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The Meyer Lemon Tree: The Lowdown on This Delicious Fruit

If you’ve never heard of the wonderful Meyer lemon tree, you’re going to be delighted to discover this fast-growing tree with delicious fruit. A favorite at farmer’s markets, this tree is popular with home gardeners because the tree will produce fruit in as few as two years.

Meyer Lemon Tree
ripe meyer lemons hanging from a tree with bright green leaves. Shallow depth of field with soft, warm light.

The fruit from this tree is a hybrid of mandarin orange and lemon. Moreover, the evergreen foliage is attractive and the fragrant flowering has made this tree a gardener’s favorite for decades.

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the wonderful Meyer lemon tree.

History of the Meyer Lemon Tree

In 1975, Meyer lemon trees were released as a hybrid to the University of California. Prior to that, the only available trees were imported from China, which introduced the trees in 1908. In the beginning, the trees had a rough start because although they were hugely popular in the United States, the trees were susceptible to disease.

Introduction of an Improved Meyer Lemon Tree in 1975

Because of their disease susceptibility, the trees were initially banned because of the risk of spreading a deadly virus to nearby fruit trees that were healthy. In fact, a fast-spreading virus in the Meyer lemon trees in the 1960s threatened the entire citrus crop in California.

However, the Improved Meyer Lemon dwarf tree that the University of California released in 1975 has earned its place as a safe favorite. This variety is more insect-resistant and disease-resistant.

Meyer Lemon Tree Characteristics

The great thing about Meyer lemon trees is that you can grow them in large containers so that they can overwinter indoors. With proper care, these trees will live up to 50 years.

Appearance

Meyer Lemon Tree Flower
Delicate white with a purple-pink shade flower of citrus plant Meyer lemon.

Meyer lemon trees have fragrant white blossoms that are purple near the base, glossy green leaves, and produce yellow-orange fruit.

When fully ripened, the skins of Meyer lemons will be the color of an egg yolk, which is yellow with a tinge of faint orange. The skins are incredibly fragrant and a popular recipe ingredient.

Height

A standard Meyer lemon tree grows between 6-10 feet tall. The dwarf variety of this tree will grow to a height of between 5-7 feet tall. However, if you grow your tee in a pot, it will grow according to the pot’s size and be smaller than it would be if planted in the ground.

Planting Zones

Meyer lemon trees grow beautifully in the deep southern half and on the southern coastal margins of the United States. Specifically, these trees flourish in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11.

In regards to the optimal temperature for growing Meyer lemons, these trees thrive between temperatures of 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the temperature drops to less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to bring the tree indoors until the weather is warmer.

Size and Spacing

Meyer Lemons on a Tree

To plant Meyer lemon trees in a pot, select a sturdy container. Your container should have drainage holes and it should be one to two sizes larger than the container that your Meyer lemon tree arrived in.

Citrus trees need about nine feet of space between them when you’re growing more than one.

Pollination

Bee Polinating A Meyer Lemon Tree
Bee Polinating A Meyer Lemon Tree

One of the things gardeners like most about Meyer lemon trees is that this is a citrus tree that is self-fertile. This means that you only need one tree to produce fruit. Although planting several trees will naturally give you a larger harvest, you don’t have to have lots of trees to enjoy the fruit.

When Will Meyer Lemon Trees Bear Fruit?

Depending on the method in which they’re grown, Meyer lemon trees begin to bear fruit at different times. If a tree is grown from grafted rootstock, the tree may start bearing fruit as early as two years after planting.

Trees grown from seed are generally less healthy, and they begin bearing fruit when they’re between three and seven years old.

Will They Produce Fruit Indoors?

Whether you grow your Meyer lemon tree indoors or outdoors, they will produce fruit once or twice a year. You’ll enjoy your best harvest in the fall and winter.

Helping Your Tree Pollinate

An outdoor tree will pollinate itself. However, if you have an indoor tree or a tree you bring inside for the winter, you may need to assist with pollination.

To do this, use a cotton swab or paintbrush and ease it into the Meyer lemon blossom’s center. Swirl it around to collect the pollen. Repeat this process with every blossom on your tree.

Meyer Lemon Tree Care

Generally, Meyer lemon trees are easy to care for.

Soil Requirements

For optimal results, Meyer lemon trees need soil with good drainage. They perform beautifully in sandy loam and other loamy soils.

These trees need a soil pH level of 5.5 to 6.5. If needed, you can adjust your soil pH level as directed below.

  • Add lime to lower overly acidic soil.
  • Add sulfur to increase your soil’s acidity.

Sunlight

A Meyer lemon tree grows and produces best when exposed to full sunlight. The trees require 8-12 hours every day of direct sunlight. Sunlight from the southwest is best, whether you’re growing your tree outdoors or indoors.

