Lemon Trees Buying & Growing Guide

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Types of Lemons

Lemon trees are the full package. They are attractive landscape trees with glossy green leaves and an attractive shape. Lemon trees produce a delicious fruit that is a must-have for cooks and bakers. They also adapt easily to potted life, so can play the role of a houseplant. What is not to love about the lemon tree?

Lemon Trees for Sale

How to Grow Lemon Trees

lemon tree farm

How to plant lemon trees

Your lemon tree should thrive outdoors when you live in USDA hardiness zones 9-11, although you may have luck if you are in zone 8 and plant in a protected spot. Place your lemon tree where it will get at least six to eight hours of sun a day and preferably in a slightly acidic soil.

Dig a hole that is twice as deep and wide as the root ball of your lemon tree. Mix some good compost into the soil at the bottom of the hole. Unpot or unwrap your tree and tease out any roots that are circling the root ball to avoid strangling the plant. Place it in the hole so that the top of the root ball is roughly level with the soil grade. Backfill the hole with the topsoil you removed when you dug the hole and mix in compost.

Gently tamp down the soil around your tree so there are no air pockets. Water well, let the water sink in, and then give it another drink. Water several times a week for the first month or so after planting.

How to achieve maximum results

To achieve maximum results with your lemon tree remember that, like all citrus plants, it loves the sun. Lemon trees are native to the warmer regions of Asia, and thus they thrive best in tropical or subtropical areas. Do not despair if you are in a northern climate. Lemon trees, especially dwarf varieties, make excellent houseplants, and will grow indoors with minimal care as long as they get adequate light.

How to Care for Lemon Trees

Watering and nutrients

lemons with rain drops

Lemon trees need at least one inch of water a week. When you do notreceive that as rain  give your tree some supplemental water. It is better to give it one deep watering a week than to spread it out with shallow waterings on several days.

Your lemon tree will thrive with regular applications of a slow release all purpose fertilizer. Follow the package directions for frequency of use. Most fertilizers will tell you to apply it several times during the growing season. Mulching your tree with a layer of well seasoned compost once a year will help stimulate growth.

Pollination

Lemon trees are monoecious, meaning that a single tree will have both male and female flower parts. Thus, you can have fruit even if you only have one tree. Outdoors, bees will tackle the work of pollinating your lemon tree. When your tree is indoors however, you will have to hand pollinate using a paintbrush to gather pollen from the flower’s pistil (the female part of the flower) and brush it on the stigma (the male part).

Pruning

lemon grove farm

Lemon trees do not need a lot of pruning. You can prune periodically for a nice shape, clipping out any wayward branches. You should also remove dead and diseased branches, and those that rub against other branches. When the center of the tree seems crowded, so that air is not able to circulate through the whole canopy, then prune out a few of the branches in the middle to let light and air in.

Pests, diseases, and animals

Aphids may collect on the undersides of the leaves, and can be controlled with insecticide or a blast of water from the hose. Citrus whitefly lay their eggs on the tree, and can go through several generations in a single growing season. Citrus thrips and brown soft scale insects may also be a problem, and are best controlled with horticultural oil or insecticide.

Diseases of the lemon tree include citrus canker, a bacterial infection that leaves lesions on fruit and leaves. Melanose, sooty mold, and greasy spot are all fungal diseases. Control all these with a liquid copper fungicide.

Rabbits chew on the bark of young lemon trees. The only solution is to fence in your tree or wrap it in a trunk guard. Roof rats may eat just the fruit’s rind while it is still on the tree. Prune off lower branches as the rats like to jump into the tree from branches close to the ground.

Harvesting

lemon harvest

Lemon trees produce fruit after they have been in the ground for three to five years. When you are growing an outdoor tree, fruiting may happen year round, while with indoor plants, it will occur in late winter or early spring. Lemons do not continue to ripen much after they are picked, so wait until they are a bright yellow color and soft to the touch before picking.

Types of Lemons

1. Eureka Lemon (Citrus x limon “Eureka”)

Eureka Lemon (Citrus x limon “Eureka”)

Mature Size: 20 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 9 and 10

Light: Full sun

Water: Water generously

Soil: Well-draining, neutral to alkaline pH

Special Features: Produces fruit all year round

The Eureka lemon tree is considered to be a true lemon tree, as it is not the result of any hybridization. It was brought over to the United States in seed form from Italy in the middle of the 19th century and has been growing in the warmer states ever since.

