Welcome to Robert Kline’s guide on growing Meyer lemon trees. Whether you have a spacious garden or limited space for pots, this comprehensive guide will provide you with all the information you need to successfully cultivate Meyer lemon trees and enjoy their bountiful harvest. From pruning techniques to propagation methods, we will explore every aspect of growing these delightful lemon/mandarin orange hybrids. Get ready to embark on a rewarding journey of citrus gardening with Meyer lemon trees.
What is a Meyer Lemon Tree?
Meyer lemon trees, scientifically known as Citrus × meyeri, are a delightful combination of lemon and mandarin orange. Whether cultivated in garden pots or in the ground, growing these trees is a rewarding experience. Their abundant fruit production and attractive appearance, with vibrant white blossoms and glossy, dark green foliage, make them a popular choice.
Unlike the more common Eureka and Lisbon lemons, the Meyer lemon is actually a hybrid fruit, believed to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. This unique variety was introduced to the United States in 1908 by agricultural explorer Frank Meyer. The original hybrid from China was susceptible to viral diseases, but a superior strain was developed by the University of California and released in 1975. This improved version is self-pollinating and exhibits enhanced qualities. The Meyer lemon fruit is smaller, rounder, and sweeter compared to other lemon varieties. Even the peels are flavorful and can be used for culinary purposes.
Meyer lemon trees are native to China and naturally grow in a shrub-like form. However, they can be easily pruned to resemble true trees. When planted in the ground, they can reach heights of up to 10 feet, while those grown in garden pots tend to be smaller and adapt their growth to the container size. Dwarf cultivars, specifically bred to be smaller, typically reach a maximum height of seven feet. Seedlings of Meyer lemon trees develop at a moderate pace, usually bearing fruit within approximately four years. For successful growth, these trees are best planted in early spring, once the risk of frost has passed. They require warm conditions throughout the year to ensure a bountiful harvest. Alternatively, they can be moved indoors for overwintering.
It is important to note that, like other citrus fruits, the skin and plant materials of Meyer lemons are toxic to dogs and cats. Pet owners should take precautions to prevent their pets from ingesting these potentially harmful substances.
|Citrus x meyeri
|6–10 ft. tall, 4–8 ft. wide (Dwarf cultivars, 5-7 ft. tall)
|Toxic to pets
Meyer Lemon Tree Care
To care for Meyer lemon trees effectively, it is essential to keep the following tips in mind:
- Choose well-drained, slightly acidic soil for planting. Meyer lemon trees prefer soil that allows water to pass through easily and has a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5.
- Select a planting location that avoids excessive water saturation. The roots of Meyer lemon trees are sensitive to overwatering and can suffer if the soil remains waterlogged for extended periods. Ensure proper drainage to prevent this issue.
- Avoid overwatering your tree. If you are growing Meyer lemon trees in a container, water them when the top two inches of soil feel dry to the touch. This allows the roots to receive adequate moisture without becoming waterlogged.
- Provide appropriate nutrition by feeding the tree three times during the growing season. High-nitrogen or all-purpose fertilizers are recommended for Meyer lemon trees. Apply the fertilizer according to the package instructions to ensure proper dosage.
- Meyer lemon trees thrive in warm climates such as Florida or California, where they are commonly grown in containers both outdoors and indoors due to their low-maintenance nature. Although they are slightly more cold-tolerant than Eureka and Lisbon lemon trees, they still require a sheltered and sunny position to flourish.
- Ensure the planting spot has excellent drainage to avoid saturated conditions. If you are concerned about standing water, you can create a raised mound of soil to plant your tree on or position it on a slope. This will help facilitate proper drainage and prevent waterlogging.
By following these care tips, you can provide optimal conditions for your Meyer lemon tree to grow and thrive, resulting in healthy foliage and abundant fruit production.
Planting Meyer Lemon Tree
You have two options for growing your Meyer lemon tree: in a container or in the ground, depending on the climate you live in. If you reside in zone 9 through 11, you can plant it directly in the ground. However, it’s crucial to select a location with good drainage. Alternatively, many people choose to grow their Meyer lemon tree in a container, even if they plan to keep it outside year-round. This allows for greater flexibility and the ability to move the tree when desired.
When choosing a container for potting your Meyer lemon tree, opt for a 5-gallon or larger container that is at least 12 to 15 inches in height. Ensure that the container has sufficient drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Begin by filling the pot partway with a potting mixture specifically formulated for citrus trees. If the tree is in a nursery container, gently loosen and fluff the roots if they appear tangled. Place the tree in the center of the pot and fill in the gaps with the potting mixture, leaving the crown of the roots still visible. Firmly press down the soil to eliminate any air pockets, and water the tree immediately after planting. Keep in mind that container-grown trees will generally require more frequent watering compared to trees planted in the ground.
