Lemons can be easily grown from seed and are a wonderful looking plant. You can propagate the seeds directly in soil, or in a plastic resealable bag with a damp paper towel. This article will show you how to plant lemon seeds using both methods. It will also give you tips on how to choose the best lemon seed, and how to take care of your seedling.
EditPlanting Seeds in Soil
- Prepare your potting soil in a separate bucket. Pour some soil into a large bucket and add water to it until it is damp. Mix the soil with your hand or a trowel until it is evenly damp. Do not allow the soil to become soggy, or the seeds will rot. You will need a well-draining soil. Lemon trees love water, but they hate to sit in it.
- Choose a small pot with drainage holes. The pot should be about 3 to 4 inches (7.62 to 10.16 centimeters) wide, and 5 to 6 inches (12.7 to 15.24 centimeters) deep. This pot will be enough for one seed. Some people like to plant several seeds in one pot at a time. If you want to do this too, choose a larger pot.
- Your post must have drainage holes. If you post does not have any, you will need to drill some.
- Fill the pot with soil. Stop when the top of the soil is about 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) from the rim.
- Make a ½ inch (1.27 centimeter) deep hole in the soil. You can do this using your finger or a pencil.
- Choose a plump-looking seed from an organic lemon. Avoid taking seeds from an in-organic lemon, as those generally do not sprout. Also, avoid taking any seeds that look too tiny (like a grain of rice) or that look shriveled (like a raisin). These seeds either won’t sprout or won’t grow into healthy seedlings.
- Consider planting 5 to 10 lemon seeds at one time, in case some of the seeds don’t sprout or don’t make it past seedling-hood.
- Consider taking a Meyer lemon seed. These do well indoors. They develop into beautiful trees that produce sweet-tasting lemons.
- Wash the seed to get rid of the slimy coating. You can do this by washing the lemon seed or by sucking on it until the coating is gone. This is important. The gel-like coating contains sugars, which can cause the seed to rot.
- Consider leaving the lemon seeds in a cup of warm water overnight. This will help them sprout faster.
- Drop the seed into the hole and cover it up. Make sure that the pointy tip is pointing downward into the soil, and the rounded part is pointing upward towards you. The roots will come out of the pointy part.
- Cover the pot with a piece of breathable plastic to trap warmth and moisture. Begin by placing a sheet of clear plastic cling wrap over the pot. Wrap a rubber band around the plastic wrap to secure it to the pot. Poke a few holes into the plastic wrap. You can use a pencil, a toothpick, or even a fork. These holes will allow the plant to breathe.
- Place the pot in a warm location. You can place the pot in a sunny location too, but sunlight is not vital at this point. In fact, too much sunlight can “cook” the young, delicate seedlings. You should see a sprout emerge in a about two weeks.
- The ideal temperature is between 68°F and 82.4°F (20°C and 28°C).
- Water the soil when you see it become dry. The plastic wrap should trap the moisture, and the condensation should rain down onto the soil, making it damp again. In very dry environments, this may not happen. If you see the soil start to become dry, remove the plastic wrap and water the plant. Be sure to re-cover the pot with the plastic wrap when you are done watering.
- Remove the plastic covering once the sprout appears and transfer the pot to a warm, sunny location. Remember to keep the soil damp, but do not let it become soggy. Click here to learn how to take care of your seedling.
EditSprouting Seeds in a Plastic Bag
- Dampen a paper towel and smooth it out on a flat surface. Start by soaking a paper towel with water, then squeeze out the excess water. Place the damp paper towel on a flat surface and smooth out any wrinkles.
- The paper towel should fit inside your plastic zippered or resealable bag. If the paper towel is too big, then fold it in half or into quarters.
- Pick out 5 to 10 plump seeds from an organic lemon. Seeds from non-organic lemons usually do not sprout. Look for seeds that are large and plump. Skip the ones that look shriveled or like tiny, white specks. These will either not sprout, or they won’t grow into a healthy seedling.
- Even if you only plan on growing one lemon tree, it is a good idea to start with several seeds. Not all seeds will sprout, and not all seedlings will survive.
- Consider getting some seeds from a Meyer lemon. Meyer lemon trees do well indoors. They are not only ornamental and lovely to look at, but also produce smaller, sweeter-tasting lemons.
- If you are working with a small, sandwich-sized bag, then choose about 5 to 7 seeds. If you use too many, your seeds won’t have room to grow. If you are working with a larger, freezer-type bag, then you can use up to 10 seeds.
- Consider keeping the seeds in a cup of water. This will keep the seeds from drying out while you work. The seeds must stay moist. If they dry out, they will not sprout.
- Clean the gel-like coating off of each seed. You can do this by rinsing the seeds in cool water, or by licking them. This gel is filled with sugars, which can encourage mold and bacteria growth.
- Peel the other white layer off to reveal a brown-colored seed. Start peeling from the pointy end. You can use your finger nail or a craft knife to nick the tip, and then peel the outer shell down. This will make it easier for the seeds to sprout.
- Peel the brown seed cover off as well. You may notice that your seed is covered with a thin, brown film. Use your fingernail to scratch this coating off.
