How to Grow a Lemon Tree from a Seed
We wanted to share with you how to grow a lemon tree from a seed so you can have your own lemon plant.
Well firstly, because it’s simpler than you think (our guide makes it even easier too)!
Secondly, the lemon tree’s distinct yellow fruits and crisp dark green leaves make it a wonderful addition to any garden space.
A fully grown lemon tree is also the perfect addition to any food forest garden and smaller plants can provide wonderful fruits, adding great colour to whatever outdoor or indoor space you have.
Table of Contents
- Why Should You Grow Lemons?
- How are Lemons Usually Grown?
- Even More Reasons to Grow Lemon From a Seed
- How to Grow a Lemon Tree from a Seed
- Other Lemon Tree Guides and Resources
- Final Comments on How to Grow a Lemon Tree from a Seed
- How to Grow a Lemon Tree from a Seed Infographic
Why Should You Grow Lemons?
Lemons are wonderful.
Now that’s out of the way, we can move on, right? No.
Because seriously, they truly are wonderful.
There are many reasons why we love lemons. And each reason is another reason why it’s a good idea to grow lemons.
Lemons have so many uses. We use them in our foods, drinks, cakes, tarts and drinks.
It’s well established that lemons provide a great source of vitamins and nutrients on top of lots of other health benefits.
Just look at those nutritional stats!
What’s more, lemons are great to use in natural and organic homemade cleaning products and can even act as a natural rust remover.
Heck, they even have full books dedicated to all their weird and wonderful applications.
It’s no wonder they are one of the most popular citrus fruits in the world.
We should all grow lemons!
How are Lemons Usually Grown?
Global lemon (and lime) production is expected to reach just over of 8 million metric tons this year.
It’s a crazy amount but it’s actually lower than previous years.
So how do farmers do it? How do they produce circa 8 million tons of lemons each year?
How do Farmers Successfully Produce So Many Lemons Each Year?
Farmers are able to grow so many lemons each year because they don’t grow them from seed.
Instead, lemon cuttings from healthy plants are taken and grafted onto the healthy rootstock of another plant.
This ensures that the majority of commercially grown lemon plants exhibit beneficial characteristics such as being:
- A particular size
- A specific flavour
- Disease resistant
- Drought / cold resistant
It’s a tried a tested method of growing productive lemon trees.
Is It Possible to Grow Lemon From a Seed?
What about the rest of us though?
Admittedly, grafting onto root stock sounds intimidating. So what can we do?
Well, what about using the lemon seed?
Even that isn’t straight forward but bear with me.
The next time you are at your local garden centre ask if they have any lemon seeds to buy. See what they say.
In fact, have a look look at the majority of online seed shops. I doubt you will find many places selling lemon seeds.
Lemon seeds are oddly hard to come by through traditional channels. Why is this?
Is it because lemon trees won’t grow from lemon seeds?
No, not at all.
Lemons can be grown from lemon seeds.
It’s just a much slower process. It can take some seeds 15 years to produce fruits. Some may never produce fruit.
Does this mean you should give up and stop right now?
No! And let me tell you why (It’s a compelling answer).
Even More Reasons to Grow Lemon From a Seed
Away from their health benefits and culinary uses, growing a lemon from a seed is a great project.
It’s a hugely rewarding process to see a seed harvested from a shop-bought lemon turn into a lemon-producing plant. Yes, it takes time.
But along the way you will learn so much. About lemons and yourself.
Anyone can do it. It’s a great project to challenge yourself, to do with your children or to just try something new.
Whether you are a seasoned pro, new to permaculture (if you are, check out this brief history of permaculture) or gardening in general, give it a go!
I promise you that even if you have a few dud seeds and nothing grows, if you end up growing a small lemon plant that never fruits, or a tall one which teases you with flowers each year it will be worth it.
How to Grow a Lemon Tree from a Seed
There’s lot to consider when growing a lemon tree from seed.
For example, what do you need?
Where do I get lemon seeds from if not a local nursery?
Can I use a seed from a shop-bought lemon?
The following guide will answer all of these questions and more.
Just remember, like all plants, if you provide the right growing conditions (light, food, water, warmth) it will grow. Lemon trees are no different.
