Name: lemon (Citrus limon cvs.).
Plant type: evergreen, small to medium tree.
Height: 3–6m, but height generally controlled by pruning.
Foliage: oval-shaped with a pointed end. Deep green, slightly glossy, aromatic if crushed, often finely toothed on the edges.
Climate: all zones except arid, and only in milder areas of semi-arid.
Soil: ideally, fertile and well-drained soil, but tolerant of a range of soil types.
Position: best in full sun. Must have protection from aggressive wind.
Flowering and fruiting: flowers, small, white and strongly perfumed, mainly appear from spring through summer. Fruit is seen much of the year.
Feeding: requires regular feeding.
Watering: moderately drought-tolerant but needs water during extended dry periods.
Many people will think of of a lemon tree as a gnarled old thorny bush-lemon down the back of nan's yard. You know the one. You generally backed into the thorns while trying to catch a footy. Well, the lemon tree you plant today will be a very different beast, and can in fact become an enormous landscape asset. They make great-looking trees as a feature planting, and as a bonus you get lemons for juicing, eating and cooking. Some lemon varieties will also perform exceptionally well in pots.
A small tree with lovely deep green foliage, lemons are very easy care when planted in the right place. They naturally develop a neat crown without much need for pruning.
The trunk tends to be stout with age, and branching will generally start from low down, unless you've intentionally lifted the canopy through under-pruning.
In the right location and climate your lemon tree will flower on and off throughout the year. Fruit can be left on the tree to “store” after it reaches a ripe point – this means a tree can be carrying fruit for much of the year.
A lemon tree is a fabulous addition to any garden, and offers a variety of uses:
Your lemon tree will perform best in full sun. It can tolerate some shade, but this will reduce fruiting. It will be equally at home in dry or humid areas.
The ideal soil is a rich, well-drained loam, however the lemon tree is adaptable to almost any soil type, except heavy clay. It will survive soil that occasionally becomes over-wet, but not extended waterlogging. In heavy clay or areas where the tree may become waterlogged, plant on a raised mound or in a raised garden bed.
Your tree must be protected from strong winds, as leaves can easily be stripped from a tree. Although they can tolerate some cold, anything around –5°C will kill the leaves and may kill the wood. Flowers and young fruit will be killed at around –1°C.
For the best performance, improve the soil before planting your lemon tree. Blend through composted manure or quality compost before planting, then add a controlled-release fertiliser at planting time, both in the hole and on the surface. Larger trees may require staking until established.
Follow these tips to get the best out of your lemon tree:
A lemon tree requires very little pruning – simply prune as needed to restrict height or width. If the centre of the tree becomes congested, or you find any crossing branches, these can be pruned out as needed. Light trimming can encourage bushiness.
Lemons, and in fact all citrus trees, are prone to a number of pest and disease problems, such as those listed below. Identify your problem and talk with the plant specialist in your local nursery for advice on the best solutions.
Lemon trees can be grown from cuttings from spring to early summer:
• First, take a 6-inch cutting with no fruit or flowers. Your cutting must have at least two or three nodes where leaves emerge along the stem, and show no signs of disease, damage or stress. Cut the stem at a 90-degree angle with sanitised secateurs.
• Remove all leaves except for four leaves at the tip, and dust the bottom with rooting hormone powder.
• Pot your cutting in a well-drained pot filled with sterile seed-starting mix, and keep it warm and humid. You can cover the pot with a large clear plastic bag, prop the bag up with wires or stakes and make a couple of holes to let the air flow.
• Make sure your cutting is warm (20–25°C) and moist, but let the surface dry out between waterings. Lemon cuttings need bright, diffuse sunlight, but direct sunlight can cause them stress.
How to plant a tree: all the tips you need for preparing the soil for larger plants.
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