How to grow lemon trees

PlantNet's Guide to Fruit Trees

Follow our guide to growing the best fruit trees in the neighbourhood! Get professional tips and tricks on all things fruit trees.

Why should I grow a lemon tree?

Lemon trees are one of the most popular fruit trees to plant in your garden. They not only produce lemons that can be used for homemade lemonade, limoncello or lemon tarts, but they can also elevate your garden design by giving it a Mediterranean feel.

Lemon trees aren’t difficult to grow, but some tricks will ensure your lemon tree thrives in your backyard, giving you a bountiful crop every year.

Here’s how to grow lemon trees in your garden.

Lemon tree with many lemons under black netting.

Where to plant a lemon tree

 

Lemon trees do best in sunny, well-drained positions. Soil should be moist but not soggy and slightly acidic. They should also be protected from harsh winds.

Most lemon trees do well in warm climates, but different varieties have different preferences. The Eureka lemon tree can be grown anywhere in Australia except in severe frost-prone areas, while Meyer lemon trees can handle cold and frost.

Lemon trees can also be grown in pots. Choose a pot at least 500mm wide. Position in full sun and fill with quality potting mix.

Generally, lemon trees are difficult to train to a hedge or espalier system when planted in the ground as lemons are quite vigorous with the way they grow. If planted in a pot, tree vigour is less and trees can be trained this way, however remember fruit trees as with many plants in pots may have a much shorter life as eventually they will become pot bound.

How to plant a lemon tree

Three months before planting, prepare the soil by adding mulch and pelletised poultry or cow manure to the site. A good premium potting mix combined with 20% of a good loam soil will be enough for pots to start the tree. Ensure the soil pH is between 6.0 and 6.5 for best results. (Check this with a pH kit which can be purchased from most garden centres).

Dig a hole twice the size of the nursery pot, do not tease the root system of potted plants. If planting in a large pot we suggest 50 cm minimum size. Do not put fertiliser in the hole. A closed handful of blood and bone fertiliser mixed into the bottom of the hole is fine. Plant the soil level in the nursery pot, level with your soil or potting mix and add a sprinkle of soil to cover the roots.

How to fertilise a lemon tree

Fertilising young non-bearing trees

The first 12-18 months focus on building a strong framework capable of bearing heavy crops. A good complete fertiliser or composted manure is ideal. Give the tree a closed handful of fertiliser every 3- 4 weeks, applied in a band from 30cm from the tree’s base to the tree’s drip line. Do not apply fertiliser against the base of the tree, as this may cause tree death. An addition of trace elements twice a year is also important.

Fertilising bearing trees

From winter in year two from planting, the focus is now on fruit production. Avoid fertilising during flowering and early fruit set with fertilisers high in Nitrogen (N); no higher than 12% is ideal. A well-balanced fertiliser with high potassium (K) above 12% is ideal. 

How much should I water my lemon tree?

 

Good moist soil is important from first bud development until all fruit is harvested.

Use your hand to determine the moisture level of the soil and water when the top 5cms of soil is dry.

 

How to prune a lemon tree

 

As trees grow, they will produce a dense canopy of leaves. A good open or vase-shaped tree is desirable. If trees are left unchecked, this will reduce the light efficiency needed for good bud development and pest and disease control and can lead to the tree being set to many fruits.

The correct time to prune is after harvest and before flowering. Remove any deadwood and skirt trees so that foliage is at least 30cm from the ground.

Are all citrus varieties easy to grow?

 

Now that you’ve mastered growing lemons, you may want to branch out and grow other citrus varieties. Generally all citrus will grow and perform well with the same care guide you’ve just read for your lemons!

You may find that oranges and mandarins will require small adjustments with their watering regime, however for the most part if you can grow one you can grow them all. 

mandarin citrus tree