It requires a climate that gets neither too hot or too cold and therefore fares best in USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10. Any temperatures lower than 20° F will cause significant damage to the Eureka lemon tree, so if a temperature drop is expected in your area, then you’ll need to bring your lemon tree indoors until warmer weather returns.

The Eureka lemon tree typically grows to 20 feet in height and can be grown in a raised bed or a sturdy container, though dwarf varieties do exist, which are maybe more suitable for container growing. Plant your Eureka lemon tree in a spot that gets full sun. These trees require plenty of sun to thrive and do best in positions where they receive 10 to 12 hours of sun a day. They can be grown in partial shade with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day, but in these conditions, they may struggle to bear fruit, and growth will be slower.

These trees also need plenty of moisture, and you should aim to maintain consistently moist soil, only ever allowing the top inch or two to dry out. During hot, dry weather, you may need to water every day, or even twice a day. As Eureka lemon trees have such high watering needs, they are not suitable for growing in the yard among the grass, as lawns do not enjoy this level of moisture.

Eureka lemon trees are attractive plants to grow. They have bronze colored new growth, while older leaves develop into a bright shade of green. The great thing about this tree is that it doesn’t have a dormancy period and therefore can produce fruit all year long. Eureka lemons are among the typical lemons you will find at the grocery store, suitable for cooking with or using in drinks. They are commercially popular because of their reliable flavor and continuous growing season.

Eureka lemons start out yellow-green but develop to the bright lemon yellow we are all familiar with.


2. Pink Variegated Lemon Tree (Citrus xlimon “Eureka Variegated Pink”)

Pink Variegated Lemon Tree (Citrus xlimon 'Eureka Variegated Pink')

Mature Size: Up to 15 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 9 and 10

Light: Full sun

Water: Water generously

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: Pink

Special Features: Pink fleshed lemons

This cultivar of the Eureka lemon tree is an especially attractive ornamental plant, producing low-seed acidic lemons. The foliage of this plant is variegated, with glossy, ovate leaves splashed in random patches of creamy yellow.

It produces pretty flowers which bloom from vibrant pink buds throughout the year, though they are at their most abundant during spring and summer. The fruits of this tree are round, and young lemons have unique green striping. As the lemons ripen, their skin takes on a solid yellow color, while the inner flesh is pale pink. The fruit is produced all year round and is ideal for use in cooking or as a garnish.

This tree requires full sun to give its best performance, though it will tolerate a partially shaded position. This tree is the most tender of all lemon trees and will need to be brought inside to live in a bright and warm room, only being left outside during the warmer months.

Eureka lemons start out yellow-green but develop to the bright lemon yellow we are all familiar with.


3. Lisbon Lemon (Citrus limon “Lisbon”)(Citrus x limon “Lisbon”)

Lisbon Lemon (Citrus limon “Lisbon”)(Citrus x limon “Lisbon”)

Mature Size: Up to 30 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 8-10

Light: Full sun

Water: Medium moisture

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Heat and wind tolerant

The Lisbon lemon tree is capable of growing quite tall in the right conditions, growing up to 30 feet in height, with a spread of 25 feet, though more typically you can expect to see these trees grow to 15 feet in height, or even smaller if they are kept in a container.

Lisbon lemons are an old heirloom variety, which is believed to have their origins in Portugal. They have been growing in the United States since the 1840s and are now the most widely grown type of lemon tree in California. These trees produce reliable lemons that are large, have very few seeds, and are exceptionally juicy.

The tree can bear fruit all year round, though the main harvest times will be in the spring and winter when an abundance of fruit is ripe and available. Don’t expect your young lemon tree to produce fruit, as this usually doesn’t happen until year three. More mature trees will fruit the most profusely and will experience pretty white flowers all year round. Once your Lisbon tree does produce fruit, it tends to do so quite heavily, so you should never be without some fresh lemons in the kitchen.

The Lisbon lemon tree is easy to care for and is tolerant of heat, wind, and cold. It won’t need a protected position as the Eureka lemon would, and it is probably the most cold-hardy of all true lemon trees, though any climates which drop below freezing for more than a few days a year aren’t appropriate locations for this tree.

Instead, grow your Lisbon lemon tree in a pot so that it can be moved inside during cold snaps, or insulate it with a blanket if it is grown outside. You can also drape string lights between the branches, as this may help to increase the temperature by a few degrees.

As well as being easy to care for, the Lisbon lemon tree is aesthetically pleasing. It has glossy green leaves, and its white blooms give off a pleasant aroma.

