How to Grow Lemon & Orange Trees


A wedge of lemon in your iced tea ... a frosty glass of orange juice with breakfast ... whatever your preference, citrus fruits taste better when you grow them at home and use them very fresh. These fruits are high in vitamin C and calcium, making them some of the favorite fruits around the world. Even in colder climate zones, you can grow lemon and orange trees in large containers if you move them indoors before winter arrives. Both of these citrus trees are good looking and their flowers are very fragrant, making them a nice enhancement to your deck or patio.

Step 1

Make sure your planting area is sunny and has well-draining soil if you plan to plant your lemon or orange tree in the ground outdoors. If the soil is heavy clay, dig in compost to equal about half the volume of the soil and build up the area into a slightly raised bed. For loamy or sandy soils, dig in about two gallons of compost. Then dig a planting hole slightly larger than your young tree's root system, take the tree out of its nursery pot and set it into the hole. Fill with the soil/compost mixture you dug out, taking care not to bury the lower part of the trunk where a graft often exists.

Step 2

Plant your lemon or orange tree in a large container (5 gallon or larger) with a drainage hole if you live in USDA climate zone 8 or lower. Fill the bottom of your pot with an acidic potting soil---measure the distance from the base of the tree's trunk to the bottom of its roots to calculate how much potting soil to put in your pot. Then set your tree into the pot and fill it to the top of the root system with more of the acidic soil. Keep your potted tree in an area with full sun.

Step 3

Water your lemon or orange tree well after you plant it, but allow the soil to dry out before you water it again, about one week later. You'll need to water a potted tree a little more often than one you planted in the ground, but for either situation, be sure not to allow the tree to sit in a puddle of water. You might need to empty the water out of a plant saucer underneath your potted tree to prevent the tree from developing root rot.

Step 4

Fertilize your potted or in-ground tree at evenly spaced intervals during its active growing season in spring and summer. Use a fertilizer designed for citrus trees with an N-P-K ratio of 8-8-8.

Step 5

Control aphids, spider mites and scale insects with insecticidal soap spray. Scatter iron phosphate granules or another snail bait product on the soil around your tree if you have a problem with slugs or snails.

Step 6

Prune your tree after it produces its fruit, usually in winter, to keep it a manageable size and to keep any dead or diseased branches trimmed.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Large pot
  • Slightly acidic potting soil
  • Citrus fertilizer
  • Snail bait
  • Insecticidal soap
  • Pruning shears


  • Purdue University: Orange Climate
  • PlanTea: How to Grow a Lemon Tree Indoors
  • Gardening Know How: Learn About Fertilizer for a Lemon Tree
Keywords: lemon and orange trees, citrus growing, fruit trees

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara 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, and She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.