How to Plant Citrus Trees From Seeds


It seems a shame to throw away or compost all those plump seeds you take out of lemons, limes, seeded oranges, grapefruit and tangerines. If you're an enterprising gardener, you can collect those seeds and grow them into new trees. Just make sure the fruit you take seeds from is not a hybrid variety, because those seeds will not reproduce true to type and you might end up with a strange fruit that bears little resemblance to its parent fruit. Citrus trees you begin from seed will also take much longer to reach maturity than young trees available at nurseries.

Planting citrus trees from seeds

Step 1

Let one or two fruits ripen on the tree almost to the point where they are rotted. Then pick your selected fruit and scoop out the seeds. Rinse them in clear, tepid water and wash away any pulp that sticks to the seeds using a small brush or sponge.

Step 2

Dry seeds for seven to 10 days on a window screen you have propped up on boards or bricks in a dry area such as a garage. Do not dry citrus seeds in the sun.

Step 3

Fill nursery pots or a planting flat with potting soil you have mixed with peat moss, sand and vermiculite. For every quart of potting soil, add ½ cup of each of these ingredients. When your seeds are dry, plant them ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Place your pots in a sunny area and water well every day. Covering the pots or flat with clear plastic helps germination--punch about 20 small holes in the plastic to give the soil good circulation. Remove the plastic after your seeds sprout, which takes about two to three weeks.

Step 4

Use a slightly acidic potting soil when you transplant 2- to 3-inch seedlings to one-gallon pots. Now you should water your little trees only once a week, but be sure to keep them in a sunny spot. Check the soil every day to ensure that it doesn't become too dry.

Step 5

Fertilize seedlings when they are three months old using a balanced plant food, such as one having an N-P-K ratio of 8-8-8. Fertilize every month, following instructions on your fertilizer's label.

Step 6

Move your tree or trees to an outdoor location in spring when they are about 1 foot tall. This can take one year or longer. Plant them in an area that has good drainage and full sun. Citrus trees need a slightly acidic soil, so it's wise to do a soil test to determine your soil pH. If it measures more than 7.0, add sulfur to the soil at the rate of 3.6 oz. for each planting hole. Also dig one gallon bucket full of organic compost into every planting hole.

Things You'll Need

  • Seeds
  • Small brush or sponge
  • Window screen
  • Potting soil
  • Peat moss
  • Vermiculite
  • Sand
  • Pots or flats
  • Plastic wrap
  • Balanced fertilizer
  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Sulfur (optional)


  • Purdue University: Growing Trees From Seed
  • Citrus from seed
Keywords: citrus trees, lemon orange, grapefruit tangerine, seeds starting

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.