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

  • Hi Suzanne,
    Following the leaf drop, I picked it up off the floor, and put it on a small table, to (hopefully) get more sunlight. Should I put grow lamps there? How much is too much?
    Thank you!

    Leah
  • Leah, did you move your tree or did it undergo some sort of stressor? Sometimes they will drop their leaves if stressed. Is it getting enough sunlight? They are pretty tough trees and it should grow back its leaves.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • Hi,
    My tree seemed to be doing ok (indoors, because I’m in the northeast), but has started dropping leaves.
    Any advice?
    Thanks,

    Leah
  • Diane, yes you should prune that tall shoot. How you prune your new tree will depend on what you want. But prune the tall shoot to the height that you want, it will then stimulate more shoots to grow. If you are growing in a pot, keep it fertilized regularly and if you live where the winters are very cold (below freezing), you should keep the tree in a greenhouse or sunroom, where it will not freeze. Keep the tree pruned to the shape that you desire.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • Hi I’ve been growing a couple Meyer lemon trees from seeds and one is shooting straight up about 4’ and just got a side branch. I’m wondering (asking) how to prune them at this early stage? Is there a method to follow as it continues to grow and when to report them?
    Thank you!
    Diane

    Diane Perez
  • Patti, It wouldn’t hurt to do leave it in a tray filled with water.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • Thanks for the above information! I will be out of town for two weeks after Thanksgiving. Should I put the pot on top of rocks in a tray filled with water?

    Patti
  • Patti, your lemon would be ok left in your sunroom, but it does need plenty of sunshine. Not sure how cold at night it gets where you live, but it can grow outside, as long as it does not freeze.

    Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com
  • I live in north Alabama and got my Meyer lemon tree in May. I keep it outdoors or in my sunroom when rainy. In winter, we keep the heater on in the sunroom so it doesn’t get colder than 58 degrees at night. During a winter day, it stays in the upper 60s or 70s. Question – should I bring my lemon tree inside to a southern facing window, or would it be ok in the sunroom?

    Patti
  • I just purchased an Improved Meyer Lemon tree and plan to grow in a container. Currently, it is in a 1 gallon container. I live in Seattle, WA. When should I bring it in and when should I put it in a larger container? Or do I need to put it in a larger container?

    Thank you!

    Merica

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