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How to Grow Lemon Trees in Texas

lemon image by Aleksei Volkhonsky from

Don't buy lemons in the grocery store when you can raise them in your Texas backyard. Not only do lemon trees produce a bounty of sour fruit, but their glossy foliage also provides ornamental benefits to the landscape. In Texas, the best time to start planting lemon trees is at the end of winter in February, according to Texas A&M University. Keep in mind that lemons are extremely cold-sensitive. The university only recommends growing lemon trees within the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Choose a gardening site. Lemon trees are not finicky about the soil as long as it's well-drained. For the best shielding against cold winds, choose a site in full sun and on the south end of a home or structure.

Select a lemon tree sapling, usually sold in Texan nurseries potted in a soilless potting mix. This is the most common method of starting a lemon tree, according to the Texas A&M University. For best results, the university recommends choosing a plant 36 to 48 inches tall and with three or four side branches.

Dig a hole twice the diameter of the sapling's current container and 1 to 2 inches shorter than the container's height.

Remove the lemon tree from its container. Shoot a gentle stream of water onto the tree's root ball to rinse away a couple inches of soil mixture from the exterior of the root ball, revealing the tree's bare roots.

Place the sapling in the hole. Fill the hole halfway to the top with the soil originally removed to dig the hole. Water the added soil to help it settle, then add the rest of the soil to fill in the hole.

Build a soil ring around the sapling. The ring should be approximately 24 inches in diameter and 2 to 3 inches high.

Water the lemon tree. Fill the soil ring with water and let the water absorb into the soil. Repeat every two to three days. Two weeks after planting the lemon tree, reduce watering to once every 10 days. Once the soil ring has disintegrated, the lemon tree will be established, according to Texas A&M University, and will only need water every two weeks.

Fertilize the lemon tree three times during its first year, using 1/3 cup of 21-0-0 fertilizer at each application. Apply the fertilizer immediately before a watering session so the water will help carry the nutrients into the soil. Increase the fertilizer amount by a cup every year, split into three or four equal portions spread throughout the year. For example, a 5-year-old tree will receive a total of 5 cups of fertilizer.

Wrap an 8-inch-wide strip of aluminum foil around the base of the lemon tree. Texas A&M recommends this to keep branches from sprouting at the tree's base and also to protect it from any herbicide sprays you may apply.

Harvest the fruit. A lemon tree will typically start producing fruit three to four years after planting. Depending on the variety, fruit may begin appearing in the spring, summer or fall. Lemons are ready for harvesting when they turn yellow.


Lemon varieties grown in Texas include the"'Eureka," "'Lisbon" and "Avon."


Vegetation growing near the lemon tree will rob the surrounding soil of nutrients. Texas A&M University recommends keeping the 12-inch area adjacent to the tree free of weeds and lawn grass using either physical removal or chemical controls such as a systemic herbicide. If using an herbicide, keep the chemicals from getting on the tree--the foil strip you applied in Step 9 will help, according to the university.

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