Growing a tree can seem daunting and out of reach for a lot of gardeners, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. In fact, it’s actually possible to grow a small fruit tree inside your home. Today, we’ll be taking a look at growing lemon trees indoors. This can be an excellent way to add some citrus fruit to your diet and is also a rewarding from a gardening perspective.
Keep in mind, that trees grown indoors will not grow quite as tall as their outdoor brethren, but this is often intended due to the small space so is not much of a concern for most gardens. With a little hard work and know how you’ll be able to grow a healthy tree and pick its fruit without leaving your home.
Let’s jump into it, and see what it takes to grow your vary own lemon tree indoors.
Growing Lemon Trees Indoor Overview
- Most gardeners will start with a tree already several years old. As lemon trees take a few years to bear fruit, this means you’ll be able harvest edible fruit more quickly.
- The best indoor varieties are “dwarf” as these don’t grow quite as large as typical ones.
- Lemon trees need a lot of sun. Choose the sunniest location you have, and be prepared to provide supplemental light.
- Water generously but check that the soil is dry first. Overwatering is a serious issue that can harm your plant.
- You may need to manually pollinate your tree which is easily doable.
The best way to start is to begin with a sapling of roughly 2-3 years old. This cuts out a lot of time and is always much easier than starting from seeds. Lemon tress take several years to bear fruit, so if you go with a younger tree expect to spend some time before it’s ready to harvest.
Also, be on the lookout for trees labeled as “dwarfs”. Dwarf trees are specifically bred to be smaller, so they will do better indoors.
The best place to pick one up is a local nursery. This gives you the opportunity to check out the plant and make sure it’s healthy before you buy it. You can also purchase these online if there are no nearby nursery or it is out of the outdoor growing season.
While growing from a sapling is the suggested starting method, you can also grow from a seed if you so choose. This will take long to bear fruit, and is also a bit more difficult, but can extra rewarding when the plant finally matures. Our general recommendation is to use saplings when possible for fastest time to harvest.
Best Indoor Lemon Tree Varieties
As noted above, the best choices for indoor growing are dwarf varieties. Of dwarf varieties, there are a couple that are commonly grow indoors.
Dwarf Improved Meyer
This is the most popular and easy variety to grow indoors. It’s the one you’ll most commonly find at your local nursery. It’s a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, and produces small, semi-sweet fruit.
Dwarf Variegated Pink Lemon
Another popular lemon tree that is easy to grow indoors. This one produces fruit with a slightly pinkish color although it still has the distinctive lemon taste.
Dwarf Lisbon Lemon
This variety is well know for producing lots of small fruits. For those looking for a large harvest this is a great variety to choose. Just make sure you’re providing proper care as it takes a lot of energy to produce that amount of fruit.
Choosing a Container
When choosing a container make sure to get one large enough to account for future growth. Generally, you’re going to be looking for one in the 10-15 gallon range. Having too small of a container will limit root growth, ultimately leading to a smaller and less fruit bearing tree.
Also, make sure your chosen pot has good drainage. A couple of large holes at the bottom will help promote natural water draining and prevent accidental overwatering. Going with a material like terra cotta will help with drainage as it is a porous material.
Fill the bottom inch or so of the pot with a mix of small pebbles and rocks, then fill the rest with a high quality potting soil. Most soils from a local gardening store will do the trick perfectly. You can also look for soils specifically targeted at citrus trees; these are another great option. Place your tree into the pot and gently spread the roots out to help promote proper growth.
Like most fruits, lemon trees require a decent amount of bright light to grow properly. Generally, look to get the tree 12+ hours of direct sunlight, or supplemental light a day. While a lemon tree can survive with less, it will bear less fruit and end up looking more like a standard houseplant.
During the winter months, you’ll likely get less natural light but that is okay. The tree will typically go into a dormant period where it will grow less, but also need less light. If you feel you need more light feel free to supplement with grow lights, but slowing growth during the winter months is no cause for concern.
Grow Light For a Lemon Tree
With the above in mind, it’s common for gardeners to need to supplement their tree’s light. Even the sunniest home is going to have trouble providing enough bright light for a lemon tree.
In most cases, you’ll need to supplement with a grow light. Get one that provides full spectrum lighting to encourage consistent, full growth. Place it about a foot away from the tree, and look to get close to 14 hours of artificial light a day. Bear in mind that lemon trees do enjoy periods of darkness, so run your plant on a time if possible.
Watering and Feeding
When watering your lemon tree check the top inch or two of the soil for moisture. If it’s dry then give your plant some water; water until you begin to see drainage from the bottom of your pot. Lemon trees are notorious for needing lots of water, so make sure you’re checking the soil regularly.
As noted above, growth will slow down in colder climates during the winter, and much like lighting your tree won’t need as much water either. Take extra care during these months not to overwater, and don’t be surprised if you go a few extra days between watering.
Lemon trees also like a lot of humidity, and lightly misting the plant daily can help to replicate this. Take a small spray bottle of water, and lightly mist the plant once per day. This will help mimic the natural humidity the plant would grow in while outdoors. This is very important as the humidity indoors is often not in an acceptable range for the plant. This is especially true in the winter when the air is naturally drier.
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure you’re fertilizing frequently with a well balanced fertilizer or compost. Once per month is usually about right for feedings. Unlike other plants, it’s okay to continue doing this year round to keep the soil nutrients up, although in the winter you can dilute the concentration a bit more than usual.
Unlike many other citrus trees lemons are not super picky when it comes to temperature. As long as they are in their ideal range they won’t have a problem growing. This is in contrast to certain other citrus trees which need lots of heat to bear fruit.
Keep your lemon tree in the 60-70°F range. It also like periods of cold at night, so if your house gets a bit cooler at night that’s actually good. Avoid let it get lower than about 50°F and never exposing it to freezing temperatures or frost.
One thing unique to indoor growing is manual pollination. While outdoors, bees and insects will normally take care of this, but indoors it is up to us. Gently shake or use a cotton swab to distribute the pollen from flower to flower. While this isn’t a requirement, it will greatly increase the chances of yielding fruit.
When successful, the fruit will generally take a few weeks to ripen.
If you don’t want to manually pollination you can also simply leave the plant outdoors during the warmer months. This will expose it to the above mentioned elements, which should be enough to pollenate the plant.
Growing Lemon Trees Indoors
Hopefully, with these tips you’ll be growing lemon trees indoors in no time. Growing fresh fruit can be a bit challenging at times, but is very rewarding when done right. Make sure you get enough light and you’ll be well on your way to some delicious fruit.
1. My Plant Looks Healthy But Isn’t Bearing Fruit, why?
In may cases this is due to lack of sunlight. Lemon trees will need lots of light in order to bear fruit. When they don’t, they can still look healthy but they won’t bear fruit. Try increasing the light the plant gets and see if makes a difference.
2. How Long Does it Take for a Lemon Tree To Bear Fruit?
It generally takes 3 years but in some cases might take up to 5 if the plant grows slowly. This is why it’s suggested to get a sapling in this age range as it will be ready to bear fruit right away.
3. What Will be Different About an Indoor Lemon Tree?
The biggest difference is the size, which also means the tree will bear less fruit. Outside of that, care is very much similar.
4. When is The Best Time To Transplant a Lemon Tree?
The best time is in spring. This is when your plant is fully primed to grow and can handle the stress of a transplant the best.
5. Why Are My Lemon Tree Leaves Turning Yellow?
This is often cause by overwatering. Make sure you’re letting your soil mostly out between waterings.