Meyer lemon plants are dwarf citrus trees that produce regular-size fruit that is sweeter and less acidic than other lemon species. Meyer lemons are commonly used for cooking or eating right off the tree. Hardier than other species of dwarf citrus, Meyer lemons grow well indoors or out, in containers or in the ground.
Meyer lemon plants are a cross between lemons, oranges and mandarins. They can produce fruit at an early age; it's possible to harvest 10 lemons from a 3-year-old tree. Glossy green foliage forms a vibrant backdrop for the aromatic white blossoms. Meyer lemon trees have a naturally rounded shape and can grow up to 15 feet tall and wide if planted in the ground. You can keep the tree small by growing it in containers on your patio or indoors.
Frank Meyer, an employee of the USDA, brought this species of citrus to the U.S. from China in 1908. The plant became very popular until a virus began attacking Meyer lemon trees in the 1940's. In an effort to protect other varieties of citrus trees from the virus, Meyer lemon plants were banned until a new, virus-free version was re-introduced in 1970.
Plant Meyer lemon trees outdoors in full sun in sandy, slightly acidic soil. Meyer lemon plants are hardy in zones 9 through 11 but can be grown in containers indoors and on patios to protect them from cooler temperatures in other zones. The tree will become dormant in temperatures below 54 degrees Fahrenheit, but an indoor plant can bear fruit all year long.
Growing Meyer lemon trees in containers requires more attention to light and water than if growing them outdoors in the ground. Both outdoor and indoor trees need water two to three times each week. Trees growing in small containers will need more water. Meyer lemons do not like wet roots, so make sure the soil and container provide good drainage.
Place Meyer lemon plants in a southern facing window so they receive at least 8 hours of full sun each day. Fluorescent grow lights are good supplements for indoor lighting.
Another consideration for indoor growing is air flow. Open a window or run a fan a few hours each day to circulate air around the trees.
Meyer lemons take between three and four months from bloom to harvest. The fruit starts green and turns from yellow to slightly orange when ripe. The fruit ripens on the tree, not after harvesting. Pick lemons from the lower branches first. If the skin on the fruit begins to wrinkle, the fruit has been on the tree too long.