How to Grow Meyer Lemon Trees

Unripe Meyer lemons will become bright yellow and delicious with good care.
Unripe Meyer lemons will become bright yellow and delicious with good care. (Image: tvirbickis/iStock/Getty Images)

A native of China, the Meyer lemon (Citrus × meyeri) is a diminutive evergreen tree notable for its large, thin-skinned lemons, which are unusually sweet and juicy when compared to other lemon varieties. The tree also offers lustrous dark green leaves and fragrant white blooms. The Meyer lemon is both attractive and functional, producing blooms and fruits in abundance when provided with the proper cultural care.

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Plant Where Hardy

The most cold-hardy of all lemons, Meyer lemon is suitable for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11, Meyer lemon thrives with daytime temperatures in the low 70s and nighttime temperatures in the high 50s on the Fahrenheit scale. The tree is generally not frost-tolerant, though it will tolerate temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit briefly. Where not hardy, the tree may be grown indoors next to a sunny windowsill and moved outdoors in late spring and summer. Meyer lemons do poorly in humid, tropical climates.

Choose a Sunny Site

Though Meyer lemon will tolerate light shade, optimum flowering and fruiting will occur in a location with full sunlight. Consider planting the tree next to the south or southeast side of the house, as this will offer some cold protection. Because Meyer lemon may develop a canopy up to 8 feet wide, provide at least 8 feet of space between structures or other trees. Keep the area around the tree free from weeds and grass, which compete with the tree for nutrients. Avoid planting the lemon in windy areas.

Fertilize Sparingly

Lemons are not picky about soil, so long as it is well-draining. A sandy, neutral soil is ideal. For indoor plants, use an all-purpose potting soil. Only use a container with a hole in the bottom for drainage. Water regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged or flooded. Mist indoor plants daily in the winter to make up for dry air. Take 1 cup of ammonium sulfate, or 21-0-0 fertilizer, and split it into two or three applications to use throughout the growing season, starting with the first application in spring after new growth emerges. Sprinkle fertilizer directly on the soil and water thoroughly. Use 2 cups the next year, and 3 the year after that. Store unused fertilizer in a secure location away from children and pets.

Keep Pruning Light

Lightly prune dead, diseased and broken branches and growth throughout the growing season to help keep the tree looking tidy and to prevent disease and promote air circulation. Disinfect pruning equipment afterward by soaking tools in a solution that is half alcohol and half water for five minutes, rinsing with water and leaving to air-dry. Fungal diseases such as scab and anthracnose, and pests such as mites, whiteflies, leafrollers, aphids and scale, may be treated by spraying the tree evenly with neem oil. Mix 2 tablespoons of oil with 1 gallon of water and spray with a handheld or hose sprayer until the tree is completely wet. Apply every seven to 14 days. Store unused oil away from direct sunlight and food products, in a location inaccessible to children and pets.


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