How to Grow Meyer Lemons and Other Citrus Trees in Containers

By on March 12, 2018

Tricia picks a basket of fragrant Meyer lemons.

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.

Growing a Meyer lemon tree 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
  • 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

Additional reading & advice

If this post was helpful, you can find more valuable advice about growing citrus and other fruits, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers in containers by reading the popular book The Bountiful Container. It’s an extraordinarily complete, plant-by-plant guide with 400 pages! It’s essential for any small-space gardner.  You can click here to buy it from us.

 

 

 

  Comments (20)

T

I purchased a meyer lemon tree in the spring and kept it indoors for a few months as we had a cool spring in NJ. The I repotted after being outdoors for a few weeks and it is in a sunny spot. It had loads of blossoms while inside and then again outside. Several lemons developed but turned black or yellow while still very small then fell off. Plant appears very healthy. Any ideas?

Posted by Trish B on Jun. 28, 2018 at 5:32:48 AM

Trish, lemons sometimes will go through a little bit of shock getting moved, repotted or other stressors. That could be the issue. Also you really need to keep up on fertilizing them if they are in containers. They should get a good citrus fertilizer about once a month.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Jul. 12, 2018 at 10:12:37 AM

A

Should I stake my potted Meyer lemon tree? It is brand new this season and just growing in the pot that is currently outdoors. Thank you!

Posted by Andi on Jul. 28, 2018 at 7:57:00 AM

Andi, you shouldn’t need to stake your lemon tree. If it looks like it is leaning one direction, then you can stake it until it has developed a strong root system.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Jul. 30, 2018 at 9:27:42 AM

P

I live in New Jersey and am keeping my new Meyer lemon outside in a pot to bring inside for the winter. It is getting new growth. Should I cut that new growth now or just let it grow? When should it be pruned? I am new to Meyer lemons and have some lemons and it’s very exciting!

Posted by Patti on Aug. 02, 2018 at 6:27:14 AM

Patti, No don’t cut off the new growth, but you may want to back off on the amount of nitrogen you are giving them, especially true in your colder climate. That new growth needs to harden off before winter or it may get damaged by the cold. You can prune your lemons when they are producing flowers.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Aug. 02, 2018 at 2:58:33 PM

L

Thanks for your wonderful, concise advice!  My 8 year old Meyer Lemon Tree yields 2-3 lemons twice each year, but hardly has any leaves!  I put it outside for the summer, it was doing well, but something stole our lemons!  Should we worry about the leaves?  Thanks…

Posted by Lynn Anderson on Aug. 21, 2018 at 9:02:15 AM

Lynn, sounds like your tree needs more nitrogen/nutrition. If it is in a pot you will need to fertilize more frequently than if it was in the ground. A good citrus and fruit tree fertilizer works well.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Aug. 21, 2018 at 9:07:28 AM

M

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!

Posted by Merica on Sep. 12, 2018 at 10:37:33 AM

Merica, You lemon tree will be fine in the 1 gallon container until next year. But if you want to repot it, you can do it any time. You should bring it inside before you start to get freezing temperatures. Keep it in a sunny location and remember to keep it watered and fertilized according to the label.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Sep. 12, 2018 at 1:57:28 PM

P

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?

Posted by Patti on Oct. 12, 2018 at 6:04:09 AM

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.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Oct. 12, 2018 at 12:40:37 PM

P

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?

Posted by Patti on Oct. 13, 2018 at 12:22:44 PM

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

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Oct. 15, 2018 at 9:28:41 AM

D

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

Posted by Diane Perez on Dec. 03, 2018 at 2:36:10 PM

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.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Dec. 03, 2018 at 5:03:32 PM

L

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

Posted by Leah on Dec. 11, 2018 at 5:19:28 PM

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.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Dec. 12, 2018 at 8:45:42 AM

L

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!

Posted by Leah on Dec. 12, 2018 at 11:18:37 AM

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.

Posted by Suzanne at GrowOrganic.com on Dec. 12, 2018 at 2:53:07 PM

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