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Meyer Lemon Tree Care

Learn all about growing Meyer lemon trees in containers!

All about caring for Meyer lemon trees in pots

Growing a Meyer lemon tree in our garden is something I’d wanted to do for years before finally getting one. Finally one year, I picked one up early in early April as soon as I saw them at our local nursery. It was a little expensive—about $40—but well worth the investment!

Because it gets very cold where we live, we can’t have certain fruit trees in the ground. And the Meyer lemon tree is one of those plants—so we decided to plant ours in a container. Therefore, this guide focuses on Meyer lemon tree care in containers, including the soil, water, and sun this plant needs, as well as how to overwinter it indoors.

ripe meyer lemon

Meyer lemon tree care

  • Hybrid citrus plants offering a sweeter, less acidic fruit compared to traditional lemons.
  • Compact growth pattern suitable for containers and small gardens.
  • Provide at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Keep soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
  • Enjoys extra humidity; add a humidifier if you have your plant indoors.
  • Plant in well-draining, rich, slightly acidic soil.
  • Overwinter indoors, providing bright, indirect light, adding a grow light if necessary.
  • Watch for pests, especially spider mites while overwintering indoors.
graphic providing a care overview of the meyer lemon tree care tips outlined in this post

What is a Meyer lemon tree?

The Meyer lemon tree is a hybrid citrus tree that is believed to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. It is named after Frank N. Meyer, who introduced the tree to the United States from China in the early 1900s.

Meyer lemon trees are smaller and more compact than traditional lemon trees. This makes them good choices for growing in pots or small gardens. They have a sweeter and less acidic fruit than traditional lemons and a thinner and more fragrant skin.

The tree also has smaller leaves with a more rounded shape. And the lemons have a sweeter flavor when compared to traditional lemons. They can be eaten fresh or used in cooking and baking. Oh—and when the plant blooms, it smells amazing!

bushy meyer lemon tree in a sunroom
ripe meyer lemons

How much light does it need?

I recommend putting your potted Meyer lemon tree in an area that receives full sunlight for at least 6 hours per day. More is preferable. I keep mine in a pot, but I set the pot right in my mulched garden beds so it would just blend in with the rest of our plants.

Like a lot of plants, however, you don’t want too much sun. This can burn the leaves, but we don’t really have to worry about that in Maryland. Even after the hottest, sunniest days, plants can typically rebound quickly with a bit of water and a cooler evening.

If you are over-wintering a Meyer lemon tree indoors, you can keep the plant alive in as low as bright, indirect light. This means by a bright window. If you don’t get enough light, a grow light (affiliate link) would likely be necessary to help get your plant through the winter.

A Meyer lemon tree will not thrive if you put it in the shade. If the plant does not receive enough sunlight, it may become leggy and produce fewer or smaller fruits—if it produces any at all.

baby meyer lemon tree

How often do you water it?

How often you should water a Meyer lemon tree will depend on the specific conditions in your area, such as temperature, humidity, and soil type. As a general guideline, I recommend watering the plant on days it doesn’t rain during the peak summer. You want the soil to remain consistently moist.

I generally try to let mother nature take care of my outdoor plants as much as possible. If we have a soaking rain shower, I might skip watering the plant the next day. Then, if things start to wilt, they get a drink.

If the tree is in a container and it’s hot outside, you will probably need to water it more frequently. Container plants dry out faster than those planted in the ground. Also, make sure to monitor the drainage and adjust watering as necessary.

Indoors, I recommended watering the tree deeply once a week. Indoor plants need watered much less than even potted plants outdoors. To check if the tree needs water, you can stick your finger in the soil. If it feels dry 2 inches down, it’s time to water.

lemon tree leaves
flowers on a meyer lemon tree

What is the best potting soil?

The best potting soil for a Meyer lemon tree is one that is well-draining, rich in organic matter, and has a slightly acidic pH. Here are a few of the key characteristics I recommend looking for in a good lemon tree potting soil:

  • Drainage: Lemon trees prefer well-draining soil to prevent waterlogging and root rot. A good potting soil should allow water to drain away quickly and not retain too much moisture.
  • Aeration: The soil should be light and fluffy, which helps to provide the roots with oxygen.
  • Organic matter: The soil should contain a high amount of organic matter such as compost.
  • pH: Lemon trees prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. You can purchase additives to enhance your soils acidity if you think it is an issue. I used soil acidifier for my hydrangeas and some other acid-loving trees and flowering plants.
  • Nutrients: Potting soil should contain all the necessary macronutrients and micronutrients that lemon tree needs to thrive. You can also use a fertilizer in your soil to boost nutrient content.
lemon tree foliage

What fertilizer should I use?

I mentioned fertilizer in the previous section on soil, so let’s touch on that now. In general, you can fertilize a potted Meyer lemon tree every 4-6 weeks during the growing season (spring to fall) with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.

During the dormant season, it’s best to reduce the frequency of fertilization or stop it altogether. Young trees may need more frequent fertilization than mature trees do. Additionally, if you notice that the tree is producing yellow leaves, this can be a sign that it needs more fertilizer if all other care conditions are optimal.

Lemon trees generally prefer a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium and also contains micronutrients such as magnesium, sulfur and iron. You can look for something that has a balanced ratio of N-P-K, which is good for most plants. But you may want to look for a fertilizer specifically formulated for citrus trees.

Remember that over-fertilizing can burn the roots and damage the tree. I mix in the recommended amount to my watering can (I use the blue crystal kind) to ensure it is properly diluted. And I generally don’t fertilize more than once a month.

ripening meyer lemon
flowers

Temperature & humidity needs

Meyer lemon trees thrive in temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that you can’t keep them outdoors all year unless you live in USDA zones 9 through 11. 

