If you want to grow fruit trees in your home, you should consider buying a lemon tree. With its bright green leaves and fresh fragrance, a lemon tree is beautiful and provides lemons for you to enjoy throughout the year. But can you grow a lemon tree indoors?
You can grow a lemon tree indoors, but you must ensure you meet its requirements. This can be easier to do when planting a lemon tree outdoors, such as when giving the lemon tree at least six hours of full sun daily, but with a few tips, you’ll be able to grow a successful indoor lemon tree.
In this article, I’ll explore what you need to know about growing a lemon tree indoors so that it can start bearing fruit.
Can You Really Grow a Lemon Tree Indoors?
An indoor lemon tree can grow successfully, but it needs as much light as possible so that it will thrive. It also needs consistent warmth, with night-time temperatures of approximately 65°F (18.3°C). This is why it’s a good idea to take it outside for some extra sunshine during the summer.
This tip is especially useful during the winter if your home gets dark and cold. Let your lemon tree soak up the rays outside, as this will encourage it to grow fruit!
Before you plant an indoor lemon tree, you should know that it can grow up to about three or four feet (0.9-1.2m) in size. However, this depends on the variety of lemon trees because some can grow to around six feet (1.8m) in height.
One of the great things about growing an indoor lemon tree is that this citrus tree is self-pollinating. When planted outdoors, it gets pollinated by insects such as bees. Indoors, you don’t have to worry too much about pollination, but you can shake the tree’s branches to spread pollen around its flowers. This will help it to produce fruit.
Although looking after an indoor lemon tree isn’t challenging, there are some important tips to follow to ensure your lemon tree thrives. So, while you don’t need any special tools or equipment to grow an indoor lemon tree, you need to give your tree enough of what it needs.
- Fertilizer. Choose a citrus fertilizer for your lemon tree so that it gets enough micronutrients and macronutrients to grow healthy.
- Pot. A pot with a 12-inch (30.48cm) diameter is large enough for young lemon trees, but you’ll have to increase its size as your lemon tree grows. Always choose a pot with drainage holes so your lemon tree soil won’t become waterlogged, causing issues such as root rot. Many types of indoor lemon trees don’t have thorns, which makes them easier to handle and repot when required.
Will Indoor Lemon Trees Grow Fruit All Year Round?
Most indoor lemon trees will grow fruit throughout the year, such as the Meyer lemon tree, which bears fruit up to four times within a 12-month period.
Lemon trees will usually start producing fruit within six years, but this can happen sooner with indoor lemon trees that remain small.
Types Of Indoor Lemon Trees
There are many types of indoor lemon trees. Here are the most popular types.
1. Improved Meyer Dwarf Tree
This tree is a hybrid of lemon and mandarin orange. It produces sweet lemons and flowers throughout the year. It has a thin rind and doesn’t contain any thorns on its branches, so it’s easy to plant and handle. Its rind can be eaten because it doesn’t contain a white layer that tastes bitter.
- Size: Approximately five feet (1.5m).
- Watering schedule: Water your tree when the top two inches (5.08cm) of soil feel dry.
- Fruit size: 2-3 inches (5-8cm) in size.
2. Dwarf Eureka
The popular dwarf Eureka lemon tree produces bright yellow lemons with thick rinds that appear on the tree throughout the year.
Although these trees bear a lot of fruit, they’re not as cold-tolerant as other varieties, so you must protect them from the cold.
Their fruit tastes sweet and sour, and it’s not as sweet as Meyer lemons.
- Size: 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8m)
- Watering schedule: Water Eureka lemon trees so that their soil remains moist.
- Fruit size: 1.9-2.4 inches (5-6cm)
3. Dwarf Lisbon
The dwarf Lisbon lemon tree produces fruit throughout the year with a bright yellow appearance. The lemons are large and provide more juice than Eureka lemons. However, they have an acidic taste that can also be a bit bitter.
These fruit trees contain thorns, so be careful when handling them, and they can better handle the cold than Eureka lemons. They also bear more fruit, so if you want to harvest lots of lemons you’ll want this variety.
- Size: 6-7 feet (1.7-2.1m)
- Watering schedule: Water your tree once a week during the hot summer. Then, water it once every second week.
- Fruit size: 1.9-3.1 inches (5-8cm)
How to Plant and Care For an Indoor Lemon Tree
Growing an indoor lemon tree requires the right type of pot and fertilizer. As we’ve mentioned, the pot has to have drainage holes, but it also needs to be a light color because darker colors will absorb too much heat.
Although terra cotta pots look stunning, they can be heavy. If you’re going to move your lemon tree outdoors during good weather, you should choose a plastic container for your lemon tree instead.
