Meyer Lemon Tree: Complete Care And Growing Guide

Growing a Meyer lemon tree can be a heady experience for a gardener. It’s a pleasure to pluck a beautiful tart lemon from a tree that you’ve grown and nurtured in the garden or a container.

Meyer Lemon Tree With A Single Lemon
meyer lemon
(Image credit: Captain1854)

What Is a Meyer Lemon?

Meyer Lemon Quick Facts

Botanical name:

Citrus × meyeri

6-10 feet (1.8-3m)

4-8 feet (1-2.4 m)
Sun exposure:

Full sun to part shade

Soil requirements:

Sandy, well-draining
Hardiness zones:

When to plant:

Spring or Fall

A Meyer lemon tree is a Chinese native that was brought to the United States by Frank Meyer in the early 1900’s. Experts believe that it is a hybrid cross of Citrus limon (lemon) and Citrus reticulata (mandarin orange). Meyer lemon fruit is a sweeter and juicier version of the common lemon.

You will likely only find “improved” Meyer lemon trees in the garden store. That is exactly what you will want to buy. The first batch of Meyer lemon trees to hit the market carried a tristeza virus that was lethal to other citrus trees. The tree was replaced with a virus-free variety that today is referred to as “improved” Meyer lemon.

Meyer Lemon vs. Lemon Trees

Meyer lemon trees are small fruit trees that generally top out at or under 10 feet (3 m) tall, while other lemon tree types can grow to three times that tall. Dwarf Meyer lemon trees are even smaller.

Both regular lemon and Meyer lemon are evergreen trees with shiny dark green leaves and fragrant blossoms. Both offer yellow citrus fruit. The regular lemon fruit peel is rough while Meyer fruit is smooth and smooth. Meyer lemons are also very juicy and sweet tasting, unlike regular lemons.

Meyer Lemon Tree Care


Citrus need direct sun in order to blossom and fruit. Meyer lemon trees are no exception. Plant them in full or partial sun. If you are growing the Meyer lemon tree indoors, put it in a south-facing window.


Part of caring for an improved Meyer lemon tree is to provide consistent and regular watering. However, wet, poorly-drained soils will kill the tree. Container trees prefer to dry out between waterings.

Temperature & Humidity

Meyer lemon trees are hardy in USDA zones 9 - 11. They cannot tolerate frost and will slip into dormancy if temperatures dip below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If you bring the potted plants indoors for overwintering, mist them daily with water.


Improved Meyer lemon trees require well-draining soil. Generally, sandy loam works best. It can be acidic or neutral.


You can find citrus fertilizer in the garden store. Use this in summer following label directions. Alternatively, use a fertilizer for rhododendrons and blueberries; they are also acid-loving plants. Discontinue fertilizing in winter.

Problems, Pests & Diseases

Though generally healthy, improved Meyer lemon trees can be susceptible to a variety of diseases including anthracnose, scab, sooty mold, greasy spot, canker, and gummosis. It can be attacked by three pests: scale, aphids and spider mites.

How to Plant a Meyer Lemon Tree

Plant a Meyer lemon in spring or fall. Select a full sun location with well-draining soil, ideally sandy loam. It is best to plant a young, grafted tree in order to get fruit in a few years. If you plant seed, it can take up to seven years to fruit.


It is not necessary to do much pruning of a Meyer lemon tree. But you can prune back branches to improve airflow in the canopy or to keep the tree shorter. Some gardeners prune back large fruit clusters to one or two fruits to encourage larger fruit.


This tree can be grown from seed or propagated by stem cuttings.


Outdoor trees in appropriate locations can fruit all year long, but they bear most fruit in fall and winter. Houseplants can also bear fruit in spring. The lemon fruit of the Meyer lemon tree is green as it develops. It turns yellow-orange when it is ripe, which can take up to nine months.

How to Grow a Meyer Lemon Tree in a Pot

Choose a reasonably large container for your plant. However, be sure that you will be able to carry it inside for overwintering. Use well-draining, acidic soil.

While the plant is inside, place it in a sunny location where it gets at least six hours of sunlight. This will likely be a south-facing window. Be sure that there is no vent in the area. Water after the container soil is dry to the touch. Mist every day while indoors in winter.

If you move outdoors in summer, place the tree in shade for the first week, then place in sun.


Repot the tree every few years as the root ball grows. Use a container slightly larger than the current one. Take care when repotting since the Meyer lemon tree does not like having its roots disturbed.


The most important factor to growing Meyer lemons – or any citrus – is to bring them inside when danger of frost looms, usually around Halloween or before. In spring, aim for mid-April to take them out again. You don’t want big temperature variations for your tree, so spend a few days hardening it off by taking it out during the day and returning it to its indoor spot at night. Keep the tree in shade for the first week, but remember citrus needs full sun to bloom and fruit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need Two Meyer Lemon Trees to Produce Fruit?

You do not. The tree is self-pollinating and will not need a companion plant to bear fruit.

How Long Does It Take for a Meyer Lemon Tree to Bear Fruit?

If your improved Meyer lemon tree is grafted, it can fruit in as little as two years. If you grow the Meyer lemon from seed, it may be up to seven years before it fruits.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.