We’re in zone 7, so even though we got our plant in early April, we had to drag the huge pot indoors in early May when we had a few nights of freak freezing weather. However, we did leave it outdoors during the 40s for a few nights, and it was totally fine. Just don’t make a habit of it.

If you live in an area where it only occasionally drops down into the 30s or 40s at night, you may choose to keep your plant outside and simply cover it. This can be enough to protect the plant if the temperature dip is only temporary.

These plants like higher humidity, which is great for us in Maryland since it gets HUMID here. Not exactly like Florida levels of humidity, but we get some solid humidity from late spring all the way into early fall. However, this plant is pretty tolerant of different humidity levels.

That said, humidity indoors over the winter can be problematic for a lot of plants. Misting the leaves of your Meyer lemon tree throughout the winter can help keep humidity levels up and keep the plant happy. Adding a humidifier is really the best option, though.

sunroom with a cat tree and plants

How large does it get?

These plants can grow up to 10 feet tall when they are mature and up to 12 feet wide. They probably won’t grow as large in a pot, but they can still do quite well and bear fruit. In fact, since it’s naturally a smaller fruit tree, they can produce fruit quite prolifically even while remaining on the smaller side.

We potted our plant in the largest container we had because we wanted it to have plenty of space to grow! Typically you should repot your Meyer lemon plant in a larger container that is about 5 gallons and at least 1 foot tall with good drainage. I filled our pot about 60% of the way with soil and set the plant down in the pot, gently patting the soil down into the pot to support the plant. 

green meyer lemon

How to prune this plant

You can prune a Meyer lemon tree at any time of the year, but the best time to prune is during the dormant season. Typically in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Remove any dead, diseased, or damaged stems to shape the tree and promote healthy new growth.

You can remove any crossing or rubbing branches and thin out the interior of the tree to allow for good air circulation and sunlight penetration. Don’t over-prune—a good rule of thumb is to remove no more than 1/3 of the tree’s total canopy each year.

Also make sure you don’t cut the top off a lemon tree. This can cause damage to the tree and reduce fruit production. The top of the tree contains the majority of the tree’s leaves and buds, which are responsible for producing fruit.

meyer lemon tree overwintering in a sunroom

Winterizing a Meyer lemon tree

Winterizing a Meyer lemon tree involves protecting it from freezing temperatures and providing it with the proper care to survive the winter months. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Bring it indoors before the first frost and place it in a sunny location. Keep the tree in a room with a temperature above 55 degrees.
  • Fertilize your tree in late fall to give it a boost of nutrients before the winter.
  • If you live in an area with heavy frost, cover the tree with frost cloth to protect it.
  • Prune off any dead or damaged branches to help the tree conserve energy during the winter months.

If you’re moving your tree indoors for the winter after being outdoors basking in the sun all summer, the best time to move it is before it gets too cold at night. If you move it when the temperature outdoors is roughly the same as the temperature indoors, it won’t experience as much of a shock.

lemon tree foliage

Thinning out flowers

When the plant is still young, you can remove the flowers. This will help the tree to focus its energy on growing a strong root system and developing a healthy foliage rather than producing fruit. Once the tree has grown larger and established itself, you can allow it to flower and produce fruit.

Removing the flowers will prevent the tree from producing fruit. In general, it’s also a good idea to thin out fruit as it grows so that the remaining fruit has room to mature properly. A little plant can only support so much!

flower buds on a meyer lemon tree

Want more plant stuff? Check out our tiny backyard and garden, my tips for hanging flower pots outside, and the easiest house plants to take care of!

How to harvest your lemons

Meyer lemon plants produce fruit year round in the right conditions. In fact, the main harvest time is in the season when it isn’t actively growing—late fall to very early spring. That’s because they spend most of the active growing season preparing those yummy lemons.

When you finally get to the point where you can enjoy your lovely Meyer lemons, here’s how to harvest them. First of all, the fruit won’t continue to ripen after you pick it like some other plants. So make sure it’s totally ripe before picking it. You’ll know your lemons are ready to pick when they have a deep yellow color and are soft. It’s best to use a pair of gardening shears to cut off the fruit so you don’t damage the plant. 

ripe meyer lemon

Pest vulnerability

Like other citrus trees, Meyer lemon plants are vulnerable to a variety of pests. Some of the most common pests that can affect Meyer lemon trees include the following:

  • Aphids: These tiny insects suck on the sap of the tree, which can cause the leaves to curl and yellow.
  • Scale insects: These pests can cause discoloration and distortion of the leaves, and can also excrete a sticky substance known as honeydew which can lead to the growth of sooty mold.
  • Mealybugs: These insects can cause yellowing of the leaves and can also excrete honeydew.
  • Thrips: These small, slender insects can cause distortion of the leaves and discoloration of the fruit.
  • Spider mites: These tiny, spider-like insects can cause the leaves to turn yellow and become speckled with brown. Signs include fine webbing; see below for an example.

Preventive measures like regular inspection, proper sanitation, and keeping the tree healthy can help minimize the impact of pests. If you find an infestation, see the next section.

spider mites on a meyer lemon tree
spider mites on a meyer lemon tree

In conclusion…

When caring for a Meyer lemon tree, remember that bright, sunny days; consistent watering; and the right soil are key. These steps help ensure healthy growth and fruitful harvests. And these plants grow great in containers, making them a great choice for those of us who have snowy winters and need to drag out plants indoors!

Keep up with these care tips, and you should see great results. Let me know how your Meyer lemon tree is doing or if you have any tips to share in the comments. Happy planting!

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collage of lemon tree plants with text overlay that says all about caring for meyer lemon trees

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