How to Grow Indoor Meyer Lemon Trees
Indoor lemon trees—especially the Meyer variety—are easy to grow and very satisfying. They are perfectly sized to grow in a container inside during the colder months, then love to be outside in the warmer months on a patio or deck.
The juicy, full-sized lemons are delicious in drinks and all of your favorite recipes. The fruit is a light orange-yellow color, with juice sweeter than that of most lemons. For its size, the dwarf Meyer lemon tree is one of the hardiest and most productive of all dwarf citrus trees.
Of all the indoor fruit trees available, we recommend an indoor lemon tree the most. They're a particularly good choice if you've never tried to grow citrus indoors before, as the trees are beautiful, very prolific, and quite hardy! Since it's both fun to grow and also rewarding, you may never buy lemons from the store again!
Read on for more info, pictures, and how to buy a dwarf lemon tree for your home.
Five Quick Tips for Growing Lemon Trees Indoors
- Pot in a container using a well-drained, light potting mix.
- Place near your sunniest window indoors. South or southwest window exposure is best.
- Do not overwater. They dislike wet roots. Overwatering is the #1 killer of lemon trees.
- Mist every day, since the trees like humidity.
- Prune by cutting spindly branches from the top. Leave most bottom branches since they produce the most fruit!
Watering & Care Tip
A wilted tree means too little water. A tree with yellow leaves or folded leaves can indicate too much water.
Where to Buy a Meyer Lemon Tree
Meyer lemon trees are the most popular indoor citrus tree. They are prolific and easy to maintain as houseplants. We have successfully grown them for 10 years now and are very happy with the results: a large crop of tasty lemons and a delightful, tropical aroma from the blossoms.
Every once in a while, you can find an indoor lemon tree (also called a dwarf lemon tree or dwarf Meyer lemon tree) at a local nursery. Typically, the tree will be about two years old, possibly a bit younger. The only issue is the cost will be much higher—we saw an indoor fruit tree for sale at a local garden center for over $100!
While we love supporting local businesses, that's a bit too much. But there are various places online where can buy several different varieties of indoor citrus trees, including indoor lemon trees, for under $20 (including delivery).
How to Pot a Meyer Lemon Tree
When you purchase your tree, it will arrive in a suitable container, usually a plastic one. At some point, it's likely you will need to change containers. Mostly this is due to root crowding. If you notice yellowing leaves, for example, your tree might be pot-bound and telling you it is time to replant into a larger pot.
Here's how to repot your lemon tree:
- Fill the new pot halfway up with potting soil. It doesn't matter too much what kind—any bagged potting soil should suffice.
- Place the tree in the new pot at the same depth of the old pot, meaning the roots should extend as far down into the soil as the height of the old pot.
- Make sure the roots are spread out to facilitate growth.
- Fill the container with soil to about 3 inches below the top.
- Firm the soil around the tree with your hands and water generously.
- Be sure you do NOT fertilize until you've noticed some new growth, as fertilizing right after replanting will shock the root system and may burn the tree.
- Top off the pot with a little bark or mulch to help retain moisture.
Moving Your Lemon Tree From Outdoors to Indoors (and Back Again)
Your Meyer lemon tree can be kept in a protected area outside, such as a patio or deck in warm weather. Once fall hits and it starts getting colder, however, you should move your dwarf lemon tree inside so it doesn't freeze.
When should you bring your lemon tree indoors?
It's best to bring them indoors when evening and nighttime temperatures get down to 45°F. Your tree can tolerate even lower temperatures, but it's best not to risk it.
We live in the Midwest, and our rule of thumb is to keep our indoor citrus trees out on the patio from after Mother's Day to the end of September. Of course, your weather conditions may vary though.
Give your lemon tree a transition period before moving indoors or outdoors.
Before you bring it indoors, place the tree in partial shade for a couple of weeks to transition from full sun. Check for insects on the leaves before taking your tree indoors for the cold months.
No matter the variety, indoor citrus trees seem to flourish a bit better when they spend some time outdoors. It's certainly not mandatory, but that's been our experience over the years.
Once the weather begins to warm up again, you can repeat this process after all danger of frost is past. That is, place your indoor plant outdoors in partial shade for a few weeks before you start leaving it in full sun. Adjust watering as needed.
