The Meyer Improved
Lemon Tree is a hybrid between a common lemon tree and a
mandarin orange tree. This lemon tree variety has a spreading
habit and is nearly thornless. The fragrant blooms of this lemon
tree then turn to medium-sized, orange-yellow, juicy sweet-tart
lemons that are in season in fall/spring.
Citrus x meyeri or commonly called the Meyer Lemon tree is a
gorgeous evergreen citrus tree originally from China that is a
hybrid between a common lemon tree and a mandarin orange tree.
It was first discovered and sent to the United States in 1908 by
Dutch horticulturist and botanist Frank Meyer who was working
for the United States Department of Agriculture.
Unfortunately the original Meyer Lemon Trees were found to be
susceptible to a devastating virus called Citrus Tristeza and
eventually became symptomless carriers of the said virus, which
infected and killed millions of citrus trees across the United
States and all over the world. Because of this, most Meyer lemon
trees have to be destroyed. A surviving and virus-free Meyer
lemon tree was then discovered by Don Dillon in 1950 and was
later certified and released by the University of California as
the “Improved Meyer Lemon Tree” in 1975.
The Improved Meyer Lemon Tree is cold hardy and best grows in US
Department of Agriculture USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11. It is
fairly vigorous, shrubby and somewhat small in size upon
reaching maturity – standard Meyer lemon trees can grow as tall
as 6’ to 10’ while the dwarf lemon tree can grow up to 4’ to 6’
This lemon tree variety has a spreading habit and is nearly
thornless making it a great citrus tree to plant if you have
kids, be it indoors or outdoors. This citrus tree blooms
purple-tinted flowers all year round but blooms are more
concentrated in spring or fall. The fragrant blooms then turn to
medium-sized, orange-yellow, juicy sweet-tart lemons that are in
season in fall/spring.
Citrus Tree Care
Dwarf citrus trees and standard-sized citrus trees need almost
the same type and amount of care.
Planting Location – Citrus trees are generally hardy but
grow best in warm, sunny spots that have well-draining soil.
Meyer Lemon Trees are best grown in USDA plant hardiness zone 8
through 11. In colder areas, it is advisable that you plant
lemon trees next to your house or under an eave to get frost
protection or plant them in a container, especially the dwarf
citrus tree, since they are well adapted to container growing.
Watering – Once your newly bought citrus trees arrive,
you need to replant them either on the ground or in bigger pots.
Newly replanted Improved Meyer lemon trees should be watered
deeply every 2 to 3 days for the first two weeks. Keep in mind
that growing citrus trees like moisture but not wet feet. Once
the citrus trees are established, you can cut back on watering
to once every 7-10 days. Also, allow the soil to get dry between
watering to avoid lemon trees standing in water.
Pruning –Citrus trees seldom need elaborate trimming or
pruning, however, if you wish to maintain the shape of your
Meyer lemon tree you may want to clip off braches that are too
long a year after replanting or once the trees have reached the
height of 3’ to 4’. To keep it healthy, prune leggy, damaged,
diseased and dead branches back to the base of the trunk in late
winter to avoid any disruption of the winter harvest or as you
deem needed. You should also keep an eye out for suckers growing
at the base of the tree as they would only compete for water and
nutrients your tree needs in order to grow, establish, and bear
Fertilization –Meyer lemon trees and other growing citrus
trees need citrus fertilizer to grow healthy and become prolific
fruit bearers. They should be fed ammonium sulfate fertilizer
for citrus trees balanced to 21-0-0. A cup of citrus tree
fertilizer is a must for the first year, should be broken down
into four equal parts, and applied between February to August to
ensure the lemon tree’s healthy growth cycle. It should be mixed
with water then poured under the canopy of the tree where it can
be absorbed by the roots. Follow the package instructions and do
not overfeed to avoid burning the root and harming the tree.
Pollination Assistance –Improved Meyer Lemon Trees are
self-fruitful or “self-pollinators” and do not need other citrus
trees or a second Meyer Lemon tree to pollinate and bear fruits.
