Have you ever come across a phrase that says “when life gives you lemon, make ‘trees’?” Well, here is the simplest interpretation of that phrase. Any time you buy that lemon from the grocery, set aside a seed or two for propagation. How to grow a lemon tree from seed is practically a simple DIY process.
In today’s post you’re going to learn 5 easy steps on how to grow a lemon tree from seed plus maintenance tips. You’re also going to learn about the common pests and diseases and their management.
The lemon trees produce super green leaves, white flowers and brightly colored fully ripe yellow and orange fruits which you can use to make lemonade. They are also a rich source of vitamin C which is necessary for growth and repair of body tissues.
Let’s take a look at how you can grow them at home.
What You’ll Require
A fully mature organic lemon fruit (Source for seeds)
Aluminum foil for drying the seeds
Pasteurized potting mix to prevent any seed infection
Seed flats for sowing
20 percent bleaching agent
5 Step Process on How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed in Containers
Step 1- seed selection
The very first step in propagating a lemon tree from seeds is to ensure you choose the best juicy and tasty lemon fruit. You can taste two or three fruits and select the best. The fruit should be organic since their counterparts contain seeds that do not germinate.
Step 2- washing
Remove the seeds from the lemon pulp and gently wash them using a 20 percent bleaching solution to remove any tissues and sugars that can attract fungal diseases. If any tissue sticks on the seeds, clean the seeds using dilute potassium hydroxide. Alternatively, you can simply suck the seeds until they are clean.
Step 3- drying
You can choose to plant the extracted seeds immediately or dry them on an aluminum foil first. Do not expose the seeds to direct sunlight. After drying, plant them or dust the seeds using a fungicide if you are not ready to plant them and preserve them in polyurethane bags.
Store them in a cool place of approximately 45℉. For directly-sown seeds, plant them half an inch deep at the center of the pot.
Step 4- germination
Before planting, soak the seeds for approximately eight hours for faster germination. Seeds take relatively two to three weeks to germinate after planting.
Put a pasteurized potting mix (preferably a mixture of peat moss and perlite/sand) in the seed flats and sow the seeds ¼ or ½ inch deep. Ensure the soil remains moist and not wet. Cover the top of the container using a plastic wrap to ensure water is retained and seal the edges using rubber bands.
Poke small holes at the top to help see the sprouting process. When sprouting occurs, remove the plastic cover.
Note: a pasteurized/sterile potting mix prevents harmful pathogens from killing the seeds.
When growing indoors, place the lemon tree seeds in a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight. The ideal temperatures should also range between 60℉ and 70℉. Once the seedlings grow several leaves, transplant them to bigger containers.
Repot whenever necessary to promote fruit development and new growth. Prune the tree by removing lower, older and dry leaves.
If you need supplemental lighting, use grow lights as an add-on to the sun’s light.
During winter, stop applying fertilizer and reduce watering to prevent waterlogging.
Step 5- maintenance
Lemon trees are love full sunlight. You should also water them preferably three to five days a week and provide frost protection if the temperatures drop. Also, fertilize the young trees monthly for a vigorous tree.
It is fun watching your lemon tree grow. However long it may take, you will love the output. Just picture your home garden with several green lemon trees with orange/yellow fruits. Doesn’t it look lovely?
However, it is important to note that everything has its advantages and disadvantages. Lemon trees propagated from seeds are usually not identical to their parents. They are inferior and also take five years or more to produce fruits.
Common pests and diseases
Aphids (Toxoptera citricida)
The symptoms of an aphid-infested lemon tree are curly leaves and the twigs and leaves are covered in gluey substance that may grow sooty mold. The number of aphids usually declines naturally as the leaves grow older. Application of pesticides is not recommended due to resistance.