Without further ado, here are the steps that will show you how to grow a lemon tree from a seed.
1. Get the Right Equipment
To be successful at growing a lemon tree from seed you need the right equipment. Luckily, you can grown a lemon from seed with very minimal equipment.
To complete all steps in this guide make sure you have the following:
- Kitchen towel – Any standard brand of kitchen towel will work. I’ve even used toilet paper successfully before.
- A plastic container or food bag – An old tupperwear box or zip-lock bag works well. Make sure it can be closed.
- A lemon seed or seeds – We cover the best type of seed to choose in the next step!
- A small plant pot with drainage holes – It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. An old unbroken pot from your back garden will do! If you’re struggling aim for something like this.
- Potting compost or soil – Look to choose an organic citrus blend compost. This will be the right mixture and will have good drainage.
- Fertiliser – Begin with a natural or homemade nitrogen based fertiliser although we will not use this initially.
- Filtered water – If you don’t have access to filtered water, that’s okay. You can use tap water. Just let it stand for 24 hours before using it.
To get started you only need the kitchen towel, the plastic container, the lemon seeds and some filtered water.
Therefore, don’t worry if you don’t have the pot, compost or fertiliser yet. You will need them roughly 7-14 days after you complete step 4.
2. Choose the Best Lemon Seed
At this early stage this is the most important choice you have to make.
Believe it or not, not all seeds are created equal.
For example, a seed found in a regular shop-bought lemon is less likely to germinate.
And with lemon seeds harder to obtain compared to other fruit and vegetable seeds it leaves us in a conundrum.
However, this is where the word organic saves us.
Organic lemons purchased from an orchard, a farm or even a shop are the best seeds to start with.
Make sure, as best you can, that it’s 100% organic.
This will increase your chances of growing a lemon successfully.
If you’re lucky you can purchase organic lemon seeds from your local garden centre or nursery. I’ve not been able to source any this way myself yet.
However, I find that there is something extra special from doing it from a shop bought lemon.
3. Give Your Lemon Seed the Best Chance
Preparing your lemon seed is one of the most important steps to growing a lemon tree.
It really helps give your lemon seed the best chance.
Taking 5 minutes to prepare the lemon seed will greatly improve your chances of growth and will cut down the time it takes for a seedling to appear.
This is because each lemon seed found inside a lemon fruit has a protective white-coloured shell.
The actual brown seed can be found underneath this shell.
To remove the outer shell you need to:
- Carefully remove your seeds from the lemon.
- Wash the seeds so they are free from any lemon flesh or gel.
- Gently peel off the outer shell using your nails, a sharp knife or nail clippers.
The three stages should look like this:
NOTE: Be extremely careful not to damage the seed in the final step.
Once you have removed the outer shell place the shell pieces into your food waste bin or composter while retaining the brown lemon seed.
NOTE: It’s important that the lemon seeds don’t dry out. So once you have completed this step move onto step 4 as soon as possible.
4. Germinate the Lemon Seed
It’s now time to complete the first ‘plant’ of the lemon seed.
However, this first plant does not involve the plant pot or soil.
- Place your lemon seed onto a sheet of kitchen towel.
- Gently place another sheet of kitchen towel on top.
- Then carefully wet the kitchen towel-covered lemon seed.
If you have a spray bottle, spritz the kitchen towel-covered lemon seeds with a light misting.
If not, it may be worth getting one. Lemon trees like to have their leaves misted regularly. You can get them super cheap!
Alternatively, for now, you can dip your fingers in the water and carefully drip the water from your fingers onto the kitchen towel.
Do this until the kitchen towel is moist.
Now place the kitchen towel that contains the lemon seed into the plastic container or food waste bag and close it.
Finally, place the closed container or bag into a dark warm cupboard or empty drawer. Make sure that it doesn’t get too cold. Now wait…
5. Monitor the Lemon Seed
You now need to wait for nature to do it’s thing!
But that doesn’t mean doing nothing.
You want to check on the lemon seeds every 2-3 days. Make sure they do not dry out. If they start looking dry simply add a few drops of water, like before, to remoisten them.
