When Life Gives You Lemons … Grow More Lemons

From the When Life Gives You Lemons…  Series.

Part 2: When Life Gives You Lemons … Grow More Lemons

or How to Pot Up a Lemon Tree

1. Pick what kind of lemon tree you want to grow.

Since we’ll be growing our lemon tree in a pot we’ll need to pick a small-er growing lemon variety.  Some lemon tree varieties that do well in pots are:

  1. Improved Meyer Lemon
  2. Lisbon
  3. Eureka

Of these three my favourite is the Improved Meyer Lemon.  If you have ever tasted a Meyer Lemon you wouldn’t have to ask me why.  The fruit is much sweeter than the lemons you buy at the store, still with a classically fresh lemon tartness but with none of the bitterness.  You can almost (almost) eat them like an orange they are so good.  They skins are thinner, too, I find, and are great for zesting.  There is very little pith to worry about.  The pith is where much of the bitterness of the lemon is found.

Potted Meyer Lemon tree.  So pretty.

Potted Meyer Lemon tree. So pretty. (pic from homeanddecor.ca)

I have found that with a little TLC my Meyer Lemon will produce heavily.  The picture of the tree above doesn’t surprise me although I know it doesn’t look real.  In my first year my Meyer lemon tree gave me 14 lemons. 14!  Not bad for a baby, huh?  Now, the second year I got zero (I grumble about that here) but moving forward I expect my lemon tree to produce beautifully just like in the picture.  TIme will tell.

You may also have a choice in the shape of the tree you buy.  I bought a standard tree, which means it had been trained to look like a ball on a tall stick.  I think it looks more elegant although it will take more upkeep to maintain the standard shape.

2. Choose your pot.

A full grown lemon tree can grow 6′-10′ tall although they will likely be smaller when kept in a pot.  But still, a fairly sizable pot is needed, maybe 15-20 gallon pot to start.  Lemons need good drainage so make sure there are plenty of drain holes in the bottom.  As you’ll be moving it around pay heed to how heavy the pot is.  And pick a blue one.

3. Choose Your Growing Medium

I know it seems strange to talk about the growing medium but I promise you that a little time and research now will pay big dividends later.  You can buy a ready made citrus potting mix with different additives such as peat moss, perlite or vermiculite, just ensure the soil is light enough to drain the water well.  If you are like me you might want to just make your own.  I like a recipe I found on a citrus growing forum long ago and wrote down:

Citrus Potting Mix Recipe

  • 1/3 MiracleGro Vegetable Mix
  • 1/3 small bark chips
  • 1/3 perlite (although I use vermiculite as that is what I had on hand).

4. Potting Up the Tree

When transplanting a lemon tree I like to shake off most of the old potting soil before replanting, just because I know what is in my potting medium recipe and I know it works for my environment.  Your lemon tree may also come bare-rooted like this one from William Sonoma.  The sawdust is just to try to keep the roots moist during transit.  You will shake them all off before you plant this tree.

Bare root meyer lemon tree sold by Williams Sonoma

Bare root meyer lemon tree sold by Williams Sonoma

Before planting examine the roots.  Cut off any that are damaged or broken, or are circling around and look root bound.  Also trim off any broken or dead branches you might see.

Place the bare root tree in your pot, gently packing in the soil around the roots.  It is important to get the height right.  Plant so the roots are just below the surface but that the crown is just above it.  Water in well to remove any air spaces and to settle the plant in nicely.

NEXT UP: When Life Gives You Lemons … Take Care of Your Lemons

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