When people think about growing plants indoors, they generally consider common, easy to maintain varieties such as spider plants, English Ivy, Peperomia, or an Asparagus fern. Most people would not immediately consider growing a tree indoors, let alone one that bears fruit. However, a lemon tree allows you to do just that and it is quite possible to successfully raise one indoors, if you are willing to take the following steps.
Choosing a Lemon Tree
There are several varieties of lemon trees, but most experts agree that the best for indoor use is the Meyer lemon tree. Not only do these generally fare the best in such an environment, they also produce rich and flavourful fruit. There is also the wonderful lemon scent that makes your home seem fresher and more appealing.
It is best to start with a Meyer lemon tree that is already two to three years old. You can absolutely choose a younger one, but you will have to wait longer for the fruit to appear.
Container and Soil
You will need a large pot (10-20 gallon/40-75 litre range) with drainage holes, because it is important not to overwater your Meyer lemon tree. This size also provides plenty of space for the roots of your tree, which can grow as big as 7 to 8 feet (2 to 2.5 metres) when mature.
PRO-MIX Premium All Purpose Mix provides the best medium for an indoor Meyer lemon tree. Adding sand can help ensure proper drainage.
Watering and Feeding
This is one of the easiest aspects of raising a Meyer lemon tree: they only require watering every week or two. However, as mentioned above, it is important not to overdo it. A good indicator is when the soil looks slightly dried out. When this happens, slowly pour water into the pot until you see it start to flow out the holes at the bottom. Overwatering or underwatering can harm both the foliage and the fruit. Keep an eye on the plant during winter as the seasonal air might cause the tree to dry out faster. Occasional misting can help with this.
During the spring-fall growing season, it is advisable to nourish your tree on a regular basis with a fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as PRO-MIX Multi Purpose Plant Fertilizer 7-3-3.
As you can imagine, citrus trees love the sun, so it is crucial to make sure your Meyer lemon tree gets several hours of sunlight per day in an environment between 50-80° Fahrenheit (10-27° Celsius). Try to place it near a large window that gets a consistent amount of sunlight, but avoid an excessive amount of direct sunlight. Periodically rotate the container so each part of the tree gets an equal amount of exposure. Use a fluorescent grow light on days when sunlight is lacking.
You will feel excited when fruit begins to appear on your Meyer, but you must be patient. It can take as much as a year after first acquiring a tree before you have fruit large and mature enough for use. When clusters of small lemons appear, it is wise to prune about 75% of them as this will leave a good number that can then mature to normal size. Otherwise, you will most likely have a tree with tiny lemons.
Lemons will not ripen once picked, so wait until the fruit is a deep lemon colour and slightly soft before you start picking. You must be careful when removing the lemons (don’t yank them off, as you would an apple, as this could damage the tree), so scissors or a sharp knife will make it easier. Prune dead or dying branches as needed.