How to Grow Lemon Trees in Pots: (18 PROVEN Tips)

Have you ever wanted to learn how to grow lemon trees in pots, but didn’t know where to begin?

Are you already growing lemon trees, but want bigger and better lemons?

Well, TheGardeningDad has great news for you!

Below, are 18 PROVEN Tips if you want to learn How to Grow Lemon Trees in Pots.

These tips will help you produce bigger, tastier, and more lemons!

Choose the Right Lemon Tree (Tips #1-3)

When it comes to fruit-bearing trees, a gardener has many varieties to choose from.

Lemon trees are no different.

The good news is you can grow pretty much any lemon tree in a pot. 

If you want to learn how to grow lemon trees in pots that have the most success then I recommend:

1. Choose the Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree

dwarf meyer lemon tree
Buy on Amazon

The Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree is known for its fragrant flowers and medium-sized, yellow fruit.  It produces a fruit that is tangy, juicy, and slightly sweet. 

You’ll notice this does not taste like store-bought lemons because it is a cross of a lemon and orange!

Why you want to buy a Dwarf Meyer Lemon tree for your pot is simple. 

It is one of the hardiest Lemon Trees on the planet.  It is known for being cold, heat, and insect resistant. 

In addition, this is a self-pollinating tree meaning you only need one. You won’t have to worry about having to pollinate it with your hands or a machine!

Even better, if you are limited on space this tree will only grow to 4-6 feet indoors (in a pot).

Finally, this is one of the fastest-growing lemon trees.

It bears fruit within 1 to 2 years of planting, with lemons taking 6 to 9 months to ripen.

2. Choose the Lisbon Lemon Tree

Lisbon Lemon Tree
Buy at Nature Hill

If you want to learn how to grow lemon trees in pots then this is another great option.

The Lisbon Lemon Tree is an heirloom lemon similar to what you will find in grocery stores. 

It has a rich floral smell similar to orange blossom and its fruit has a tart, tangy taste.

There are quite a few reasons why you would want to buy a Lisbon Lemon tree. 

If you are looking for a vigorous hardy tree that produces a heavy crop then this is it. 

Also, the Lisbon Lemon tree is great if you are looking for a slightly larger tree than the dwarf Meyer.  The Lisbon will get to approximately 8 feet tall, but you can limit its size with pot size and pruning.

In addition, this is another self-pollinating tree, which will make life easy for any gardener.

Finally, it should be noted that while this tree is very heat and disease resistant you will want to be careful if left in the cold. 

This is frost tender meaning if temperatures get near or below freezing you will want to move it indoors.

3. Choose the Dwarf Ponderosa Lemon Tree

dwarf ponderosa lemon tree
Buy on Amazon

If you want to learn how to grow lemon trees in pots then you need a few good options.

Out of all three lemon trees listed, the Dwarf Ponderosa Lemon Tree may produce the best fruit

It produces grapefruit-size lemons weighing it at almost two pounds. 

These are sweet, delicious fruit that will make you never want to have a store-bought lemon again.

While it produces the best fruit, it also requires the most care. 

While cold hardy, the Dwarf Ponderosa Lemon tree is not as disease-resistant or heat resistant as the other trees. 

I recommend keeping this tree indoors or on a patio away from full sun exposure and air drafts.

The great news about this tree is that it’s fast-growing. The fruit will be produced 1 to 2 years after planted and they typically ripen within 6 to 9 months. 

In addition, this is another self-pollinating tree that won’t get any larger than 8 feet tall.  Again you can control height by pot size and pruning.  

Choose the Right Pot for YOU (Tip #4)

If you want to learn how to grow lemon trees in pots then choosing the right pot is essential. It will help you reap the benefits of all your hard work, time, and money.

As you are deciding what pot to choose, there are several tips to remember.

You will want a pot with sufficient drainage. This will allow your lemon tree roots don’t stay too wet and rot (hence killing the tree).

You will also want to make sure your pot is at least 5 gallons.

The sweet spot is 15 gallons for healthy growth and support.  Anything over 15 gallons will usually result in excess space and will add incredible weight.

In general, you want a pot that is 25% to 50% larger than the root ball.

In general, you can’t go wrong with almost any type of pot to plant your lemon tree in. 

With that being said, there are 4 specific kinds that I personally recommend.

Ceramic Pot

ceramic pot

Ceramic pots are one of the four best pots to grow you lemon trees in.

