How to Grow Meyer Lemons and Other Citrus Trees in Containers

Growing a Meyer lemon tree indoors

Did you know you can grow citrus indoors no matter where you live? The easiest citrus to grow indoors is the Meyer lemon. Meyer lemons are prized for their sweet flavor, a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon. The best part is the Meyer lemons available today are called improved because they don’t carry any citrus virus. Here are some tips to help your citrus tree thrive and produce fruit indoors.

What to know before you get started

Lighting your lemon tree

  • Citrus trees need 8-12 hours of light per day with southern or southwestern exposure to produce fruit
  • Supplement natural light with full spectrum fluorescent lighting or a professional grow light
  • Place your new tree in your desired location for 2 weeks before potting to be sure the tree is happy
  • When you have a place it’s happy, pot it

Watering your lemon tree

  • Citrus trees like deep and infrequent watering
  • Citrus trees like to be moist but not soggy
  • Use a moisture meter to tell when your tree needs watering, water when the top two inches of soil are dry
  • Add Thrive Alive B-1 to the water to encourage root growth

Pollinating your lemon tree

  • If your tree is flowering inside, take a cotton swab and transfer pollen from one blossom to another

Fertilizing your lemon tree

How long does it take for a Meyer lemon tree to bear fruit?

  • Meyer lemon trees typically flower and fruit twice a year starting at 3-5 years of age

How to pot a Meyer lemon tree for indoor growth

  1. For a 2-3 year old tree, use a 5 gallon plastic pot about 12-15” in height with good drainage
  2. Create a potting mixture of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 potting soil, and 1/3 perlite that will fill the pot
  3. Slide the tree from its container, cut away dry roots, fluff if matted/encircled
  4. Add tree to center of pot and add your potting mixture with the crown of the roots just above the soil line
  5. Slowly add water while pulling the tree up slightly to remove any air pockets

Best way to grow your Meyer lemon tree indoors

  • Place your tree in the brightest part of your house, near a south-facing window
  • If the tree doesn’t get 8-12 hours of light a day, add some low-energy LED grow lights
  • Fill a pot tray with rocks
  • Add water to the tray, filling it just below the top of the rocks to allow your tree to sit on the rocks but not IN water
  • Place the pot with tree on top of the rocks

Maintenance schedule for a lemon tree

  • Water as noted above
  • Weekly: Turn your tree a quarter turn to ensure the tree is getting even light
  • Every 2 weeks: Spray down your foliage
  • Every 2 years: Repot your tree after pruning the roots to avoid the tree getting root bound
  • Anytime: Prune your citrus tree to control its shape and size

Moving your citrus tree indoors to outdoor & vice versa

  • Best time to move your citrus or lemon tree is when the temperatures are close to the same indoors and outdoors
  • When switching, keep the tree in the shade for 2 weeks
  • Your citrus tree will grow and need larger containers over the years, so be sure to get help from a friend or use a moving dolly to move the pot around

Best alternatives to Meyer lemon trees

These citrus trees are also easy to grow indoors:
  • Lisbon lemons
  • Washington navel oranges
  • Bearss limes

69 comments

  • Rita, in order to figure out how to care for your lemon, you will first need to identify what pest is eating your tree. Try going out at night with a flashlight to see if you can see any insects. You can also take photos of the damage and consult your local Master Gardener.

    Suzanne
  • Kathy, lemons in containers need to be fed more frequently than those planted directly in the ground. I would feed them according to the product label for container plants. Probably once a month. Usually that is the cause of no flowers.

    Suzanne
  • I bought a Meyer lemon tree about 4 years ago. It blossomed that first year. I potted it up, have fertilized with citrus fertilizer, it sits in a south window in winter and is moved outside in summer. It has not bloomed since that fist time when I bought it. Do you have any suggestions on how to get it to bloom. It is in a 12" deep pot, get plenty of water and sun, is about 5’ tall.

    Kathy
  • Emmanuelle, sounds like your flowers are not getting pollinated. This is usually that is the cause of flowers just dropping. Try hand pollinating and see if that helps. It could also be a result of stress. Do you water and fertilizer your potted lemon regularly? Potted plants lose fertilizers and need to be fertilized more often than plants in the ground.

    Suzanne
  • I have a potted Meyer lemon tree outside in my patio in zone 10a-10b I believe (Miami). It has flowered several times, lemons start to grow, but fall off quickly before reaching full size. Is there any reason this happens and can I do anything to make them reach full size?

    Emmanuelle
  • I recently just bought a Meyer lemon tree it’s a baby plant. I’ve been on vacation so I’ve had it on the patio It’s been watered daily due to the heat because we live in Texas and it’s very hot when I came home part of one of the branches look like it had been eaten some type of bug can you tell me what to do?

    Rita Hagen
  • Paul, I would remove the flowers and allow the new plant to put on more roots and leaves. I would slowly move the plant to the direct sunlight, so it does not get burned.

    Suzanne
  • I air layered 4 good sized branches from my moms Meyer lemon from August 1st until mid September. They all developed roots. Three died and the one that is surviving lost almost all of its leaves. It is still green and sprouting new baby leaves (and flowers) all over. I have kept it from frost in the greenhouse all winter. My question is should I limit the direct sunlight on the new baby leaves when it is time to come out of the greenhouse in about a month?

    Paul
  • Pamela, losing one leaf is not a problem. Lemons will drop leaves when they are under stress or when disturbed. After repotting you may lose some leaves. Hopefully you have your tree protected from freezing temps, they do not tolerate cold temps in the freezing range. Citrus in pots should be fertilized about once a month and watered but not overwatered, allow the top of the soil to dry between waterings.

    suzanne
  • I bought my Meyers Limon tree in the Spring of this year. 2021.
    It was doing fine. I was caring for it like a baby.
    I live in MO. Central MO,
    Now all but 1 leaf has fallen off.
    I replanted my tree yesterday.
    I tried the dead roots, and used fresh Miracle Grow plotting soul and some Orchid planting soil and mixed all of it up.
    Then watered it.
    The very small trunk looks good.
    What can I do?
    Sincerely,
    Pamela Finney

    Pamela Finney
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