The dwarf lemon tree, also called Meyer lemon after the man who introduced the variety to America, Frank Meyer, is native to China and is a cross between the lemon tree and the mandarin orange, or the sweet orange. According to the University of Florida, it is grown in China as a potted plant and is often grown the same in the states.
Meyer lemon trees grow to a height of between 6 and 10 feet when mature, says the University of Florida. The flowers that appear on the tree before setting fruit are white with a purple base, and smell fragrant. The fruit of the tree is rounder than that of the traditional, full-sized lemon tree. The leaves are dark green and shiny.
The container size is essential to growing the Meyer lemon to its full size. A 10- to 15-gallon container will grow a dwarf tree to a height of 10 feet when properly maintained, according to the Meyer lemon tree website. The 10- to 15-gallon container will fit a 3- to 4-year-old tree perfectly.
Pruning is used to control the height of the dwarf lemon tree. Although the tree will grow to a maximum height of 10 feet, it may be pruned to a smaller full-grown height. Limbs that grow too high may be trimmed back to the required height. Cutting it back a bit shorter will ensure it stays at that height, even with the extensive top growth common with the dwarf lemon tree. Cuts are made at the node where leaves sprout, encouraging side growth and new branch development.
Dwarf lemon trees require a warm climate and are not suitable for outdoor growth in most parts of the United States. Lemon trees thrive in a temperature between 55 and 70 degrees F during the day; they go into dormancy when the temperature goes below 54 degrees F. Plants will not grow to full height, or at all, when planted outdoors in a region above the USDA plant hardiness zone 8.
Controlling Height When Planting
Place loose stones at the bottom of the container when planting the dwarf lemon to aid in water drainage. Lemon trees require a well-draining soil to thrive. Keeping a Meyer lemon tree rootbound controls further growth. Rootbound means the roots of the plant do not have room to grow further. Choose a small pot that contains the roots with little room for growth to control the height of the plant.