They are made from finely textured clay and then are glazed keeping it non-porous. This means it will allow the water to effectively drain. 

In addition, it is a highly durable material that can last for decades.

While this may seem great, the downside is that it is the heaviest recommendation on this list. It is also the most expensive.

In addition, if this pot is left outside in freezing conditions it will break leaving it useless.  This would be a great planter for your patio, outside all year in warm temperatures, or inside all year.

If you are looking for ceramic pots to start your lemon trees in, I recommend (as seen above): 

Cobalt Ceramic Garden Planter

Clay Pot

clay pot

Clay pots may be my favorite pot to grow lemon trees in

They are typically readily available in almost any garden store, are affordable, and provide versatility for both inside and outside.

Clay pots are typically made with unglazed terracotta clay.  Very simply this means they are more durable than ceramic pots. They dry out slightly faster (meaning you will have to water more).  

Another benefit of the clay pot is that it will typically keep your lemon tree plant roots from drying out. 

A small disadvantage of this type of pot though is that it can crack if left in freezing weather.

If you are interested in transplanting a growing lemon tree into a bigger clay pot, I recommend (as seen above):

Artech Garden Planter 

Plastic Pot

plastic pot

If you are looking for a jack of all trades pot then you have found it with the Plastic Pot!

These are the cheapest pots out there and you most likely can even get one for free from a neighbor!  Even though they are plastic, typically they are made to look like ceramic or clay pots.

This is the perfect container for both indoors and to leave outdoors year-round. 

In addition, it is the lightest weight pot making it great for moving between indoor and outdoor locations.

The downside of this type of pot is that it is less durable than most of your other pots and does not drain as effectively.

If you are interested in purchasing a large plastic pot for your lemon tree, I recommend (as pictured above): 

Bloem Terra Planter

Wooden Pot

wooden pot

If you want a pot that blends in perfectly with the outdoors then go with a Wooden Pot.

Wooden pots are perfect to be outside year-round. 

They are not likely to crack and are very slow to dry out.  If you want the most durable type of wood pot, then go with Redwood or Cedar material. These are most effective against rot.

The downside of wooden parts is simple. 

They are middle of the road in weight, so you typically want to leave them in one spot.  In addition, they can rot from too much water and typically will need drainage holes cut into them.

If you are interested in purchasing a wooden pot, I am recommending (as seen above):

GardenGoodz Whiskey Barrell Planter

And if by chance you are in the need of other gardening supplies, I recommend my article:

Unique Gardening Gifts for Dad and Mom

*One final tip when purchasing a pot. There is a good chance water will drain onto the ground.  This isn’t a big deal if you are outside, but this can cause quite the damage indoors.

To help prevent this, I recommend purchasing a plant saucer, like Bloem Plant Saucer to prevent water damage.  

Caring for Lemon Trees (Tips #5-10)

By now you should have a few ideas on how to grow lemon trees in pots.

But wait, there is more!

Believe it or not lemon trees are incredibly easy to care for.

If you want the most yield and healthiest plant then you want to properly care for it. 

Below, is a list of items you’ll want to make sure you are doing consistently.

5. Water Just Enough!

Watering is one of the important factors if you want to know how to grow lemon trees in pots.

Citrus trees generally require more water than other fruitbearing trees.  Lemon trees are no different.

If you are keeping your lemon tree indoors, I recommend watering it twice a week for about 30 seconds each time. 

You can typically tell if your tree needs watering if the soil feels dry. Light brown is another telltale sign.

If you are keeping your lemon tree outdoors, I recommend watering it every other day for 30 seconds each time.  I recommend doing it more frequently because sun and heat can dry out the soil at a much faster rate.

In addition to watering, your lemon trees will grow best in about 50% humidity. 

If you keep your pot outside year-round you can’t control this.  If you keep your pot indoors you can control humidity with a humidifier or watering the tree.  

So how do I know what the humidity of a lemon tree location is?

The best way is to purchase a garden thermometer that will tell you. 

I recommend ThermoPro Digital Thermometer. 

For under $10, the ThermoPro Digital Thermometer tells gardeners the temperature and humidity of where their plants are planted. 

In simple terms, it tells you if you planted it in the right space and exactly when you need to water. 

The best part is that this is completely wireless and reads both indoor and outdoor temperatures.

*One additional tip on watering.  If you notice the leaves turning yellow or fall off it means the tree is not getting enough water.  Increase watering by an additional day a week both inside and outside.

