What Month is Best to Plant Citrus?

You’ve decided to take the plunge and start growing your own lemons. You won’t be sorry – lemon trees are a great addition to a backyard garden (or sunroom, if you decide to keep dwarf citrus trees)! And with a little care and planning, you’re sure to get a regular plentiful crop in time.

Lemon Tree Varieties

Before thinking about when to plant, you should decide on what to plant. Where you live will have a bearing on what type of lemon tree you get…while the preferred climate depends on the variety of lemon, most do well in warm climates. If you live in a cooler climate you’re best off going with one of the dwarf citrus varieties and keeping it potted so it can live indoors at least part of the year. Dwarf citrus trees are also good for smaller or backyard gardens (when grown in the ground, dwarf lemon tree height tops out at about 12-15 feet).

Here are the four most common most lemon varieties grown in the US:

  • Eureka lemons. Found in most grocery stores, this is a low-acid lemon variety that can be used for most any culinary purpose. It has a great peel for zesting. The Eureka lemon tree produces its main crop in winter, with smaller crops in spring and summer. Eureka lemons have relatively few seeds, and the tree has almost no thorns.
  • Lisbon lemons. This is the most common lemon found in grocery stores. It’s a lot like the Eureka lemon, but juicier. The tree produces its main crop in the winter. It’s thornier than the Eureka, but tends to be more tolerant to cold, making it a great choice for growing zones that get an occasional freeze.
  • Meyer lemons. As a lemon/mandarin orange hybrid, Meyer lemons are sweeter and great choices for desserts and cocktails. Its main crop is in the winter, but it can produce all year. A small tree when grown outdoors, the Meyer lemon dwarf variety is ideal for growing in pots. Dwarf Meyer lemon tree care is very easy. When grown outdoors, an improved Meyer lemon tree size reaches about 8-15 feet tall.
  • Pink Variegated lemons. These pretty fruits are very sour with few seeds, making them ideal for making lemonade. It produces its main crop in winter with smaller crops in spring and summer. Variegated lemon tree care is like caring for a Eureka lemon tree, as the two varieties are very similar.

When to Plant a Lemon Tree

In the citrus belt (a loosely defined area stretching from southern California to Florida), citrus trees can be planted at any time if you water them regularly. In regions prone to a late frost, you’ll want to wait until later in the spring when all danger of frost is past before you buy a lemon tree. This rule of thumb applies dwarf citrus trees as well.

Citrus will thrive in large containers. Choose a 15-20-gallon pot with plenty of drainage holes, and fill with a premium quality potting mix. Lemon trees can tolerate a range of different soils, but they mostly prefer slightly acidic, well-drained soil (the best fertilizer for lemon trees is one that’s been specially formulated for citrus, or for cacti and succulents).

Place your potted citrus tree in a sunny place indoors or out, and make sure the plant is always moist. Lemons grow best in soils that are moist but not soggy. Water your tree every seven to 10 days during the summer, providing it with 4 to 6 inches of water each month. Allow the soil around mature trees to partially dry between watering. Overwatered lemon trees may suffer from crown and root rots, while those not watered enough frequently shed blossoms and don’t produce as much fruit.

Lemon Tree Care

A healthy citrus tree produces lots of fruit. All that flowering and fruiting is a big consumer of energy, so make sure you feed up your lemon tree with Meyer lemon fertilizer regularly to ensure a good yield. You can tell if your tree is undernourished if it shows stunted growth, or yellowing leaves. Feed your tree twice a year with a citrus food, once in February and again in August. Follow the directions on the packet and water the soil well both before and after you apply the fertilizer.

To ensure plentiful fruit, it’s best to prune your lemon tree from late winter to early spring, right after harvest. Young trees should be pruned to establish a good shape, remove any sprouts or weak limbs so the plant can focus on growing a strong canopy.

As the tree grows, prune any crossing limbs, tangled branches or dead wood. Main scaffold branches should be staggered, aim to maintain eight once the plant is established. Prune subsidiary shoots off these scaffold branches. Aim to prune 20 percent of the canopy each year, focusing on longer, protruding branches that affect the desired shape of the canopy. Thinning out of branches as trees age allows light to penetrate more areas of the tree encouraging fruit production inside the canopy as well.

Get Your Tree from Citrus.com!

Wondering where you can buy a lemon tree? Look no further than Citrus.com! Whether you’re looking to buy a dwarf lemon tree, a full-size grapefruit tree or a specialty citrus tree, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for. We even carry other, non-citrus varieties like apples, pears and more, so start planning your home orchard and get ready to enjoy your own, homegrown fruit!