Thought to have originated in the region of Northern India thousands of years ago, the lemon tree migrated many miles before making its way to the US with Chris Columbus himself as he crossed the ocean blue. As an evergreen, the lemon is most commonly grown as a commercial crop in Florida and California where warmer temperatures prevail for most of the year. Live in a cooler climate? Never fear. Planting lemon trees in pots that can be moved indoors is a common practice, particularly for dwarf varieties. Make sure to pollinate by hand if growing indoors, unless you frequently invite bees into your living room!
The Eureka lemon tree is one of the most commonly grown types of lemon. This tree will grow 12–15′ tall and spread about 20′. It generally produces its fruit in the summers, but trees can bear fruit year round in the right growing conditions. Branches are almost entirely thornless, making it easier to prune and harvest. Fruits have pale yellow skins, a greenish yellow inner flesh that’s juicy with few seeds, and are generally produced close to the terminal end of the tree’s branches. New leafy growth has an attractive purplish or bronze color, making this tree an excellent ornamental addition to your garden.
Seed: Not recommended. Lemon trees take 5–15 years to produce fruit when grown from seed. Additionally, it’s unlikely that any lemon trees you grow from seed will grow true to type. But if your curiosity is peaked, try it out and let us know how it goes!
Seed Depth: 1/2″
Space Between Plants: 12–20′
Space Between Rows: 20–25′
Germination Soil Temperature: 55–75°F
Days for Germination: 14–21
Sow Indoors: Soak seeds overnight in water and plant them 1/2″ deep in moist potting soil. Cover or wrap the pot with a plastic bag and let sit in a warm and sunny spot for a few weeks until the seeds start to grow. Then, remove the plastic and give seedlings at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day until transplant.
Sow Outdoors: In the citrus belt, trees can be planted at any time. Transplant into containers in the spring.
Vegetative: Plants are usually grown from cuttings which may or may not be grafted onto different root stocks.
Like other citrus fruits, lemons prefer tropical and subtropical climates due to the heat and humidity. Less hardy than other lemon varieties, Eureka lemons prefer temperatures between 77–86°F and can be damaged at temperatures near freezing. In the U.S., plants grow best in Zones 9–11.
Natural: Full sun.
Artificial: As plants prefer high heat and levels of sunlight, indoor lemons should be placed near a bright window or grown using HID lamps.
Soil: Prefers loamy or sandy soils but will grow in most soil types as long as they are well-drained. An acidic pH between 4.5 and 6.0 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Plant cuttings in a blend of perlite and well-rotted manure for best growth.
Aquaponics: Will grow in an aquaponic system with a mineral nutrient solution.
Water: Requires medium to high levels of water: a lack of proper irrigation will cause plants to cease fruit production. When trees are young, water two or three times a week. Once established, trees should be irrigated every week to two weeks with three inches of water. Note that although lemon trees require a good deal of water, they will not thrive in soggy soil. Watering should be adjusted based on your zone and rainfall.
Nutrients: Fertilize your lemon tree no more than 4 times per year. Apply the fertilizer equal distance from the root base to the height. For example, if your tree is 10 feet tall, apply fertilizer at a 10 foot radius from the base. Citrus are demanding, which makes sense because of their large, leafy stature and fat, juicy fruit production. Fertilize with compost to provide ample nitrogen. Add phosphorus just before flowering to prevent deficient fruit production.
Foliar: Leaves may be sprayed periodically with a citrus fertilizer in the spring and summer. In specific, use a nitrogen based foliar spray to supplement a large crop.
Pruning: While lemon trees do not require extensive pruning, it should be done each year prior to the trees blooming. Remove any suckers and dead or sickly-looking branches with pruning shears.
Mulching: Mulching is not recommended around the base of the tree but can be ringed approximately 1″ out from the trunk to assist in keeping weeds down and retaining moister. Landscaping fabric may also be used to assist in weed reduction.
Deficiency(s): A lack of iron may cause foliage to turn yellow and green and stunt fruit production.
Companions: Grows well with dill, fennel, yarrow, and other citrus trees.
Harvest: Especially in the first production year, fruits can take anywhere from 6–8 months to ripen. The fruit’s ready to harvest when it’s turned yellow and is still firm but not hard as a rock! Fruit can be pulled off or cut with pruning shears to avoid damaging the tree.
Storage: Can be stored in the refrigerator or cool temperatures for several weeks.
Fun Fact: The Eureka lemon was developed in California in 1958 and is therefore well adapted to the mild coastal climates found there. It’s still the most commonly grown type of lemon in California.
Preserve: Can be preserved through turning into jams, jellies, or marmalades. Perhaps less common but equally delicious are salted lemons. The zest can also be peeled and dehydrated or added to salt to give it a tangy flavor.
Prepare: Versatile and tangy, lemon can be added to juices, cocktails, sauces, desserts, and countless other recipes. Lemons can be juiced, squeezed, or rubbed on a grater to make lemon zest.
Nutritional: Contains significant amounts of vitamin C.
Medicinal: Due to its high content of vitamin C, it is considered to have antibacterial and immune-boosting properties. Lemon juice has been associated with weight loss because it aids in digestion and detoxifies the liver. Limonene is an essential oil derived from the rinds of citrus fruits and has been incorporated into pharmaceuticals to relieve heartburn.
Cool down on a hot summer day with a refreshing pitcher of this Vanilla Bean Lemonade.