How to Grow Lemon Trees From Seed - Backyard Boss
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How to Grow Lemon Trees From Seed

The fragrant flowers, glossy green leaves, and scrumptious fruit of a lemon tree make it an appealing plant to grow indoors and outdoors. Whether you add a slice of lemon to your favorite summer cocktail, enjoy freshly squeezed lemonade, or use fresh fruits to make lemon meringue pie, it is time to grow your own lemon tree. But have you ever found an errant seed and wondered if you could use it to plant a tree? 

You can! So, what does it take to start your lemon trees from seed? With the right tools and know-how, you’ll be on your way to a thriving, fruit-producing plant in no time.

Tools You’ll Need

gardening tools
Image credits: Gary Barnes via Pexels

Before you can begin growing a lemon tree, you’ll need to gather a few tools.

  • Mature, organic lemon fruit
  • Bowl of water
  • Manicure scissors (optional)
  • High-quality potting soil
  • Seed flats or small pots
  • Plastic wrap
  • Large pot
  • Sunny location/grow lights
  • Spray bottle
  • Fertilizer
  • Cotton swab (optional)
  • Epsom salt (optional)

Growing a Lemon Tree From Seed

With the right tools in tow, you can begin growing your own lemon tree from seed.

Step 1: Prepare and Plant Seeds

Lemon tree seeds
Image credits: furbymama via Pixabay

When life gives you lemons, you can choose to make lemonade. Or you can grow a lemon tree! The easiest way is to use the seeds from an organic, mature lemon from the grocery store or farmer’s market.

With your lemon picked out, cut it open and remove as many seeds as possible. Carefully remove and wipe away any pulp and then soak the seeds in a bowl of water for 24 hours. Discard any seeds that float since they are not viable. (They’re less dense because they lack nutrient stores.) Once the seed coats have softened, use manicure scissors or your nails to remove them, revealing the bare seed.

While the seeds are soaking, prepare your seed flats or small pots. Fill them with well-draining potting soil about an inch below the rim— spritz with water to moisten the soil.

Step 2: Germinate the Seeds

Planting a lemon seed in a pot
Image credits: verchmarco via Openverse

Plant the seeds while they are still damp, half an inch deep in the soil. Place the pot or seed flats in a location with eight hours of sun per day where the temperature sits around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover the pot with plastic wrap to create a greenhouse effect. Keep the soil moist while waiting for the seeds to germinate, which should happen within two weeks. Once you spot a seedling, remove the plastic covering.

Step 3: Transplanting Your Lemon Tree

Transplanting a home flowerpot lemon.
Image credits: Stenko Vlad via Shutterstock

Once the seedling develops an established root system, it is time to transplant. Check the root system by gently tugging on the plant. If it stays snuggly in the soil, it’s ready to be transplanted into either a container or garden.

Drainage is essential when planting in containers, so consider using terracotta or clay pots and always make sure there is a hole at the bottom. Replant your lemon tree seedling in a pot over 6 inches wide and tall. You can keep containers indoors or outdoors.

If you intend on planting in your garden, remember that lemon trees are hardy in zones 9 through 12. Only plant your seedling after the last expected frost has passed. Use well-draining, slightly acidic soil no matter where you grow your lemon tree.

Step 4: Lemon Tree Care

Lemon tree
Image credits: bruno neurath-wilson via Unsplash

Lemon trees like lots of light, so either place in a location in your yard with at least six hours of sun per day or a spot in your home with southern exposure. If you’re growing indoors, supplement light with grow lights for 12 hours per day if necessary. When indoors, ensure the soil stays evenly moist, checking and watering regularly. Water every three to seven days outdoors, adjusting based on the weather. After the first year, the tree’s roots will be sufficiently established, and watering around once a week should suffice.

If you are keeping your lemon tree outdoors in a container, bring it indoors before the first expected frost. Try to keep the lemon tree in 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It will go dormant in temperatures below 54 degrees Fahrenheit.

For best results with fruit production and overall plant health, fertilize your lemon tree once per month during the summer using one with a nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium ratio of 2-1-1. Also, if you are growing indoors, your tree won’t have access to pollinators. Use a cotton swab to rub pollen within the flower to encourage fruit development.

Citrus trees can take more than 10 years to produce fruit, so patience is key. If you don’t want to wait for a tree to grow from seed, you can always purchase a seedling or fully grown tree from the garden center and follow these care directions to see fruit sooner.

Pro Tip: Epsom salt can aid your tree’s growth if it requires extra magnesium. Test the soil pH to make sure it sits between 5.5 to 6.5.

When Life Gives You Lemons …

Growing your own lemon tree is a rewarding experience, especially when you provide it with the proper care. The scent, color, and flavor of these plants make them the perfect addition to your home, whether you place them in your backyard or kitchen.

Do you have any tips for growing lemon trees from seed? Share in the comments below!