I live in northeastern Pennsylvania. Two years ago, I took a lemon
seed (from a store-bought lemon), stuck it in a pot with regular
potting soil, and now I have a 3-foot tall, skinny lemon tree with
nice, fragrant leaves and some thorns. My problem is: I don't know
how to take care of it from here.
Should it be cut back? How tall will this thing grow? During the
spring and summer, I leave it in an east-facing window all day, and
turn it once a day. It has never been outdoors. It grows rapidly in
the summer, and stops growing during the fall/winter. What is the best
way to take care of my "baby"? This tree has become my pride and joy,
since I never expected it to germinate, let alone grow into a tree!
Here is a photo:
-Tom in Scranton, PA USA
What is at the bottom of the pot? Is that saucer?
Be aware that citrus should not stay in the water.
Overwatering is the main killer of poted citrus trees.
Examining weather data for Avoca, PA, I see night temps droping below 13C:
Here is the most valuable information for citrus care I have, citing Millet
(regular 'citrus guru' at given forum):
"You can put the tree anywhere as long as you keep the foliage (scion) and
the root system balanced.
If the tree is in front of a warm sunny window, then the roots must be kept
if the tree is kept in a low light area than the entire tree should be kept
at least 40F
to avoid the possibility of damage. If the tree is under grow lights,
then I would recommend that the roots be maintained at 65F+ - Millet"
Also, root stops functioning at the soil temp above 90F.
In other words, if the soil temp is below 40F (or above 90F) then the root
do not function.
If the root do not function and the plant is exposed to the sun, eh...
--ivica (citruholic, beginner)
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> You probably will never get an edible fruit. What is growing will be
Doesn't anyone study genetics anymore? How would the rootstock of a
grafted tree affect the DNA of the flowers?
Regardless of whether it was grafted or not, apples seedlings rarely
produce good fruit, but citrus seedlings often produce good fruit.
took me 25 yrs for me to get my first flower. NEver did get any fruit. I
dumped it in favor of a store bought tree. it has goobs of fruit and the
flowers are very fragrent.
They can be forced to grow in to little bushes. Mine was 5 ft tall and and
shaped into a globe. THey benenfit greatly by taking them outdoors every
summer. Make sure you harden it before putting it in direct sunlight. Soil
needs to be slightly acidic. A dose of acid fertilizer once amonth is good.
In any long term pot growing, the soil eventually breaks down and needs
replacing or supplementing.
Your picture seems to indicate that its light starved (tall and skinny)
No, what is growing is the grafted stock, the tissue that produces the
leaves and flowers and fruit. It may have problems as it is not grafted on
to a selected root stock. So it might (just for example) be larger or
smaller than the tree that bore the fruit or it could be susceptible to root
rot. OTOH it may be fine.
If you want it to prosper it will need much more light at least. The reason
it is so tall and thin with no branches is lack of light. Perhaps you could
buy it one of those grow-lights that substitute for sunlight, especially for
the winter. Consider if it can go outside in summer. I don't know the
climate at Scranton but citrus like it warm and sunny.
How big it grows depends on the genetics of the parent and the conditions.
Citrus on full-size root stock can grow about10-12ft high, and as wide, in
good conditions but in a tub that is not happening. If you can get it good
light then give it some citrus food (a specially blended fertiliser, any
garden shop should have this) in spring and midsummer and pot it on to a tub
as it will outgrow the small pot quickly. There is no point in feeding it
if it isn't getting enough light.
Once you have it growing strongly you can prune its top (take the top 1/3 to
1/2) to encourage it to bush out which will make it a more attractive plant
and allow you to have more flowers and fruit (well maybe) before it hits the
ceiling. If you succeed that far you will have joined the select few who
are able to enjoy the aroma of citrus flowers indoors. The decadent
aristocrats of Europe used to do this so it must be good. See
The way that you have started is not the recommended one and it ain't going
to be easy but have fun and good luck.
Note that you are trying to grow a plant that is not a house plant where
the climate is not suitable for keeping it outdoors year-round. That
said, citrus is grown in greenhouses in Pennsylvania (at least at
Longwood Garden in the southern part of your state).
Unlike many other plants, citrus is apomictic. This means that they can
form viable seeds without pollination, with the result true to its one
parent. Since they can also form viable seeds with pollination, with
the result a random hybrid, you will thus not be sure what you have
until it finally forms fruit.
Putting it outdoors when there is no danger of frost might be good for
the tree. Just be sure the container does not receive sun all day long;
otherwise the roots will cook. Putting it outdoors might cause it to
grow more sturdy and less skinny.
Since you are protecting it against frost, you may trim the tree at any
time of the year. However, it does not need pruning to bear fruit. You
only prune it for aesthetic reasons.
Yes, lemons are thorny. You can cut the thorns away without harming the
Grow your lemon in a clay pot. Keep the soil moist but not wet.
Feed very lightly about twice a month. Use a commercial citrus food; in
your area, you might have to mail-order the fertilizer. You can get it
in small quantities. Also get some zinc sulfate, which citrus needs but
apparently is not longer included in commercial citrus food. (If you
have gardenias, they seem to thrive on citrus food with the addition of
the zinc.) For a 3-foot tree, use about a half-handful of citrus food
and a teaspoon of zinc sulfate at each feeding. NEVER feed when the
soil is dry; feed in moist soil and then add some more water to start
dissolving the fertilizer.
Many might think you are foolish for trying to grow a lemon tree from
seed. But it is a great accomplishment if you succeed. I have an oak
tree that I started from an acorn; I'm very proud of it. See my
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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