are perfectly happy in containers. The most well-known is probably the Meyer lemon, but some other varieties, like the Dwarf Eureka, can grow in containers. However, it’s worth noting that almost any fruit tree you want to plant will come as either rootstock or a sapling. That said, you can grow lemon trees from lemon seeds, but if you need to plant your tree in a container, be sure to get seeds from one of the container varieties.
Growing lemons from seed to sweet sunny fruits
1. Find your lemon seeds. Your best bet here is to take the seeds directly from a lemon. Again, though, be sure it’s a container variety lemon and not a full-size lemon tree (unless you happen to live somewhere warm and plan to grow the tree outdoors).
2. Clean the seeds. Lemon seeds need to be clean, but not completely dry. Several sources suggest sucking on the seeds to clean them. Once they’re clean, you’ll want to plant them right away.
3. Germinate the seeds. It’s always a good idea to plant several seeds, just in case they don’t all germinate. You can thin them later if you need to. Plant the seeds in a moist potting mix and cover them with about half an inch of loose soil. You can create a mini-greenhouse by covering your pot with plastic wrap and poking a few holes in it to allow for fresh air. Keep the soil moist, but never soggy. Your seeds should germinate in a few weeks.
4. Transplant the seedlings. Once your seedlings have several leaves, transplant them to individual pots. You don’t want to get rid of any yet, since we’re still at the point where anything could go wrong. Give your seedlings as much sunlight as possible, and keep them in a space with a temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. As they grow, you may need to transplant them a few times.
5. Care for your tree. Keep the soil light and well-drained. You may need to add fertilizer occasionally, but be sure to get one specifically formulated for citrus trees. Depending on the variety of tree, it may be three or four years before you get to enjoy the rewards of growing lemons, but I promise the sweet smell of citrus blossoms and the taste of that first lemon is worth the wait.
Have you grown a lemon tree from seeds? How did it go?