How to Grow and Care for Lemon Trees Indoors

Do you want to try your hand at growing a lemon tree or three but live in a chilly temperate environment?

Growing them inside in pots and containers is an easy thing to do and we’ll show you how!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Let’s get started:

How to Grow

Most lemon trees are container-grown, and purchased online or from a local nursery. They can also be propagated at home, from cuttings, and seed.

If you decide to grow Lemon Trees from seeds, allow the seeds to dry out for up to two weeks.

A human hand plants lemon seeds in a growing tray.

Once dried, plant the seeds about an inch deep in good potting soil and cover with plastic wrap. Once the seed has germinated it should be placed in a sunny location.

Any container used for lemon trees and any indoor fruit trees, should provide ample drainage and room for growth.

Lemon trees can be put outdoors during the summer months, this is recommended to increase their chances of bearing abundantly.

When grown indoors lemon trees do not have the advantage of pollinators, bees and other insects. Placing them outdoors during the summer allows for this. You can also hand pollinate them. See: Indoor Pollination

Cultivars to Select

Although lemons can be pruned to remain small, it’s best to choose trees that have dwarf or semi-dwarf growth characteristics.


The meyer lemon tree is one of the smallest types available. It reaches only 6-10 feet at full maturity and just 4-5 feet across. But the growth rate is extremely slow. You can keep a myer about as small as you need to.

A potted meyer lemon tree on a patio.

Meyer Lemon Tree

And they often fruit in the first year or two. You can pick one up through PlantingTree.


The ponderosa is a midsized tree that reaches 8 – 12 feet if not pruned back. It produces very large orange and grapefruit sized fruits and fragrant white blossoms.

Ponderosa lemons hanging on the branch.

Ponderosa Lemon

These trees work great in planters on the patio, and if trimmed back, are very serviceable as large houseplants. You can find them at Nature Hills Nursery.


Eureka makes a great container plant. Athough they can reach 20 feet in height, they take pruning very well and often are called the a “bush” rather than a tree.

A Eureka lemon bush growing in a container.

Eureka Lemon Bush

They produce orange colored flesh and can live up to 150 years. Pass this one on to your great great great-grandchildren. PlantingTree keeps them in stock.

Plant Requirements

The keys to successfully grow lemons indoors are the same as with all citrus:

  1. Light
  2. Temperature
  3. Humidity
  4. Well-drained Soil
  5. Proper nutrients
  6. Consistent moisture

Without any single one of those failure looms.


Lemons require 8-12 hours of sunlight daily to prosper, 5-6 hours to just survive . Grown indoors, a South or west facing window is best .

Potted lemon tree with fruit on a window sill.

Not that I’m comparing apples to oranges, but citrus plants unlike other fruits do not normally go through a period of dormancy or hibernation in the winter, but will tolerate slightly lower light conditions during this phase of slower growth.

Supplemental light , such as grow-lights or fluorescent plant lights will help them produce better, especially if your location is not optimally sunned.


Night time temperatures no lower than 55 degrees F and daytime temperatures around 70 – 80 degrees F are ideal. They will usually tolerate temperatures hovering above 32 degrees for a few hours or heat over 100 degrees so long as they are well watered.

A lemon tree in a container next to a brightly lit window.

Temperatures should however , not be a major problem in an indoor environment. Temperatures below 55 will will invoke a dormancy , extended periods below 55 could result in their premature demise.


You should be using a light [low clay], well draining soil mixture with an abundance of peat, and perlite or vermiculite. Adding additional perlite or vermiculite to any soil you purchase is advisable.

You can also add wood chips, redwood shavings or even hamster bedding and semi-sterile compost [Not from your back yard compost heap] in moderation . Using dirt from your yard is a bad idea.

A common problem with indoor citrus trees is chlorosis. Symptoms of chlorosis are yellowing leaves , or yellow spots on the leaves. The leaves frequently turn yellow while the vein remains green.

Using a balanced fertilizer such as 18-18-18 or a fertilizer specifically designed for Citrus  is advisable.


If plants get too dry, salts accumulate in the soil. Under natural conditions these salts would be moist and soluble and harmless to the plants.

Water regularly to keep the soil moist, not saturated, just moist. A layer of decorative sterile mulch such as bark or any other organic mulch is advisable to retain soil moisture.

A potted lemon tree growing as a houseplant.

Allow the potting soil to slightly dry between watering, not “DRY-OUT” just slightly dry. Allow the surface of the soil to get dry, but water the plant so there is ample moisture around the roots.

I prefer to water modestly 2 – 3 times weekly , test the soil by hand – stick your finger in about a half inch to be certain it is semi dry before adding more water. Over watering is just as deadly as under watering.


Most indoor environments have relatively very little humidity as opposed to their natural environment. Any building that has heat or air conditioning will usually have no more than 15% humidity at most. Citrus plants need much higher levels just to survive and 50% or better to thrive and produce.

Symptoms of Humidity deprivation are:

  1. Plants begin to wilt.
  2. Leaves develop brown edges.
  3. Flower buds do not develop .
  4. Flower buds drop from the plant before opening.
  5. Flowers shrivel soon after opening.

Significantly increasing humidity indoors is good for the plants , but it’s not good for you or your home unless of course you like mold, mildew, bacteria, mites and so forth.

There are however a number of ways you can increase humidity for the plants without seriously damaging your personal environment.

1. You can add moisture with a humidifier.

2. Cluster your plants in tight groups. All Plants naturally exhale moisture through their leaves in a process known as transpiration, Citrus trees are no exception. By grouping citrus as well as other indoor plants together, you add to a more suitable environment in the immediate growing area.

3. Misting the trees foliage with a simple spray bottle is good way to help citrus cope with the indoor environment.

4. You can add moisture with a humidity tray , a pebble filled tray with water added to the top of the pebbles. As the water gradually evaporates, it raises the humidity in its immediate vicinity enough to improve conditions for the tree.

Pests and Disease

Lemon trees are susceptible to spider mites, mealy bugs and scale. Check the trunk for mealy bugs and scales.

To treat spider mites, spray your plant with insecticidal soap or horticulturist oil, which will smother the insects. clean the foliage, top and bottom sides of the leaves as well.

Neem oil is effective against Scales and mealy bugs. Rubbing alcohol applied with a Q-tip will also work in mild infestations.

When Life Gives You Lemon

Growing lemons inside when you live in area that’s not too tropical makes a bunch of sense. And they can make great houseplants.

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