- Place the seeds down onto the damp paper towel. Try to spread the seeds out as evenly as you can, so that the roots don’t become tangled when they sprout.
- Repeat the peeling process for the rest of the seeds and place them down onto the towel. Once the seeds are on the paper towel, they should stay damp. If you notice them starting to get dry out, consider covering the paper towel with another damp paper towel. Be sure to remove the second paper towel before proceeding to the next step.
- Slip the paper towel into a plastic zippered or resealable bag, and close the bag tightly. Don’t use a plastic grocery bag. You want the bag to be zippered or resealable; this will help trap the moisture and retain heat. Your seeds will need both in order to sprout.
- Keep the plastic bag in dark, warm location until the seeds sprout. It will take one to two weeks. Some seedlings will need up to three weeks to sprout.
- Transplant the seedlings when the tails are about 3.15 inches (8 centimeters) long. If you don’t want to wait that long, transplant them when the tails are ½ inch (1.27 centimeters) long. Make a shallow hole in a pot of damp, well-drained soil, and tuck the seedling, tail-side-down into the hole. Gently pat the soil around the seedling.
- Move the pot to a warm, sunny location. Remember to water the plant and to keep the soil damp; do not allow the soil to become soggy or dry. Click here to learn how to take care of your seedling.
EditTaking Care of Your Seedling
- Water your plant regularly, about 2 or 3 times per week. When the seedling has 4 developed leaves, let the surface of the soil become dry before you water again. Don’t let the soil dry out completely, however; it should be moist if you stick your finger into it.
- Make sure that it gets enough sunlight. Lemon trees require at least eight hours of sunlight. Seedlings will require 10 to 14 hours. You may have to place a grow light next to your tree to ensure that it gets enough sunlight. You can purchase grow lights from gardening shops and nurseries.
- Know when to transplant your seedling. Eventually, your seedling will outgrow its pot. When the seedling reaches 1 year old, transfer it to a 6 inch (15.24 centimeter) wide pot. Eventually, you will need to move your plant to a pot that is 12 to 18 inches (30.48 to 45.72 centimeters) wide and 10 to 16 inches (25.4 to 40.64 centimeters) deep.
- A good rule of thumb to determine when it’s time to transplant is to look under the pot. If you can see roots through the drainage holes, it is time for a new, bigger pot.
- Maintain the soil pH level. Lemon trees like soil that is slightly acidic. The pH should be between 5.7 and 6.5. You can measure this with a pH testing kit, which you can purchase from a gardening shop or a nursery. A good way to bring acidity back into the soil is by watering the plant once a month with some cold black coffee or tea (with no milk or sugar added).
- Remember to provide your tree with proper nutrients so that it grows healthy and strong. You can either dig a trench around the tree and fill it with dry compost, or you can water it with a water soluble fertilizer. Here are some ways in which you can provide your tree with the nutrition it needs:
- Fertilize your lemon tree twice a year with an organic fertilizer, such as compost or vermicompost.
- Water your plant ever 2 to 4 weeks with a water soluble fertilizer. It should be high in potassium and magnesium.
- If your tree is going to stay indoors, purchase a general indoor plant fertilizer. It should contain micronutrients.
- Water your tree once a month with a solution made from 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts and ½ gallon (1.89 liters) of water. If your tree is still very small, you might not need so much water. Instead, water the plant as much as you need to, then save the leftover water for the next month.
- Understand that it will take some time before your tree can bear fruit. Some lemon trees will produce fruit in an little as five years. Others will requires as many as 15 years.
- Some people find that lemon trees do not do well in terra cotta. You might want to avoid terra cotta altogether, or coat the inside so that it doesn’t soak up the much-needed moisture.
- Keep the compost moist at all times but not wet.
- Consider keeping five seedlings in the same pot. This will give you a larger, fuller plant to look at. It will also help prevent over-watering. When the seedlings get big enough, you can move them to separate pots.
- Use a deep pot as lemons have a long root.
- Lemon trees can take a few months before they are several inches tall and sprout enough leaves to look visually pleasing. If you are planning on giving a lemon tree as a gift, you might want to plant it up to nine months in advance.
- Sometimes, a single seed will produce several seedlings. If you notice this happening, wait until each seedling has about four leaves. Then, pull the seedlings out of the soil and carefully pull them apart. Place each seedling into its own pot.
- Never leave the compost wet as it rots the seed.
- Trees that come from seeds are not identical to the parent tree that they came from. Sometimes, the fruit that the new saplings produce is of a lesser quality. Other times, they do not produce fruit at all. This does not prevent the young tree from being visually pleasing. Keep this in mind when growing your tree.
EditThings You’ll Need
EditPlanting Seeds in Soil
- 3 to 4 inch (7.62 to 10.16 centimeters) wide pot
- Lemon seeds
- Plastic wrap
- Rubber band
- Cup of warm water (optional)
EditSprouting Seeds in a Plastic Bag
- 5 to 10 seeds from an organic lemon
- 1 damp paper towel
- 1 plastic zippered/resealable bag
EditSources and Citations
- Huws Nursery, How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed
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