Lemon Tree Growth


Lemon trees are visually interesting and produce fragrant flowers once a year before fruiting. These trees are good candidates for container plants and can do well as outdoor plants in warmer climates. As you consider growing a lemon tree, especially from seed, learn more about lemon tree growth patterns to understand how best to keep them healthy.

Seed Viability

It is possible to grow a lemon tree from seed. In rare cases, you may even find a sprouted seed inside a lemon. The trick to growing a lemon tree from a seed is to plant the seed in a moist sprouting medium without allowing the seed to dry out. Cover the pot and medium with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation and place the pot in a warm, dark location until it sprouts. If you can, plant several lemon seeds in the same pot and cull the weaker trees by pulling them up and discarding them.

Sprout to Sun

Once your lemon seed has germinated and formed two young leaves, you can move your lemon slowly into light. Start with an hour of direct sun per day and increase the time by an hour a day until your young seedling is accustomed to full light. Once it is accustomed to full light, keep it watered and in the sun until it is 4 to 6 inches tall.

Initial Transplanting

Once your lemon tree is 4 to 6 inches high, transplant it into a larger pot. If you used a peat pot for germination and early growth, simply fill a pot with soil and plant the entire pot. Use a well draining potting soil. If you live in a climate suitable for outdoor lemon cultivation, consider growing your lemon in a pot for a year before outdoor transplanting. By keeping the young tree inside for its first year, you'll be taking fewer risks with your tree.

Outdoor Planting

If you live in a climate where your lemon tree will grow outside, slowly harden off the tree in the spring. Hardening off refers to moving the tree slowly from controlled, indoor conditions to outdoor conditions. Start by placing your lemon outside near its final location for an hour or two. Slowly increase this until the lemon is outdoors all day. Once it has been outside for a week or two, remove it from its pot and plant it in its final location.

Fruit Bearing

Young lemon trees, especially those grown from seed, can take a long time to produce fruit. In some cases, trees can take 15 years to first begin fruit production. The exact amount of time will depend on the type of lemon you are growing. Dwarf lemon trees can sometimes produce fruit in as little as 5 years, but dwarfs are usually grown from lemon stock grafted to a dwarf rootstock. If you are growing from seed, you will likely have a longer wait for your fruit.


Fruiting depends somewhat on the natural size of the tree. Dwarf lemon trees can fruit earlier and are much smaller, often between 4 and 6 feet tall. Full sized lemon trees can reach 15 to 20 feet and may not fruit until they are over 10 feet tall. When growing a lemon tree for indoor cultivation from a seed, be aware that you don't know the size of the parent tree. If the lemon came from a variety that grows to 20 feet, you may need to regularly prune the tree to keep it small enough for indoor growth.

Keywords: lemon trees, lemon growth, growing lemons, lemon cultivation

About this Author

Christopher Earle is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colo. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for National Public Radio, the Associated Press, the Boeing Company, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, Active Voice, RAHCO International and Umax Data Systems. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota.