Found growing in China by a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee in the early 20th century, the Meyer lemon (Citrus limon x c. reticulata) is much milder and less acidic than traditional lemons. Its skin is light orange, as well as its flesh, and it has a taste reminiscent of lemons.
Grown in a pot, a Meyer lemon will naturally tend to grow much smaller than one grown in the ground. Although most Meyer lemon trees sold specifically for growing in containers are grafted to dwarfing root-stock, even those grown on their own roots will exhibit much less crown height and spread than those grown in the ground. Expect potted varieties to grown 8 to 10 feet high and specimens grown outdoors in the ground to reach 10 to 12 feet high. One of the more hardy citrus varieties, Meyer lemon bears its fruits from December to April whether grown outdoors in USDA zone 10 and warmer or as an indoor potted plant. It produces few thorns or suckers.
Grow potted Meyer lemon trees in full sun outdoors during frost-free weather. Provide shade or partial shade during the heat of the midday summer sun, if possible. Use a potting soil for acid-loving plants. Place 2 to 3 inches of coarse sand in the bottom of the pot before adding the potting soil. This will add weight and help to keep it from tipping over in high winds. Grow indoors in a cool greenhouse or a south-facing window when average outdoor temperatures drop near 50 degrees F.
Grown in the ground, Meyer lemon trees require full sun and well-drained, rich soil that is slightly acidic. They prefer a protected location and are well-known as "dooryard" trees in warm weather areas.
Meyer lemons are a hybrid cross between an unknown mandarin orange variety and a lemon. The only other known variety of Meyer lemon is one called "improved Meyer lemon." Unfortunately, regular Meyer lemons are known to be symptomless carriers of the Citrus tristeza virus, responsible for the death of millions of citrus trees worldwide, according to University of Florida Extension. "Improved Meyer" is a disease-free strain of Meyer lemon that was discovered in the 1950s, certified disease-free and released in 1975. There are no other known cultivars or strains.
Care and Culture
Ground: Provide supplemental irrigation during its first year in your garden. Fertilize in early spring with granulated fertilizer applied following the manufacturer's application rates. Prune both container-grown and ground-ground Meyer lemons in early spring to remove dead or diseased branches and to maintain its shape.
Pests and Diseases
In addition to being symptomless carriers of the deadly Citrus tristeza virus, potted Meyer lemon trees are susceptible to many of the same insect pests as houseplants, including scales, aphids, whiteflies and mealybugs, although these pests can also infest Meyer lemon trees grown in the ground. Both are also susceptible to citrus thrips, citrus cutworm, citrus red mite and leafrollers.