One excellent citrus tree for indoor or pot cultivation is the Meyer lemon, Citrus X meyeri, syn C. limon “Meyer.” This lemon, a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, has a thin, yellow edible rind, is very juicy and is not tart.
A native of China, this lemon was discovered by Frank N. Meyer, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the early 1900s. He collected new plant species for the US, and the Meyer lemon — named after him —was brought to the U.S. by Meyer.
Meyer lemons were cultivated for many years in the usual citrus growing regions — Texas, California and Florida, but it was not distributed commercially due to its juiciness and delicate skin. However, a virus almost destroyed the Meyer lemon in the 1960s. One stock, the “Improved Meyer Lemon” was developed after the virus, and it is still grown today.
Gardening and cooking maven, Martha Stewart, popularized the Meyer lemon for use in the kitchen and for growing at home. Today, there are several citrus growers throughout the U.S. that sell Meyer lemon trees and other citrus. Some of these growers are Four Winds Growers, Jene’s Tropicals and Logee’s Greenhouses.
Meyer lemon is known for producing juicy, slightly sweet fruit year round, especially during the winter months. It is also a little hardier that some other lemon species, to zone nine.
Meyer lemons, like all potted citrus plants, need good drainage and frequent repotting — every three to five years — to accommodate root ball growth. The soil should be well draining neutral soil with plenty of perlite or coarse sand to aid in drainage. Citrus trees should not sit in water, but the soil right at the root line can dry between watering.
A slow-release fertilizer applied regularly will also make Meyer lemon trees happy.
The lemon tree needs eight to 12 hours of full sun daily and regular watering. When nights are consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, citrus trees can be moved outside. High humidity is also a bonus, so this tree can live outside during the summer months. The ideal outdoor temperatures are between 55 and 85 degrees.
In the fall and winter, citrus trees should be moved indoors, and they like about 50 degrees at night.
Meyer lemons are dwarfs trees, and when planted in the ground, they will reach 15 feet at maturity. However, a pot will inhibit root growth on the tree, inhibiting overall size. From seed a citrus tree will need five years to fruit. Plants will take about a year to produce fruit.
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