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How to Transplant a Lemon Tree

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017
Lemon tree.
lemons and lemon tree image by jc from Fotolia.com

Lemon trees are cold-sensitive citrus fruit trees that require a consistently warm climate to survive when planted outdoors. The tree will produce fresh lemons throughout the year with the bulk of the production during the winter season. The trees should be transplanted during the dormant months of early spring or fall when the fruit production and tree growth is in a resting period. Lemon trees prefer a well-draining soil and full sunlight conditions for best results.

Select a planting location for the lemon tree that offers the same soil type and light conditions as the current growing location. Test the soil pH of both locations. Add limestone to a depth of 3 to 4 feet to increase the pH number and ground rock sulfur to decrease the pH number of the new planting location.

Prune the tree to reduce it by one-third the current size. This will increase the survival rate after transplanting by reducing stress on the root system.

Water the tree generously to plump and increase the root strength one to two days before digging it for transplanting.

Dig around the tree to remove the root ball. Measure the diameter of the trunk and dig 12 inches wide and 6 inches deep around the root ball for every 1 inch of trunk diameter. Gently pry the root ball out of the ground with a shovel and planks. Set the root ball on a tarp to move it to the new location.

Dig a hole in the new planting location that is twice as large as the root ball and the same depth. Loosen the soil edges in the hole to assist with root penetration after planting.

Set the tree into the hole and gently pack soil around the roots halfway full. Fill the hole with water and let it penetrate into the soil. Add soil to the hole once the water has absorbed and gently pack to remove air bubbles.

Water the tree generously after planting. Continue to water the tree on a weekly basis to keep the soil moist for the first growing season.

Place a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around the tree. Leave a 5- to 6-inch gap between the start of the mulch and the trunk of the tree. This will assist with moisture retention over the root ball.

Fertilize the lemon tree after planting with a high phosphorus fertilizer to encourage root growth. Fertilize the tree with an ammonium sulfate fertilizer once the roots have become established.


Things You Will Need

  • Soil pH test kit
  • Limestone
  • Ground rock sulfur
  • Pruning clipper
  • Water
  • Shovel
  • Wood planks
  • Tarp
  • Mulch
  • High phosphorus fertilizer
  • Ammonium sulfate fertilizer

About the Author


Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 1998. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks also trains for full marathons, half-marathons and shorter distance running. She holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.