How to Grow a Lovely Meyer Lemon Tree

July 24, 2017
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how to grow a meyer lemon tree
Photo: Monrovia, original photo on Houzz.

Meyer lemons aren’t “true” lemons but a mix of lemons and oranges. The fruit is a deep golden yellow and sweeter than your typical lemon, has a thinner skin and is borne throughout the year, with the heaviest production occurring in winter. The tree itself is attractive and easy to grow, adding lush green beauty to the landscape. Its needs are the same as those of other citrus trees, and gardeners who grow this tree can enjoy the bounty of its sweet, delicious fruit.

The Meyer lemon was discovered in China in 1908. Experts believe that it is a hybrid of a lemon and a Mandarin orange. Meyer lemons became very popular until the trees were found to be carriers of the Tristeza virus, which devastated millions of other citrus trees. 

Almost all Meyer lemon trees were destroyed to prevent the virus from spreading. In 1975 they were reintroduced from a small stock that was found to be free of the virus. This virus-free selection was called Improved Meyer lemon, but is commonly referred to as simply Meyer lemon.

Botanical name: Citrus x meyeri ‘Improved’

Common names: Meyer lemon, Improved Meyer lemon

Origin: Discovered in China

Where it will grow: Hardy to 22 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 5.6 degrees Celsius (USDA Zone 8)

Water requirement: High 

Light requirement: Full sun, at least six hours a day; avoid western exposure in low-desert zones

Mature size: 6 to 10 feet tall 

Benefits and tolerances: Produces delicious fruit, primarily in winter

Seasonal interest: Fragrant blossoms in spring and fall; attracts bees

When to plant: Late winter into spring after the threat of frost has passed

Distinguishing Traits

Glossy, bright green leaves cover the small tree throughout the year. In late winter, fragrant white blossoms cover the tree and attract bees, which pollinate the flowers. Meyer lemon trees are self-pollinating, meaning they don’t need another tree nearby.

Once the blossoms fall, small green fruits appear that grow slowly throughout the year, gradually turning a rich golden yellow. Ripe lemons can appear throughout the year, but the heaviest production occurs in winter.

The fruit has a lovely smooth skin that is thinner, and the taste of the fruit is sweeter, with less acidity, than that of true lemons. Meyer lemons can be used in recipes the same as regular lemons, and some people even use sections of fruit in their salad.

True lemon trees have a thicker, bumpier skin, are paler yellow in color, have more acidity and are more cold-sensitive than Meyer lemons. ‘Eureka’ and ‘Lisbon’ are examples of true lemon trees.

How to Use It 

The lush green foliage and golden yellow fruit add welcome beauty to the landscape. 

A Meyer lemon tree can be grown as a large shrub or trained into a small tree. When trained as a small tree, this lemon hybrid makes a great patio tree or can even be used in a courtyard.

Plant herbs, such as basil, rosemary or sage, alongside it for a deliciously fragrant arrangement and a combination that can be used in cooking.

Use it as an informal hedge for privacy, by allowing it to grow as a large shrub.

Meyer lemon trees, like most citrus, also make nice container plants and can be brought inside during winter in colder climates.

Planting Notes

Plant in an area with well-drained soil that receives at least six hours of sunlight. In low-desert zones, avoid planting against a fence or wall that receives hot, western sun. 

The planting hole should be three times as wide as the root ball and a few inches shallower than the root ball. Wait a year before fertilizing to allow for sufficient root growth. Newly planted citrus trees can take two to four years before producing fruit. As the tree matures, the amount of lemons will increase.

"There's a Lot to Love About a Meyer Lemon Tree" by Noelle Johnson originally appeared on, your guide to more small trees perfect for the patio and using lemons as interior home decor. Photo credit: Monrovia, original photo on Houzz.

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