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

  • Gaye, lemon trees respond to stress by dropping their leaves, blossoms or fruit. Keep it fertilized, once a month, with a good citrus fertilizer and do not over water it through the winter. It should come back just fine once it acclimates to its new location.

    Suzanne
  • I purchased a Meyer lemon tree that had blossoms and lemons from a nursery this past summer. I brought it indoors and did everything I was told to do but the lemons just fell off and so did all the blossoms. The tree was fine until about two weeks ago and all of a sudden the leaves just all turned brown and fell off what did I do wrong it is in a cool room but my other plants are fine and it seems to be getting plenty of sunlight

    Gaye
  • Ellyn, you should use a citrus fertilizer about once a month, along with the Thrive Alive.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • I bought my meyer lemon at a nursery already in a one gallon pot in May 2019. Its about two feet tall and is finally loaded with ripe lemons I thought it was a lime for the last 4 months) and now growing indoors. Your information says B1 Thrive Alive for root growth, is that in addition to one of the three suggested fertilizers, i.e. E.B. Stone Citrus and Fruit Tree Fertilizer. I live in Eastern Washington. Thank you!

    Ellyn
  • Jackie, it is very difficult to diagnose what is going on without seeing pictures of the leaves. You may want to take it to a local nursery and see if they can help you out. Sounds like what you are doing is fine. Did you look for any insects on the leaves? If you have a magnifying glass, take a look and see if you see any very small insects on your leaves.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • Hi I purchased a potted meyers lemon tree and put it in a window corner where it gets south and west sun daily. I have watered it when the top two inches of soil have been dry and turn it quarterly. I had it for two months and it started getting yellow spots that grow and then the leaves fall off. I thought maybe I was over watering it because they leaves get more yellow then fall off. I let the tree dry out longer between waterings and started feeding it Organics Citrus and Fruit Tree Food (about a month ago) but the yellow spots keep appearing and leaves falling – there is no brown on the spots so didn’t think it could be fungus esp since it is in doors and not a wet environment. I still purchased a copper fungicidal spray and did my first application today and will weekly. There is one branch where new leaves have grown and it has seven healthy green lemons on it but no leaves around the lemons anymore. I have looked online and nothing looks exactly like what I’m seeing. Any help would be much appreciated
    Thanks
    Jackie

    Jackie Briles
  • Brenda, usually lemons will drop their leaves when under going some type of stress. So bringing it indoors may stress the tree. Do not over water the tree. All it to dry a bit before watering.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • I live in B.C. Canada where we have sunless falls/winters. My dwarf Meyer has been brought inside. It has fruit from the spring, new blossoms and tiny fruit. I’m experiencing leaf drop. I’ve supplement with a grow light, the room is room temp, not hot. It’s in a 18’ container and is taking longer to dry out. I fertilize monthly with a citrus fertilizer. I have photos. Can anyone help. I’ll submit photos on email request.

    Brenda Locken
  • Greg, usually trees drop leaves, blossoms and fruit in response to stress. Sounds like what you fertilized them with might be the problem. That is a pretty high dose of nutrients to give them… better to use a fertilizer labeled for citrus, and to use something organic.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • My Meyer lemon tree flowered and has quite a few lemons growing. They were nice and dark green even though they were small up till this week. I fertilized with a 20-10-20 Citrus tree fertilizer 3 days ago. A lot of the lemons are now turning pale green then falling off. There are still new leaves growing and I have a mixture of new and older leaves on the tree. Do you know what could be causing me to loose the lemons.

    Greg

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