Make More Lemons: How To Grow A Lemon Seed Into A Tree

Keen to extend your citrus season but just as keen to save some cash? We show you how to grow a lemon seed into brand-new fruiting trees for future harvests

lemon seed seedlings growing in large pot
(Image credit: Lisyl / Alamy)

Have you ever wondered how to grow a lemon seed into a tree? Citrus trees are generally grown off rootstock, which is in turn grown from seeds. Rootstock does not grow true to type and can take up to a decade to bear fruit, so for commercial production a scion is grafted onto the rootstock. However, germinating a lemon seed is certainly not beyond the reach of home gardeners. 

Sprouting a lemon seed is a little time consuming, but it is absolutely possible to grow a lemon tree that develops tangy fruits. All you need is a little patience, and the tips below – and you’ll be growing a lemon seed into a tree that can bear you years of zesty citrus treats. 

Can You Grow Lemons From Lemon Seeds?

Knowing how to grow a lemon tree from a lemon seed is a wonderful way to extend your fruit tree collection while saving money. The only real hurdle is time: it can take 10-15 years for your tree to bear fruit. For those eagerly anticipating the rush of harvesting lemons, the reality is that there are no shortcuts. But don’t let that stop you, as this is a really fun project to try – and it does work. 

First, you need to collect lemon seeds. The lemon seeds you select should be used immediately; don’t let them dry out, as this reduces their veracity. Also, keep in mind that fruit produced from most citrus cultivars is often not particularly edible, which is why it is usually used as rootstock.

lemon fruit sliced in half with seeds

(Image credit: DL Pohl / Shutterstock)

Germinating a Lemon Seed

Before you set about growing a lemon seed, you need to prepare a lemon seed for sowing, soak it in a bowl of water for one-three days to soften the seed coat. Floating seeds aren’t good and should be thrown away. Remove any pulp clinging to the seed. 

To improve your chances of seed germination, use nail clippers, a knife or scissors to clip the end off the seed. Then use your fingernails to remove the exterior seed coat.

How to Plant a Lemon Seed

Plant a few seeds half an inch (1cm) deep in sterile, good-quality potting soil. Be sure the container you plant the lemon seeds in has adequate drainage holes. Water the seeds in and keep the soil just moist (not soggy) at 70°F (21°C). Cover the soil with plastic wrap to keep moisture in and reduce evaporation. 

Light is not necessary until the seeds have sprouted. At this point, they must have access to bright light. The seeds should sprout within a couple of weeks.

small fruiting lemon tree in large container

(Image credit: Ivan Semenovych / Shutterstock)

Grow the Lemon Seedling into a Tree

Once the seedlings have produced their third set of leaves, it’s time to transplant them to larger containers. They can then be moved outside in USDA zones 9-11. Alternatively, you can grow them indoors. Be sure to use a well-draining soil for transplanting in containers. When you are learning how to grow a lemon seed, one of the key points to remember is this: citrus do not like wet feet or roots. 

In either case, the tree will need at least eight hours of full sun per day. Inside, a south-facing sunny window will work – or you can use supplemental lighting. Keep the soil moist, but never sodden. Allow the top soil to dry out a bit between waterings. Use a citrus-specific fertilizer during the growing season, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not fertilize in the winter.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Grow a Lemon Tree From Seed?

Lemon seeds take a couple of weeks to sprout. However, they will need at least 10-15 years of growth before they are mature enough to produce fruit. So if you don’t see fruit for a few years, don’t panic – this is perfectly normal. With time, you will see fruits appear.

Can You Plant Lemon Seeds Straight From the Lemon?

No, you will need to soak the seeds in water for a day or two. This is needed to remove the outer seed coat and any clinging pulp. A big part of knowing how to grow a lemon seed is timing. After you have soaked your seeds, you need to plant them right away. Don’t allow them to dry out as that can reduce their viability. 

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.