Home­grown Lemons

Grow a fra­grant re­minder of sum­mer with an in­door cit­rus tree.

Birds & Blooms - - Yard Smarts - BY NIKI JABBOUR

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.

Wa­ter Wisely

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.

Sum­mer Va­ca­tion

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!”

Pest Pa­trol

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.

Plant 2- to 3-yearold le­mon trees in 12- to 14-inch pots to pro­vide plenty of root room.

A Meyer le­mon tree pro­duces su­per fra­grant blooms in fall and early spring.

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