Caring for a small lemon tree indoors can be a pleasant experience for your sense of smell. Maybe the idea of planting trees in your house or apartment sounds scary to beginners, but it's actually not as difficult as you think. Leave plenty of room for root growth, and keep the soil and tree branches moist and warm. You just need to give your lemon tree a little attention and love, and in return the tree will give off a fresh and sour fruity aroma that will refresh you time and time again.
Method 1 of 3: Preparation
Step 1. Choose the right lemon tree
The lemon meyer tree is the type that is most often chosen as an indoor plant. This tree produces small to medium sized fruit with a sharp taste. Lemon trees that produce lemons with pink flesh (pink variegated lemons) are also a good choice for beginners.
Step 2. Buy good seeds
Go to a nursery to buy trees that are 2-3 years old. You can grow lemons from seed, but it is not recommended as trees grown from seed can take a long time to grow and produce fruit.
Step 3. Choose a large pot with a hole in the bottom
Pots measuring 40-60 liters are considered quite large. Under average conditions, lemon trees can grow to a height of 2.5 m if planted in such a large pot.
If the pot doesn't have drainage holes at the bottom, drill 1-2 holes with a drill
Step 4. Prepare all-purpose planting media
Growing media sold in plant stores, with a slightly acidic pH is the best choice. Mix sand into the growing medium to improve drainage.
Peat moss-based planting media can also be an alternative to media with less soil. This artificial planting medium is even more effective if it contains compost
Method 2 of 3: Growing Lemons
Step 1. Find a saucer (plastic plate) large enough for the base of the pot
Put some small stones or pebbles on the saucer and add a little water then place the pot on top of the saucer and gravel. A saucer filled with water will help retain moisture around the tree.
Step 2. Place a layer of mulch on the bottom of the pot
This cloth prevents soil from leaking out of the drainage holes when you water the tree.
Step 3. Place a layer of gravel or tile at the bottom of the pot
The gravel will improve drainage, which will prevent tree roots from soaking in water or rotting.
Step 4. Fill the pot with planting media until it reaches the middle of the pot
Compact the soil to create a solid base for the tree to stand on.
Step 5. Remove the lemon tree from the pot you bought it from
Gently pat the roots to spread before you put them in the pot.
If you purchased a tree with bare roots, build a mound of soil and place the tree in a pot with the roots spreading over the mound
Step 6. Compact the soil around the tree
Pat the soil firmly enough to remove excess air, creating denser, firmer soil to support the tree. Don't leave the roots exposed, but don't cover the trunk. If covered with soil, tree trunks will rot.
Step 7. Water the tree immediately
Water the tree with sufficient water and allow the excess water to drain out into the saucer. Empty the saucer once the water no longer drains out.
Method 3 of 3: Caring and Harvesting
Step 1. Keep the soil moist
Periodically check the topsoil (about 5 cm). If this layer of soil is dry enough, water the tree thoroughly until all excess water escapes through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot and drains into the saucer. After that, empty the saucer.
If using tap water, you may have to reduce the pH of the water before pouring it on the tree. Adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 4 liters of water can usually work around this
Step 2. Spray a light mist on the tree using a spray bottle
You should do it often, even daily if possible. Spraying can replace the natural moisture that indoor trees usually don't get.
Step 3. Keep the room humid using a humidifier
If your lemon tree doesn't show any change despite frequent spraying, you may need to take it a step further by operating a humidifier in the room where the tree is placed for several hours a day. You can monitor humidity levels with a hygrometer. In general, Jakarta has a humidity level between 70%-80%.
Step 4. Manage the temperature of the room where you put the lemon tree
This tree is best placed in a room with an average temperature of 21 °C during the day and 13 °C at night. Even temperatures below 13 °C will not kill a lemon tree, it will only cause it to enter a dormant phase and stop growing.
Step 5. Place the tree in front of a south-facing window
Lemons need as much sun as possible, or 8-12 hours of sun each day.
