A Guide on Cultivating a Lemon Tree from Seed in Your Own Garden


Summer presents the perfect opportunity to savor the refreshing citrus taste of lemons. Imagine having your very own lemon tree, ready for picking whenever you desire. Luckily, lemon trees are among the simplest citrus fruits to cultivate in your own yard. With a little planning and patience, you can be harvesting your own lemons within a few months.

Are you ready to start your lemon tree journey? Begin by obtaining an organic lemon seed, as non-organic lemons often have non-germinating seeds that won’t sprout. You’ll also need a seedling pot, planting pot, and fertile soil. Ensure you have an indoor space with ample sunlight and some plastic handy. Now, let’s dive into the planting process!

1. Preparing Potting Soil in a Separate Container

Fill a large bucket with soil and add water gradually until it becomes moist. Mix the soil thoroughly using your hand or a trowel, making sure not to oversaturate it, as excessively wet soil can cause the seeds to rot. Opt for well-draining soil to facilitate seed growth. Although lemon trees require water, they don’t thrive when constantly sitting in it.

If possible, use pasteurized soil mix to eliminate bacteria that could harm the seeds. Choose a soil blend comprising vermiculite, perlite, peat, and organic fertilizer. This will provide proper drainage and essential nutrients for your seedlings.

2. Select a Pot with Drainage Holes

Find a pot suitable for your lemon tree. Ideally, it should be approximately four inches wide and six inches deep, allowing sufficient space for one lemon plant. Alternatively, you can plant several seeds in a larger pot. Ensure the pots you choose have drainage holes. If you acquire a pot without drainage holes, drill some holes yourself to guarantee successful growth when cultivating a lemon tree in a pot.

3. Prepare Your Seeds

Collect seeds from an organic lemon, as seeds from non-organic lemons may not sprout. Avoid using excessively small seeds, as they are unlikely to germinate. Instead, opt for plump-looking seeds with a better chance of sprouting.

Plant five to ten lemon seeds at a time to account for potential non-sprouting seeds. Keep in mind that lemon trees grown from seeds may differ in quality or fruit production compared to the parent tree.

Before planting, wash the seeds to remove the slimy coating. Alternatively, suck on the seeds until the slimy covering disappears. These gel-like substances contain sugars that can cause the seeds to rot, so removing them is crucial before growing a lemon tree from seed.

Soak the lemon seeds in warm water overnight to facilitate faster sprouting.

4. Plant the Seeds

The next step in growing a lemon tree is planting the seeds. Fill your pot with soil, leaving about an inch of space from the rim. Create a 1/2-inch deep hole using your finger or a pencil. Carefully place the lemon tree seeds into the hole, ensuring the pointed tip faces downward into the soil while the rounded part faces upward. The roots will grow from the pointed part.

Cover the pot with breathable plastic to trap moisture and warmth. Place a plastic wrap over the pot and secure it with a rubber band. Create small holes in the plastic wrap using a toothpick or fork to allow the plant to breathe.

5. Place the Pot in a Warm Location

It’s essential to position the pot in a warm location. When growing a lemon tree indoors, find a warm spot near a window. However, direct sunlight is not necessary at this stage, as it may harm the young and delicate seedlings.

After about a week or two, you’ll witness sprouts emerging. Lemon plants thrive in temperatures between 68°F and 82.4°F.

6. Water the Soil When It’s Dry

The plastic cover will retain moisture in the pot, resulting in condensation that dampens the soil. However, if you reside in a particularly dry environment, this may not occur. In such cases, remember to water the plant regularly. Remove the plastic wrap when you notice the soil starting to dry, water the plant, and then cover the pot again.

Once the sprouts appear, remove the plastic cover and transfer the pot to a warm and sunny location. Keep the soil consistently moist but avoid excessive saturation.

7. Caring for the Seedlings

Allow the soil to partially dry before watering again once the seedlings develop leaves. However, ensure the soil remains moist without completely drying out.

When growing a lemon tree from seed, keep in mind that the plants require approximately eight hours of sunlight to thrive, while the seedlings need around 14 hours. Consider using a grow light to supplement sunlight and ensure sufficient illumination. These lights can be purchased from nurseries and local garden centers.

8. Transplanting Your Lemon Tree

Once the seedling tails reach around 3.15 inches, it’s time to transplant them. If you prefer a faster approach, you can transplant them when the tails are approximately 1/2 inch long. Create a shallow hole in damp, well-drained soil and gently place the potted lemon tree seedling into the hole. Pat the soil gently around the seedling.

Keep in mind that your seedlings will eventually outgrow their pots. When they reach about a year old, transfer them to a pot around 6 inches wide. Eventually, you may need to move them to a wider pot, approximately 8 inches wide and 16 inches deep. Alternatively, you can choose to transplant the seedlings directly into the soil.

A useful guideline for transplanting lemon trees grown from seed is to check the bottom of the pot. If you see roots protruding from the drainage holes, it’s a sign that the plant needs a larger pot.