Most of the lemons you buy are grown in gorgeous citrus orchards in balmy climates, but you may not realize how easy it can be to grow a lemon plant right in your own home. It might take some time for the lemon seeds you grow indoors to look and taste like the ones you buy at the store, but in the meantime, the plant can be a cheery addition to any home.
The Right Growing Conditions
Before planting a lemon tree, you have to make sure you have the right growing conditions. Typically, lemon orchards are found in places like India, Southern California, Florida and Italy. Other varieties of lemon trees like the popular Meyer lemon tree are native to China. In those climates, temperatures are relatively warm throughout the year, and there is plenty of sunshine to help the growing lemon tree stay vibrant.
If you already live in a sunny climate where temperatures don't regularly dip below about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, you have a great house for a lemon tree sprout. Find an area in your home that receives at least four hours of direct sunlight and where temperatures remain between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit as consistently as possible. For instance, try not to place it directly under an air conditioning unit since that could significantly cool its space. Many people find that the warmth on the top of a refrigerator or a sunny, south-facing windowsill that is well insulated are two great spots for their lemon plants.
If you live in a cooler and grayer climate, don't worry. You can still grow a lemon plant indoors, you'll just need a few more resources in order to do so. Many indoor gardeners use artificial light to mimic sunlight. Depending on the size of your plant and the setup in your home, you could look into hanging LED lights, grow lights designed for citrus plants or 40-watt fluorescent tubes in order to give your lemon plant all the light it needs.
Planting Your Lemon Seeds
Once you've secured a proper location, you can begin to plant your lemon seeds. There are a few options for starter plants. You can start with seeds from a lemon. You'll likely want to choose an organic lemon, since sometimes nonorganic lemons have modified seeds that will not germinate. If you're going that route, make sure you choose them from a lemon that you think is delicious, and plant them as soon as you can so they don't have time to dry out. In order to produce fruit sooner, you can also get a head start with a starter plant from your local nursery. Often, these are small lemon trees that have been grafted from parent trees.
Once you have your starter, find an appropriate pot for your lemon tree. If you're starting with a seed, make sure your pot is at least 6 inches wide and 6 inches deep to give your lemons ample room to grow. If you're using a grafted tree, make sure you have a pot 6 inches wider and deeper from the very tip of the roots.
Lastly, put your seeds or starter into a water-soluble pot full of soil that is high quality and lightweight to help with drainage. Look for soil with ingredients including perlite, peat moss, pine shavings and vermiculite. Water your plant immediately, making sure the soil is moist but not soggy. Your watering schedule will vary depending on the size of your plant and how much light it receives, but in general, provide your plant with enough water so that the soil stays on the drier side but is never completely dry.
Some new citrus growers are surprised to learn that the plants usually need more than water and sunlight. They also want food. Feed your lemon plant with fortification like worm casings, a seafood fertilizer or a plant food designed for citrus plants.
Time to Wait
Once you've planted your lemon seeds, it's time to wait. If you started with seeds from a lemon, you may have to wait for five or more years before you start to get fruit that resembles the lemons you buy in a store, although you should start to see some interesting lemon-like produce before that. If you used a starter plant, you may start to see lemons in as soon as two years. It may seem like a long time, but it will make your homegrown lemons taste that much better in the end.