If you haven’t heard of a Meyer lemon before, you’re missing out on this farmers market favorite. Meyer lemons are a thin-skinned hybrid fruit, part lemon and part mandarin orange, making them much sweeter than the kind of lemon you’d see at a grocery store.
You can’t find Meyer lemons on your grocery run, since they aren’t grown commercially. If you want to get a taste of these sweet-tart fruits, you need to consider getting your very own Meyer lemon tree.
Meyer Lemon Trees at a Glance
Meyer lemon trees can yield fruit in just two years after planting them. Whether you choose to place one in your lawn or in your patio, your Meyer lemon tree can be both ornamental and a source of citrus sweetness.
- Cross between lemons and mandarin oranges
- Chefs use the sweet-tart skins
- Can bear fruit in as little as two years
- Will fruit indoors and outdoors
- Heavy harvest in winter
- Require consistent misting
History of the Meyer Lemon Tree
The first Meyer lemon trees were introduced from China in 1908. Unfortunately, this initial variety was very susceptible to disease, especially a fast-spreading virus that threatened the citrus industry in California in the 1960s by infecting nearby healthy citrus trees.
In 1975, the University of California introduced an all-new variety, called the “Improved Meyer lemon tree.” That’s the one we know and grow today. It’s more disease-resistant, and insect-resistant.
Appearance of Meyer Lemon Trees
Standard Meyer lemon trees grow to be 6-10 feet tall, while the dwarf variety grow to be 5-7 feet. If you grow your Meyer lemon tree in a garden pot, it will grow according to the size of the pot and be smaller.
Meyer lemon trees have glossy, dark green leaves and fragrant white blossoms that are purple at the base. When they’re ripe, the skins of Meyer lemons will take on the color of an egg yolk—yellow with a faint orange tinge. Meyer lemon skins are fragrant and a popular ingredient among chefs.
Appearance Details & Characteristics
|Appearance||Glossy green leaves, white blossoms, yellow-orange fruits|
|Height||6-10 feet tall, with dwarf variety of 5-7 feet tall|
|Type of tree||Fruit|
|Sunlight requirements||8-12 hours of direct sunlight per day|
|Soil composition||5.5-6.5 pH level|
|Lifespan||Up to 50 years|
Growing Meyer Lemon Trees
Here’s what you need to know before you decide to grow your own Meyer lemon tree.
Ideal Hardiness Zones
Meyer lemon trees flourish in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11, which are regions on the southern coastal margins and deep southern half of the US. Hardiness Zones are the standards gardeners use to determine the best growing regions for their plants and crops.
Planting Meyer Lemon Trees
These are the steps to follow to plant your Meyer lemon tree in a pot.
- Select a sturdy container with drainage holes that is 1-2 sizes larger than the container the tree arrived in.
- Place a 2-inch layer of stone at the bottom of the pot.
- Create a potting mixture with peat moss, potting soil, and either vermiculite or perlite in the pot.
- Slide the tree out of the container.
- Cut off dry roots and fluff matted roots.
- Place the tree in the center of the pot.
- Place the potting mixture in the pot so that the crown of the roots rest just above the line of the soil.
- Add water slowly.
- Place the tree by a south-facing window.
The trees require soil with good drainage and do well in loamy and sandy loam soils. The soil can range between 5.5 and 6.5 pH. You can amend your soil to reach the desired pH level, either adding sulfur to increase soil acidity or lime to lower overly acidic soil.
Meyer lemon trees thrive in full sunlight, requiring 8-12 hours of direct sunlight per day, preferably from the southwest, whether indoors or outdoors. If this isn’t possible inside, consider investing in grow lights.
Watering a Meyer Lemon Tree
Citrus trees need soil that is moist but not wet to thrive, especially if they are grown in pots. The best method is to water deeply but infrequently. Water when the upper two inches of the soil is dry. You can test this by pressing your finger into the soil down to your second knuckle and seeing if the soil feels dry or moist.
Citrus leaves crave humidity. If you have an indoor Meyer lemon tree, mist it daily. It’s also a good idea to place rocks and water in the saucer beneath your garden pot, so that humidity will rise up.
Meyer lemon trees thrive between roughly 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you should bring your Meyer lemon tree indoors until it heats up again.
One major benefit of Meyer lemon trees is that they are self-fertile. You only need one of these self-pollinating trees to get fruit. Planting several will increase your overall harvest, but isn’t necessary.
Meyer lemon trees start bearing fruit at different times, depending on how they were grown. Trees grown from grafted rootstock can start bearing fruit in as soon as two years, while seed-grown trees, which tend to be less healthy in general, start bearing fruit at three to seven years old.
Meyer lemon trees will fruit either indoors or outdoors once or twice a year, with especially abundant harvests in fall and winter.
If your Meyer lemon tree is located outdoors, pollination should take care of itself. But if you have an indoor Meyer lemon tree—or an outdoor one that you bring inside during cold temperatures—you can assist with pollination. Take a paintbrush or cotton swab and ease it into the center of a Meyer lemon blossom and swirl it, collecting the pollen. Then, repeat the process with every other blossom on the tree.
Pruning a Meyer Lemon Tree
You should prune your Meyer lemon tree periodically to keep it in its best health, maintain its structure and shape, and ensure that its branches can support fruit. Cut back the branches that do not produce fruit—called long leads—as they grow. The side branches will spread into that space and strengthen so that they can bear the weight of the fruit. Cut any branches that are growing toward the trunk to increase airflow between the branches.
Pruning your Meyer lemon tree before its fruit develops—cutting off every bud in a cluster except for one—can help stimulate the growth of larger lemons.
Fertilizing a Meyer Lemon Tree
Your Meyer lemon tree can benefit from monthly fertilizations from April through September. Select a slow-release nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Some are created specifically for citrus trees. You can also use organic emulsions or kelp.
Yellowing leaves can be a sign you need to fertilize your Meyer lemon tree.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for a Meyer lemon tree to bear fruit?
The amount of time it takes depends on how the tree was grown. A grafted tree can bear fruit in as little as two years, while seed-grown Meyer lemon trees can take anywhere from three to seven years to produce fruit.
How do you take care of a Meyer lemon tree?
Caring for a Meyer lemon tree involves watering the soil deeply but infrequently and misting its leaves, promoting good soil drainage, allowing your tree to get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight, and more.
How big do Meyer lemon trees get?
Standard Meyer lemon trees grow to be 6-10 feet tall, while the dwarf variety grow to be 5-7 feet tall.
Are coffee grounds good for Meyer lemon trees?
It depends on the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. The ideal soil pH for your Meyer lemon tree is between 5.5 and 6.5 pH. Coffee grounds can slightly increase the acidity of your soil but likely not enough to make a big difference. Ammonium sulfate would be a better choice to aid in soil acidity while also adding nitrogen. A fertilizer specifically formulated for citrus trees would be the best option to create the right soil conditions for your tree.
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