Light for Meyer Lemon Tree
Like all citrus trees, Meyer lemon trees thrive in sunny conditions. They require ample sunlight to grow and produce fruits successfully. While they can tolerate some shade, they will perform best when planted in a location that receives full sunlight. Ideally, Meyer lemon trees should be exposed to at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day to promote optimal growth and fruiting.
Soil for Improved Meyer Lemon Tree
Meyer lemon trees have a versatile nature and can adapt to various soil types, as long as the soil has proper drainage. They prefer acidic soil conditions, with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5, and tend to thrive in loamy or sandy soil compositions. It is advisable to conduct a soil test before planting to assess its pH level and determine if any adjustments are needed. If the soil pH is too high, lime can be added to increase acidity, while sulfur can be used to lower it if necessary. These measures ensure that the soil provides an optimal environment for the growth and development of Meyer lemon trees.
Water for dwarf meyer lemon tree
Proper watering is crucial for the successful growth of Meyer lemon trees, especially when they are cultivated in pots. The goal is to maintain the soil moisture at an appropriate level, avoiding both excessive saturation and dryness. To determine the watering needs of your Meyer lemon tree, you can perform a simple soil moisture test. Insert your finger into the soil, going at least up to the second knuckle. If you feel dampness at your fingertip, it indicates that the soil is still moist, and you should hold off on watering. However, if the soil feels dry, it’s time to water the plant. Water it thoroughly until you observe water draining out from the bottom of the pot. One common indication that your plant requires water is if the leaves start to curl.
Using pot feet is a recommended practice to facilitate proper drainage for potted Meyer lemon trees. These feet elevate the pot slightly, allowing excess water to flow out freely and preventing the plant from becoming waterlogged. By ensuring adequate drainage, pot feet help maintain a healthy balance of moisture in the soil, preventing water-related issues and promoting the optimal growth of the tree.
Temperature and Humidity meyer lemon tree indoor
To ensure the well-being of Meyer lemon trees, it is important to provide them with suitable temperature and humidity conditions. Ideally, these trees thrive in temperatures ranging from 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you reside outside USDA growing zones 9 to 11, where these temperatures are consistently met, it is advisable to bring your tree indoors when temperatures regularly fall below this range. Even in zones 9 to 11, protection should be provided when temperatures drop below freezing. It is recommended to use a covering that extends all the way to the ground, as this helps in trapping the heat emanating from the earth.
Citrus trees, including Meyer lemons, prefer humidity levels of 50 percent or higher. If you do not have a sufficiently humid indoor location, you can create a pebble tray to increase humidity. Simply fill a tray with rocks, pour water just below the top of the rocks, and place your potted tree on top of the rocks. This arrangement allows the humidity to rise around the plant. Another option is to place a small humidifier in the vicinity of the tree, which can help maintain the desired humidity levels.
Fertilizer for Improved Meyer Lemon Tree
To ensure the healthy growth and productivity of your Meyer lemon tree, it is recommended to provide appropriate nourishment during the growing season, which spans from early spring to fall. This can be achieved by using either a high-nitrogen fertilizer or a slow-release all-purpose fertilizer. It is usually sufficient to apply the fertilizer three times, evenly spaced out throughout the growing season. This regular feeding regimen helps maintain the tree’s overall well-being, promotes growth, and encourages fruit production.
In addition to traditional fertilizer options, citrus trees like the Meyer lemon also benefit from supplemental feeding with liquid fertilizers. Options such as compost tea, liquid kelp, or fish emulsion are commonly used and can yield positive results. However, it is important to note that while these liquid fertilizers can enhance growth further, they are generally not essential for the overall health of the tree.
By following these recommended feeding practices, you can provide your Meyer lemon tree with the necessary nutrients it needs to thrive, ensuring a happy, growing, and productive plant.
How to Pollinate Meyer Lemon Trees
A Meyer lemon tree that has reached a minimum age of 5 years should bear fruit consistently every year. If you have planted your Meyer lemon tree outdoors, either in a garden or a container, you need not be concerned about pollination since local pollinators will adequately perform this task for the self-fertile tree.
However, if your tree is indoors during the pollination season, you will need to assist with the process. To facilitate pollination indoors, you can use a small paintbrush. Gently collect some pollen, which appears as yellow grains, from one of the flowers with abundant pollen. Then, touch the stigma of each remaining flower (the bulbous tip in the center) and make sure to leave a trace of pollen behind. By following this method, you can encourage the formation of small lemons on your tree.