Planted outdoors, bees undertake lemon tree pollination by
buzzing from flower to flower, but if planted inside the house
or greenhouse you need to help your tree by manually pollinating
it by hand. To pollinate by hand, use a small paintbrush and
touch the tip of the brush to the center of the flower to
collect the ripe pollen. Go to the next flower and touch the
center using the tip of the same brush to transfer the collected
pollen and repeat the process for the rest of the flowers.
Fruit & Harvesting
The Meyer Lemon is not a true lemon because it is a hybrid
between a lemon and a mandarin. It is medium in size and has an
oblong to elliptical shape. Its base is rounded but sometimes
faintly necked and furrowed.
Meyer lemons have fragrant, yellow-orange thin rind that is
smooth and tightly adherent to the flesh. The rind also has a
more complex fragrance to it than regular lemons and emits a
spicy bergamot scent that smells like an herb or spice.
The moderately seedy flesh is apportioned in 10 segments and is
tender, juicy, sweeter and less acidic compared to true lemons.
Accepted as a lemon substitute, Meyer lemons are great for
juicing and baking pastries and pie like Lemon Meringue Pie. It
can also be used to make alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks,
flavoring for sweet and savory dishes, salad and other recipes
requiring lemon. Just keep in mind that when substituting
regular lemon with Meyer lemon, it has a sweeter and less acidic
taste and can make a recipe turn out differently so you may want
to go slowly and start with small amount then taste before
adding the rest.
Meyer lemons are green while still growing and take several
months to ripen and turn yellow. You can tell that it is time to
harvest your lemons when the rind has turned yellow, have a
slightly glossy appearance and the fruits have reached 2 to 3
inches in size.
You can also pick a fruit to test its juiciness. If there is not
enough juice leave the fruits on the tree for a few weeks then
do another test.
The Improved Meyer Lemon Tree can grow up to 6’ to 10’ in height
when planted in the ground but tend to be smaller when planted
in a pot. This citrus tree is an ever-flowering and ever-bearing
tree and blooms and fruits intermittently throughout the year,
but main bloom season is in spring/fall and fruit season in
fall/spring. Also, although hardy and cold tolerant, Meyer Lemon
Trees need to be protected when temperature goes below 32º F.
Pests and Diseases
Meyer lemon trees are essentially pest resistant but are
sometimes attacked by citrus thrips, aphids and leaf miners.
Citrus Thrips are yellow-orange insects that lay eggs on new
shoots or tender leaf tissue. You will know that your tree is
infested if you see scabby scars on the lemon rind. Citrus
Thrips can be controlled with beneficial insects like lacewings,
spiders and minute pirate bugs. You can also use botanical
insecticides to safely treat heavy infestation.
Aphids and leaf miners can weaken the citrus tree and result in
reduced or low fruit yield. You can defend you tree and
eradicate these insects by using horticultural oil spray or
insecticidal soap spray. You can also make use of Tangle Foot to
get rid of these bugs.
Improved Meyer lemon trees are disease tolerant but are not a
hundred per cent free of all types of diseases.
Brown Rot – a fungal disease that causes browning
and rotting of parts of the tree. The fungus is commonly
transmitted thru splashing of infected soil onto low hanging
fruits during heavy rains. It usually starts as a small
discolored spot that quickly spreads across the surface of
Brown Rot is usually prevented rather than treated. Sanitation
is the best prevention for brown rot. Trimming trees away from
the ground, removing any infected fruit and debris around the
tree and under the canopy and use of copper salts are great
Citrus Canker – Citrus canker is a bacterial
disease that gets transmitted via rain and wind. It leaves
lesions on the leaves, stems and fruits of infected citrus
trees. It also causes premature leaf and fruit drop.
Sanitation and prevention are the only way to manage citrus
canker. You can use copper spray on your Meyer Lemon tree before
forecast strong wind and heavy rains starts. Unfortunately, once
a tree gets infected there is no way to cure it and it needs to