Instead, use natural control measures outlined in this article - How to Get Rid of Aphids Permanently (Easily and Naturally)
Thrips (Scirtothrips citri)
These insects feed below the sepals of young fruits, causing scars on fruits and the fruit rind expands. Healthy trees can tolerate heavy feeding hence applying insecticides is not highly recommended. Actually, insecticides can enhance an increase in the number of thrips by stimulating reproduction.
Citrus leaf miner (Phyllocnistis citrella)
Leaves behind a thin and winding trail on the leaves. When heavily infested, the leaves get curly and distorted. These insects majorly affect young trees; hence it is recommended to treat them with the right insecticide to prevent stunted growth.
Armillaria root rot (Armillaria mellea)
Lemon tree leaves will show signs of chlorosis and start dropping from the tree. The trees may show signs of wilting and the whole canopy will be affected if the roots get damaged. You will also notice mushroom clusters forming at the bottom of the tree.
You can fumigate the soil to decrease soil inoculum. If infection is severe, cut down the affected trees and avoid replanting the area with healthy lemon trees for up to one year. In addition, learn how to properly water your trees.
Anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides)
The twigs usually show signs of dieback and leaves start dropping off. The fruits will have dark stains and dark spores cover the twigs and leaves.
Apply a recommended fungicide to the whole tree if the disease is severe.
Mal secco (Phoma tracheiphila)
The leaves dry up and drop off, the leaf veins become chlorotic and the midrib of the affected leaves may turn red. To control this problem, use clean and sterile material when planting. Prune off any affected branches and shoots. Spray the trees using copper fungicides. And don’t use overhead irrigation method.
Black root rot (Thielaviopsis basicola)
You may spot brown or black lesions on the roots which eventually turn the whole root system black. The plant leaves may also show signs of chlorosis.
Ensure that you use high quality growing medium and aeration. If not you need to learn how to improve the drainage of your soil.
Citrus canker (Xanthomonas axonopodis)
Lesions are visible on the leaf margin, leaf tip, fruits, and twigs. When the lesions are young, a yellow halo surrounds them.
Completely cut down all the affected lemon trees to avoid the spread to healthy trees. You can also use windbreaks to control the severity in places where the disease is widespread.
Bacterial canker (Pseudomonas syringae)
Black or water-soaked lesions are visible on the fruits, leaf petioles, and midribs. Cankers cause twigs to die and leaves turn black and eventually die.
Apply copper fungicides in areas where the disease is severe.
Tristeza disease (Citrus tisteza virus (CTV))
Undesirable new growth, light green leaves which may start falling off from the tree and young trees will bloom earlier than expected.
Twigs become brittle, leaves usually show signs of chlorosis and the affected trees become stunted. To stop the pathogen from entering into the unaffected areas, use quarantine procedures.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I grow a lemon tree indoors?
Yes. Growing lemon trees indoors is totally fun. Start your seeds in small pots and once they outgrow the pots, transplant them into larger containers. Regardless of the climate, lemon trees will grow excellently provided that you select the right tree and ensure it meets its special requirements.
How long does it take for a seed-grown lemon tree to produce fruits?
This may take approximately 4-6 years for the tree to produce fruits. However, others may take as long as 10 years.
Can I dry lemon seeds before planting?
Yes. The seeds can either be planted immediately after extraction or dried completely on an aluminum foil/nonstick paper prior to planting.
Can I leave your lemon trees outdoors during winter?
There is a type of lemon tree called meyer lemon that does very well in winter. However, if the temperatures fall below 30℃. Alternatively, you can shift them indoors when the chilly spells start. For trees grown outdoors, you can provide frost protection.
Do lemon trees need full sun?
Yes. Provide them with at least eight hours of sunlight a day and in a southern exposure.
Now you must be excited about quenching your thirst using that lemonade! Whether you are growing your lemon tree indoors or outdoors, expect a good yield, provided you follow all the instructions carefully.
Lastly, it takes patience to see the fruits of your labor. How about planting more lemon trees from seeds as you wait for these ones to grow? Feel free to add on, comment or ask questions.