Are Meyer Lemon Trees Toxic to Animals?

Q: What sweet-tart fruit isn’t often seen in grocery stores, but is a favorite of many chefs (and would-be chefs)?

A: The Meyer lemon!

What is a Meyer lemon, you ask? Meyer lemons get their name from Frank Meyer, a Department of Agriculture employee who collected a sample of the fruit while traveling and brought it to the United States in 1908. Native to China, Meyer lemons are a cross between a citron and a mandarin orange. They’re rounder, sweeter, and less acidic than true lemons, with a bright yellow color that takes on a slight orange hue when ripe. 

Meyer lemon season is typically starts around the holidays (mid-November) and is over by February or sooner, so if a Northeast store is going to carry them, it will be around then. 

Sounds great! But how can I enjoy Meyer lemons if they’re not often in stores?

We’re so glad you asked, because you can find your own Meyer lemon tree for sale at! 

If you’re about to scroll away because you don’t live in Florida or California, STOP – while it’s true that most citrus thrives best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9-11, you can grown your own Meyer lemon tree just about anywhere. That’s because dwarf varieties of this lovely tree can thrive indoors as well as outside! 

I can grow a dwarf Meyer lemon indoors?!

You sure can – the dwarf Meyer lemon tree is often grown as a potted ornamental tree in China due to its picturesque appearance. Their evergreen leaves are bright green and shiny, and the fragrant flowers are white with a purple base. And that’s not even taking into account the beautiful fruit, which you’ll enjoy year-round! 

With the right size pot and a bit of pruning, you can keep a Meyer lemon bush indoors all the time, or bring it indoors when the drops below 50ºF and take it back outside when it warms up again. 

The first Meyer lemon trees introduced to the US turned out to be very susceptible to a fast-spreading virus. To protect the country’s remaining citrus trees, this early variety was destroyed and later replaced with an improved Meyer lemon tree that’s resistant to the early Meyer lemon tree diseases. This improved Meyer lemon is easy to grow. 

Wait – could keeping a potted Meyer lemon tree be harmful to my pet?

First, the bad news: humans can eat lemons, but dogs and cats should be kept away from citrus trees of any kind because they contain essential oils that are toxic to pets. Although the amount is most concentrated in the fruit, the roots contain some of the toxic essential oils as well. The good news is that most pets will usually recoil from the scent of citrus. There are always exceptions to the rule, however, so be sure you know your pet’s habits before going for Meyer lemon tree indoor décor! 

I’ve never grown a tree indoors before! Is it difficult?

Actually, Meyer lemon tree care is fairly straightforward. Caring for a dwarf Meyer lemon tree includes watering the soil deeply but infrequently and misting its leaves, promoting good soil drainage, and ensuring your dwarf Meyer lemon gets at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day (if this proves difficult, you may consider investing in grow lights). Meyer lemon trees also benefit from monthly fertilizations from April through September. 

Also, with a Meyer lemon tree, pruning is important to ensure you get plenty of fruit. If you’re wondering how to prune a Meyer lemon tree, the best time is early spring or early fall. Meyer Lemon Trees don’t have to be tall to produce fruit – just healthy. Keep them wide and branched out. When you decide to prune your trees in the early fall or early spring, look for branches that are growing straight upwards. 

Generally, these aren’t fruit-producing branches. Also, remove any damaged or crossing branches. Make your cuts at 45-degree angles facing upwards to promote new growth.