This tree will require a full sun position, and in its first few years, will need a generous watering. As the tree does not cope well with soggy roots, it should be grown in well-draining soil, which will allow any excess water to pass through easily. If planting directly in the ground, you could plant the tree in an elevated position so that water runs off and doesn’t have the opportunity to pool around the base of the tree.

After a few years, you can reduce your watering schedule to weekly during the warmer months, and bi-weekly in the cooler months. As the tree matures, it will need less water. Like all lemon trees, the Lisbon lemon tree relies on rich soil or feedings of fertilizer to really thrive.


4. Meyer Lemon (Citrus x Meyerii)

Meyer Lemon (Citrus x Meyerii)

Mature Size: Up to 10 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 8-11

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: White and purple

Special Features: Dwarf variety

The Meyer lemon tree is not a ‘true’ lemon tree, but instead is a hybrid which originates from China. It is a cross between a lemon and a sweet orange such as a mandarin. This is one of the smaller lemon trees, growing to between 6 and 10 feet tall and is ideal for growing in a container.

The key benefit of growing the tree in a container is that it is portable and therefore able to be moved indoors during the winter. This is a great way to make lemon growing possible even if you live in cooler climates, though if you live in a warm climate where temperatures rarely drop below 50º F, you can plant this tree in the ground where it can remain all year round.

The fruit of this tree looks like lime when young, rounder than true lemons and with a lime green skin. As the lemon ripens, it takes on the typical yellow shade, with a strong fragrance and thin skin. These lemons have a more subtle flavor than the Eureka or Lisbon lemons, which are widely available in grocery stores. Instead, they have a sweeter taste, with a dark yellow flesh and usually around 10 seeds. The Meyer lemon tree is capable of bearing fruit from just 2 years of age when grafted or from 4 years old when grown from seed. The flowers it produces are white and purple, with a very intense scent.

In the United States in the 1940s, the Meyer lemon tree was found to be carrying a deadly citrus virus. In order to protect other citrus trees, all Meyer lemon trees were destroyed, and it became a banned species. Fortunately, a virus-free Meyer lemon tree was found and released in 1975. It is known as the ‘Improved Meyer lemon tree’ (Citrus x Meyerii ‘Improved’), and this is where the Meyer lemons in the US now stem from.


5. Primofiori Lemon (Citrus x Limon ‘Primofiori’)

Primofiori Lemon (Citrus x Limon ‘Primofiori’)

Mature Size: Up to 16 feet

Hardiness Zone: 8-10

Light: Full sun

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Well-draining

Special Features: Fruits heavily

This tree hails from Spain, where it is locally known as the Fino lemon tree, the Blanco lemon tree, or the Mesero lemon tree. The fruit is exported under the name of Primofriori lemons, though be careful not to confuse these with Primofiore, which are from Italy.

This lemon tree is grown extensively in the Mediterranean region and is the most largely commercially produced lemon in Spain. The trees have a vigorous growth habit, with large leaves and dense foliage. The fruit it produces is pale yellow in color, with a thin and smooth skin. Lemons can be round or oval, and are smaller in size than most other lemon varieties, though they tend to be much juicier.

This tree has many similarities with the Eureka lemon tree, but the key distinguishing feature is that the Primofiori lemon tree is heavily thorned, while the Eureka lemon tree is not. This tree requires 8-10 hours of sun each day and is best situated in a full sun location. It is a heavy fruit producer, able to bear fruit from 2 or 3 years old. Its main harvest will be in the winter, though smaller harvests will be available throughout the year.

It is suitable for growing in a container where it can be pruned to a smaller height and maintained at around 5 feet tall (University of California Riverside).


6. Verna Lemon (Citrus x Limon ‘Verna’)

Mature Size: Up to 20 feet tall

Hardiness Zone: 8-10

Light: Full sun

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Vigorous growth

This lemon tree is native to Spain, where it is the second most important lemon tree after the Primofiori. It is widely known as both Verna and Berna. The fruits of this tree are less appealing for consumption than other lemons, as they tend to have a thick rind and do not contain much juice.

However, the tree has a vigorous growth habit and is ornamentally attractive. It can grow to be quite large, though it is also suitable for growing in a container if it is annually pruned. Its main crop is ready for harvest between spring and summer, with lemons which are bright yellow and of a medium to large size. The rind of these lemons is usually quite textured, on oval fruits which have a very pronounced neck.

 

6 Different Types of Lemons with Pictures & Essential Facts