Growing a lemon tree is way easier than you think. The trees require very little to thrive as long as they are in the right environment. While getting them to produce lemons may take some time, the wait will easily be worth it.
It takes about 20 to 25 years for a lemon tree to reach its peak height, and could take anywhere from 4 to 6 years for the tree to produce lemons. Lemon trees need to develop fully before they produce fruit. The type of tree and variety of lemon will decide how fast your tree will grow.
Continue reading to learn more about how to help your lemon tree thrive, what to watch out for to keep it healthy, and some general lemon tree information!
Which Lemon Tree Should You Plant?
Not sure what kind of lemon tree you should plant? There are many varieties, and it can get a little overwhelming. Let’s look at the different varieties and what suits your needs and growing community.
So, where do you even start when deciding what variety of lemon trees to buy?
The best way to figure this out is to see if your neighbors have figured it out first. Look around your neighborhood and see if you can spot any lemon trees. If you see some, you know you have the right growing conditions for a tree to thrive.
If you cannot spot any trees, head to your local arborist or gardening center and ask for their advice. They know the area, climate, and plants well, so they can give you an informed answer.
Different varieties of lemon trees need various elements to thrive. Most trees need full sunlight, well-drained soil, and a warm climate. You can also bring many varieties of lemon trees inside and plant them in pots.
Some varieties of lemon trees also have shallow roots, which is preferable in some situations. To learn more about this and other fruit trees, take a look at our piece 6 Best Fruit Trees That Have Shallow Roots: Identification Guide.
However, lemon trees grow very tall, so it is best to keep them outside if it is an option for you.
How Quickly Will A Lemon Tree Grow Each Year?
Each variety of lemon tree has a different rate of growth. With many varieties to choose from, you can also pick one that suits your timetable for growth.
The majority of lemon trees grow around 6 to 12 inches each year. Over time they can reach up to 20 feet tall, or sometimes even higher depending on the variety. It all depends on what kind of lemon tree you are growing and the conditions they are living in.
Having the proper conditions to grow a lemon tree lets it reach its full potential each season. If you plant the lemon tree in a spot with heavy sun and proper drainage, it will likely grow about 6 to 12 inches each season. If the lemon tree is in the shade or sitting near a puddle every day, it is less likely to thrive in those conditions, making it grow poorly and take longer to produce fruit.
Some variety of lemons do well in warmer climates or better indoors in planters. You can read about the best variety of lemons to plant for your zone here.
How Long Does It Take To Grow A Lemon Tree?
So, you’ve narrowed the search down and are ready to plant a lemon tree and enjoy fresh lemons right in your backyard. How long will it take to get fruit? What kind of care does it need?
Overall, lemon trees will take 20 to 25 years to reach their full height of approximately 20 feet.
Lemon trees are rather simple to grow if you give them the proper conditions. They do not require a lot of maintenance and can support themselves. If you are not great with plants but curious about a citrus tree, start with a basic variety of lemon and see how it goes.
When Will Lemons Arrive On Your Lemon Tree Once Fully Grown?
Now that your tree is in the ground or a container, you must be curious when the lemons will start rolling in? Depending on the maturity, size, and type of tree you bought, you could wait some time for lemons.
Fruits on a fully grown lemon tree typically take about a year to show up. A few tiny lemons may fall off the tree as well before any fruit makes an appearance. This is the natural cycle of the tree, so do not worry if the tiny fruits start to fall.
The best thing that you could do is stay patient when waiting for your fruits to grow and ripe on the tree. Once the fruits appear on the tree, you may think you will have lemons soon. However, you may have to wait a bit longer.
Lemons can take a long time to ripen and come to their full potential as fruit. It could take up to a year for the lemons to grow and then another 6 to 9 months for the lemons to be fully ripe and ready for consumption. It will be worth the wait, and the satisfaction will be excellent when you pick the first lemon.
When Should I Pick Lemons Off My Tree?
Okay, so you finally have a few lemons on your tree. After what seems like years of waiting, you are only a few steps away from adding the tangy citrus into your diet. But how do you know when to pick them off the tree?
It may surprise you to find out not all lemons are bright yellow when they are ready to be picked from a tree. In fact, many of them are slightly green, just like their cousin the lime.
