Many years ago I thought it would be cool to try to grow a lemon tree from seed. It didn’t matter that I lived in New York I was just curious to see if it could be done. I collected a few seeds from a store bought lemon and planted them in a flower pot in my apartment. Much to my surprise the seed actually sprouted! I must admit that I never really attempted to make it produce fruit as I thought it would not be possible to do so in a northern climate. However, it did make for a nice conversation piece but eventually I left the growing of citrus fruit to the experts in Florida and California.
I must admit that when I read about people growing citrus fruit in cold weather climates I was more than a little curious to find out how they did it. Dwarf varieties of citrus fruit trees such as oranges, lemons and limes have enabled gardeners to grow citrus fruit no matter where they live. Due to their size these trees don’t take up much space and they can be grown in containers that can be moved indoors during the winter. While they may not produce as much fruit as typical citrus fruit trees I was surprised to read that they can produce much more fruit than what you might think.
The first thing you will need to do is pick the right container. A 1 year old tree should have a pot that is at least 8 to 10 inches in diameter and for older trees a 12 to 14 inch diameter is preferable. Dwarf citrus trees seem to perform better when their roots are constricted but you should change the pot at least every 2 to 3 years to prune the roots so they don’t wrap around the inside of the pot as well as to freshen the soil. It is also important that the pot drain well as citrus trees do not do well in wet conditions.
You don’t need to use a special potting mix but it is important to fertilize the tree every 5 weeks particularly during the growing season. How much you water the tree will depend upon which type you grow and the size of the container. It is a good idea to have a layer of mulch on the soil around the tree to help the plant to not fully dry out particularly if you are placing the plant outdoors during the warmer months of the year. While indoors the tree will benefit from being placed on top of a saucer with pebbles and water to help keep a consistent humidity level around the plant. You also will need to prune the tree to help it maintain its size and shape and a strong stake may also be needed for support. The pruning should take place in the spring before active growth begins.
The tree will need to receive at least 8 hours of full sunlight and temperatures should be maintained between 55 degrees and 85 degrees. How quickly the tree will bear fruit will depend on the maturity level of the plant and the growing conditions you can provide. It can take several years for this to happen and it may even be beneficial to long term fruit production to remove the fruit before it ripens in the first year or two that it appears.
While this article has focused on citrus fruit there are other dwarf fruit trees you can grow on your deck or patio including apples, currants, cherries and blueberries. If you've had success growing fruit on your deck or patio please share some of your tips on our Facebook page.