The lemon tree (Citrus limon) is an evergreen that’s sensitive to extended periods of cold and frost. Hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 9 through 12, this member of the Rutaceae family can grow anywhere between 4 and 25 feet tall. Lemon trees are commonly grown from grafted rootstock, which produces fruit in about 5 years. Depending on the cultivar, freshness of the seed and growing conditions, fruit production from seed-grown lemon trees can take from five to 15 years. Lemons from the grocery store can inexpensively provide seeds to grow lemon trees.
Fill a seed-raising tray with moist, seed-raising mix up to three-quarter inches from the top. Tamp down the soil so it’s firm in the tray.
Cut a lemon in half with a knife and remove the seeds. Rinse the seeds in a bowl of water to get rid of any pulp and sugar, because sugar left on the seed can trigger fungi, which can kill the seedlings.
Fill a bowl with water and soak the seeds in it for eight hours. Soaking the seeds prior to sowing them may help speed up germination.
Spread the lemon seeds evenly over the soil surface while they’re still moist. Sprinkle a half-inch layer of seed-raising mix over the seeds and lightly tamp the soil. Avoid letting the seeds dry; the longer the seeds dry, the smaller the chance of germination.
Mist the soil surface with water and keep the soil moist throughout the germination period. Stretch plastic wrap over the tray to help promote soil moisture retention.
Place the tray in a warm area, at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Expect the lemon seeds to germinate in three to six weeks. Remove the plastic wrap after germination and place the tray near a sunny window, in indirect sunlight.
Fill 6-inch pots with moist, well-draining potting soil. Transplant one lemon seedling in the center of each pot at the same depth that it was planted in the seed-raising tray.
Place the pots in an area of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit where they will get at least four hours of direct sunlight daily, such as a sunny windowsill or porch.
Cultivate the soil in a sunny area of the garden. Remove rocks and weeds and pulverize clumps. Transplant the seedlings in the garden when they’re large enough to handle, after the last frost date. Plant them at the same depth that they were planted in the pots.
Trickle water onto the soil around the plants so it’s slowly absorbed. Use a watering can or garden hose to deeply water the lemon plants so the moisture reaches the roots. Keep the soil consistently moist while the plants grow and establish. Water about twice a week and adjust your watering frequency after rainfall.
Fertilize the lemon plants with a citrus plant food or use a fertilizer with a nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium ratio of at least 2-1-1.
Things You Will Need
- Seed-raising tray
- Seed-raising mix
- Spray bottle
- Plastic wrap
- 6-inch pots
- Potting soil
- Watering can or garden hose
- Citrus plant food
- Fruit from seed-grown lemon trees may not always be true to the fruit the seed came from.
- If you’re not starting the seeds immediately after cleaning them, air-dry them on a paper towel and store them in resealable plastic bags in the refrigerator at 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.