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How to Care for a Potted Lemon Tree

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017

A lovely cup of tea just wouldn’t be complete without a slice of lemon. Growing your own lemons is easy, even for apartment dwellers with limited space. You have a choice of small lemon tree varieties; perhaps you’d enjoy the sweeter Meyer lemon, which is rarely found in stores. You’re not likely to grow a large crop of lemons, but you'll have a few homegrown lemons to add to beverages and recipes, and you will be more self-sufficient.

Growing Lemons in Pots

Place your potted lemon tree outdoors in an area that gets plenty of direct sunlight. Lemon trees need up to 12 hours of light every day. If you need to move your tree indoors in the winter, consider setting up grow lights.

Water your lemon tree once each week. Make certain that it does not stand in a puddle.

Four times each year during its active growth periods, fertilize your lemon tree with a balanced fertilizer (for example, 8-8-8) designed for citrus. Do not give it fertilizer during the winter.

Control slugs and snails with snail bait or by sprinkling diatomaceous earth over the soil in your pot. Use insecticidal soap to deter aphids, spider mites and scale insects.

To keep your lemon tree a manageable size, prune it in winter when it is dormant.

Spray with sulfur if you see white or gray sooty residue on the leaves. This can indicate powdery mildew, which will affect the plant’s health and fruit production.


Things You Will Need

  • Citrus fertilizer
  • Snail bait or diatomaceous earth
  • Insecticidal soap
  • Pruning clippers
  • Sulfur spray (if needed)


  • If you get too many lemons at once, you can "squeeze and freeze" by juicing the fruit and then freezing the juice in plastic containers, freezer bags or ice cube trays. Doing this can extend your harvest to those times of year when no lemons are ready to pick.
  • Do not prune your tree when it is flowering, because you will lose potential fruit.


  • Lemon trees are sensitive to frost, so if your winters are cold, move your tree indoors when temperatures are forecast to dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

About the Author


Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs 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 various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.