Growing Lemons

Many different varieties of lemons are grown all over the world. However, the true lemon is believed to have originated in India, from where it spread to the Mediterranean, to be later brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus. While lemons can be grown in almost any soil, they are one of the most cold-sensitive citrus fruits, which limits their cultivation to warm areas.

Growing Lemons
What you should know about Lemon before getting started
Plant Height
10 - 20 feet (3 - 6 m)
Plant Width
10 - 15 feet (3.1 - 4.6 m)
Planting Distance
16.4 feet (5 m) apart
Growing Habitat
Subtropical
Where To Grow It
Garden soil
Propagation
Cuttings
Uses
Medicinal, Culinary
Water Requirements
Mature trees prefer infrequent, deep watering
Temperature Range
77 - 86 °F (25 - 30 °C)
Growing Cycle
Perennial
Soil
Well-drained
Soil pH
6.6 – 7.3 (Neutral)
Where To Plant It
Outdoors
Light Requirements
Full sun

Growing Guidelines

1. PREPARING THE SOIL

The lemon tree is known for being highly tolerant to poor soils. In fact, in some parts to the world, lemon is successfully grown in sandy soils. Lemon prefers well-drained, moist soil that has a neutral to slightly acidic pH.

Choose a planting site that is in full sun, away from other trees and structures, and free of puddles after rains. Moreover, the site should have good air circulation but be protected from cold winds. Before planting lemon, sod should be removed from the area.

The future lemon tree should be planted in a hole that is at least twice as wide and twice as deep as the rootstock. Because lemon does well in poor ground, it is not necessary to amend the soil before planting. Instead, the hole can be simply backfilled with the loosened soil that was previously removed, which will help the lemon tree's roots to spread.

2. HOW TO GROW LEMON OUTDOORS

When planting lemon, the topsoil around the rootstock should be leveled with or slightly above the surrounding area. Fill in the hole around the rootstock and gently tamp down the soil to remove air pockets. Water immediately after planting lemon.

During the winter months, it is recommended to apply cold protection measures to protect the lemon tree. Soil banks are recommended for young trees. They should be built up around the end of November to be removed at the end of February. Alternatively, blankets, tarps, or other covers can be used to protect the tree from cold.

3. LEMON CARE

WATERING

The irrigation of lemon tree should be carefully controlled. Lemon does well with plenty of water during the flowering and fruit development seasons, but over watering can lead to diseases. It is recommended to water a newly-planted lemon tree every-other day for the first week, then once or twice a week for the next three months. If you experience a prolonged period of little to no rainfall, water your young lemon tree periodically. Once your lemon tree is well established and mature, it will not need to be watered frequently.

FERTILIZING

Although lemon trees thrive in poor soil, the first year after planting they can be fertilized with one cup of ammonium sulfate split into three or four applications. This amount can be increased by one cup every year. The fertilizer must be spread on the soil surrounding the lemon tree right before watering.

WEED CONTROL

In some regions of the world, the area around the base of the lemon tree is mulched in order to conserve moisture and prevent the growth of weeds. However, this is not recommended as it increases the likeliness of the tree experiencing foot rot. In case of using mulch, it is advised to apply it around the base of the lemon tree, at least one foot away from the trunk.

4. PESTS & DISEASES

PESTS

The pests that damage lemon trees vary depending on the region. In Southeast Asia, ants commonly attack the root systems of lemon trees, and farmers will have to flood the beds and burn the ants off the surface.

In California, it is often necessary to protect young lemon trees from rabbits and arthropod pests, such as the California red scale (Aonidiella aurantii), which requires the application of pesticides.

In Florida, the major lemon pests include rust mites, purple mites, and purple scale. However, all of these pests can be easily controlled with the use of appropriate pesticides.

DISEASE

In Florida, lemon trees are prone to scab and anthracnose. Moreover, lemon trees may be affected by stem-end rot, damping off, and different varieties of leaf spot.

Around the world, lemon trees are often affected by red algae, causing the dead of foliage and branches. In order to control red algae, it is necessary to apply a copper fungicide.

5. HARVESTING LEMON

The lemon fruit should be harvested when it is still green and approximately 2 inches (1 cm) in diameter. After harvest, the green fruit should be allowed to cure at room temperature until it slowly becomes yellow, the peel becomes smoother and thinner, and the juice content increases.

6. STORAGE

Ripened lemons should be stored in polyethylene bags in the refrigerator. Under those conditions, lemons can last for up to a week.

Bibliography

  • National Gardening Association, How to: Grow Citrus in a Container | Growing Citrus in Containers
  • Australian Government, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Growing lemons in Australia – a production manual
  • Fruits of Warm Climates
  • Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, Home Fruit Production – Lemons
  • University of Florida, IFAS Extension, Lemon Growing in the Florida Home Landscape