Alternatively, if you can’t provide your tree with the sunlight it needs, grow lights are an alternative.

Watering

To grow citrus trees, you need to provide them with soil that is moist but not overly wet, particularly if you are growing your trees in pots. To make sure they have the amount of water they need, water infrequently and deeply.

When the upper two inches of the soil is dry, water deeply. To test this, press your finger down into the soil to your second knuckle. If the soil feels dry, you should water your tree.

Meyer Lemon Tree Leaves and Humidity

Above all, citrus leaves love humidity. Since this is the case, mist your tree daily if you’re growing it indoors. Another idea is to place rocks and water in the saucer underneath your garden pot. This will allow humidity to rise upward.

Pruning

Pruning A Citrus Tree
Gardener pruning a citrus tree in the garden.

Periodically pruning your Meyer lemon tree will keep it at its most healthy. It will also help it maintain its shape and structure, as well as ensure that the tree’s branches can support the fruit it produces.

To prune your tree, cut back the long leads (the branches that don’t produce fruit) as they grow. This will allow the side branches to spread into the newly empty space so that they can grow strong enough to bear the weight of their fruit.

Pruning will also stimulate the growth of larger Meyer lemons. To get these results, prune your tree before the fruit starts to develop by leaving only one bud in a cluster, cutting off all the others.

If you want to learn more about diseases and pests that can affect lemon trees, check out our posts on lemon tree pests and lemon tree diseases.

Common Uses For The Fruit

The many uses of lemons are legendary, and the Meyer lemon is no different.

What Does This Fruit Taste Like?

The Meyer lemon is a lemon, so the fruit’s taste will be familiar to anyone who has ever been brave enough to pucker up with a lemon slice. Meyer lemons have a bit of a sweeter taste than the lemons you buy at the grocery store, so they’re not quite as tart.

Cooking

Lemon meringue pie
Lemon meringue pie.

There are countless ways to use lemons in cooking. Meyer lemons are a chef’s favorite, and they love the zest from this delicious fruit because it’s so fragrant.

Most commonly, lemon is used to flavor both hot and cold beverages, but lemons also add flavor and variety to a number of different dishes. Lemon desserts are particularly popular, but the sky’s the limit when you’re cooking with lemon.

Eating Raw

Can you eat a lemon raw? Of course! Who among us hasn’t puckered up with a good lemon slice at least once? Lemons are tart and sharp when you’re consuming them by themselves.

However, squeezing a lemon slice into a glass of water or a cup of tea is a wonderful way to enhance the flavor of your beverage.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

There are several ways to preserve Meyer lemons. Most commonly, you can freeze the juice and the zest.

To freeze lemon juice, simply juice your lemons and pour the juice into ice cube trays. When the juice is frozen, pop the cubes into a large freezer bag. Then, when you want to make lemonade or need some lemon juice for a recipe, pull as many cubes as you need from the freezer.

To freeze the zest, zest your Meyer lemons whole. Then, wrap the zest in foil and put it in the freezer.

You can also preserve lemons by canning the juice or lemon slices. Besides being delicious and nutritious, the canned lemon slices look beautiful on your countertop. Martha Stewart has an easy recipe for preserving Meyer lemons on her website.

If you want to dry your lemons, you can do that, too. Use a dehydrator or your oven to dry your lemon slices.

Recipes for Meyer Lemons

Meyer lemons are so delicious that Martha Stewart has an entire category for recipes using this delicious fruit on her website. Martha’s recipes run the gamut from preserved Meyer lemons to Meyer Lemon Shortbread Wreath Cookies.

Here are some of our favorites:

We also found the following recipes for Meyer lemons online.

Of course, any lemon is delicious squeezed over fish or chicken.

Health Benefits of The Meyer Lemon

While lemons have a tart and sometimes bitter taste, their health benefits far outweigh the downside of puckered lips. Lemons are loaded with Vitamin C and beneficial antioxidants. When you add lemons or lemon juice to your daily diet, it can aid in weight loss, lower your blood sugar, and even improve your heart health.

Where To Buy Meyer Lemon Fruit Trees?

You can find Meyer lemon trees at most garden centers. Alternatively, you can buy them at several online outlets, including Amazon, which has both trees and seeds for sale.

Where To Buy The Fruit

Meyer lemons aren’t grown commercially, so if you want to enjoy these tart-sweet lemons, you will need to grow your own.

Conclusion

The Meyer lemon tree is a rare and unique tree in the citrus world. This fast-growing tree will reward both new and seasoned gardeners alike with beautiful, fragrant blossoms and delicious fruit. With care, you and your family will enjoy your Meyer lemon tree for decades.

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