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The Ponderosa Lemon Tree

The Ponderosa lemon tree is a tropical citrus hybrid that is famous for its beautiful purple flowers. But it is even better known for producing enormous lemon-citron hybrid fruit, which can grow up to five pounds. 

Ponderosa Lemon Tree
Large Indian wild orange fruit known us Ponderosa Lemons.

This tree requires a lot of care and special conditions. But with the right care, it will thrive and become a prolific fruiting tree. The Ponderosa will produce fruit all year long. 

The tree usually only thrives in very warm, sunny climates like California and Florida. However, if you provide plenty of light and warmth, you can even grow a Ponderosa in an indoor pot. 

History of the Ponderosa Lemon 

Ponderosa Lemon Flower
Flower of the Ponderosa Lemon Tree

The first Ponderosa lemon tree was discovered in a private grower’s garden, having spontaneously cross-bred through a lemon and a citron tree. The first seedling sprouted in the 1880s. The tree was introduced to commercial growers in 1900 and has enjoyed a dedicated niche community ever since. 

Tree / Fruit Characteristics

Ponderosa lemon trees are considered dwarf trees. They do not grow extremely tall and can even be grown in pots. They have the distinct characteristic of producing both flowers and fruit simultaneously. These flowers are purplish-white and very fragrant, which makes the tree extremely striking. Both flowers and fruit grow throughout the year. 

The Ponderosa lemon is not technically a lemon, but rather a hybrid of a lemon and a citron. It is large and light yellow or green. Most striking is its thick, bumpy outer skin.

Planting Zones

The Ponderosa lemon tree is tropical, growing well in zones nine through eleven. The tree is highly vulnerable to frost, moisture, and cold weather, which means it rarely thrives in northern climates without lots of support. 

Many people in tropical regions grow Ponderosas in pots either inside or on porches. They flourish in these conditions provided that they have plenty of sun and air. 

Size and Spacing

Ponderosa lemon trees are fairly small. They do not need a huge amount of space to grow. However, they should be planted at least 20 feet away from other trees. This is because they need a significant amount of air circulation, which other plants can block. 

Pollination

Bee Pollinating A Lemon Tree
Bee pollinating a lemon tree.

Ponderosa lemon trees are self-pollinating, which means that you only need a single tree to get a good harvest. Planting a second Ponderosa lemon tree nearby will encourage cross-pollination and you are likely to get a larger fruit yield; however, make sure to plant it at least 20 feet away, as specified above. 

Tree Care

Although Ponderosa lemon trees do well in almost any type of soil, they have more complex needs in terms of light, heat, water, and air circulation. Unless you live in a very warm climate, you will likely need to move the tree inside once the outside temperature drops below the mid-50s. Make sure to fertilize the soil two to three times a year.

Because citrus trees need oxygen to reach their roots, they should be planted in soil with good drainage. This lets them avoid excess moisture and aerate the root systems. 

Sunlight

Ponderosa lemon trees need partial to full sunlight, and more light if they are growing indoors. For best results, this variety should get eight hours of sunlight every day; however, a minimum of five hours is acceptable. 

Watering

Like many other citrus trees, Ponderosa lemon trees should not be overwatered. Water them when the soil is dry, but keep it to just enough to dampen the roots. 

However, the tree does need a humid environment, which is why it flourishes in tropical regions. If you are growing a Ponderosa lemon tree in an indoor pot, keep a dish of water under it to let it evaporate.

Pruning 

Pruning a lemon tree
Gardener pruning a citrus tree in the garden, bottom view.

Most of the hands-on care for the Ponderosa comes in the form of pruning. The bulk of pruning and training should take place in the early spring before you notice buds appearing. 

Pruning is vital for this variety because of its high need for air circulation. Removing excess growth improves circulation to the remaining branches and improves the tree’s health. It also ensures a larger crop of fruit. 

Make sure you use a clean pruning implement. Cut off crossing branches and the topmost part of the canopy as well as offshoots on the lower trunk and any dead branches. Continue to remove dead limbs throughout the year. 

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

Common Uses For The Fruit

While Ponderosa lemons are often treated as ornamental rather than fruit producers, the extra-large lemons (technically citrons) are completely edible. They may be extremely large, up to the size of a grapefruit and even weighing as much as five pounds. 

What Do Ponderosa Lemons Taste Like?

Ponderosa lemons are extremely acidic, which means that they might not be good to eat raw. Cooking can sweeten them by stimulating the production of the fruit’s sugars. The flavor is highly unique, standing out from the usual grocery store varieties. 

Cooking

Large Ponderosa Lemon
Giant ponderosa lemon also called five pound lemon.

If they are cooked, lemons are most often found in baking recipes. However, lemon juice and zest can also be used in glazes and sauces, many of which are paired with meat or pasta dishes.  

These lemons are ideal for baking, however, mainly because a single fruit produces such a large amount of juice and zest. 

Eating Raw

Although Ponderosa lemons are too sour to eat on their own (like most other lemon varieties), they are ideal for juicing due to their large size. A single Ponderosa lemon can be as large as a softball or even larger, so you will not need many for however you plan to use them. 

The raw juice is best paired with other ingredients, like being incorporated into yogurt, a smoothie, salad dressing, or a beverage.

Canning / Freezing / Drying 

Ponderosa lemons do not lend themselves well to drying, but there are many ways to preserve them. They can be canned or frozen, although freezing may change the texture. For best results, slice them and freeze them in a sealed plastic bag.

Lemons can also be made into preserves, jams, or other spreads such as lemon curd. 

Recipes

To use Ponderosa lemons, try incorporating them into a baking recipe, such as this eggless lemon plum cake. Pairing with another sweeter fruit is a great way to temper the Ponderosa’s high acidity. 

Health Benefits of Ponderosa Lemons

Ponderosa lemons are full of vitamins, including calcium, iron, fiber, and antioxidants. Many of these vitamins have been linked to reducing the effects of inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s, diabetes, and heart disease. They are also known to improve skin health by boosting collagen production. 

Where To Buy Ponderosa Lemon Trees?

You may be able to find Ponderosa lemon tree seeds or rootstock in a local nursery. However, seeds are also available on Amazon

Where To Buy Ponderosa Lemons

You are unlikely to find Ponderosa lemons in a grocery store. They are not commercially grown and most home growers use them as ornamental rather than fruiting trees. If you want to try them, your best bet is to find someone who grows them personally and is willing to share some fruit. 

FAQs

When Should I Bring My Potted Ponderosa Lemon Tree Into The House? 

If you live in a cooler region, you will need to make plans to bring your Ponderosa inside during the winter. The right time to do this is when temperatures begin dropping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the night. 

Once you transfer it inside, choose a spot with consistent access to sunlight. Keep it away from cold drafts. When you return the tree to the outside in spring, start it out in the shade. Then, after it has time to acclimate for several days, you can return it to full sun.  

What Kind of Fertilizer Does This Tree Need? 

The Ponderosa lemon tree is known for tolerating most types of soil as long as it drains well. However, ensuring that the soil is rich in nutrients will keep your tree healthy and productive. Add fertilizer twice a month, using a mixture intended specifically for citrus trees. 

Is The Ponderosa Vulnerable to Insects?

In general, the Ponderosa lemon tree is only bothered by common pests like aphids and scale insects. Usually, you can remove them just by using a regular garden hose. However, if this doesn’t prove effective, you may want to use a commercial insecticide. 

Conclusion

The Ponderosa lemon tree has become famous for its striking appearance, heavenly scent, and most of all, its one-of-a-kind fruit. It requires time and attention. If you are willing to be a dedicated caretaker, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor — five-pound fruit, to be exact! 

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