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

  • Thank you for the reply Suzanne. The fertilizer I used was “Jack’s Citrus Feed” made in Allentown PA by J.R. Peters. I will no longer use that fertilizer, instead I will use Jobe’s Organics Fruit and Citrus Granular Fertilizer which is a 3-5-5. Hope this fertilizer works better.

    Greg
  • I have a Dwarf Meyer lemon tree that has one nice size green Lemon. I want to repot and put it outside again, but it is dropping leaves. I don’t want to loose the one lemon I have and I know it will do better outside. Should I wait to repot?

    Alicia
  • Alicia, you should wait to repot the tree when it is not putting on fruit. So I would wait until the lemon has matured. You might give it some fertilizer and get it outside, sounds like your tree is under some sort of stress since it is dropping its leaves.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • Rosalie, not sure how long it will take your lemon to ripen. Make sure you are watering and fertilizing regularly. Your tree has undergone some stress, that is usually why it loses its leaves. But make sure you are giving it plenty of nutrients to use while replacing its leaves.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • My tree bloomed grew a lemon, then lost all it’s leaves. The lemon is still on there green and hard. The lemon has been on there for a few months. It just bloomed again, but no new lemons. Finally have leaves growing back. How long do I wait for the lemon to ripen and turn yellow.

    Rosalie
  • Melissa, usually when the tree drops its leaves means that it has undergone some sort of stress. So not sure how cold it gets indoors, or is it getting enough fertilizer? Potted lemons need to be fed about monthly since they lose a lot of fertilizer when it gets watered. The nice thing about lemons, they are pretty tough. I forgot to bring mine in one fall and it got zapped pretty good from a hard frost. I thought for sure it was dead. I brought it in and of course it dropped all of its leaves. I just left it alone and it grew new branches and now I can hardly tell it lost all of the top growth. Don’t give up on it, and pretty soon you can move it outdoors (do it slowly or that will stress it out too).

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • My Meyer lemon tree has been struggling inside. I am in Virginia so has been a cold winter. I have in direct sunlight, got several blooms and was looking much better but then dropped a bunch of nice green leaves. Barely has any leaves left, what am I doing wrong ?

    Melissa
  • Celia, sounds like your tree is stressed. Is it growing in a warm, sunny area? Are you fertilizing regularly? Usually when trees drop their blossoms, is that they have not gotten pollinated. Is it in an area that pollinators can get to?

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • My son has a Meyer lemon plant it gets blossoms but the leaves are sorta turning yellow then fall off. It’s in a 5 gal pot don’t know old it is but no fruit appears from blossoms. And ideas would be appreciated. Thanks

    celia bjork
  • Leah, your tree should get around 6 hours of sunlight. If you don’t think it gets enough sun, then supplementing with a grow lamp is ok. I would not give it more than 8 hours.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com

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