The Meyer Improved Lemon Tree is a hybrid between a common lemon tree and a mandarin orange tree. This lemon tree variety has a spreading habit and is nearly thornless. The fragrant blooms of this lemon tree then turn to medium-sized, orange-yellow, juicy sweet-tart lemons that are in season in fall/spring.
Citrus x meyeri or commonly called the Meyer Lemon tree is a gorgeous evergreen citrus tree originally from China that is a hybrid between a common lemon tree and a mandarin orange tree. It was first discovered and sent to the United States in 1908 by Dutch horticulturist and botanist Frank Meyer who was working for the United States Department of Agriculture.
Unfortunately, the original Meyer Lemon Trees were found to be susceptible to a devastating virus called Citrus Tristeza and eventually became symptomless carriers of the said virus, which infected and killed millions of citrus trees across the United States and all over the world. Because of this, most Meyer lemon trees have to be destroyed. A surviving and virus-free Meyer lemon tree was then discovered by Don Dillon in 1950 and was later certified and released by the University of California as the Improved Meyer Lemon Tree in 1975.
The Improved Meyer Lemon Tree is cold hardy and best grows in US Department of Agriculture USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11. It is fairly vigorous, shrubby, and somewhat small in size upon reaching maturity standard Meyer lemon trees can grow as tall as 6 to 10 while the dwarf lemon tree can grow up to 4 to 6 in height.
This lemon tree variety has a spreading habit and is nearly thornless making it a great citrus tree to plant if you have kids, be it indoors or outdoors. This citrus tree blooms purple-tinted flowers all year round but blooms are more concentrated in spring or fall. The fragrant blooms then turn to medium-sized, orange-yellow, juicy sweet-tart lemons that are in season in fall/spring.
Dwarf citrus trees and standard-sized citrus trees need almost the same type and amount of care.
Planting Location – Citrus trees are generally hardy but grow best in warm, sunny spots that have well-draining soil. Meyer Lemon Trees are best grown in USDA plant hardiness zone 8 through 11. In colder areas, it is advisable that you plant lemon trees next to your house or under an eave to get frost protection or plant them in a container, especially the dwarf citrus tree since they are well adapted to container growing.
Watering – Once your newly bought citrus trees arrive, you need to replant them either on the ground or in bigger pots. Newly replanted Improved Meyer lemon trees should be watered deeply every 2 to 3 days for the first two weeks. Keep in mind that growing citrus trees like moisture but not wet feet. Once the citrus trees are established, you can cut back on watering to once every 7-10 days. Also, allow the soil to get dry between watering to avoid lemon trees standing in water.
Pruning –Citrus trees seldom need elaborate trimming or pruning, however, if you wish to maintain the shape of your Meyer lemon tree you may want to clip off braches that are too long a year after replanting or once the trees have reached the height of 3’ to 4’. To keep it healthy, prune leggy, damaged, diseased and dead branches back to the base of the trunk in late winter to avoid any disruption of the winter harvest or as you deem needed. You should also keep an eye out for suckers growing at the base of the tree as they would only compete for water and nutrients your tree needs in order to grow, establish, and bear fruit.
Fertilization –Meyer lemon trees and other growing citrus trees need citrus fertilizer to grow healthy and become prolific fruit bearers. They should be fed ammonium sulfate fertilizer for citrus trees balanced to 21-0-0. A cup of citrus tree fertilizer is a must for the first year, should be broken down into four equal parts, and applied between February to August to ensure the lemon tree’s healthy growth cycle. It should be mixed with water then poured under the canopy of the tree where it can be absorbed by the roots. Follow the package instructions and do not overfeed to avoid burning the root and harming the tree.
Pollination Assistance –Improved Meyer Lemon Trees are self-fruitful or “self-pollinators” and do not need other citrus trees or a second Meyer Lemon tree to pollinate and bear fruits. Planted outdoors, bees undertake lemon tree pollination by buzzing from flower to flower, but if planted inside the house or greenhouse you need to help your tree by manually pollinating it by hand. To pollinate by hand, use a small paintbrush and touch the tip of the brush to the center of the flower to collect the ripe pollen. Go to the next flower and touch the center using the tip of the same brush to transfer the collected pollen and repeat the process for the rest of the flowers.
Fruit & Harvesting
The Meyer Lemon is not a true lemon because it is a hybrid between a lemon and a mandarin. It is medium in size and has an oblong to elliptical shape. Its base is rounded but sometimes faintly necked and furrowed.
Meyer lemons have fragrant, yellow-orange thin rind that is smooth and tightly adherent to the flesh. The rind also has a more complex fragrance to it than regular lemons and emits a spicy bergamot scent that smells like an herb or spice.
The moderately seedy flesh is apportioned in 10 segments and is tender, juicy, sweeter and less acidic compared to true lemons.
Accepted as a lemon substitute, Meyer lemons are great for juicing and baking pastries and pie like Lemon Meringue Pie. It can also be used to make alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, flavoring for sweet and savory dishes, salad and other recipes requiring lemon. Just keep in mind that when substituting regular lemon with Meyer lemon, it has a sweeter and less acidic taste and can make a recipe turn out differently so you may want to go slowly and start with small amount then taste before adding the rest.
