Growing a lemon tree is not as complicated as it sounds. It is, however, an investment of time and the growth takes place in slow periods.
For instance, in the first year, your newly planted lemon seedling might only grow 2 to 3 inches. In the second year, you can expect 8 to 12 inches of growth. Now that your tree has had two years to grow, it will reach about 24 to 36 inches in height!
Actually, It is almost impossible to give a definitive answer as the time it takes to grow a lemon tree will depend on many factors including what type of lemon tree you’ve planted, where you live, and how much attention the tree receives.
But, for argument’s sake, we could say that, on average, it takes around three years for a lemon tree to grow.
One thing is for sure, there are some things you can do to help accelerate its growth.
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Things You Need To Know When Growing a Lemon Tree
Most lemon tree growth is determined by temperature, light and fertilization. So the most important factor to consider when growing a lemon tree is temperature.
Lemon trees are cold-sensitive and prefer temperatures of 18 – 22 degrees Celcius (65-72 degrees Fahrenheit) for successful growth. As the winter months approach, a well-drained soil, sufficient light and an increase in temperature will encourage faster lemon tree growth during the spring and summer months.
Lemon trees can also be propagated from seeds or by cuttings. These cuttings are harvested when they have 4 true leaves with 2 – 4 nodes (growth points). The cuttings are then 3 – 4 months old.
Cuttings should not be cold-stored (in a refrigerator) as it may kill them and, as soon as you can, they should be placed in a pot with good drainage.
The best time to take cuttings is in late spring or early summer when your lemon tree has just finished flowering and when it has new growth, putting the cuttings at least 2 – 3 inches below the soil line.
A typical lemon tree may reach a height of 5-8 feet and grows an average of 1 foot in diameter each year.
Lemon trees need full sun to produce the best fruit, so plant them in a location with at least 6 – 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. If you live in an area where there are winters, protect your lemon tree from frosts by spraying it with water (or wrapping it) before temperatures dip below freezing. During the hot summer months, spray your lemon tree with water to keep it hydrated.
Lemon trees have a relatively shallow root system and they need sufficient water but the soil should never be allowed to dry out completely as this may lead to a yellowing of the leaves.
It is a good idea to water lemon trees in the morning or early afternoon when there is less wind. Mulching your lemon tree with compost, straw or pine bark is also important to help retain water and keep the soil cool.
You can also fertilize your lemon tree throughout the year by using an all-purpose fertilizer (high in nitrogen) at 1/4 strength every 3 – 4 weeks. Because lemon trees are sensitive to salt, add no more than 1 tablespoon of fertilizer each time you fertilize.
It is also good to note that citrus trees produce a significant amount of leaves. To help control this, fertilize your lemon tree with a standard citrus fertilizer at 1/2 strength once a month and after you prune it in the winter (around February).
Lemon trees can grow for up to 20 years and then, bear fruit for over 50 years. The first flowers usually appear 3 or 4 months after the tree is planted (depending on the variety), and a few weeks later the tiny green fruits will begin to form.
They require pollination by insects so if you don’t have any around, try brushing the flower gently with your fingers every few days.
As they ripen from green to yellow, fruits will develop a thin peel covering; it is this that gives them their distinctive zesty flavour. Fully ripened lemons should be light yellow in color with very little green showing through.
The best time to harvest your lemons is between August and September when the fruit is at its largest.
If your tree does not have many fruits on it when you prune it in early winter (around February), there is no need to fertilize it that year as most of its work will have already been done.
How Long Does It Take For a Lemon Tree To Start Bearing Fruit?
It all depends on how well your lemon tree is growing but most farmers say that it first begins fruiting about 3 years after planting.
Some varieties of lemons can take as long as 15 years before they start producing fruit.
So, how long will it take before your new lemon tree is ready to be harvested. This will depend on the variety of lemon that you’ve planted.
A Meyer lemon, for example, may take up to 2 years before it starts bearing fruit. A standard Eureka lemon will take approximately 5-6 years before it’s ready for harvesting.
What Size Is a Lemon Tree When It Starts To Bear Fruit?
As a general rule, lemons trees can reach 8 to 10 feet in height if they’re grown in an ideal climate. The fruit will be up to 1 inch in diameter and have yellowish or greenish skin.
A fully grown tree will also have about 20 or more leaves on it.
Another way to tell if your lemon tree is ready for harvesting is that the tender new growth will be thin and flexible.
If you want larger lemons, simply pinch off some of the flowers as they begin to develop.
How Much Space Does a Lemon Tree Need?
When spacing your trees, keep in mind that lemon trees are a bit finicky when it comes to their root systems. This is not only because they like fresh soil but due to their tendency to crowd each other if enough space isn’t provided between them (a factor that can be easily overlooked as they’re so pretty).
If you want to grow more than one lemon tree, choose a spot that’s about 10′ x 10′ since the mature tree can reach up to 6 to 7 feet in height with an equal spread.
Lemon trees need around 8 feet of space from any surrounding material – this includes other plants and structures.
The reason for this is that the roots of the tree can extend quite far and may become entangled with or damage items placed near it (such as fruit trees growing nearby). It’s best to set your trees out where they won’t be disturbed by anything else.
When planting, bear in mind that lemon trees do best in full to partial sun. In fact, they require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
What Soil Is Best For Lemon Trees?
Lemon trees do best in a well-drained, sandy loam that’s rich in organic material. You can add compost or peat moss to your planting space each year to help keep the lemon tree healthy.
If you live in an area that has clay soil, it’s possible to amend it so that the citrus tree will grow properly. It may be a little more difficult but it is possible.
If you want to fertilize your tree, use a citrus fertilizer on it as needed (more often during the summer months and less during the beginning of spring).
Growing Lemon Trees In Pots
If you’d like to grow your lemon tree in pots, there are some things that need to be taken into consideration.
The main thing is that your pot needs to be large enough for the tree to mature but not so large that it’s hard for you to move the plant around when needed (for example, if you’re taking it inside during cold weather).
Also, the pot needs to be sturdy enough to hold up the weight of the plant and still retain a good shape.
Some plants grow quite large in pots. If you plan to keep your tree outside without shelter, you’ll want to have a pot that’s big enough – you don’t want it to get toppled over by the wind in a storm!
Make sure that you choose a ceramic pot with high walls around the roots (for maximum protection).
You’ll also need to choose an earthenware pot with an open drainage system — this will help with keeping your plant healthy in its later years and prevents infections from getting into it.
While lemon trees can survive in containers, they will start to fruit sooner if they are planted in the ground.
Container lemon trees should have fresh potting soil added every year and it’s also a good idea to fertilize them once a month. You should prune them back in late winter (around February) and fertilize them at that time as well.