Lemon Tree Planting Tips and TricksLemon Tree Planting Tips and Tricks
Unless you have a greenhouse, lemon tree planting should probably best be restricted to those living in tropical or sub-tropical climates. Lemon trees grow where temperatures get no colder than 60 degrees F. (15 degrees C.). It is possible to grow a small version of this plant in cooler regions, but most likely, the tree will not produce fruit.
Grow in Pots or Outdoors
If you are interested in lemon tree planting but live in a region too cold for the tree to produce fruit, you still can attempt to grow one for the foliage only, and maybe an occasional blossom. Place your potted lemon plant in a window of your home that receives the brightest light and makes sure to keep it watered well and free of insects. Cleaning the leaves, especially the undersides, with an intermittent washing of insecticidal soap will help keep bugs away.
Apply a high-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 4-1-2 for lemon tree planting in pots and spread it evenly over the soil three times per year in late spring, in the fall, and then once more in late winter.
Lemon tree planting outdoors in the proper environment and climate produces trees that grow from 20 to 30 feet tall. The trees are evergreen and spread up to 15 feet wide, depending on the variety. Some varieties include Eureka, Genoa, Meyers, Ponderosa, and Lisbon, to name a few. In the United States, these trees grow primarily in USDA zones 9b-11, which encompass mostly the east and west southern-most coasts.
Although the origins of lemon tree planting are unknown, some link it to the northwestern areas of India. From its introduction to Italy around 200 AD, it was thought to have been cultivated in Egypt and Iraq by 700 AD. By 1751, lemon trees were being grown in California and in the northeastern regions of Florida by 1839.
By 1870, more than 140,000 boxes of lemons were being shipped from Florida annually and this production kept its pace until 1876. That year, a freeze hampered the normal crop, plus a disease called scab, of which lemons grown in humid climates like Florida are particularly susceptible.
Florida did not resume its lemon tree planting industry until 1953, with California having taken up the slack in the previous year’s production. Florida now ranks third behind California and Arizona in lemon production.
Lemon tree planting can be done in many types of soils. Floridas groves grow mostly in sand, while in California, water-holding earth consisting of silty clay loam is put to use to grow lemon trees. A soil pH of between 5.5 and 6.5 is recommended, with lime to be added to soils with a too-high acidity.
The Easy, Delicious Meyer
Lemon tree planting can be a fun endeavor for the home gardening hobbyist, with one of the best plants to try one hand at being the Meyer lemon. This lemon and mandarin orange hybrid produce large juicy fruits that do not have nearly the acid of regular lemon varieties, yet taste nearly exactly like them. The blossoms are breathtakingly sweet and are often present at the same time as the ripening fruits. A Meyer lemon tree growing in a bright window of a room can freshen the entire house.
Whether or not you try lemon tree planting in your backyard area, you should at least try growing one in a pot in your home. By moving them outdoors in warm weather and back indoors during the cold, you are sure to have at least some success, especially with the above-mentioned Meyer variety. The wonderful smell of lemon blossoms is worth the trouble many times over. Try it yourself and see!
Lemon Tree Diseases
There are very few lemon tree problems that are life-threatening. Lemons trees are afflicted with the same diseases and pests as other citrus trees.
If you recognize the symptoms of the most common problems you can take corrective actions to minimize their negative impact on your lemon tree’s fruit quality. Trees should be examined frequently for pests, diseases, and disorders.
It is very easy to bruise the peel of the fruit on a lemon tree. Releasing peel oil causes serious oil spots on the lemon’s surface. Oil spotting can shorten the life of the fruit. To prevent oil spotting, delay picking fruit until late morning or afternoon, after rain or when the fruit is wet and handle the fruit gently to avoid bruising.
Common Lemon Tree Diseases
Citrus Tristeza: The virus, citrus Tristeza, causes seedling yellow, severe stem pitting, or quick decline on rootstock and results in reduced crops or loss of trees. It is generally spread by aphids, and when it was discovered that ‘Meyer’ lemons were asymptomatic hosts for this aggressive virus, many growers were told to destroy their trees to prevent large scale infection of commercial crops. The ‘Improved Meyer’ strain is disease resistant.
Asian citrus leafminer: attacks the new flushes of growth and causes stunting and distortion of the leaf. Each growth flush is vulnerable to attack.
Young Tree Decline: symptoms include dead wood, sparse foliage, and reduced growth. Affected trees will wilt sooner during a dry spell than healthy trees. A certain amount of deadwood is natural in the normal development of a citrus tree.
Citrus greening: causes infected trees to yellow and decline. Fruit can develop a lopsided shape if trees are infected with citrus greening.
Citrus canker: a highly contagious bacterial infection of citrus trees causing yellow halo-like lesions or scabs on the leaves, fruit, and twigs of citrus trees. Severe infections can cause blemished fruit, leaf loss, fruit drop and die back.
Root Rot: also referred to as Brown Rot. The symptoms of this disease are dark brownish patches of hardening bark on the trunk of the tree. It is common for ooze to seep from the dark brown infected area. Over time, as the disease advances the bark dries, cracks and dies. The disease can also cause decaying and browning on the fruit and also die-back and yellowing on the foliage.