Step 6. Complete the natural light with artificial light
Install a 40-watt fluorescent lamp about 10-12 cm above the tree to stimulate plant growth. Leave the lights on for as long as needed so the tree receives a total of 8-12 hours of light per day.
Step 7. Do the pollination for the lemon tree manually
By placing trees indoors, you prevent bees and other insects from being able to help pollinate. Some trees can produce fruit without pollination, but pollination can increase your chances of a bountiful harvest.
- Do the pollination process early, preferably in the morning. Pollen can die from heat or dryness that occurs on a hot afternoon.
- When the lemon tree blooms, gently rub the anther inside each flower with a brush or cotton swab. The anther is the yellow shoot of five stamens that emerges from the center of the flower. When you rub the anther, the yellow pollen powder will stick to the brush.
- Rub the pollen onto the sticky stigma of each pistil. The pistil is the middle stem that sticks out higher than the other stems in the center of the flower. Gently rub the pollen you collect with a brush or cotton swab over the stigma until the pollen sticks.
- Let the tree take over the task after that. The tree can complete the next process without assistance.
Step 8. Nourish the lemon tree with a balanced fertilizer
Choose a fertilizer with high nitrogen content and moderate levels of phosphorus and potassium, such as a 12-4-4 fertilizer. The numbers show the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively. So, the first number must be the highest. Many trees will experience a decrease in fruit and flower production if given a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content, but citrus trees require a lot of nitrogen so they require higher doses than other plants to grow quickly. Fertilizers that also contain minerals such as iron and zinc will help the tree absorb nutrients better. Apply fertilizer once or twice a month according to the directions on the package.
Step 9. Prune the tree carefully
Pruning too many leaves will reduce fruit production, but occasional pruning can help. Remove dead, broken, and diseased branches, and carry out pruning to control the height and spread of the plant's branches according to the available space.
Step 10. Do root pruning only when needed
The tree's roots must remain in the pot so you can control its size, but some potted lemon trees will stop producing fruit if root growth is not controlled. If the tree stops growing, it means it's time for you to do some root pruning.
- Remove the tree from the pot. Remove the roots and keep them moist by spraying water with a spray bottle.
- Use branch shears to cut off the largest roots around the root base.
- Cut the roots about 1.5-3 cm around the root base using a sharp knife.
- Replant the tree in a pot and trim back about a third of the leaves to compensate for the lost roots.
Step 11. Watch out for pests
Indoor trees are rarely attacked by pests, but minor disturbances can occur. Spray the pest with soapy water to kill it. If that doesn't work, use neem oil.
Step 12. Watch for symptoms of the disease
Fungal diseases are very common, but bacterial diseases can also occur. Find out what antifungal and antibacterial treatments are available to determine which one works best for the particular disease affecting your tree.
Step 13. Reduce the clusters of too many lemons
Once a bunch of small lemons have formed on the tree, reduce the remaining lemons and allow the remaining lemons to fully ripen and reach their maximum size. In general, lemons take between 7-9 months to ripen.
Step 14. Pluck the lemon from the tree by twisting it
You can also use branch shears to trim them, but usually a fully ripe lemon will come off fairly easily.
- Do not use fertilizers containing alfalfa powder or cottonseed powder. A fungal disease called anthracnose often affects alfalfa and cottonseed, so fertilizers containing these products can transmit the fungus to your trees.
- While it's not necessary, you can move your lemon tree outdoors in hot weather, which will allow natural pollination to occur and allow the tree to get more sunlight. However, be aware that you will have to slowly adapt the lemon to its new environment each time you move it. Otherwise, the lemon will be traumatized.
- Also consider planting other citrus trees in the house. Sour fruits tend to be easier to care for than sweet ones. So, beginners should choose very acidic citrus trees such as Kalamansi oranges, limes, chili oranges (limen), Nippon Orangequat. More experienced plant enthusiasts can try citrus trees such as Valencia oranges, Clementine Mandarins, Oroblanco oranges, and blood oranges (Moro Blood).