How to grow a Lemon Tree in the UK - all you need to know
Do you fancy growing your own little lemon tree? If you do, you'll need quite a bit of patience. From planting your pip, it will take around 3 years before it flowers and fruits. But then the effort you put in to grow a lemon tree will be rewarded with delightful perfumed white flowers, glossy green leaves and brightly coloured fruit.
One key thing you will need, if you want to grow your own lemon trees in the UK, is some indoor space. Lemon trees can go outside in summer but need to be inside all winter. Ideally an unheated conservatory as they love light and don't like central heating.
What variety of Lemon Tree to Choose
If you want to buy a tree rather than planting lemons from seed, then you need to buy the right one. Pot grown lemon trees will never get as large as those grown in the ground. But it is still best to choose a dwarf variety for growing lemons in containers. "Improved Meyer" or "Ponderosa," are good varieties to choose. Most dwarf trees only reach 1–1.5m (3–5ft) tall in a pot.
If you are trying to grow lemons from seed the first thing to do is to find a lemon that has pips as these days not all of them do (this was discovered the hard way when trying to film my little lemon planting Reel!) Once you have a lemon with pips in I am afraid that there is no way to tell if the tree it came from was a dwarf one. Dwarf lemon trees produce full size fruits (who knew?) So, you will just have to take your chances with your pip and see what size tree you get!
The good news is that lemon trees are self-fertile, so a single plant is able to produce fruit. So no need for a lemon orchard!
What pot to use for a Lemon Tree
When you grow a lemon tree in a pot, the first thing you need to get right is the drainage. Lemon trees do not like waterlogged roots, so don't fall for a pretty pot with no drainage holes!
For small trees, a 30cm (12") diameter container is a good place to begin. As your trees grow you will need to gradually increase the size of the pot to eventually 45cm to 60cm (18" to 24").
Any pot material will do - plastic, metal, ceramic and terracotta are all suitable but remember you will need to move it. A pot full of compost, complete with tree, will be heavy, and decorative pots such as terracotta will add weight.
Planting a Lemon seed
Start with a lemon, a warm, sunny windowsill - your little lemon will want at least eight full hours of light per day as it grows - and a small pot.
There are specially formulated citrus composts but any potting medium will work. Add to it up to 20% sharp sand or grit to ensure good drainage.
How to plant a lemon pip
Prep your lemon seed by removing all of the pulp from its surface just before you are ready to plant. The easy way to do this is to suck it.
Whilst the seed is still moist, plant about 1 1/2 cm (1/2") deep and cover.
Spray the soil again with water - place the pot in a clear plastic bag with a few holes punched in the top. And put it in your warm, sunny location.
Spray on more water occasionally, not allowing the soil to dry out.
The seedling should emerge after about 2 weeks. At this point you can take it out of the plastic bag.
Look after it by keeping the soil damp and by giving it organic fertiliser. Watch over it to ensure it is not attacked by bugs or diseases. Prune off any dead leaves when necessary.
Whether you have a tree or a seedling you will need to repot it each year around March time. As with most plants it is good to go up the pot sizes gradually so don't jump from a 3" to a 18" in one go. The procedure for repotting is much the same as that outlined above for planting a seed. If you can't repot - it will get trickier as your lemon tree gets bigger - then at least refresh the pot by replacing the top 5cm (2") of growing medium with fresh compost.
Growing Lemons in Vigoroot
Lemon Trees grow well in Vigoroot pots because they air prune the roots of the plant. This means that they never get pot bounding . You can start them in a 5L pot.
But Vigoroot pots aren't the prettiest so if you want to use one indoors then you may want to put it in a decorative pot. If you do this then ensure that there is at least an inch gap all round so that the roots can air prune. And also put some big stones in the bottom. This will allow your lemon tree to grow in a much smaller volume of compost than in a standard pot. It will also ensure that it keeps fruiting in years to come. Fruit trees will stop fruiting if they become pot bound and this is often irreversible.
Check out this blog for How to Care for a lemon tree and discover how to feed it, when and how to prune your lemon tree, how to harvest lemons and what lemon tree pests and diseases to look out for.
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