When given protection during very cold winters, Meyer lemon is the most dependable citrus for thriving in Sonoma County. Thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange or tangerine, its fruit is a rich, orange-yellow with thinner skin and less acidic pulp and juice than lemons commonly found in produce markets. Since the 1970’s, the only variety available has been the ‘Improved Meyer Lemon’, so-called because of its resistance to a virus that had been problematic for Meyer lemons in the past.
Meyer Lemon Features
- Flowering and fruiting occur simultaneously even on very young trees.
- Sporadic blooms and ripening fruits appear year round, heaviest in fall and winter.
- Dark green foliage and blossom aroma have ornamental appeal.
- Standard trees reach 8-12 ft. high and wide; dwarf cultivars are smaller.
- Small size makes Meyer lemon suitable for container culture on the patio.
- Slow and compact growth allow it to succeed as a houseplant.
- Outdoor containers 16 in. high and wide will support a Meyer lemon. For best growth, use a light, porous soil mix; fertilize 2-3 times per year, starting in spring, preferably with a slow-release material following product directions.
- Unpot every 2-3 years, trim 1 in. off all around the root ball, and repot.
- Indoor containers 8-12 in. wide are adequate. Lemons require at least 4 hours of direct sun a day and as much time outdoors as possible during warm weather.
- Move indoor pots in stages into outdoor shade over 1-2 weeks to transition into direct sun.
- Allow soil surface to dry out of containerized trees before re-watering. Overwatering kills roots.
- Fertilize houseplants every 4-6 weeks with half doses. Re-pot and trim roots every 2-3 years. Wait to fertilize newly potted or re-potted trees until new leaves begin to develop.
- Shorten branches by half when they become leggy.
- Plant lemon trees in loose soil; sandy loam is best. In clay soil, plant on a wide, amended raised mound to provide drainage. Use drip irrigation and allow soil surface to dry between waterings.
- Cover ground over the root zone with mulch to preserve soil moisture, keeping mulch 4-6 in. away from the base of the trunk.
- Irrigate young trees during the dry season, often enough to maintain soil moisture in the root zone but allow the surface to dry between waterings.
- Decrease watering as the tree ages but do not allow soil around roots to dry out completely.
- Fertilize trees 2-3 times per year, starting in spring, preferably with a slow-release material.
- Little or no pruning is needed. Remove dead and awkward branches, shorten extra-long ones, and remove any growth below the graft line. To identify the graft, look for a small jog on the lower stem, often where the trunk joins the roots, sometimes higher on the stem.
- Expect thorns to develop on most Meyer lemons. Remove any stout or heavily thorned branches that grow below the graft line. These branches from the rootstock will dominate but will not bear fruit.
- Watch for yellowing leaves that signal a need to fertilize; work material into the soil, then water.
- Cover the canopy during severe cold spells or provide other protection such as stringing non-LED holiday lights through the branches. Trees withstand brief temperature dips to 20 degrees.
- Wait until new growth appears in spring before pruning frost-damaged trees so that you can distinguish the extent of the damage. Never prune the stem below the graft line.