According to the University of Florida, you typically pick lemons when they are green and 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter. After picking them, you cure them, which involves placing the green fruit out at room temperature and allowing it to ripen. While they ripen, the peel smooths out, and the fruit becomes juicer.
When the fruits are ready, you can store them at room temperature or in polyethylene bags in the refrigerator, where they will last several weeks.
What Kind Of Lemon Tree Should I Buy?
The first step in your journey is to decide what kind of lemon tree works in your zone and climate. If you live in an area where it is cold in the winter, look to buy a smaller variety you can transport indoors when it gets cold.
According to the University of Vermont, citrus trees thrive in temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, but 65 is their ideal temperature. If your growing season cannot sustain those temperatures in the winter, look for a tree you can manage indoors.
The best time to plant a lemon tree is in the early spring. Planting lemon trees from fruit seeds may not yield lemons, so you are better off buying one that has already begun growing. Plus, it could take years until the seed grows into a tree, so buying a tree already on its journey will yield fruit sooner.
Look for a lemon tree with strong and healthy leaves. They should be a vibrant green and not wilted. Also, check out the roots on the lemon tree and make sure they look strong and not rotted.
The next step is figuring out the right variety. Do you live in a warm climate where you can keep the tree outdoors all year long? Or do you live somewhere where it is not sustainable year-round? These will all be important factors when figuring out what variety of lemon trees to buy.
Let’s look at a few examples of the different lemons you can grow.
Eureka Lemon Trees
Eureka lemons are very common around the world and are rather simple to grow, especially for newbies. They do better outdoors and love a warm climate.
Meyer Lemon Trees
Meyer lemons are very sweet for the lemon variety. The trees produce fruit all year round but do not do well in the cold weather. Luckily, they are prime trees for growing in containers and can come inside during the winter months to continue growth.
Verna Lemon Trees
If you are looking to keep your lemon tree outside all year long, you might want to pick a Verna lemon tree. The variety, which is like the eureka, only produces fruit twice a year. Sometimes you will end up with a third crop, but with limited production.
The lemons are super juicy and have very thick skin. Do not underestimate the size of this tree, either. It can grow up to 12 feet when it has reached its full maturity!
Primofiori Lemon Trees
If you are looking for a lemon that will yield a lot of fruits, the primofiori lemon is for you. This tree produces fruit year-round.
It thrives in a raised garden bed, or a container for easy transport come the winter. If you are bringing it inside, you must make sure you trim the leaves back regularly.
How To Plant A Lemon Tree
If you plan to keep your lemon tree outdoors year-round, then look for a large spot it can live for years to come. If you plan to plant the lemon tree in a container, pick a large container with good drainage and place it in a very sunny spot.
According to Clemson University, a custom soil mixture is best for your citrus tree. They claim it should contain 4 parts shredded aged pine bark and 1 part peat moss or coir. This combination provides proper drainage and organic matter, but you can substitute it with a well-draining potting mix.
If you are planting the lemon tree in a container, make sure your container is at least 2 inches bigger than the original container the tree came in. Over time, the tree will have to be repotted and moved into a bigger container as it continues to grow.
Your lemon tree will have to come inside before the weather turns cold. Lemons do not hold up well in cold temperatures, so it is better to bring them inside a few weeks before the first frost of the season hits.
The same goes for putting it back outside in the warmer months. Wait until the last frost of the season has passed and the temperatures are warming up again. When the temperature is at a steady warmth, it is okay to put the lemon tree back outside.
You might have to juggle the timeline depending on the weather and keep it inside longer than you want to. While this may sound annoying, it is better to keep the tree inside longer so it does not freeze over. This way, none of your hard work goes to waste!
Do Lemon Trees Need To Be Pollinated?
Now that you have picked out the variety of lemon trees to plant and you have it all ready to grow, you may wonder about lemon tree pollination.
Lemon trees, like most citrus trees, are self-pollinators and do not need to be pollinated by another source to produce fruit. While it will be helpful to have many other citrus trees nearby, it will not stop your lemon tree from growing and start producing lemons.
Another lemon tree or citrus tree will typically help increase the production of your tree. The timeline will not change, but you may yield more fruit in the long run.
