array(2) { ["language"]=> string(2) "it" ["permalink"]=> string(32) "/it/blog/cura-del-limone-in-vaso" } Potted lemon tree care

Potted lemon tree care

There's no excuse anymore, even if you live in a flat you can make yourself a delicious lemonade (or a pitcher of margaritas, who am I to judge your tastes and needs) with your own lemons. Here's everything you need to know to keep it beautiful, fragrant and full of fruit every year.

Everything you need to know about the lemon tree

This is an ancient plant with a long history. It is believed that this fragrant tree comes from South and Southeast Asia, well known for the antiseptic properties of its fruits. It spread to Persia, Egypt and entered the European continent in the 1st century BC, during the time of the ancient Romans. It was not until after the Arab conquest that it began to be widely cultivated, especially in the Mediterranean area, which is perfect for its development. By the 15th century it was brought to America on one of Columbus' voyages and its cultivation continued to expand. It is not for nothing that it is considered one of the most important fruit trees on the planet.

The citrus limon, which is its scientific name, is an evergreen fruit tree characterised by its rounded crown, numerous branches and pronounced thorns. It produces beautiful white flowers called orange blossoms, which are very fragrant, although smaller than those of the orange. The leaves are bright green, shiny, oval-shaped, elongated and have a delicious lemony scent. The trunk is covered with thick, short thorns, so care must be taken when moving or pruning it.

There are many species of lemon trees, and while these small trees can grow up to 6 metres tall, in the pot they can grow to 2 metres at most. This is because this species tolerates pruning very well and its roots do not need to spread out too much, they are not at all invasive (and that is why they are planted near buildings and pipes without major problems outdoors) and it can grow happily and contentedly.

In Spain lemon is produced almost all year round and this is because there are different varieties of the plant, and if the climatic conditions are ideal, the tree can flower all year round and there will be fruit for a long time. If you are lucky enough to live in a Mediterranean climate, you will see that the biggest harvest of lemons will be in autumn, winter and spring. In the Iberian Peninsula, the Fino, Verna and Betera varieties are well known. The Verna variety is distinguished because it has fewer thorns than other varieties such as the Fino, and its lemons have practically no seeds and a thicker skin. The Fino or table lemon has a little more juice and a thinner skin.

is it possible to grow lemons in pots?

Of course it is possible to grow a lemon tree in pots, in fact, they can become even more prosperous because the conditions indoors are more stable and controlled. Outdoors your tree is subject to the vagaries of the environment, plus the tree will be more exposed to pests and other problems that will jeopardise your crop but which are variables that disappear as soon as you bring the plant indoors.

The first step is to prepare the pot and substrate for your new fragrant friend. It is good to keep in mind that this process of preparing the new pot and substrate must be repeated every year or every 2 years, because the lemon tree is a plant that requires a lot of resources to be able to bear fruit, so it is normal for it to use up the resources available in the substrate. For this reason it is recommended to repot every so often during the spring, as this will give it a little more space to grow in all its splendour.

Preparing the pot for your lemon tree

Size matters

The size of the pot is fundamental, because it is the space your tree will have to grow and develop, however you can't overdo it because if you transplant it to a giant pot it is likely that the excess humidity will rot the roots. The size of the pot will always depend on the size of the plant you have purchased. For your lemon tree, choose a pot that is as tall as it is deep. Measure the diameter of the pot (or polyethylene bag) in which it was sold to you and add an extra 10 centimetres. In other words, if you have been given a 20 cm container, you can change it to one that is 30 or 35 cm in diameter and about 30 cm high.

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As for the material, plastic is good because it helps to keep some heat in the roots and that is something that makes the lemon tree very happy, although if you are more into terracotta pots, you can do it, although you should be aware that the water evaporates faster. You can use a decorative pot anyway.

Secrets for the bottom

The first layer you add to the pot should be made of a material that facilitates the removal of water and prevents waterlogging. There are several to choose from, from expanded clay, pebbles to volcanic clay. I prefer to use bits of polystyrene (styrofoam) that I have recycled from packaging, because not only am I preventing them from polluting the environment (yay!) but they make the pot a little lighter, do a great job and don't degrade over time. On top of this I put about 3 or 4 handfuls of compost, stir it to remove any air bubbles and put some substrate.