Finally, if you plan on watering your lemon tree outside with a hose, I highly recommend reading my article:

Best Garden Hoses

6. At Least 6 Hours of Sunlight!

Water is critical to lemon trees. And if you want to learn how to grow lemon trees in pots then sunlight is too.

I know what you are about to say; this is a no brainer, but Lemon Trees thrive in sunlight. 

Exactly how much sunlight is needed is going to be based specifically on the type of lemon tree you have. 

Typically though, most will need 6 hours of direct sunlight.  

If you have your pot outside make sure it gets sun exposure half the day and shade the other half.  Typically, patios or against the house is the perfect location.

Heat should never be a problem for lemon trees. Remember the hotter it is the more frequently it needs water.

Regardless of sunlight of the time of year, frost and freezing temperature will kill your tree.  Move inside if you expect either.

Finally, if you are keeping your tree inside it will need 6 hours of sunlight a day. 

If you don’t have a spot like this, I recommend purchasing a heat light.  I typically recommend the Hydrofarm Grow Light

You will see cheap imitations out there and they just don’t get the job done. 

And this one will last you a lifetime. My grandfather had a similar light and it lasted him over 40 years!  

The Hydrofarm Grow Light comes in different sizes, can be hung in numerous different ways.

It even has up to 18.000 lumens of light.  Whether you are growing tomato seeds or other plants this is the only light you need!!

7. Prune at just the right time!

I have something I need to confess.  I have never once pruned my lemon tree. 

Should I? 

Absolutely. 

Do I get plenty of fruit without it? 

Yes, more than I know what to do with.

If you want to learn how to grow lemon trees in pots better than me then you need to prune!

Just like mine, your lemon tree can thrive without pruning.

If you want to control its size or promote additional fruit growth, I recommend watching the video below:

8. Apply Only One Kind of Fertilizer

If you want to have your lemon tree grow faster and become healthier then apply a fertilizer to the soil.

Never apply fertilizer during the first year of plant growth as it will cause root burn and destroy the tree. 

Beginning in year two, apply a slow-release fertilizer once every two months in the spring and summer. In winter, apply once every 3 months.

If your lemon tree has fruit or dark, lush leaves then you do not need to apply fertilizer.

You will want to apply a fertilizer that has at least twice the amount of nitrogen as it does phosphorus and potassium.

This will provide strong root growth and healthy plant growth.  This type of fertilizer is referred to as a 2-1-1 fertilizer. It should be applied in early spring based on the instructions of the product you buy. 

I personally recommend Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed Continous Release.

You will want to apply this fertilizer in a circle around the base of the tree. This way it will soak in all parts of the soil. Then apply approximately 30 seconds of water thereafter.

9. Plant in the BEST Soil

When learning how to grow lemon trees in pots it is CRITICAL to have the right soil.

The great news about lemon trees is that they can grow in almost any type of soil. 

If you want the most productive tree though you will want to grow it in soil that has good drainage. 

Typically, I recommend sandy loam-based, which is a mixture of sand, silt, and clay.

Because this can be sometimes hard to come upon, any potting mix or raised bed soil that has perlite or vermiculite will also do. 

If neither has those two ingredients, just mix in about 20% peat moss into potting mix or raised bed soil. 

I recommend Miracle-Gro Raised Bed Soil

Finally, you want to make sure the soil has a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5.  Any type of soil you purchase should meet these requirements. If not you can buy fertilizer to either add acidity or alkaline to the soil.

The best way to tell what needs to be added is through a garden soil tester.  I recommend: Sonkir Soil pH meter

Electric Pollination Tool

Almost every lemon tree you grow in a pot is a self-pollinator. This means it should have no problem pollinating on its own

If kept outside just let mother nature do its work.  If you solely keep it inside and it does not bear fruit, you may need to manually pollinate it.

It should be noted that I have never had to pollinate my lemon tree and I keep it inside most of the year.  

In addition, manual pollination by hand can be a long, tedious, and lacks results (even if done correctly). 

If you would like to be as effective as possible though, I would recommend an electric pollination tool: Aerogarden Pollinator

electric pollinator
View Price on Amazon

To learn more about how to use it, please view the video below:

10. Become a Repotting Pro

If you want to learn how to grow lemon trees in pots then become a repotting expert.

