Lemons can be tricky, if not impossible, to grow from seed. There are methods that can be used to grow lemon trees successfully, but they often involve working with a professional in one way or another.
Do lemons grow true to seed? Lemons will normally not grow true to seed. This means that when you plant a lemon seed, the tree that grows from that seed will produce a plant that bears a different fruit than the plant the seed came from. The plant may not even fruit at all.
Below is an in-depth look at the best methods to grow lemons and how to avoid the pitfalls that often come with working with them.
Growing Lemons From Seed – What To Expect
Growing lemons from seeds can be an interesting experience. The genetics in lemons vary wildly, so it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get a similar lemon or any lemons at all when growing a lemon tree from seed.
Reasons Why Growing Lemons from Seed Is Discouraged
It’s not guaranteed that a lemon seed will grow into a tree that even produces a fruit, let alone a good one. There’s a good chance that your newly grown lemon tree will grow a fruit that could be too small, bitter, or spiky.
The most likely situation is that you grow a lemon tree that never produces fruit.
If you’re looking for a non-fruit-bearing lemon tree and want to have a fun experiment, then feel free to grow a lemon from seed, but if you’re expecting a better result, it might be best to buy a commercially available lemon tree or attempt to graft a tree yourself.
1. It Can Result in Inedible Fruit (Or None at All)
A lemon tree grown from seed produces completely random results when it comes to its fruit. The fruit could be tough, dry, bitter, thorny, or not exist at all.
2. Lemon Seed Genetics Are Too Unpredictable
Each lemon carries the genetic possibility of its entire tree ancestry. That means that when you grow a lemon from seed, it will produce a number of potential genetic variations of the tree.
Each seed that’s allowed to grow into a tree produces an entirely new variety of tree that would resemble a completely different plant. Lemon trees that are commercially grown have been cultivated for generations to ensure their predictability.
Growing a new tree from seed could produce a tree with tiny fruit, barbed branches, lanky growth, or more undesirable traits.
3. It Can Take Several Years To Flower/Fruit
If you are lucky enough for your tree to fruit, it will take years for it to get to that point. It normally takes trees a few years to bear fruit, but without knowing the genetic properties of the tree you’re growing, it may take even longer.
4. Your Microclimate May Not Favor Lemon Tree Seedlings
Lemon trees are less frost-hardy compared to other citrus trees, so unestablished seedlings will be vulnerable outside ideal conditions. If you live in a climate that has a chance of frost, your tree will likely not survive even a light frost.
Alternative Ways To Grow Lemon Trees
There are many ways to grow lemon trees successfully. One way is by a process called air layering.
Air layering involves stripping a small portion of bark from a young branch, spreading rooting hormone on it, covering the exposed area in moist peat moss, and wrapping the area to allow roots to grow.
Once sufficient rooting has occurred, the branch is then removed from the parent tree and allowed to grow on its own.
Another option is to purchase a young lemon tree from a local nursery. Make sure that if the tree is grafted, you trim off any growth from the tree that is below the graft.
If these parts are allowed to grow, they will sap energy from the ideal part of the tree, and the fruit-bearing part will eventually die off, leaving the original rootstock.
Can You Grow Lemon Seeds in Cups?
While it is still not recommended to grow lemons from seed, it is possible to grow lemon seeds in a cup. In fact, this may keep the lemon trees from growing too large and becoming unruly, so it might be one of the best ways to grow lemons from seed.
Tips for Growing Lemons From Seed Successfully
If you do choose to grow lemons from seed, there are a few tips to make your growing process easier:
- Start with the seeds of organic lemons. These seeds will be free from harmful pesticides or fertilizers that could impact the seed’s viability.
- Clean the seed thoroughly. A clean seed will give fungus and bacteria less opportunity to infect your lemon seedling.
- Do not let your seeds dry out. Dry seeds are less likely to germinate than seeds that have retained their moisture.
- Plant your lemon seeds ½ inch deep in pasteurized soil mix.
- Moisten the soil, and ensure it stays moist while the seeds are germinating. Covering it with plastic wrap helps with this.
- 70 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal germination temperature for lemon seeds to germinate.
- Be sure to talk to a professional who has experience growing in your microclimate. This will give you the most actionable care tips to manage your lemon seedling.
How To Make a Lemon Tree Grow Faster
The best ways to improve the growth rate of a lemon tree are to make sure it’s being fertilized regularly with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer (try this organic mix made specifically for citrus trees) and to make sure it’s getting enough sunlight.
Lemon trees are tropical plants and require the right amount of sunlight and soil moisture in order to grow well. The soil should be moist but not overly wet at all times.
Lemon Seed Benefits & Side Effects
Lemon seeds, unlike the seeds of stone fruits (peaches, cherries, etc.) are perfectly edible. In fact, they have also been known to have benefits associated with them.
Eating too many lemon seeds has been known to cause indigestion and diarrhea, so be careful not to eat too many.
Are Lemon Trees Best Grown in the Ground or Containers?
Lemon trees are best grown in the ground. The reason that they’re often grown in containers is that the climate for a lemon tree can be very specific.
If you grow your lemon tree in a container, it can more easily be moved inside so that it’ll survive when there are light frosts that would otherwise kill the tree.
How and When Should You Prune a Lemon Tree?
Young lemon trees should be left to free-grow as much as possible. If any limbs are dead or diseased, it’s best to trim those, but for the most part, don’t trim your lemon trees at all in the first 2-3 years.
Once your tree is a little older, pruning your tree regularly and properly will lead to healthier fruit. You should prune your lemon tree after it has delivered its fall crop, ideally at a cooler time of year.
Make sure to prune away any dead or weak limbs, being careful not to prune back any more than 1/3 of the tree.
Growing lemons can be a rewarding experience. It can also be extremely challenging. It’s important to know exactly what to expect and how to avoid the common mistakes that are made when growing lemons.