What To Know About Growing Meyer Lemon Trees

Meyer lemon trees grown in containers can be taken inside in winter. Where it's warmer, they can be grown in the ground. Either way, delicious lemons!

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Have you thought about growing trees indoors? Some, including the Meyer lemon tree, make excellent houseplants!

I’m fascinated by the story of the Meyer lemon, a hybrid citrus tree that produces lemons that are larger, sweeter and thinner skinned than the lemons you find in the grocery store. Its story includes everything from the adventures of the plant hunter, Frank N. Meyer, who found the original tree in China in 1908, to its adoration by chefs and kitchen trendsetters in the early 21st century.

You can find it labeled with the botanical name Citrus x meyeri ‘Improved’ or Citrus x limon ‘Meyer.’

Where Do Meyer Lemon Trees Grow?

Meyer lemon trees are hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9 to 11. For those who garden in colder zones, Meyer lemon trees can be grown in containers and moved indoors for the winter.

How to Care for Meyer Lemon Trees

Whether in the ground or in a container, following some general tree care tips will get you off to a great start with your Meyer lemon tree.

Growing Meyer lemon trees outdoors in the ground

  • Choose a location with well-draining soil, full sun and room for the tree to grow.
  • Keep your tree watered, especially as it is becoming established. Water deeply and allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again.
  • While the tree is actively growing from spring through fall, add a fertilizer labeled for citrus trees. Space out applications following instructions on the package.
  • Meyer lemon trees don’t require regular pruning unless you want to shape it or control the size. According to Christy Wilhelmi, author of Grow Your Own Mini Fruit Garden, “Citrus is fairly forgiving if you stick to removing branches that are dead, diseased and disorderly. The best time to prune citrus is after the tree finishes fruiting but before it begins to flower again.”

Growing Meyer lemon trees in containers

  • Choose a container with drainage holes on the bottom that fits the tree you’re starting with. As the tree grows, repot into larger containers. Use a potting soil mix that drains well. Place the container in full sun when outside.
  • Water deeply when the top few inches of soil are dry. Don’t let the container stand in a saucer of water.
  • Add a fertilizer labeled for citrus trees when the tree is actively growing, from spring through fall.
  • Prune to keep the tree to a size you can manage.
  • Overwinter your tree indoors unless you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9 to 11. Then you can leave your trees outside all year. Otherwise, take your lemon tree indoors in the fall, before temperatures dip below 50 F at night. Indoors, it will need bright light and cooler temperatures. Water only when dry and mist daily. In the spring, once nighttime temperatures are again averaging 50 F and warmer, gradually acclimate your Meyer lemon tree to the outdoors by taking it out for a few hours a day. Add a few more hours each day until you can leave it out fulltime.
  • Hand pollinate flowers to ensure fruit set if your tree blooms indoors. With a small artist paint brush, swipe the inside of a flower to pick up pollen, then brush the pollen on other flowers. Outdoors, bees and wind pollinate Meyer lemon trees.

How Big Do Meyer Lemon Trees Get?

Close up of single ripe Meyer lemon hanging from treeBarbara Rich/Getty Images

If grown outside year-round, Meyer lemon trees will grow to 10 to 12 feet tall and eight to 10 feet wide. Meyer lemon trees in containers will stay smaller, around three to six feet tall depending on the age of the tree and the size of the container.

Can Meyer Lemon Trees Survive a Freeze?

According to Teresa Watkins, host of the Better Lawns and Gardens Radio show, based in Orlando, Florida, “While Meyer lemons can handle a small amount of chill hours (temperatures at or below 40 F), they need to be protected from temperatures 25 F or less. In the South, cover small trees with a frost blanket draped to the ground or if small enough, cover with a cardboard box.”

Once temperatures warm up again, frost coverings should be removed.

Where to Buy a Meyer Lemon Tree

The best place to buy a Meyer lemon tree is a local garden center. There you can make sure the tree is healthy, with no signs of insect infestation, disease or stress from poor care.

You can also buy a Meyer lemon tree from a mail order nursery, such as Logee’s Plants for Home and Garden. Some large retailers, such as Lowes and The Home Depot, work with smaller nurseries to provide a mail order option. Always note the size of the plant you’re buying online. You might be getting a small starter plant in a four-inch pot when you were expecting a much bigger plant in a gallon container.

Note that many mail order nurseries are not allowed by law to ship Meyer lemon trees to several states where citrus is grown commercially, including California and Florida, due to the possibility of disease. If purchasing Meyer lemon trees in those states, Watkins notes trees must be verified citrus-greening free.

Carol J. Michel
Carol J. Michel is an award-winning author of several books including five gardening humor books and one children's book. As the holder of degrees from Purdue University in both horticulture and computer technology, she spent over three decades making a living in healthcare IT while making a life in her garden. She started writing about gardening on her blog called May Dreams Gardens which lead to numerous magazine articles, her books, and a podcast called The Gardenangelists. She was recently named a GardenComm Fellow by Garden Communicators International.