Once you’ve got the right pot, make sure you fill it with fertilizer. A citrus plant fertilizer is best as it has nitrogen and other nutrients to keep your lemon tree healthy. Look for a fertilizer that contains a 6-6-6 formulation, as this indicates it has equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Ensure you water your lemon tree enough so that water leaks out through the holes at the bottom of the pot. You should ensure the soil is moist, but it should never be soggy, as this will damage the tree’s roots.
What to Know About Buying a Lemon Tree
When purchasing an indoor lemon tree, you can buy it as a young plant, or you can grow it from seeds. Soak the seeds in a bowl of water overnight before planting them, as this will soften them and make it easier for them to germinate.
Put the seeds in a pot containing a potting mix. You want to make holes in the potting mix with your fingers that are about half an inch (1.27cm) in size to plant the lemon seeds in each hole. When the seeds sprout, move them into their own pots.
Once potted, make sure you keep your lemon tree in an area of the home that receives a lot of suns, such as in front of a south- or south-west-facing window. If your home doesn’t get enough light, you should use artificial lights.
The area should also contain at least 50% humidity. During dry, cold months, you can use a pebble tray filled with water to provide enough moisture to your tree when the water evaporates.
Indoor Lemon Tree Care
Once your lemon tree is established, you should ensure you give it enough water, fertilizer, and sunlight.
- Water. Make sure you water your mature lemon tree when the top two inches (5.08cm) of its soil is dry. This will prevent you from overwatering it.
- Fertilizer. You should fertilize your mature lemon tree once every six or eight weeks during the growing season (spring and summer). Before fall, apply a slow-release fertilizer that will feed it through the cold months.
- Sunlight. Ensure your lemon tree is in full-sun condition. It needs at least six hours of sunlight every day, but the more, the better!
- Pruning. You should prune your lemon tree regularly, so it maintains its shape and size. Cut diseased or dead wood from the tree. You should also cut new shoots on the tree to half their length to maintain its compact shape.
If you want to transplant your indoor lemon tree into the garden when it’s warm, such as if it’s not getting enough light indoors, you can move it outside. You can transfer small lemon trees into larger pots that you’ll keep on a patio or in the garden.
Or, you can transplant the tree straight into the ground. It’s a good idea to prune the tree’s roots before transplanting it so that you’ll encourage new growth.
The most important thing to do when caring for your lemon tree, whether it’s indoors or transplanted outdoors, is to provide it with full-sun conditions. This will encourage the tree to grow flowers and fruit.
Indoor Lemon Tree Fruit
The fruit that you can expect from your indoor lemon tree depends on the variety you’re growing. The size of the fruit is usually a few inches in size, but fruits will grow throughout the year.
Generally, you can expect mature dwarf lemon trees to produce around 10 to 20 fruits every year. You can pinch the flowers on the tree when it’s young to encourage it to produce more fruit.
Since lemon trees are self-pollinating, you don’t have to worry about pollinating them. As mentioned earlier, you can shake their branches gently to spread their pollen to all their flowers.
When harvesting fruit from the lemon tree, make sure you hold the fruit in your hand and twist it so that it can snap off the branch. This is easy for anyone to do.
Make sure you harvest the lemons a few months after they have appeared as small green lemons on the tree. This gives the lemons a chance to mature and become ready to be harvested.
Indoor Lemon Tree Problems
Once you’ve planted your tree, check on it regularly so you can spot early signs of disease or problems, such as in the case of pests that are attacking your tree.
It’s always good to look at the tree for any signs of distress, such as if its leaves are curling, and check underneath its leaves, as this is a prime zone for pests to appear. You might need a magnifying glass to spot the teeny tiny ones!
Here are some common problems that affect indoor lemon trees and how to solve them.
If you overwater your lemon tree, it will display symptoms such as:
- Brittle or weak stems/branches
- Root rot
- Yellow leaves
Underwatering your tree is also unhealthy and will show up as yellow leaves or leaves that drop off the plant. A dehydrated tree will display shriveled leaves.
You should water your lemon tree when its soil feels dry, about two inches (5.08cm) deep, without letting all of its soil become dry.
When the leaves of a lemon tree start to curl, this indicates the presence of a problem such as the following:
- Lack of nitrogen
- Pests, such as aphids
- Temperature fluctuations
To find out more about these conditions and how to treat them, read our guide on fixing curling leaves on your lemon tree.
When a lemon tree’s leaves start turning yellow, this can indicate a variety of problems, such as overwatering or inadequate soil drainage. Ensure that your lemon tree pot has drainage holes to prevent water from accumulating at the bottom of it.
If a lack of proper nutrients is the problem, you can fix this by noting how the yellow color appears on the leaves.
For example, a lemon tree that lacks enough nitrogen will have yellow appearing on its older leaves, while a zinc or iron deficiency shows up as new leaves turning yellow.
If you love growing lemons, you don’t have to be limited to growing lemon trees in the ground. You can also grow them indoors to guarantee delicious fruits all year round.