Oh, Deer! Are Lemon Trees Deer-Resistant?

Tips For Keeping Your Tree Healthy & Pest-Free

Now that the weather is getting warmer, you’re thinking you might move the dwarf lemon tree you got for Christmas onto the patio. Or maybe you’ve moved to a warmer climate and you’re thinking you’d like to add a ponderosa lemon tree to your arboretum. But wait – you just remembered that you have a healthy deer population. Do deer eat lemon trees?

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Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that deer aren’t particularly fond of aromatic plants, and the leaves and flowers of a citrus tree are quite aromatic. So when there’s other, tastier fare available, the deer are likely to ignore your lemon and lime trees. The bad news is that there are few plants deer won’t at least sample, and if they’re hungry enough they’ll eat anything. Even worse news is that a buck doesn’t have to nibble on a sapling to hurt it – all he has to do is use it as a scratching post for his antlers!

Don’t despair…a large local deer population doesn’t mean you can’t have a citrus grove. Here are some tips for thwarting lemon tree diseases and pests so you can keep at least some of the fruit for yourself.

  1. Skip the hybrid varieties. This might be disappointing if you had your heart set on planting a pink lemon tree (also known as a eureka lemon tree), a bearss lemon, or a cocktail lemon lime hybrid tree on your property, but unlike “true” lemon trees, hybrids often lack the natural protection of lemon tree thorns.

    Wait – lemon trees have thorns? That might not be what most people think of when asked what does a lemon tree look like, but in their juvenile state many citrus trees do. Hybrids tend to lack that deterrent, so go for the “true” lemon tree varieties, or stick to a hybrid that does have thorns (like the meyer lemon tree).
  • Choose miniature lemon trees. When looking for a potted lemon tree for sale, the dwarf meyer lemon tree is an excellent choice. Because it’s a lemon/mandarin orange hybrid the fruit is sweeter and less acidic than a true lemon, and – best of all for those dealing with deer – you can bring the container inside at night and keep your dwarf lemon tree close to the house by day for safety.
  • Protect saplings. How long do lemon trees live, and how long does it take to grow a lemon tree? Lemon trees have a lifespan of about 50 years, and they mature fairly quickly as far as fruit trees go. Therefore, it might be worthwhile to add the protection of a temporary barrier around your young trees. This can be done fairly inexpensively – construction fencing fixed in place with tee posts can work well if placed correctly.

    Stake four tee post around your young tree, close enough to discourage deer from jumping inside the perimeter, and angle them outwards so deer are unable to stretch their necks far enough to reach the tree once the fencing is in place. Fasten the construction fencing tightly to prevent the deer from pushing it inward. Deer will still be able to nibble the lemon tree flowers and young leaves, but will be less likely to do serious damage to the growing tree.
  • Add some natural repellent. Deer tend to shy away from anything that carries a human scent. Tie bars of used soap to the branches of your lemon lime hybrid or other lemon tree variety. You can also mix a solution of 6% hot sauce with 94% water in a spray bottle and spritz the leaves of your lemon tree.
  • Collar the tree. You can protect slim trunks with PVC piping. Make sure there’s enough room to fit around the trunk of the lemon tree with a couple of inches to spare. Slit it down the middle on one side and fix it around the trunk at planting.

Now that you know more about caring for your lemon trees, you can make a wise and informed decision about protecting them from deer.