Keeping Your Lemon Tree Healthy
Just like any other plant, lemon trees are not strangers to pests and diseases. Especially if you keep them outside.
If planted in the right conditions, you may avoid pests and ailments near your lemon tree. However, we cannot all be lucky. Here’s what you have to watch out for with your lemon tree.
A common thing that citrus plants grown in containers experience is root rot. Root rot can occur when a plant is over-watered and does not have the proper draining in place to keep a solid flow for the roots at hand.
To avoid root rot, you will want to make sure you have a pot with a strong drainage system. Also, make sure you are not over-watering your plant.
Another issue you may see on your lemon tree is citrus greening. The issue first came to light thanks to an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. The bug is rather small, as it is similar to a gnat, but can cause a lot of damage.
Aphids are probably one of the most common pests in a garden. While it seems like they will never go away, there are useful tools to help keep them out of your garden. A simple insecticidal soap treatment or a neem oil spray will help deter these tiny creatures.
If soap is not removing the aphids, try out a product like Natria Neem Oil Spray for Plants. You can spray this oil directly on plants and it will help repel aphids and other pests.
Caterpillars are also a big no for your lemon tree. They are fond of the leaves on the tree and can go through them rather quickly. The damage is usually minor, but it will be smart to keep a lookout for the crawling creatures.
What Should I Do With My Lemons?
Okay, so you finally have a lemon fruit. But now, what do you do with it? Sure, you have the lemon juice, but there are so many more ways you can use the lemon. Let’s look!
If you are super impatient while waiting for the lemon to fruit, pick a few lemon blossoms off your tree.
The super fragrant flowers make great decorations for food and dessert and give off an incredible scent. While they are not edible, they make an excellent decorative garnish while you are waiting for your lemons to fruit.
Lemon oil goes a long way. You can use it in cooking and baking to enhance flavor and increase the lemon scent. However, you can also use it outside of the kitchen, in beauty products, cleaning materials, and in certain furniture polishes.
The lemon rind may secretly be the best part of the lemon. The rind is so beautifully fragrant and adds an incredible flavor to whatever you are cooking with. It brings such a bright flavor to anything you are eating and instantly elevates any dish.
Do you love making lemon candies and jellies? Then you are going to want to keep the peel of the lemon around.
The lemon peel is the rind with the white pith attached. It contains a large amount of citric acid and pectin, which is one of the key ingredients for making jellies and marmalades.
So When Can I Enjoy My Lemons?
So, as you probably noticed by now, there is not a specific answer to how long it takes to grow lemons on a lemon tree. It could take 1 year, or it could take 6 years! It all depends on many, many factors.
If you are starting from seed, it may take around 4 to 6 years before you get any fruit on the tree. However, most people are starting with a plant that has already been around for a few years, so you will probably not have to wait as long.
Remember to keep your plant in a fully sunny area with proper drainage. If you see any pests or issues near the plant, treat it with the proper material to help bring it back to its natural state.
When your lemons finally appear on your tree, remember you are not done yet! The fruit will still take time to grow on the tree and will be ready when they are slightly green.
You can either pick them or let them ripen more on the vine. Whatever you do, the long wait is over, and you finally have lemons you can enjoy!
Beridze, T. R. “The effect of organic fertilizers on lemon tree productivity.” Subtropicheskie Kul’tury 3 (1990): 83-86.
Domingo, R., et al. “Water relations, growth and yield of Fino lemon trees under regulated deficit irrigation.” Irrigation Science 16.3 (1996): 115-123.
Dubey, A. K., and R. M. Sharma. “Effect of rootstocks on tree growth, yield, quality and leaf mineral composition of lemon (Citrus limon (L.) Burm.).” Scientia horticulturae 200 (2016): 131-136.
Ortuno, M. Fernanda, et al. “Stem and leaf water potentials, gas exchange, sap flow, and trunk diameter fluctuations for detecting water stress in lemon trees.” Trees 20.1 (2006): 1-8.
Download My Free E-Book!
If you’re new to planting or want a refresher, take a peek at my guide on choosing and planting your very first tree. It specifically details planting trees in your yard and goes over the wide variety of options you have to start your #treejourney!