A Few Facts About The Meyer Lemon Tree
The Meyer lemon tree is a very popular little tree. It has been popular for quite a few years actually. Perhaps the term Meyer lemon plant would be more appropriate, since it can be found either indoors or on the patios in many homes, places we normally don't look for trees, or for lemon groves for that matter.
We'll stick with the tree designation however, as that's what everyone calls the plant. This lemon tree has several things going for it. First, its glossy green foliage is quite attractive, making it a highly desirable indoor plant. Second, blossoms form in late winter or early spring, and these blossoms have an exceptionally lovely and intense fragrance. Finally, with a little luck, your little tree will produce actual lemons, perhaps a few, perhaps in abundance. These lemons are not just for show. Meyer lemons are good eating. Some say they are superior to the lemons we buy at the supermarket.
Little Or No Waiting For Lemons
You don't have to wait 5 or 6 years after purchasing a small Meyer lemon tree to witness your first lemon. Many nurseries have plants that are 3 or 4 years old in stock. These trees may start producing fruit within the year of purchase, long before the tree is fully grown. Imagine a little tree in a container, sitting on your coffee table, bearing fruit you can actually eat! As a matter of fact, your Meyer lemon doesn't just give you a few lemons and then go dormant for the rest of the year. There's no guarantee, but sometimes these trees will have fruit hanging from their branches a good part of the year.
The Meyer lemon tree, native to China, was introduced in the United States in the early 20th century, but was banned some years later because of a virus it introduced. A virus-free variety was introduced in mid-century which has been popular with homeowners ever since. Many still think a dwarf lemon tree is simply a novelty, but with a little luck a family could grow there own supply of lemons, no matter what part of the country they live in. The Meyer lemon tree is fairly hardy, much more so than the trees grown in Florida, Texas, and California, although it's still best to treat it as an indoor or a portable patio plant in the northern states. If you live in USDA Zone 7 or lower, you probably shouldn't grow the plant outdoors, and even growing one in Zone 8 may be a bit of a gamble.
Caring For Your Lemon Tree
The Meyer lemon tree is not difficult to care for as an indoor plant. There is one thing you have to remember, and that is if you want the tree to bear fruit you're either going to have to allow bees inside your home, or pollinate the blossoms yourself. A couple of minutes spent lightly rubbing the blossoms with a cotton swab will usually do the trick, and pay big rewards. Sometimes a tree will self-pollinate, but it's probably best not to count on it doing so.
This lemon tree is often at its best when grown indoors, as it prefers temperatures 70 degrees - room temperature - though it also likes the temperature is a little cooler at night. If the temperature gets below 50 degrees for an extended period of time however the tree may drop its leaves and go dormant. Normally the Meyer lemon keeps its leaves year around.
The tree should be placed in a location where it can get plenty of full sun. If kept indoors during the winter months, it's advisable to install a fluorescent shop light above the plant to give it the 8 to 12 hours of daylight it needs, especially if you want to see blossoms and fruit as spring approaches.
As far as water is concerned, moist but not wet is the rule. This little tree likes a daily misting and also likes to have its leaves sponged occasionally, but as long as you keep the soil moist it should do fine. It will help with the watering if the tree has been planted in an all-purpose planting or potting mix rather than plain old dirt, which can form a cake on the surface. As is the case with most plants, especially houseplants, a little TLC can often pay dividends.
You can more or less prune your Meyer lemon tree in any way that suits you. This tree takes well to pruning. If you cut it make severely it will bounce right back, although if you cut it back to a stump it may not bear fruit for at least a year. About the only rule is that you should avoid pruning the tree while the fruit is still ripening. Doing so won't hurt the tree, but any fruit still hanging may not fully ripen. When it's time to prune, pick off any hanging fruit and go at it. When pruning, feel free to use your imagination in deciding what you want your Meyer lemon tree to look like.