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Meyer Lemon Tree Care

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!

Learn about Meyer lemon tree & successfully growing it 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.

ripe meyer lemon

Table of contents

This is going to be a long post, so here is a hyperlinked table of contents. You can easily click one of the bullet points below to skip down to that section!

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 a more delicate appearance, with smaller leaves and a more rounded shape. Even before they’ve grown lemons, they have beautiful dark green leaves and flowers.

These 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

Where should I put a potted Meyer lemon tree?

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 had 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 edible 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 would likely be necessary to help get your plant through the winter.

Can I put this plant in the shade?

A Meyer lemon tree prefers full sunlight, and 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.

It is possible to grow a Meyer lemon tree in partial shade. But keep in mind that it will not produce as much fruit as it would in full sun. It will also likely grow slower.

screenshot of instagram account

How often do you water a Meyer lemon tree?

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

Should I spray my tree with water?

It’s generally a good idea to spray your lemon tree with water, especially during hot, dry weather. This will help to keep the leaves and fruit cool. And can also help to prevent the tree from drying out.

You can spray the leaves and fruits directly. When you spray water on the leaves, it’s best to do it early in the day. That way the leaves have time to dry before nightfall. This can help to prevent fungal and bacterial diseases.

What is the best potting soil for Meyer lemon tree?

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.

A good commercial potting soil for citrus or specially formulated citrus potting soil is a good option. I have never really thought too much about the soil—just bought a high-quality mix designed for container gardens and added in some leaf compost.

lemon tree foliage

How often should I fertilize my Meyer lemon tree?

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.

baby meyer lemons
ripening meyer lemon

Can I use Miracle Grow on my Meyer lemon tree?

Yes, you can use Miracle-Gro to fertilize a Meyer lemon tree. In fact, it’s exactly what I use. I don’t really use fertilizers on my houseplants, but I use them pretty freely in my garden. Lemon trees generally prefer a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium and also contains micronutrients such as magnesium, sulfur and iron.

Miracle-Gro fertilizer 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. I like having one fertilizer for all of my garden plants and then add in things as necessary (for example, a soil acidifier for some things that like acidic soil—like lemon 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.


Temperature & humidity needs

Like a lot of plants, Meyer lemon trees thrive in temperatures between 50 and 90 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. 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 do you winterize 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 to winterize your Meyer lemon tree:

  • If your Meyer lemon tree is grown in a container, 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.
  • If your tree is in the ground, mulch around the base to insulate the roots and protect them from cold temperatures. (Remember that you should only do this in USDA zones 9, 10, and 11.)
  • 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.

meyer lemon tree overwintering in a sunroom

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. 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. 

ripe meyer lemons

Can Meyer lemon trees stay in pots?

Yes, Meyer lemon trees can definitely be grown in pots. When grown in pots, the tree can be moved inside during the winter to protect it from the cold. You’ll need to repot to a larger container as the plant grows, and make sure you water it regularly outdoors in the summer. Container plants dry out faster.

When growing a Meyer lemon tree in a pot, it’s important to use a high-quality potting soil and to choose a pot that is large enough to accommodate the tree’s root system. The pot should have drainage holes to allow excess water to escape and prevent root rot.

green meyer lemon

When should I cut back my Meyer lemon tree?

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.

baby meyer lemon tree

How do I make my lemon tree bushy?

If you want to make your plant bushier, there are a few things you can do. Here is a quick list.

  • Prune the tree regularly: This can be done by cutting back long branches to a node (the point where leaves or buds grow) to promote the growth of multiple branches. Doing so will create a more compact and bushier shape.
  • Pinching back new growth: This can be done by pinching off the tips of branches as they grow, which will stimulate the growth of multiple branches.
  • Training the tree: Tie the branches to a stake or support to help keep the tree upright and encourage the growth of multiple branches.
  • Fertilize the tree: Use a balanced fertilizer to promote healthy growth.
baby meyer lemon tree
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Should Meyer lemon trees have thorns?

Meyer lemon trees are a hybrid variety of lemon tree, and they typically have very few or no thorns. Some plants might have a few small thorns or spines on their branches, but it’s not a common characteristic of this variety.

If you notice that your Meyer lemon tree has developed thorns, it could be a sign that the tree is stressed or unhealthy. Thorns can be caused by a lack of water, over-fertilization, or disease. If you notice any of these signs, do a care audit.

My plant has some thorns on it, but nothing like a regular lemon tree or something like a rose. I just wear thick gloves with pruning or tending to the plant.

lemon tree foliage

Should I remove flowers from Meyer lemon tree?

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!

flowers on a meyer lemon tree
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Here is a link to the Dropbox folder with the guide!

teaser image of the cover of the houseplant care guide

How long does it take for a Meyer lemon tree to bear fruit?

A Meyer lemon tree typically takes 2-3 years to produce fruit from the time it is planted. However, the specific time can vary depending on factors such as growing conditions and tree care. It’s also hard to know how old some plants are when you get them.

My tree did not produce fruit the first year, but my mom’s did. The lemons developed slowly through the fall and winter while the tree was in her bathroom. Eventually, she had a few ripe lemons to harvest in the middle of the winter!

green meyer lemon

Want more good plant stuff? Check out our tiny backyard and garden, our DIY raised garden beds, 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

How can you tell if a lemon tree is stressed?

There are several signs that can indicate a lemon tree is stressed. Here are some of them, including things you can do to pinpoint the issue and fix it.

  • Yellowing leaves: One of the first signs of stress. This can be caused by a lack of water, over-fertilization, or disease.
  • Leaf loss: This can be caused by a lack of water, over-fertilization, or disease.
  • Slow growth: This can be caused by a lack of water, over-fertilization, or disease.
  • Small or misshapen fruit: This can be caused by a lack of water, over-fertilization, or disease.
  • Brittle or dry branches: This can be caused by a lack of water, over-fertilization, or disease.
flower buds on a meyer lemon tree

Are these plants vulnerable to pests?

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.
  • Whiteflies: These small, white insects can cause yellowing of the leaves and leaf drop.
  • 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.
  • Spider mites: These tiny, spider-like insects can cause the leaves to turn yellow and become speckled with brown.
  • 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.

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

Getting rid of pests

Here are a few ways you can consider getting rid of pests on your Meyer lemon tree. What I choose for pest control depends on the pest and the severity of the infestation, so I recommend considering those things before making a choice, too.

  • Water: A strong spray of water can knock spider mites off the tree and disrupt their populations. Be sure to spray the undersides of the leaves.
  • Insecticidal soap: Insecticidal soap is a contact pesticide.. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label and spray the solution directly onto the bugs.
  • Neem oil: Neem oil is a natural pesticide.
  • Horticultural oil: Horticultural oil can be used to smother some bugs.
  • Predatory mites: Introducing predatory mites can help control bad insects. These mites feed on the bad bugs, which helps to keep their populations in check.
meyer lemon tree in a large pot

Care overview

I hope you found this guide helpful! Here is a handy recap of the key points I outlined in this post. Good luck with your plant!

  • Light: Meyer lemon trees need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Water: Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil with organic matter.
  • Fertilize: Use a balanced fertilizer.
  • Prune: Prune to remove dead or diseased branches, removing no more than 1/3 of the tree canopy per year.
  • Temperature: Not frost-tolerant; the 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit range is ideal
  • Potting: Keep in a container if you live in a colder climate so you can bring indoors during the winter.

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Brittany Goldwyn
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