Greasy spot: a fungus disease of citruses. Telltale symptoms include yellowish-brownish blister spots on leaves, often on the underside of the leaf. As the disease progresses, the spots will develop into oily-looking blisters
Sooty mold: a fungus that causes the blackening of the leaves of citrus trees.
Disease-like Insect Infestations
Aphids: can be light grey-green, green-yellow, black or brown. Symptoms are easily detectable on the leaves and include the appearance of multiple puckered marks and yellowing and twisting of the leaves. Aphids cause the leaves of lemon trees to appear deformed.
The citrus whitefly: This is an insect that is most commonly found feeding on the underside of the tree’s leaves. When the branches are shaken, the Citrus whitefly will rapidly take flight and can be seen fluttering around the tree. In addition to feeding on the citrus tree, the whiteflies also lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. The tree’s leaves begin to curl and appear to be covered with a sticky, sooty mold substance.
The Orangedog Caterpillar: a large caterpillar about 1.5 to 2 inches in length. Its body is brown color. An easily observed symptom that the Orangedog Caterpillar has infested a tree is the leaves throughout the tree appear to be partially eaten or chewed from the outer edges.
Citrus Thrips: The most visible sign of an infestation is leaves that are distorted, shriveled, curled and usually a silver-grey color. The fruit may be streaked, scabbed or silvery color. The damage continues throughout the growing season and is most noticeable during hot, dry weather when the tree is already under stress.
Brown soft scale: These are small, non-mobile insects that attach themselves to the wood, foliage and sometimes the fruit. The scale is most common on the new woody growth. When the adult scale is attached to the tree, it often appears as waxy or crusty bumps on the tree. It is often mistaken for part of the tree’s own growth, but it is actually an insect. The scale sucks sap from the tree and causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop.
Citrus bud mite: a small-elongated insect with a tapered posterior and four legs near the mouth. The bud mite is difficult to detect but large infestations may be visible by closely examining fruit buttons.
Citrus red mite: an extremely tiny pest, only 1/50th of an inch long and red or purple in color. These mites infest leaves and fruit. Intense infestations during hot, dry weather can cause leaf drop.
Snails: chew holes into leaves and cause the fruit to be scarred or pitted. You can also see silvery trails winding around the trunk and branches near the soil. You can also detect snails by lifting the lower branches or inspecting under the leaf debris under the tree.
Planning on growing Indoor an “improved Meyer lemon tree”
It’s important to start out with a healthy tree, so consider researching the nurseries yourself. Amazon Store has many online nurseries. Four Winds is an extremely well respected online retailer and wholesaler of citrus, but they don’t ship when it’s too cold out. I don’t know the exact temp cut off, but keep that in mind.
A grow light isn’t always necessary, but probably a good idea at your latitude.
I wouldn’t repot this time of the year unless absolutely necessary. Repotting can be traumatic, especially after being shipped. Wait until it’s much warmer (May for you) before repotting.
Citrus loves moisture, but not wet feet. That means you have to water frequently, but not allow it to stay wet. They do best with fast-draining soil. You can use commercial citrus container soils, but you may want to add more large-particles Perlite or pine bark fines to promote more drainage and aeration. This combination of moisture-retention and aeration for the roots can be difficult to achieve. That’s probably where the majority of the failures occur with containerized citrus. They sometimes gradually decline in health until they get attacked by insects that prey on weak trees.
They are heavy feeders and require special citrus-specific fertilizers or ferts with all the micronutrients and minerals. Containerized citrus requires year-round fertilization.
I know it mentioned that it would be indoors lemon tree, but it needs to go outside in the summer. They need the sun and heat for maximum growth and fruit development. When taking it outside, gradually move to full shade, then part shade, then full sun conditions, then reverse these conditions when bringing it indoors next fall.
A lemon tree makes great fruit year-round. I have one ‘improved Meyer Lemon’, and it’s 1/5 citrus trees I have indoors. I just want to add a couple of things;
magnesium baths/soaks work wonders – Google will tell you what, how much and when.
You may find your plants are sensitive to large cold swings if they sit right in front of large windows or drafty areas.
The citrus tree like a little bit of a breeze between their branches, and tend not to do well when heavily clustered or crammed in anywhere.
don’t skimp on soil quality, it shows in the fruit produced; size and flavor.
I use a cheap light fixture and CF bulbs from the hardware store to add extra light in October – April in the afternoon/evening. It’s been working for a few years now. You may or may not need to supplement your lighting.
good pruning sheers are worth the investment, so is maybe some education in tree training kind of like bonsai or espalier. Don’t forget you’ll eventually have to shape your tree or cut it back, and can’t hurt to understand all the tools at your disposal.
I spray my plants monthly with neem oil as a preventative against bugs and such. So far it seems to be working like a charm. (Knock on wood)
Anyways most of this is advice based on my experience keeping citrus trees in a chilly zone 3b.
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