Growing Lemon Trees In Containers

Potted Lemon Tree
lemon tree
(Image credit: mcphotostock)

If you live in a cooler climate or simply have limited space, but still want to grow a lemon tree, container lemon trees may be your best option. Growing lemon trees in containers allows you to provide an appropriate environment in a limited space. Let's look at how to grow a lemon tree in a pot.

How to Plant a Lemon Tree in a Container

When you grow a lemon tree in a pot, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First of all, container lemon trees will not get as large as lemon trees grown in the ground. Still, it is best to seek out dwarf varieties of lemon trees. Some lemon tree varieties that do best in containers are:

When growing lemon trees in containers, the needs are very similar to lemon trees growing in the ground. The lemon trees will need good drainage, so make sure the pot has drainage holes. 

They will also need consistent and regular watering. If the container where the lemon tree is growing is allowed to dry out, the leaves of the lemon tree will fall off. Fertilizer is also key to growing a healthy lemon tree in a pot. Use a slow release fertilizer to make sure that your lemon tree gets consistent nutrients. 

Container lemon trees also need high humidity. Place your lemon tree over a pebble tray or mist it daily.

Common Problems with Growing Lemon Trees in Containers

Regardless of how well you take care of your container lemon tree, growing in a pot will be more stressful on the plant. You will need to keep an eye out for unique problems that container grown lemon trees can have. Lemon trees growing in containers are more susceptible to sucker branches. These are branches that grow from the scion or root stock of the plant. 

Many times, in order to grow a hardier tree, nurseries will grow the desired tree on a hardy root. Under stress, the root stock will try to take over the tree. If you see a sucker branch grow from the bottom of the lemon tree, prune it immediately. Another issue with lemon trees in containers is that they are more vulnerable to the cold and drought. 

While a lemon tree in the ground can take mild frost and cold, a lemon tree in a container cannot. A lemon tree in a container has a hardiness zone that is one zone higher than the USDA recommended zone. So for example, if the variety of lemon you are growing normally has a hardiness zone of 7, in a container the lemon tree will have a hardiness zone of 8. 

As already mentioned, allowing your lemon tree to dry out will cause more damage to it if it is grown in a container than if it was grown in the ground.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.