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The length of time a lemon tree takes to grow and produce fruit depends on whether you start it from seed or buy a mature or semi-mature tree from the nursery. You’re looking at a few months to up to 10 years.
How long does it take a lemon tree to produce fruit? – Once a lemon tree is 3-5 years old, it will be mature enough to produce fruit.
If it’s not fruiting, check out my guide here on why is my lemon trees not producing fruit
Growing a lemon tree from seed
You can start growing a lemon tree from seed at any time of year. Here’s an outline of the main steps to take.
- Select a plump lemon seed from your favourite variety of lemons (I recommend dwarf Meyer lemons)
- Snip the end off the hard shell to reveal the gel coat inside.
- Gently remove the hard shell and the gel coat to reveal the soft seed.
- Put this soft seed (and several others as insurance) between two layers of moist paper towels.
- Put everything inside a food storage bag or in a food tub with a lid; close.
- Put into a warm dark location for a few weeks.
- Check often and keep the towels moist.
- Leave the seeds until you see a sprout form from most of them that’s at least 2.5cm long.
- Plant each seed in organic potting mix in a small container with good drainage.
- Move gradually to a warm sunny place (over several weeks).
- Report the lemon tree sapling as it grows up and needs more root space.
- Water as necessary and give it around 6 hours of off-peak sunlight a day.
- Move the pot outdoors in summer and indoors in winter.
- Wait 3-10 years for the sapling to mature and produce flowers and then fruit.
Buying a lemon tree
- Buy a mature or semi-mature lemon tree from the nursery. You’ll probably get a tree that’s grafted onto the root stock of another hardier citrus variety.
- Slowly acclimate your tree to its new environment. It’s best to start in an environment that’s as close as possible to the one the tree grew up in.
- Wait for the lemon tree’s system to settle down and start to produce flowers and fruit; usually a matter of months.
- Add some extra time to account for the period a semi-mature lemon tree takes to grow to maturity.
However you generate your lemon tree in a pot, the growth cycle is the same once it’s mature. Here’s an overview.
- The buds that will become the flowers form in the cool months that are the earliest part of the growing season
Flowering and fruit
- The flowers bloom and start to develop into fruit. The key to success here is plentiful watering (but don’t overwater) and enough sunlight.
- This is the main growth spurt in the summer as both the tree and the fruit grow. It’s important here to let the lemon tree generate as much energy as possible.
- The lemons turn yellow and become ready to pick. The tree gets ready to start the entire process over again, unless you put it into dormancy.
My article How to look after a lemon tree? has great information for all phases of the growth cycle.