Growing a Patio Lemon Tree in Winter

Imagine stepping out onto your patio in the middle of winter and plucking a fresh lemon from your very own tree. It may sound like a dream, but with a few simple protective measures, you can make it a reality. At Tips Tree Planting, we believe that anyone can enjoy the taste of homegrown citrus, even in cool northern climates. So, if you’ve always wanted to grow lemons outdoors all year round, keep reading to find out how!

Video: Growing a Winter Patio Lemon Tree

For those of us who love the fragrance of blossoms and the taste of fresh citrus, winter is the perfect time for growing lemons. While lemon trees are typically associated with warm climates like California and Florida, they can adapt to cooler environments with a little extra care. That’s why I decided to bring home a potted Meyer lemon tree and give winter lemon growing a try here in our Canadian South Coast British Columbia winters (plant hardiness zone 9).

When do Lemon Trees Bloom?

Lemon trees have the ability to blossom at any time of the year. In warmer regions, they often bloom in spring and fall. However, here in southern BC, my lemon tree reliably blooms in January and again in the spring, blessing me with two crops of fruit annually. Sometimes, the tree even produces additional blossoms during the summer months.

Container Lemon Tree – Growing Conditions

Caring for my container lemon tree has taught me a lot about its needs. Like all citrus trees, lemons thrive in warm and sunny conditions. They require at least six hours of sunlight per day to grow their best. While lemon trees prefer temperatures between 18-24ºC (65-75ºF), they can survive down to freezing temperatures.

To ensure optimal growth, lemon trees, especially when grown in containers, require sufficient nutrients. While fertilizing during active growth can be beneficial, it’s crucial to strike a balance. Fertilizers high in nitrogen may promote new leaf growth at the expense of blossoms and fruit. On the other hand, fertilizers with higher phosphorus content aid in blossom and fruit development. Personally, I prefer using an organic fertilizer during key periods and relying on fish-based compost for the rest of the time.

Summer Patio Lemon Tree Care

During the summer months, I make sure to position my potted lemon tree at the edge of the patio to capture as much sunlight as possible. As lemon trees do not like being overwatered, I allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Typically, I water the tree only when the soil is dry down to a depth of 5 cm (2 in). On hot and dry summer days, I also mist the leaves with a spray bottle of water to provide some relief.

Winter Patio Lemon Tree Protection

When fall arrives, it’s time to take precautions to protect the lemon tree from the cold. Of course, during the spring, you’ll want to gradually reverse these steps as the plant readjusts to being outdoors.

Starting in late October or November, when temperatures drop to about 6ºC (43ºF), I move the potted tree closer to the house for warmth. I find a suitable spot that offers protection from rain and other elements.

As temperatures continue to decline, I wrap the tree with row cover fabric (Reemay) and 7-watt Christmas lights to provide additional warmth. It’s important to use 7-watt lights as they generate heat, unlike LEDs. This protective layering keeps the tree cozy throughout most of the winter, except during high winds or when temperatures dip below freezing. During these extreme conditions, I wrap a layer of cardboard around the tree for extra insulation and protection.

Winter Lemons

On a cold, freezing day, I can’t resist the urge to unwrap the protective coverings and take in the sweet scent of lemon blossoms. To my delight, tiny new green lemons are forming, and I spot one or two yellow lemons ripe for the picking. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience to enjoy fresh lemons even during the winter months.

At Tips Tree Planting, we believe that growing citrus trees, like lemons, should be accessible to everyone. With the right care and precautions, you can create your own winter oasis of lemon trees on your patio, no matter where you live.

For more tips and tricks on tree planting and gardening, visit Tips Tree Planting.