Meyer lemons are green while still growing and take several months to ripen and turn yellow. You can tell that it is time to harvest your lemons when the rind has turned yellow, have a slightly glossy appearance and the fruits have reached 2 to 3 inches in size.
You can also pick a fruit to test its juiciness. If there is not enough juice leave the fruits on the tree for a few weeks then do another test.
The Improved Meyer Lemon Tree can grow up to 6’ to 10’ in height when planted in the ground but tend to be smaller when planted in a pot. This citrus tree is an ever-flowering and ever-bearing tree and blooms and fruits intermittently throughout the year, but main bloom season is in spring/fall and fruit season in fall/spring. Also, although hardy and cold tolerant, Meyer Lemon Trees need to be protected when temperature goes below 32º F.
Pests and Diseases
Meyer lemon trees are essentially pest resistant but are sometimes attacked by citrus thrips, aphids and leaf miners.
Citrus Thrips are yellow-orange insects that lay eggs on new shoots or tender leaf tissue. You will know that your tree is infested if you see scabby scars on the lemon rind. Citrus Thrips can be controlled with beneficial insects like lacewings, spiders and minute pirate bugs. You can also use botanical insecticides to safely treat heavy infestation.
Aphids and leaf miners can weaken the citrus tree and result in reduced or low fruit yield. You can defend you tree and eradicate these insects by using horticultural oil spray or insecticidal soap spray. You can also make use of Tangle Foot to get rid of these bugs.
Improved Meyer lemon trees are disease tolerant but are not a hundred per cent free of all types of diseases.
Brown Rot – a fungal disease that causes browning and rotting of parts of the tree. The fungus is commonly transmitted thru splashing of infected soil onto low hanging fruits during heavy rains. It usually starts as a small discolored spot that quickly spreads across the surface of infected fruit.
Brown Rot is usually prevented rather than treated. Sanitation is the best prevention for brown rot. Trimming trees away from the ground, removing any infected fruit and debris around the tree and under the canopy and use of copper salts are great preventive measures.
Citrus Canker – Citrus canker is a bacterial disease that gets transmitted via rain and wind. It leaves lesions on the leaves, stems and fruits of infected citrus trees. It also causes premature leaf and fruit drop.
Sanitation and prevention are the only way to manage citrus canker. You can use copper spray on your Meyer Lemon tree before forecast strong wind and heavy rains starts. Unfortunately, once a tree gets infected there is no way to cure it and it needs to be eradicated.
Is it true that I should cut off the branches that have thorns?
No. There is no reason to cut off branches because they have thorns. You can prune away some of the actual larger thorns if you wish, by using sharp side-cut hand pruners. The branches with thorns also produce valuable leaves and eventually fruit. Thorns are a normal part of the growing process for a healthy lemon tree. Thorns are a lemon tree’s natural defense against climbing pests.
Are your Improved Meyer Lemon Trees organically grown and shipped?
All of our Improved Meyer Lemon trees are Non-Gmo. To prevent the spread of destructive insects between states and regions, and to comply with strict USDA plant shipping regulations, we are required to apply a mild chemical treatment to all trees shipped over state lines.
Can I grow my Improved Meyer lemon tree inside?
Yes. Be sure to plant it in a large enough pot, and give the Improved Meyer Lemon tree as much sun as possible by locating it in a south-facing window. You can also supplement lighting by using grow lights. Also Improved Meyer lemon trees must be watered well and allowed to drain. A large basin under a pot with good drainage holes can help in this regard. If possible, you could also move the Improved Meyer Lemon tree outside to water it.
What is the difference between a regular Meyer Lemon Tree and an Improved Meyer Lemon Tree?
The Improved Meyer Lemon Tree has been selectively bred to be more disease resistant. The growth habits, size, fruit size, and fruit taste are all the same for Meyer Lemon Trees and Improved Meyer Lemon Trees.
When should I plant my new Improved Meyer Lemon Tree?
If you are planting your Improved Meyer Lemon tree in a pot to live indoors, you can plant it at anytime. If you are planting it in the ground outdoors, then plant it in the early spring after all danger of frost has passed. In USDA Zones 8 to 11, a good time to plant is mid to late March.
When should I fertilize my Improved Meyer Lemon Tree?
Fertilize your Improved Meyer lemon tree once every 4 to 6 weeks from February to August. Follow the fertilizer manufacturer’s directions for the amounts based on the tree size. Always use a fertilizer formulated and designated as citrus fertilizer. Fertilizers that are made for citrus and avocado, or citrus and mango, are suitable as well.
Do I need two Improved Meyer lemon trees for them to grow fruit?
No. Improved Meyer lemon trees are self-pollinating and will grow fruit with no additional pollinator. But two trees grown together will usually produce more fruit than a single tree.
Christi O. (verified owner) –
My tree was broken in half. I emailed your company 3 times with no response back. I would like a credit back on my card please.
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