Pruning Meyer Lemon Trees:
When it comes to pruning Meyer lemon trees, the shape of the tree doesn’t affect its ability to bear fruit, so pruning is primarily done for aesthetic purposes. Some gardeners prefer a traditional tree shape with an exposed trunk, while others opt for a hedge-like style.
Wait until the tree reaches a height of 3 to 4 feet before pruning. Since most of the fruit ripens in winter, it’s best to wait until that period is over before pruning.
Start by removing any dead or dying branches from the base of the tree, as well as any long, thin stems that are unlikely to support fruit. Next, prune branches that hinder the growth of others or obstruct proper airflow.
Propagating Meyer Lemon Trees:
Meyer lemon trees are relatively easy to propagate, particularly through semi-hardwood cuttings. This method can be employed at any time of the year, but success rates are highest when the cutting is taken during the tree’s active growth period in late spring or early summer. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Take a cutting from a mature and disease-free Meyer lemon tree, ensuring that the segment is 3 to 6 inches long.
- Remove all leaves, flowers, or fruit from the cutting, except for the top four leaves.
- Dip the cut end of the branch in rooting hormone powder to protect against rot or disease.
- Place a well-watered, medium-sized pot (about 1 gallon) filled with high-quality potting mix.
- Insert the cutting into the soil, burying the cut end.
- Cover the pot and cutting with a plastic bag to retain moisture, and place it in a well-lit area.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy and mist the cutting occasionally. It typically takes around two months for the cutting to develop new roots.
- Once roots are established, remove the plastic covering and care for the plant as usual. If needed, keep it indoors or in a sheltered location until the following spring.
Repotting Meyer Lemon Trees:
Meyer lemon trees should be repotted every two to three years or when the roots start protruding through the drainage holes. Repotting is best done in early spring, before the active growing season begins. Follow these steps:
- Gently loosen the roots of the tree from its current container using a trowel, and shake off any compacted soil.
- Place the tree in a larger container and add fresh potting soil.
- Water the tree thoroughly to help it recover from the shock of being repotted, then resume normal watering.
Harvesting Meyer Lemons:
Meyer lemon trees grown indoors typically bear fruit in spring, while outdoor trees in warm climates may fruit year-round. To ensure optimal ripeness, wait until the Meyer lemons turn a vibrant egg yolk yellow and are slightly soft to the touch before picking. Use a knife or scissors to cut the fruit from the branch, avoiding damage to the plant.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases:
Meyer lemon trees, like other citrus trees, are susceptible to various pests, including whiteflies, rust mites, mealybugs, aphids, and scale. While established adult trees can usually withstand infestations, smaller and more vulnerable trees may be severely affected. Signs of pest issues typically appear on the undersides of leaves or on the fruit.
To control and eliminate pests, start by pruning away any dead, unhealthy, or infected parts of the tree. Treat the plant by spraying it with diluted horticultural oil, such as neem oil, applying it regularly until all signs of infection have disappeared.
How to Get Meyer Lemon Trees to Bloom:
Blooming is crucial for Meyer lemon trees as it leads to fruit production. While these trees do not typically flower in their first few years, blooms usually appear around the third or fourth year. Here are some essential factors to consider:
- Abundant light: Meyer lemon trees require at least eight hours of light per day to bloom. If you don’t have a spot in the ground that receives sufficient light, consider potting the tree so you can move it to maximize light exposure.
- Fertilizing: Apply a citrus-specific fertilizer once a month, as over-fertilization can hinder blooming just like under-fertilization. Choose a fertilizer formulated for citrus trees.
- Temperature: A brief period of cooler temperatures (around 60 degrees Fahrenheit) during winter and early spring can stimulate blooming.
Video How to Plant & Grow Meyer Lemons
Do you need two Meyer lemon trees to produce fruit?
No, Meyer lemon trees are self-fertile, but outdoor exposure to insects and birds increases the likelihood of pollination and fruit production.
How tall does a Meyer lemon tree get?
Meyer lemon trees can reach heights of up to 10 feet, while newer dwarf cultivars typically grow to around 5 to 7 feet.
How long does it take a Meyer lemon tree to produce fruit?
On average, it takes about four years for a Meyer lemon tree to start producing fruit.
Can Meyer lemon trees survive a freeze?
Meyer lemon trees are unlikely to survive prolonged freezing temperatures. During unexpected freezes, it’s important to cover the tree entirely for protection.
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