Today I’m talking all about Meyer lemon tree care, including the best potting soil for meyer lemon trees in containers and all of the information you need to help your Meyer lemon tree thrive in a container—indoors or outdoors!
Meyer lemon tree care: Growing a Meyer lemon tree in a pot
Growing a Meyer lemon tree in our garden is something I wanted to do last year, but by the time I got around to looking for one, I couldn’t find one for a reasonable price. So this year I picked one up early in early April as soon as I saw it at our local nursery. It was a little expensive—about $40—but I am invested this year!
So I spent a lot of time researching Meyer lemon tree care, particularly how to grow a meyer lemon tree in a pot or large container. We didn’t want to put our lemon tree in our raised beds or in the ground because it gets pretty cold here in the winter. So I’m going to try to keep it going through the winter inside.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here and will update you on that part in the future. For now, let’s focus on Meyer lemon tree care in containers outdoors, including the soil, water, and sun this plant needs, as well as how to overwinter it indoors.
What is a Meyer lemon tree?
Meyer lemons are hybrid citrus fruits native to China. They are hybrids of a citron and a mandarin/pomelo, giving them a sweeter flavor. Though I do love the sour taste of a true lemon, Meyer lemons are rounder than regular lemons and are a bit of a deeper yellow.
Even before they’ve grown lemons, they have beautiful dark green leaves and flowers, making them lovely accent plants for any landscape. This is especially good since you likely won’t get that lovely deep yellow for a few years.
The acidity levels of Meyer lemons gives them the ability to be used as antibacterial/antiseptic cleaners. Is that why so many hand soaps have Meyer lemon in them? Who knows—for the record, I don’t recommend using lemons to sanitize. I prefer the good stuff, especially these days 😉
How large does this plant get?
These plants can grow up to 10 feet tall when they are mature and up to 12 feet wide (really?!). Given their compact size and good looks, they are a very popular ornamental plant—even a houseplant for some areas—in containers.
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.
How much light does a Meyer lemon tree need?
A lot. Meyer lemon trees enjoy a lot of sun—full sun. Typically 8–12 hours a day of light, so about a half day of sun. After all, even though they aren’t true lemons, they are citrus trees. Citrus trees thrive with a lot of light, so we’ve got ours in a large pot in a spot in our yard that gets the most sun.
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. We’ll see how this works out for us. I’d imagine it also depends on the other conditions in the home and the health of the plant.
If you don’t get enough light, a grow light would likely be necessary to help get your plant through the winter. Our days are fairly short here in the winter, so I have a few little grow lights to help my light-loving plants out in the off season. But like a lot of plants that thrive outdoors, it’s a lot about keeping it alive indoors until the spring.
What is the best potting soil for Meyer lemon trees?
You can plant your Meyer lemon tree in any high-quality potting soil. It generally will thrive in a sandy soil or a soil with a slightly higher acidity, so you can add an acid-increaser to the soil. It does well in sandy soils since they help with drainage—they do best in well-draining soils.
How much water does a Meyer lemon tree need outdoors?
Meyer lemon trees like to have their soil moist but not sopping wet. We plan to just keep our plant watered daily during the full summer heat, letting rain water it when we can. Even if plants get a lot of water, summer heat dries out containers really quickly, so they won’t stay sopping wet for long if they have drainage holes. Don’t overthink it—unless you are watering your lemon tree indoors. More on that later.
As for fertilizer, you should feed your Meyer lemon plant spring to fall with a high nitrogen or slow-release general fertilizer. These plants are heavy feeders and should be fertilized every month or so while they are actively growing. You can also use a fertilizer specifically designed for citrus plants.
Temperature and humidity needs
Like a lot of plants, Meyer lemon trees thrive in temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that you can’t overwinter them outdoors 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.
These plants like higher humidity, which is great for us in Maryland since it gets HU-MID 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, so if you’re in an area with lower humidity, you can likely still have success.
Pruning your plant: Tree or bush?
Meyer plants can be in a bush or tree form—like a lot of plants. Naturally they are more like bushes, but you can prune them into a tree form. You can use gardening shears to cut longer branches that don’t fit into your space and encourage stronger and upward growth.
You might notice that newer branches on your plant have thorns. This is a natural protection of the younger branches. The thorns will disappear and turn into branches as time passes. Isn’t nature cool? If our plant continues to thrive, I’m not sure how we’ll prune it. Thinking tree might be a bit easier to manage, and I like the look of Meyer lemon trees.
What size container should you use for a Meyer lemon tree?
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.
Meyer lemon tree indoor care tips
Meyer lemon trees are some of the easiest citrus plants to grow indoors. Like growing these plants outdoors, the best pot size for them is a 5-ish gallon pot with well-draining soil. A good well-draining soil mix for indoor plants can be made out of a third indoor potting soil, a third moss, and a third perlite or sand.
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. It’s also best to place the plant outdoors in a covered area (or the garage) for a week or so before moving it indoors to help with the acclimation.
Light is typically the biggest barrier to growing your Meyer lemon tree indoors since the plant does like bright light. However, if you’re in a climate where you can’t keep your tree outdoors through the winter, you’ll need to move it indoors at some point. A window facing south that gets as much light as possible is the best—but you might need to add a grow light.
Growing a Meyer lemon tree indoors
Since light is such a struggle indoors, if you have your plant by a window, you should turn the pot every few weeks to ensure the tree is growing evenly. Otherwise it will begin to grow lopsided as it reaches for the light. (This is true of many indoor plants!) If your tree begins to flower indoors, you can wipe the pollen from the flowers to others.
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. Especially if your plant is near a heat register. Another option to keep humidity levels up for your plant is to set your potted plant on top of a tray of rocks with water. The water will help to keep the air moist.
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.