If you're like many people who pay attention to seasonal changes in supermarket offerings, you're probably already aware that early spring is the time to look for fresh, ripe Meyer lemons. These lemons are so popular because they have the iconic lemon flavor without the characteristic acidic bite and sourness. You probably also know that Meyer lemon trees can be grown indoors as houseplants and do especially well if they're placed on the patio during the summer months and allowed to soak up as much sun as possible. Those who put in the effort to grow their own Meyer lemon tree are rewarded not only with an abundance of the sought-after fruit, but also with a yearly profusion of creamy, fragrant flowers.
However, if you're one of those fortunate enough to live in USDA Agricultural Zones 8 through 11, you can bypass the container and plant a Meyer lemon tree right in your own backyard. Here's what you need to know about keeping it healthy and thriving through its first year.
Plant in Spring
Planting your Meyer lemon tree directly into the ground in the spring gives it time to become acclimated to local soil and climate conditions. Choose a sunny spot with good drainage, and like you would with any type of landscape citrus tree, amend the soil with rich, organic matter such as mushroom compost, and water it in well immediately after planting. Your Meyer lemon tree may experience transplant shock shortly after being transplanted, but this condition should resolve within a few days. Apply a citrus fertilizer in late spring.
Watch for Aphids in Summer
Healthy Meyer lemon trees generally aren't bothered much by pests and pathogens, but aphids can do quite a bit of damage to newly planted trees. Aphids aren't always easy to see without close inspection because of their very small size, so check the leaves of your tree once a week or so to ensure that aphids haven't set up shop. Fortunately, aphids are easy to control once you determine their presence — a few simple applications of insecticidal soap followed by a thorough rinsing off with the garden hose should keep aphid activity to a minimum.
Be Prepared for Chilly Nights
Even if you live in the right zones for growing Meyer lemon, seasonal temperatures will still dip below freezing on an occasional basis, and young trees may be damaged during unexpected cold spells. Be sure to include a good layer of mulch around your Meyer lemon tree on your autumn yard-care schedule to help keep the root zone insulated. You can also purchase specialty tarps designed to be placed over young trees to shield them from freezing temperatures.
For more information on landscape citrus trees, contact a professional near you.