At some point, your lemon tree is going to outgrow its current pot. You will need to transplant it into another plant.

Remember, when transplanting a lemon tree to a new pot, you want to make sure the pot is 25% to 50% bigger than the root ball.  The root ball is the root, plus surrounding dirt of the lemon tree.

The best time to repot a lemon tree is in the spring. Typically you will do every 3 to 4 years.

The night before you transplant the lemon tree, you will want to water the soil for a good minute.  

For the actual repotting I am suggesting making it a two-person job to make life easy.

You will want to have one person tip the pot the lemon tree is in downwards and sideways.  The other person will want to grab the tree by its trunk and slowly rock it back and forth and in an outward motion.

Continue to do this until the tree and its root ball is out.  

You will then want to add potting mix or raised bed soil into the new pot.

Leave enough space so that you can transplant the tree into it and fill it up with more soil.  Typically, I recommend leaving twice the size of the root ball empty in the new pot.  

You can then fill it in with either soil from the old pot or fresh potting mix or raised bed garden soil.

Finally, you want to add your fertilizer as mentioned previously and water it again for a good minute.

Bonus: Avoid Doing These: (Tips #11-18)

By now you have a better understanding of how to grow lemon trees in pots.

But what should you avoid doing if you want your lemon tree to grow as effective as possible?

11. Keep your tree out of the Cold

While lemon trees are hardy, they cannot consistently survive cold weather.  Specifically, if there is going to be a frost then make sure to move your tree inside.

With that being said if you happen to forget and it looks like your lemon tree is dead, do not just throw it away. 

I once left a tree out in 20-degree weather and when I got home I thought it was dead.  I held onto it until spring and believe it or not new growth form and it has born fruit every year since.

12. Keep Away From Strong Winds

For whatever reason, lemon trees do not tolerate strong winds well. 

There is a very scientific reason for it, but let’s keep it simple.  If you have strong winds keep your tree in an enclosed patio, close to your house and protected from the weather, or inside.

13. Too Much Sunlight is BAD 

Lemon trees thrive in heat and direct sunlight.  But too much of a good thing is not always good. 

If your lemon tree location is in direct sunlight for more than 12 hours it is at risk for root burn

Root burn is where the root of the tree dries out and either stunts or kills the entire tree.

14. Darkness = EVIL

Just like too much sunlight is not a good thing, too much darkness is also very bad. The tree will not be able to grow and bear fruit.

Make sure to place your lemon tree in a location that will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.  If it does not, make sure to place it under grow lights.

15. Don’t Overwater

As we reviewed in our previous sections, you should water your lemon tree twice a week. If outside, then every other day. You want the soil to remain dark and moist.

If you water the tree too much where the soil can’t dry out you run the risk of root rot.  Very simply this is where the disease will destroy the roots of your plants, rendering it useless.

16. STOP Fertilizing

I have heard a lot of beginner gardeners talk about how much they fertilize their plants so that they can get quick growth and high fruit production.

This is a rookie mistake and is not always a good thing.  

Never fertilize your lemon tree during its first year of growth.  In addition, only fertilize the tree every other month in the spring and summer and once a quarter in the winter.

If the tree is flowering, producing fruit, or looks lush green don’t fertilize it.

Too much fertilizer can again destroy the root of the plant, causing it to die quicker than heat, cold, or disease.

17. Keep Away from Disease

This is going to sound too simple to put, but gardeners still make this mistake.

Do not place your lemon tree by other trees that have a disease.  If you have a spot in your yard or garden that gets insects that are parasites do not put it there.  

And finally, keep it away from areas that animals can get into it. 

Although most animals will not bother your lemon tree, I experience a deer chomping at the leaves one fall day.

18. Making the Pot Too Heavy

I’ll admit this one won’t affect your lemon tree at all. 

But if you want to make your life easy or plan on moving the lemon tree from inside to outside every season then use lightweight materials, prune excessive growth, and don’t water it right before you plan on moving it

Bonus Tip

If you want even more in-depth information on gardening and fruit growing then I highly recommend reading my article:

BEST Gardening Books (You WANT to Read)

The best part about this article is that you can find all these books at inexpensive prices and free shipping on Amazon.

What’s Next?

If you enjoyed reading this article then I recommend reading:

How to Grow Orange Trees in Pots

How to Grow Avocado in Pots

Questions

What’s your favorite part about growing a lemon tree in a pot?

What other citrus trees do you grow in pots?

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