How To Grow Lemon Tree In Containers and Flower Pots
In Mediterranean cuisine, lemon is commonly used for seasoning the food giving it specific taste and fragrance. The best of all is that lemon tree can be easily grown at home in the containers and larger flower pots, with dwarf lemons growing even on windowsills. If you have a garden, large balcony or any kind of free space on a sunny position, protected from the cold wind, and you like slightly acidic aroma of lemon, consider growing a lemon or two. No farmed lemon can compete with homegrown lemon in terms of aroma and taste.
Lemon has many health benefits and regardless if you use it only for food seasoning or for making lemonade, lemon water, or juices, lemon is very important of any healthy diet, Mediterranean Diet included.
And the best of all, lemon is also very decorative plant.
Lemon Growing Conditions
Position - Lemon prefers warmer climate and plenty of sun. It can grow in partial shadow, but if possible, give it plenty of sun. Also, protect the lemon from cold winds which can damage the leaves, flowers, fruits and even brake the branches.
Temperatures - Lemon grows between 70 and 100° Fahrenheit (21 to 38°C), but the best temperature is perhaps around 85° Fahrenheit (29-30°C).
During summer heat, when temperatures rise above 105° (40°C) lemon tree stops growing. During colder days, when temperatures drop below 50° (10°C) lemon tree goes into the dormancy. During winter, temperatures below 30° Fahrenheit (-1°C) can cause plant to lose leaves, while longer exposure to such low temperatures can damage the fruits and the tree itself, killing the plant in the end.
When growing lemon trees in colder areas, it is important to grow more cold tolerant varieties. Also, lemon trees in containers can be easily taken inside, away from snow and cold winds - just be sure to manually pollinate the flowers.
Soil and Fertilization - Lemon tree grows in soil with pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Depending on the plant onto which it is grafted, the best pH for lemon is around 6.0 and 6.5.
If you are not sure about the pH of your soil, check it easily with home pH test kit (Amazon link, link opens in the new window).
Lemon tree is not very picky about soil mixture and it tolerates a wide range of soils. However, when the lemon is grown in right conditions, it grows strong and bears a plenty of healthy fruits.
Good flower potting mix, slightly acidic, rich in organic matter provides best conditions for lemons - such mix retain moisture and nutrients well, but it is also drained well. Good drainage is very important for lemons, since they don't like 'soggy soil' - when growing citrus plants in containers and flower pots, be sure to make enough drainage holes so that any excess water can drain away easily, allowing the air to enter the soil. Such moist and well aerated soil will keep the root system healthy.
Lemons react very well to nitrogen, but abundance of nitrogen will make your lemon trees tall, fragile and susceptible to diseases. The best lemon fertilizers contain balanced amount of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) (or even slightly less nitrogen than phosphorous and potassium). Phosphorous and potassium are very important for flowering and bearing fruits. Also, good citrus fertilizer should contain microelements like, for example, iron (Fe).
Organic fertilizers are much better than chemical fertilizers - they feed plants for longer period of time, without significant spikes in amounts of available nutrients.
One of the most popular citrus fertilizers is Jobe’s Organics Fruit & Citrus Fertilizer (Amazon affiliate link, link opens in the new window), but there are other good fertilizers, too.
Container and Flower Pot Size depends on available space, lemon variety and growers desire to let the lemon grow as small tree or a shrub.
Dwarf lemon trees can grow in small flower pot that can even fit some windowsills. Such flower pots contain just few liters of growing medium, but for such small lemon plants, even that is more than enough.
Medium sized lemon trees can grow in pots 16 inches (~40 cm) wide and 14-15 inches (~36-38 cm) deep.
Larger lemon trees require pots and containers some 25 inches (~64 cm) wide and 20 inches (~51 cm) deep. Of course, even larger pots and containers can be used, but larger pots are harder to manipulate and work with when filled with soil and planted tree.
Note: Larger pots should be placed permanently on trolleys and moved around when required easily. Also, regardless of the pot size, water drainage must be good!
Watering - during summer heat, lemons require 4 - 6 inches (10-15 cm) of water per month. Plants should be watered every 3-7 days, depending on the local conditions and plant size. if possible, dripping system should be used.
However, when growing lemons in pots, amount of water depends on the soil mix, container volume, plant size, local weather conditions etc. Lemons in pots can be watered almost on a daily basis and when temperatures are around or even go above 105 degrees (40°C) they must be watered daily, preferably with dripping system, which keeps moisture level more or less constant.
Regular watering helps in bearing plenty of healthy and very tasty fruits. Lack of water can force the plant to drop the leaves and fruits.
Obtaining the plants - personally, the best way to obtain lemon tree plant is to buy it from certified growers, locally or from on-line shops with fast shipping.
Plants can be purchased as small 'starter plugs' ready to be planted in larger pots or as larger plants ready to bloom and bear fruits.
If you have time and patience, it is also possible to grow lemon tree from seeds, however, such plants are not certified to disease free and disappointments are more often. However, such lemons can grow stronger and bear more fruits than any commercial lemon tree - one never knows :)
Planting the lemon trees - after deciding where to keep your lemon tree and obtaining everything you need, do the following:
- make enough drainage holes in the growing container or pot,
- it is not absolutely necessary, but if possible put one inch of gravel on the bottom of growing container,
- fill the growing container with growing soil with some fertilizers added (since some settling of the soil occurs over time, fill the container almost to the top),
- plant the lemon tree to the same height it was in the previous container,
- position the container on permanent location and water the lemon generously.
And that is it.
Also, adding the mulch can prevent moisture lose during summer. Also, decomposing mulch can help in feeding the plants and keeping the soil slightly acidic.
Lemon varieties - most popular varieties of lemon tree for container growing are 'Meyer' and 'Eureka'. Both varieties bear fruits all year round, which is very important for home growers.
Long Story Short - if you like taste and scent of homegrown lemons, note that they are easy to grow. They just need some space, water, good soil and plenty of sun.
Varieties that bear fruits all year round are the best choice for home gardener - with just a few (larger) plants, one can have a fresh lemon almost on a daily basis, year long. Smaller plants bear plenty of fruits, too, but not as larger lemon trees.