The Meyer Lemon tree, is a citrus fruit native to China. It was introduced to the United States in 1908 by the agricultural explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer. The Meyer Lemon tree is commonly grown in China in garden pots as an ornamental tree. It became popular as a food item in the United States when Martha Stewart began featuring them in her recipes. By the mid 1940s the Meyer lemon tree had become widely grown in California. However, at that time it was discovered that a majority of the Meyer Lemon trees being cloned were symptom-less carriers of the Citrus Tristeza virus, a virus which had killed millions of citrus trees all over the world and rendered other millions useless for production.
After this finding, most of the Meyer Lemon trees in the United States were destroyed to save other citrus trees. A virus-free selection was found in the 1950s by Don Dillon of the California company Four Winds Growers, and was later certified and released in 1975 by the University of California as the ‘Improved Meyer Lemon Tree.’
Seasonal information: The Improved Meyer lemon tree grows well in warm climates. They are fairly vigorous; a tree grown from seed usually begins fruiting in four years. While the Improved Meyer lemon tree produces fruit throughout the year, the majority of the crop is harvested in winter.
Location: It is best to plant the Improved Meyer lemon tree in a warm, sunny area where the soil drains well. Planting next to a house or under an eave will provide some frost protection. Remember to water the improved Improved Meyer lemon tree deeply once every seven to ten days in midsummer (newly planted trees may need more frequent watering until established), and water less often if it rains or if the weather is cool.
Planting instructions: Choose a pot large enough to give your Improved Meyer lemon tree roots room to spread. Fill the bottom of your pot with a 2-inch layer of crushed stone to improve drainage. Fill pot 1/3-full of potting soil. Score the roots of the Improved Meyer lemon tree to promote growth and bury it at the same depth it was planted in its previous pot. Layer with 2 inches of compost. Water well.
Watering: Allow the soil to dry down to 2 inches between waterings. Never let your Improved Meyer lemon tree remain in standing water.
While the roots prefer to stay on the dry side, citrus leaves love humidity. Indoor Citrus will do best if misted daily especially when you are running your heat during cooler months. You can also use a humidifier or fill your pot’s saucer with rocks and add water; place your plant on the rocks ensuring the bottom of the pot is above the water line.
Fertilization: It is also recommended to apply 2 to 3 inches of organic matter under the canopy of the tree to conserve moisture. An Improved Meyer lemon tree must be fertilized every four to six weeks from February to August to ensure a healthy grow cycle and be pruned every one or two years to keep them within bounds and easy to pick.
Weed Control: Remove competing weeds that grow near the ground-planted tree. Improved Meyer lemon tree, as a grafted tree, produces many suckers from the base, particularly in containerized trees. Remove suckers regularly by breaking or cutting.
Pests and Disease: Your Improved Meyer lemon tree will not like frost. You should protect your lemon tree from frost if temperatures drop below 30 degrees F. You should also take care to monitor your Improved Meyer lemon tree for pests, although pests are often harmless. Identifying pests can help you learn what is in your garden, and it may help you determine whether any of your other trees or plants are at risk. Insecticides can destroy natural parasites and do more harm than good to your lemon trees and to other members of your garden. You should only use them when needed.
Pruning: Prune as needed to maintain your lemon tree’s shape. Clip off any branches that are too long. Remove branches growing toward the trunk of the tree instead of away from it. This will maintain airflow between the branches.
Pollination: The Improved Meyer lemon tree is self-fruitful, which is the horticulturists’ way of saying “self pollinator.” This means that you do not need to plant pollinating citrus trees near your Improved Meyer lemon tree to ensure you get a lemon crop.