Lemon trees are subtropical fruits that are not high maintenance, provided that their basic needs are met. When growing a lemon tree you must have easy draining but fertile soil, ample water, a sunny location and warm temperatures that remain above freezing year-round. Lemon trees can be grown in containers and the same requirements apply. According to Texas A&M University, most lemon trees are purchased from nurseries that grow them in soil-less planting mix and these trees require more attention to get established successfully into new soil.
Dig a planting hole in the ground that is twice the diameter of the root ball and roughly as deep. Loosen but do not remove the soil in the bottom of the hole. Alternatively, select a container with good drainage that is 2 to 3 inches larger in diameter than the root ball and at least 3 to 5 inches deeper. Fill the container one-third to half full with good quality sterile potting mix that is easy draining. Leave 1 or 2 inches of space between the soil surface and the lip of the pot.
Slide the lemon tree carefully from its nursery pot. Expose the roots by washing off the perimeter 1 inch or so of planting mix from around and beneath the root ball with a gently flowing garden hose.
Set the lemon tree in the prepared hole or container. Add or subtract soil from beneath the root ball to make the top of the root ball rest a 1/2 inch above the surrounding soil. Never allow the top of the root ball to be lower than the surrounding soil, as this can invite rot conditions.
Fill the ground soil or potting mix around the root ball, tamping down lightly as you work to collapse any air pockets. Cover the top of the root ball with 1 inch of planting soil so that the planting medium the tree came in is covered over.
Build up a watering moat for ground planted trees from the remaining soil by mounding it in a circle at least 2 to 3 feet in diameter and 2 inches high. Gently fill the moat with water and allow it to drain naturally through the soil. Fill the gap on the container planted tree with water two to three times until water flows out of the drainage holes.
Water the transplanted lemon tree once every two to three days for the first week in the new location and once every seven to 10 days in the following months, until well established.