Also, now is the time to order the rest of your equipment if you don’t have it already. Remember you may still need a plant pot, citrus compost and fertiliser.
On average the germination period can last up to two weeks. However, I’ve often seen roots and seedlings develop much quicker than this.
You want to wait until any roots are just over an inch in length. Don’t be alarmed if you start to get green shoots too!
It’s important to be patient here. You may be tempted to plant the seed as soon as you see a root. However, for best results wait until the root is more establish.
When you see that the roots are at the right length it’s time to prepare your soil and plant the seeds.
6. Prepare the Soil
Luckily, it takes no time at all to prepare the soil.
All you need to do is to add your chosen potting mix to your plant pot. Fill it to about 1 inch under the top of the pot.
You then want to water the compost in so that it is moist for planting.
Finally, use your index finger and press down in the centre of the pot to create a small well about an inch deep.
Don’t add any fertiliser yet. It’s likely that if you’ve chosen a citrus mix it will already have some within.
This will be plenty to get the seedling started in the soil.
7. Plant Your Lemon Seed
Now it’s time to plant your lemon seed.
Carefully remove your kitchen towel out of the container or sealed food bag you were storing it in.
Very gently peel away the top layer of kitchen towel to reveal the seed, roots and possibly shoots too.
With delicate fingers or tweezers pick up the seed and place it, root first, into the well you previously created.
NOTE: Make sure the roots are facing downwards otherwise you are making it more difficult for the seedling to survive and thrive.
With the seed in the well cover it up with soil.
Gently press the soil around any green shoots so it sits securely in the pot.
8. Position Your Lemon Plant
With your lemon seed now planted, it’s time to find a good place to keep it so it can grow and develop.
Remember, lemon plants love to receive a lot of sunlight and to be relatively warm.
Therefore, over the next few weeks you will want to transition the lemon plant to a location that is warm and sunny.
9. Fertilise Your Lemon Plant
Lemon plants love to be fed.
They are hungry plants that need good fertiliser to sustain healthy growth and eventually fruit development.
Therefore, it’s important to feed your lemon plant correctly.
When a lemon tree is properly established it needs a regular feeding schedule with different feeds in summer and winter.
However, at this early stage there will still be lots of nutrients in the compost.
Based on our previous experience, we recommend adding a small amount of a nitrogen-based fertiliser when the seedling reach 5-10cm in height.
Do this again when it reaches 20cm.
You will then need to start looking into a more in depth feeding plan.
But for now…
10. You’ve Got a Lemon Plant – Now What?
First of all, congratulations!
Getting to this stage is always a good achievement.
Now you need to care for your lemon plant until it grows and matures into a lemon tree.
There are lots of things to think about and we’ve only touched on a few of them in this guide.
But don’t worry. We’ve got your back.
We will have two brand new lemon tree guides coming out in the next few weeks. So keep your eyes peeled.
Other Lemon Tree Guides and Resources
In the meantime, we’ve collated the following resources on growing lemons that are here to help you!
- Avid reader? Check out this essential guide on how to grow citrus trees including lemons.
- Visual learner? There are some great YouTube videos that use similar methods to the one listed here. For example check out this video step-by-step guide.
- Web browser? The Deep Green Permaculture website has some excellent posts on lemon trees and citrus fruits.
- Prefer sound only? – There’s a good episode on the Down The Garden Path podcast dedicated to discussing how to grow lemons.
Final Comments on How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed
Growing any plant from seed is special. Lemon trees are even more so.
Remember, patience is key. Take your time. And most importantly, have fun!
That’s what’s important with projects like this. To have fun, to learn.
With that in mind, if you have found the above guide useful and helpful please share it with your friends, family and social networks.
There are some handy share buttons to the left of the screen and at the bottom of the post to make this easier for you.
One share really goes a long way!
Please also comment below! Especially if you’ve given the steps a try. We would love to see how you get on with it and will reply to all comments.
If you have a lemon tree or plant but it’s experiencing any issues please also comment.
Remember, we will have new guides on lemon care and pests coming out in the coming weeks.
Finally, please enjoy (and share) the awesome How to Grow a Lemon from a Seed Infographic we created to go along with this post below.