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How to Grow a Lemon Tree Outdoors

By Katie Jensen ; Updated September 21, 2017

Fresh lemonade, tangy lemon marinades, smooth lemon cream, and sweet lemon marmalade can all be made from your own lemon tree. Lemon trees have glossy green leaves and grow 15 to 20 feet high in a naturally rounded shape. The trees blossom and bear fruit at the same time. It's possible to have flowers, baby lemons, and mature lemons on the tree all at the same time. Lemon trees are not difficult to grow, but do have a few requirements.

Grow lemon trees in a mild climate. Lemon trees do not tolerate cold, freezing or below freezing, temperatures for any length of time. It's possible for a tree to survive a frost or two but not several days of weather below freezing. In mild winter areas that get frost only a few times a year, it's still possible to grow lemon trees if the tree is planted close to a house or building. The radiant heat from the building will keep temperature around the tree above freezing.

Plant in full sunshine or where the tree will receive at least 8 hours of direct sun a day. In hot desert regions, lemon trees appreciate late afternoon shade, especially on their roots.

Soil should be acidic. Alkaline soils leach iron from the ground and trees may show signs of iron chlorosis. The leaves turn yellow while the veins remain green. In bad cases the leaves will turn almost white and then brown at the edges. Chlorosis can be treated easily by adding an iron supplement to the soil. The soil can be made more acidic by adding sulphur around the tree or using ammonium sulfate as a fertilizer. How much you add depends on the size of the tree.

Water well but don't over-water. Lemon trees prefer a weekly deep watering rather than a shallow sprinkle every day.

Fertilize twice a year in May and again in February using a fertilizer made for citrus trees and following the instructions on the package. Water well before and after fertilizing.

Prune the lemon tree if needed, to keep fruit within picking range. Lemon trees rebound from pruning quickly; and, with the right conditions, grow quickly as well.

Lemons can be picked when they are showing a yellowish tinge to the green color, or when they are fully yellow. Ripe lemons have a tendency to fall to the ground.


Things You Will Need

  • Water
  • Fertilizer
  • Iron supplement
  • Clippers or pruning shears


  • If unusually cold weather is predicted the tree can be tented with material sheeting, don't use plastic.
  • Another solution is to wrap the trunk with Christmas lights and leave them on all night. LED lights won't work as they don't give off enough heat.
  • Remove suckers from young trees to focus energy on the tree.


  • When picking lemons wear gloves. Lemon trees have nasty thorns.


About the Author


Katie Jensen's first book was published in 2000. Since then she has written additional books as well as screenplays, website content and e-books. Rosehill holds a Master of Business Administration from Arizona State University. Her articles specialize in business and personal finance. Her passion includes cooking, eating and writing about food.