Many garden centers sell potted Meyer lemon trees.

Meyer Lemon Cultivation

by Bridget Kelly

Meyer lemon trees (Citrus x meyeri) are semi-dwarf and, unless they are grafted onto dwarf rootstock, they will grow to 15 feet tall if planted in the ground, and 7 to 10 feet in a pot. If you live in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, you can grow the Meyer lemon tree outdoors. A cross between a lemon and a mandarin, Meyer lemon trees are easy to care for and attractive.

1. Sun and Temperatures

Whether you grow the Meyer lemon indoors or out, in a container or in the ground, it requires at least six hours of sun a day. Give the tree a southern exposure and it will thrive. Outdoors, protect it from high winds. Meyer lemon trees go dormant when temperatures dip below 54 degrees Fahrenheit and can even tolerate short periods when the temperature is downright cold -- 10 to 28 F. If you live in USDA zone 8 or lower, grow the tree in a large container that can be brought indoors for the winter.

2. Soil

The ideal soil for a container-grown Meyer lemon tree consists of equal parts of potting soil and sphagnum peat moss. Proper soil drainage is crucial for an outdoor-grown Meyer lemon so take the time to test the soil’s drainage before planting. You’ll need to dig a deep hole -- at least 30 inches deep -- fill it with water and then wait 24 hours. Fill the hole again with water and time how long it takes to drain. If it takes longer than two hours to drain 2 inches, you’ll need to amend the soil. Do this by laying a 4-inch layer of compost over the soil then mixing it into the top 8 inches of soil.

3. Water

Container-grown Meyer lemon trees are simple to care for, especially when it comes to watering. As long as you water slowly and deeply you can be sure the root ball is evenly moist. Wait until the top 1 inch of soil is dry before watering. You’ll need to keep an eye on the outdoor-grown Meyer lemon for signs of water stress, such as wilting leaves. The soil should remain evenly moist but never soggy. Unless the weather is extremely hot or windy, water the tree once a week. If it begins wilting, water it.

4. Fertilizer

Fertilize the container-grown Meyer lemon tree every 60 days during the growing season with a citrus fertilizer, such as 5-2-6. Use 1 teaspoon of fertilizer granules for each 4 inches of pot diameter. If your pot is more than 12 inches in diameter, double the rate. Fertilize the in-ground tree in late winter late spring and in September or October. The amount of citrus fertilizer to apply depends on the size of the tree. A rule of thumb is to use 2 pounds if the tree is shorter than 3 feet, 4 pounds for 3- to 6-foot trees, 6 pounds if the Meyer lemon is from 7 to 9 feet tall and 8 pounds if the tree is 9 feet tall or taller. Always apply the fertilizer at least 6 inches away from the trunk and water afterward.

5. Other Care

It’s important to remove any shoots that appear at the base of the Meyer lemon tree. These shoots are known as suckers and they grow from the rootstock, not the Meyer lemon, and they harm the tree’s development. Just snip them off at the point of origin. Avoid pruning the Meyer lemon tree unless it is to remove freeze damage or shoots that grow vertically from limbs. Make all cuts flush with the branch.

About the Author

Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at Trulia.com, SFGate.com, GardenGuides.com, RE/MAX.com, MarketLeader.com, RealEstate.com, USAToday.com and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.

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