Lemon Trees in Pots – handy tips for growing lemons

Lemon Trees in Pots

Glossy dark green leaves, fragrant white flowers, golden coloured fruit, it’s winter sunshine!! Lemon trees in pots. Magnificent!! Here are some handy tips for growing your own lemon trees in pots, even if you don’t have much space. Actually these tips are also applicable for most citrus growing in pots.

Lemon tree in pot

Lemon tree in GreenSmart pot with bungee cord supports


Choose a good warm position, out of the wind and with plenty of sun – a minimum of six hours per day. All day sun is even better.

Lemon trees are self-fertile ie you don’t need a pair of trees. Citrus trees do not like wet feet so GreenSmart pots are ideal as the water reservoir is beneath the false floor in the base of the pot. Some people grow citrus in a smaller earthenware pot  but they require a lot of careful watching to maintain the moisture in the pot.

Growing conditions

All varieties are suitable for growing in pots – you do not need to select dwarf varieties. The ultimate height of the tree will be limited by the amount of root space. Meyer lemons are most suited to frosty areas of NZ. Select a tree that is not root-bound. Start by washing the root-ball and spreading the roots in the GreenSmart pot. Then carefully back fill with good quality potting mix. Fill to within a couple of cm of the top of the pot. Make sure that there are no air pockets around the roots. If you have a lot of summer heat it is a good idea to mulch the surface around the lemon tree to reduce the heat on the roots – they have a shallow root system. Keep the mulch away from the tree trunk.

If possible, orient the tree in the same direction that it was originally growing. You want the majority of leaves to be facing north. July-August is a good time to be planting lemon trees in pots in warmer parts of New Zealand. If you are in a frosty part of the country, delay a couple of months or use a frost cover until the risk of frost is past. It is worth using a couple of bungee cords to firmly hold the lemon tree in position – as shown in the photo above.

This ABC video is well worth watching as it covers most aspects of growing lemons in pots (check out the impressive scale of the citrus orchard)

Click here to view ABC video

Growing from seeds

If you have a little more time and less cash, you can grow lemon trees from seeds. Learn all about it on this YouTube clip.


Lemon trees are gross feeders so give them plenty of good organic fertiliser. Start the tree with a generous amount of well-rotted animal manure or Dynamic Lifter and then monthly chicken manure as the tree is flowering and fruiting. Sprinkle some blood and bone powder around the soil surface in spring. You can also add liquid fertiliser directly into the water gauge or apply as a foliar spray. Click here for more info on liquid fertiliser.

Brown tips on the leaves are an indication of too much fertiliser.

Pests and diseases

  • Scabby marks on the skin of the lemons – looks ugly but won’t harm the fruit. You can spray with a copper spray.
  • Brown scaly patch at the end of the fruit (not the stem end) and early fruit drop. The fruit is also often dry.
    This is blossom-end rot. It’s due to lack of calcium- either because it’s lacking in the soil or there has been drought or irregular watering so the tree couldn’t take up enough nutrients to support the growth of the fruit. It is a sign of malnutrition rather than disease and is easily treated – although there’s nothing to be done for fruit already afflicted. The addition of lime (a handful or two per tree) around the drip line is an effective remedy.

Companion plants

Plant some nitrogen-fixing good guys around the lemon tree eg lupins, mustard to boost the nitrogen in the soil as lemons need plenty of feeding.

In the kitchen

Click here for a great recipe for preserved lemons.

Frost damage to citrus foliage.

Keep a roll of frost cloth handy to drape over trees when frost threatens. Make a framework of stakes around the tree so there is a gap between the cloth and the leaves of the tree.There’s nothing you can do once the damage is done – and indeed doing nothing is the best course of action. Never prune off the frost-damaged stems and foliage of citrus trees. Pruning now only encourages them to produce soft new growth, which frost will attach again without mercy and that second strike often proves fatal.

happy gardening, Bill


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