Tips for Caring for your Lemon Tree

With its sweet, fragrant flowers, glossy foliage and (sometimes very!) tart fruit, the indoor lemon tree can reward your care and attention by yielding fruit year-round. 

Regardless of how harsh our climate can be in various pockets of Canada, you can easily grow a container lemon tree indoors and enjoy the fruits of your labour year-round. Whether you choose the popular Meyer or Eureka variety, nurturing your indoor lemon tree isn't hard as long as you meet its essential needs. 

Placing your tree

For best results — including blooms and fruit — your indoor lemon tree needs lots of sunlight each day. The more the better. Lemon trees do particularly well in front of south or southwest-facing windows, where they can enjoy the longer afternoon sun. If your home lacks sufficient sun, consider adding artificial grow lighting to supplement what you can naturally achieve with smart placement of your tree.

Lemon trees grow best with nightly temperatures near 18-20 celsius, which suits most homes well. They don’t prefer hot or cold drafts, so place them away from air conditioning and heating ducts or drafty windows. 

Taking your tree outside

During the warm summer months, consider taking your lemon tree outdoors. The extra sunlight will be well received  — which will in turn, reward you with even more blooms and fruit. Be sure that before the fall frost comes, move it back inside. Whether moving indoors or out, always make the move gradually - starting with a few hours per day in their new location. Abrupt changes in light and temperature can cause fruit to drop, and will temporarily hinder production.

Watering and fertilizing your tree

To keep your lemon tree healthy, allow the soil to dry out 2-3 inches deep before you water. Then water thoroughly until it runs through the pot's drainage holes. Keep the soil moist, but not overly wet. Nothing kills a citrus tree faster than overwatering and resulting root rot. Watch for warning signs such as yellow leaves which often signal soggy roots.

During active growth periods, especially if they're outdoors during summer, container lemon trees may need daily watering. During winter, water only as needed to keep soil moist. Timing varies depending on temperatures (how hot it is), your container and the size of your tree. 

Beyond watering, your indoor tree will respond well to periodic feeding with a citrus fertilizer with a blend of 10-5-5. Like many citrus trees, lemon trees require a source of nitrogen as well as other essential macronutrients, including magnesium and iron. Apart from fertilizer, there just isn’t a source of these nutrients for container trees. 

Follow the instructions on your chosen fertilizer, whether that be a concentrated liquid or spikes - the latter ensures a continuous supply of nutrients below the surface of the soil, where your tree’s active roots are growing.

In addition to fertilizer, lemon trees respond well when you gently mix used coffee grounds into their soil.  Why coffee?  Lemon trees thrive in a soil that has a pH balance between 5.5 and 5.6, which is quite close to the pH of coffee, so coffee grounds will help to keep the pH of the soil balanced just the way that your lemon tree likes it.

With these essential tips - sunny placement, watering and periodic feeding - you’ll be providing the care that your indoor lemon tree needs to thrive, and yield a year round harvest of fruit. More than anything, a regular source of sunlight and the right amount of water are the most essential ingredients to long-term success.