Prepare the substrate

The substrate for your lemon tree needs to be well nutritious, slightly acidic and retain some moisture but not waterlogged. Some people go straight for garden compost, which is a pre-made mix for this type of plant, or you can make your own mix. It is recommended to use 30% compost or organic fertiliser, 30% universal/garden compost, 20% black peat and 20% perlite. The important thing is that it has some organic compost to boost its development.

Plant your lemon tree

Remove the lemon tree from its previous pot or cut away the plastic that contains it. Place the complete root ball in the centre of the pot and add the soil you have prepared around it until it fills the pot, placing about 5 cm of the new soil on top. Water very well until the water drains out of the drainage holes.

Mulch

Some people mulch the base of the plant and the soil around it with organic mulch, not only to conserve moisture better but also to prevent weeds from growing. For this you can use dry leaves, gravel, wood shavings, bark or moss.

Lemon tree care in pots

Watering

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To make beautiful lemons full of juice, your lemon tree needs a lot of water. Water your plant frequently and abundantly, but be careful not to water the substrate. We could say that watering every 2 days is sufficient in the warm season and reduce to every 3 days during the cooler season, but this will depend on the location and environmental conditions. The best indicator is the substrate.

Check the humidity of the substrate before watering, using a wooden stick (disposable sushi sticks are great for this). If the stick comes out dry, the substrate is dry and needs water. If soil sticks to it, then you can wait another day. Another option is to buy a terracotta watering sensor. There are cute little worm-shaped ones that will adorn your plant and help you know for sure when it is thirsty.

Lighting

With lemon trees it's the same as with flats, it all comes down to location. The lemon tree is a full sun plant, but at first your little lemon tree should be in semi-shade, albeit in a well-lit space. This is while it adjusts to the environmental conditions of its new home. When you see new leaves starting to grow, it's time to move it to a place where it will get full sun. Aim for at least 5 hours of full sun. If you can place it facing south, it will be perfect.

If you can put it on a terrace, balcony or near a window it will be great, but in case you live in a cave-like flat or if it's facing the wrong direction, you can use a UV lamp. Technology is your ally.

Humidity

A potted lemon tree will require at least 50% humidity to keep it looking fresh and full of flowers. You can spray it a little, although I prefer to surround it with other plants to help balance the humidity and use water saucers and pebbles. are you indoors and the air conditioning is too dry? It's time to get a small humidifier, and your skin will thank you for it too.

Temperature

Lemon trees are perennial plants that flower practically all year round if kept in a warm and suitable climate. Cold is the main enemy of your little tree, so any frost that drops the temperature below zero is a fatal risk. Optimum temperatures for growing lemons are between 10° and 30°C. If the winters in your region are harsh, then you will need to keep the pot indoors. If this is the case, you can get a pot or plant stand with wheels for easy transport.

Pruning

Pruning your lemon tree will stimulate its growth, flowering and shape. Pruning should be done at least regularly. Use a clean and disinfected pruning shear and proceed without fear, because this is beneficial for your little tree. I usually prune the lower branches of the lemon tree so that it does not have such a bushy shape, but so that the top of the trunk can be clearly distinguished from the trunk. This also allows it to have a better shape, to look fuller and more beautiful.

Prune any branches that stick out or have grown more than the others. Cut just above the bud of the branch, as this helps to keep it compact and firm. If you see a branch growing right at the base of the trunk, cut it off immediately so that it does not deform the lemon tree. Also remove any weak branches, dead leaves and clean the inner branches so that light can penetrate to the centre.

Fertiliser

If you want big, beautiful lemons full of juice for your lemonades (and mojitos), you can't skimp on fertiliser. Fertilise your little lemon tree from spring through to summer, preferably with organic fertilisers such as guano because these are quickly absorbed and have the perfect balance to feed your little tree. There are special slow-release fertilisers for citrus that are great, but be very careful with these products if you use them on potted lemon trees because they can be too concentrated for the plant and kill it.

Pests

Lemon trees, even when protected indoors, are susceptible to pests such as mealybugs, aphids and spider mites. You can prevent attack by maintaining adequate humidity levels (because dry environments attract spider mites and spider mites) and by using Neem oil and/or potassium soap, which are particularly effective in eliminating these nuisance pests. Should your lemon tree fall victim to these invaders, you can use multi-purpose insecticides to eliminate them for good.

About the author
Ame Rodríguez

Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.

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