How to Care for Lemon Trees

By Muffy Marracco , last updated December 21, 2011

The lemon tree brings beauty to your garden with its flowers and bright yellow fruit. You'll use lemons when cooking, or when making lemonade on hot summer days. If you live in the right climate, consider adding a lemon tree to your yard.

Lemon trees, as with other citrus trees, won’t thrive in cold climates. They’re in a nearly constant state of growth and don’t “power down” during the winter months like other trees. You should live somewhere with mild winters where it won’t drop below freezing if you want to plant your tree outside. Otherwise, you can buy a potted lemon tree and transfer it indoors during the colder months.

Lemon trees are not too picky when it comes to soil quality – except for the drainage. Otherwise, they are prone to developing “foot rot” and should be planted at least as high as the surrounding yard. Water the tree about every ten days during the summer – more frequently if it’s a new planting and less frequently if it’s cool or rainy. Fertilize the soil with a nitrogen-rich mixture three times a year – once a season, but not during the winter. Apply the fertilizer in a circle around the tree that is as wide as the tree is tall. This way the fertilizer will reach all the roots. If your tree is five feet tall then your circle of fertilizer will be five feet in diameter. If it’s 15 feet tall that’s how many feet wide your circle should be.

If you’re keeping the lemon tree potted and indoors make sure it, too, has sufficient drainage, slightly acidic soil and room to grow. It can get up to five feet tall. Water about once a week and make sure to place it somewhere sunny. You may even need grow lights during the winter months. During the warm summer months take your lemon tree outdoors for a chance to soak up the sun and let bees pollinate its flowers. Pollination is necessary for the tree to yield fruit.

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