How to Prune Your Meyer Lemon Tree
You may need to prune your tree every once in a while, especially if it's a prolific grower. There are two ways to tell if pruning is necessary.
First, if you're getting a growth of spidery, twiggy branches, prune a few of these off. This will direct energy to the more solid branches of the tree, thereby helping ensure you'll get a bountiful fruit crop and strong branches to withstand the weight of the lemons.
Second, sometimes a Meyer lemon tree will get a little top heavy. Watch for excessive growth at the top of tree and not much outward growth. If this is the case, you will typically notice higher-than-normal leaf shedding and possibly some branches dying off. If so, prune the tree back. Cut off the dead branches and any branches that are shedding an excessive amount of leaves.
On the whole, however, you don't have to worry too much about pruning. It is highly unusual to have to prune an indoor fruit tree more than once a year. That's the beauty of these little powerhouses. They are easy to maintain and very rewarding!
My Favorite Things to Do With Meyer Lemons
Here are just a few of my favorite things to do with Meyer lemons:
- Squeeze them into your favorite drinks.
- Make refreshing lemon ice.
- Bake lemon bars for friends.
- Mix up a batch of lemon cookies.
- Serve with fresh fish and vegetables
- Freeze juice into ice cubes and pair with iced tea, gin & tonics, or good ol' water.
A Few of My Favorite Meyer Lemon Recipes
Here are a few of my favorite recipes that showcase the tastiness of Meyer lemons!
Meyer Lemon Cookies
We've been making these cookies for a while now, and they are a real family favorite!
Yield: 30–50 cookies
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 tbsps freshly grated Meyer lemon rind (about 3 lemons)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- confectioner's sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Using an electric mixer bowl, cream together well the butter and the sugar.
- Add the vanilla, the rind, and the lemon juice, beating until smooth.
- Add the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt and blend well.
- On a piece of wax paper, form the dough into a log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter, using the paper as a guide.
- Chill the log, wrapped in the wax paper for two hours.
- Cut the log into 1/8 inch slices with a clean, sharp knife.
- Bake about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8–10 minutes, or until edges are just golden.
- Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.
- Sift confectioner's sugar lightly over them.
Meyer Lemon Ice Recipe
A great treat on a hot day!
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 tbsp grated lemon rind
- 3/4 cup lemon juice
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, and stir in the sugar until it is dissolved.
- Cool and then add the lemon rind and juice.
- Freeze in a hand-cranked ice cream freezer.
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette Recipe
It's delicious and light on salads and grilled vegetables!
Yield: 1 cup
- 1 Meyer lemon
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 tbsps Champagne vinegar
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsps chopped fresh chervil
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Grate zest from lemon to equal 1 tablespoon.
- Squeeze juice to equal 2 teaspoons.
- Combine lemon juice, zest, shallot, salt, and vinegar. Let stand for 15 minutes.
- Slowly whisk in remaining ingredients.
Meyer Lemon Coffee Cake Recipe
This one comes straight from a Martha Stewart recipe!
For the streusel:
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter
For the cake:
- 5 Meyer lemons, cut into paper-thin slices, ends discarded
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsps coarse salt
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tbsps finely grated Meyer lemon zest (from 4 to 5 lemons)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream
For the glaze:
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 3 to 4 tbsps Meyer lemon juice
- Make the streusel: Mix together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut butter into the flour mixture until small-to-medium clumps form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to three days).
- Make the cake: Cook lemon slices in a medium saucepan of simmering water for 1 minute. Drain and repeat. Arrange lemon slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch angel food cake pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). With the mixer running, add eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with sour cream.
- Spoon half of the batter evenly into cake pan. Arrange half of the lemon slices in a single layer over the batter. Spread remaining batter evenly over the top. Cover with the remaining lemon slices in a single layer. Sprinkle the chilled streusel evenly over the batter.
- Bake until cake is golden brown—a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. This should take about 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and let it cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and remove outer ring. Let cool on rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the center tube. Slide two wide spatulas between the bottom of the cake and the pan and lift cake to remove from the center tube. Let it cool completely on a rack.
- Make the glaze: Just before serving, stir together confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Drizzle over cooled cake, letting excess drip down the sides. Let glaze set before slicing, about 5 minutes.
Note: This cake can be stored for up to three days. The lemon flavor will intensify with time.