Like all citrus fruits, the lemon tree is sensitive to cold and thrives in temperate climates with mild winters. Unable to recover from cold injury, the fragile lemon has a relatively limited range of ideal growing locations. One of the places the lemon will grow is in the warm climate of Southern California. However, even under ideal conditions, some types of trees will perform better than others.
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Meyer lemon trees are hybrids that originated in China. They are among the most popular lemon trees among home growers in Southern California. The trees are small when fully mature, reaching heights of 10 to 20 feet. The Meyer is slightly cold resistant, so it is safe to plant outdoors. It yields numerous orange-yellow fruits from December to April, and begins producing fruit two to three years after planting.
The Eureka lemon trees originated from the Italian lemon. A medium-size tree, it originally was planted in Los Angeles in 1858 and has been a favorite cultivator among citrus farmers since. Vigorous and productive, the Eureka is known for bearing large, tender, juicy fruits all year, but they are most productive during the late winter through the early summer.
The Genoa lemon tree was brought to Southern California in 1875. Transported into the U.S. from Italy, its fruits are practically indistinguishable from those of the Eureka tree. Unlike the Eureka, the Genoa is relatively cold hardy, making it a safer choice for those who wish to plant their trees outdoors rather than in containers. Genoa trees are shrub-like, growing wide rather than tall, making for easy harvesting of the fruits.