Help with growing lemon tree

St Paul, MN

I bought a lemon plant (like 4 inches tall) a few years back at a garage sale with my gf for kicks. I brought it home thinking little of it. ~2-3 years later, it's still around, and I'm not sure how to grow it. It's now about 4 feet tall, with the exact same branches it had when I first bought it.

How do I get it to branch? It currently has ONE branch that's about a foot up from the ground, and it is just growing vertically. I have never gardened before, so I'm not really sure what I'm doing. I just put some dirt in a pot (about 20 inch diameter?) and have been watering it. It grows, but it won't branch. I've been reading on some pruning, but I haven't really encountered anything that's useful for a small potted lemon plant.

Will pruning help it branch? How should I prune it? I live in Minnesota, so it obviously can't stay outside during the winter. I don't want a huge plant, I want more of a shrub, or a hedge, not a tree. I'll take a picture of the plant as soon as I get a chance. In the meantime, it looks something like this

with leaves on the trunk and branch. The trunk itself is rather lanky, being no more than I would guess 1.5-2 inches in circumference at the bottom.

Thumbnail by DurianBandit
Orlando, FL(Zone 9b)

your lemon might start branching on its own eventually because citrus in general branch out and sort of arch to the ground or form a rounded shape.

normally with flowers and things you can pinch the tip off for more branches, but since lemons are trees, you want to be more careful. the main stem, trunk, is something you want to keep growing healthy because it will support whatever size plant you end up with.

it sounds like you can prune off the lower branch maybe...I never pruned my lemon because it's outdoors and branches freely. by pruning off the lower branch you can encourage more bushy growth from that lower branch area.

hopefully someone who grows a container lemon will see your thread.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

First of all, make sure it is actually a Lemon you are growing, IF the previous owner grew it from a PIP / SEED, then it could take anything from 5 years to ten years to grow as a Lemon tree should.
Meanwhile, there is nothing to stop you pinching out the growing tip once it gets as tall as you want it to, by pinching out the growing tip, this should encourage it to make new side shoots you are looking for, these are quite slow growing till they reach a bit of maturity and I would also go to garden store for a feed to add to the water your giving it, maybe something that has seaweed extracts that will help with new growth and also flowering though the flowering season has gone past for Lemons for this year, it will help give energy for next years new growth.

Don't give too much feed, read the directions on packet / bottle etc, while in the garden store, look out for some compost specially for Citrus plants as it will have the proper mixture to help the plant grow strong. The plant should with care, last you a lifetime but a book store will have books on citrus plants, have a read over a coffee in the store, a note pad will be handy too, and even though you want to grow it inside for winter, a book will give you what light it will require, what watering (I only water my Lemon plant from end Sep till March enough water to keep it alive, then step up the watering and feeding.

Make sure the plant is NOT in too large a pot too as that will cause the plant to have to cope with too much cold wet soil that wont do the plant any good, better to re-pot every year than have a huge big pot, keep out of drafts and dont sit close to boiler ot heating unit.
Hope this helps you out a bit and maybe someone else will come in and help too.
Best of luck WeeNel.

St Paul, MN

Wow, thanks for the advice guys. That was quick!

What does pinching mean? And if I do it to the lower branch, would it only branch out from that one, or would it create new ones from the main trunk? I noticed when I crushed up a vitamin pill and mixed it with water, the growth became violent. Within a few days, it sprouted about 7 new leaves at the top of the plant, with the leaves going from about the size of two pinkies, to about the size of my palm.

I also noticed the growth of leaves on the lower branch has stopped (the leaves look old, and I havent seen much growth). It is quite dense there, the leaves. Should I remove some of them? And if I do, do I just pick them off?

Thanks again, you guys are great.

TabacVille, NC(Zone 7a)

DurianBandit, your unique moniker got my attention.
I love durians and unfortunately, it's difficult to find fresh ones here. The oriental markets sell only the frozen kind.
Back home, Grandad would buy a bushel during durian season, and his grandkids would be hurrying the elders to pry them open!

Good luck with your lemon tree.

Orlando, FL(Zone 9b)

heavenscape, I think durians might be illegal to ship fresh to the US. same with mangosteen, it's so unfortunate! the West Coast sees them more often. so nice to have childhood memories of fruits.

DurianBandit, well all leaves should be left on the plant as long as they are healthy. when they fall off, it's probably from age or for a good reason. removing them won't help.

pinching is when you snip off the tip growth to encourage side growth from the buds along the stem. you basically cut off the tip up to a set of leaves already growing out of them stem. the buds around that area will start to grow.

great job with the vitamin!

This message was edited Aug 29, 2013 3:44 PM

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Don't remove any leaves unless they are brown / dead or infested by aphids or other insects that are causing problems, IF you nip out the top growth or in the case of side shoots, the tips at the end of the side shoot / branch. to nip off the tender tip from the plant, just nip the soft leaf that has a growing tip and between your finger & thumb, nip this part out, it will be easy as the growing tip is soft enough,IF you need to remove the growing tip on a plant that has woody stems, then use a very sharp knife just hold the tip against a finger and cut with the blade (GENTLY) don't cut like a saw, but you will feel the blade slicing BY PRESSING it against the woody tip, DO a bit of practice on other plants out in the garden till you feel JUST the very growing tip be removed. it wont harm the plant at all.
Hope this helps you out.
Good Luck and best regards. WeeNel.

Staten Island, NY

If I found fresh Durian fruit, could I plant the seeds? I'm open for planting the unusual.
Thanks, Carol

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

It all depends on where you reside, country from country have different rules regulation, also there are rules and regulations on what type of seeds can be exported / imported from country to country also,
It is very foolish to ignore these laws and remember they are there for very valid reasons, we might NOT agree with them BUT maybe there are people or experts that are more informed than us NON professional learned gardeners who just want the pleasure of either growing something that is against the rules / laws or some people who are perhaps on their own ego trip and after there plant has grown flowered and sent seeds all over the neighbourhood, they are oblivious to the problem they have caused. BUT maybe I'm just stupid and believe the rules and regulations regarding imports and exports of plants are nothing to do with us anyway.
Soap box put away again sorry, but we need to get real IF we want to prevent another menace like Japanese knot weed and other plants that are devastating some areas of river banks, gardens of even parkland all because of ignorance to rules and regulations,
Kindest regards, WeeNel.

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