Birds & Blooms
Grow a fragrant reminder of summer with an indoor citrus tree.
Lemons are among the easiest citrus to grow indoors and make thoughtful gifts. You provide the light, water and fertilizer, and they offer beautiful, aromatic flowers and homegrown lemons. According to Steven Biggs, the author of Grow Figs Where You Think You Can’t, scent is one of the best reasons to grow an indoor lemon tree. “You can’t beat the smell of lemon blossoms— they’re a joy indoors when it’s gray outdoors.”
Choose the Best Variety
Many types of lemons do well when grown indoors, but Meyer is the most popular. Not only does it take well to container culture, but the fruits have a sweeter flavor, are less acidic and have thinner skin than many other varieties.
Plants Versus Seeds
Steven points out that while it’s possible to grow a lemon tree from a seed, it takes years to fruit. “If you want fruit sooner, get a plant that’s grafted or a rooted cutting,” he advises. Lemon trees are typically grafted onto a dwarf rootstock, and the result is smaller trees that are easier to grow inside.
Match the Plant to the Pot
A smaller year-old tree fits well in a 9- to 10-inch diameter pot. Larger trees that are 2 to 3 years
old need more root room, so choose a 12- to 14-inch diameter container. Pick a pot with drainage holes and use a high-quality potting mix.
Location Is Everything
Lemons love sunshine. Place the tree in a bright window with at least eight hours of full sun, supplementing with a grow light if necessary. Even better is the right combination of bright light and cool temperatures. “My best results with indoor lemons over the winter is when I have them in a cool sunroom or greenhouse,” Steven says. A location with a winter temperature of about 70 degrees is ideal for fruit production.
Overwatering is the quickest way to kill your lemon tree. “Don’t keep the soil too wet,” says Steven. Aim to maintain even moisture, watering when the soil surface is dry. A moisture meter helps citrus growers keep track of watering needs. Increase the humidity by placing the pot on a saucer filled with pebbles and water or by misting the plant regularly. Feed the tree every few months with a citrus tree or all-purpose fertilizer.
Give your indoor lemon trees a summer vacation by taking them outdoors after the last spring frost. They make great deck or patio plants, providing long-lasting perfume to outdoor living spaces. Move the trees back indoors before the first autumn frost. “Lemons are prone to dropping their leaves when you take them back inside,” says Steven. “Luckily, they will grow back!”
Indoor lemon trees are susceptible to several types of insect pests including scale and spider mites, so keep an eye on the trees. Steven treats his with insecticidal soap and horticultural oil before bringing them indoors in early autumn.