Newbie wants to grow a lemon in CA

thebordellaApril 3, 2013


I recently moved to Los Angeles, on the westside. I am originally from the northeast and this is my first time living in this amazing climate.

Years ago I occasionally did summer container gardening of things like tomatoes and peppers using store bought plants. These worked out well but that is the limit of my experience.

I want to start getting back into this hobby here in LA and my goal is to start simple: grow a lemon. My new place has a large terrace that gets direct sun all afternoon (the previous tenant grew quite an extensive container fruit & vegetable garden out there but took it all with them).

Knowing nothing about growing citrus, what would be the best way to begin? What sort of lemon plant should I buy, preferably to get going quickly? Where would one typically shop for something like a lemon tree that is container friendly and ready to go?

Talk to me like I just landed on this planet! I will learn quickly and try new things but I want to get started with this one simple goal. I do have easy access to water, there is a spout right on the terrace.


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Costco has some nice lemon trees in 5 gallon pots right now. Or you could go to a nice nursery if your Costco doesn't have any (obviously at twice the price!) You can't go wrong with a Meyer lemon, but if you can, also buy a Lisbon or Eureka (which are almost the same variety), because they fruit at different times than the Meyer and you will have a longer harvest period.

If you are going to be growing in a pot, you need to know that the most stressful thing for a plant is to have its roots heated up with direct sun, so be sure to provide some shade for the pot part, either by wrapping burlap or something around the pot, or by putting an inner pot inside of a larger pot, so there is an air layer in between.
And of course you will need to buy some special citrus fertilizer and sprinkle it 3 or 4 times a year in the pot, which you can buy at .Home Depot or Lowe's or a nursery.
Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 1:36PM
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Thanks, Carla, that is great info! I will look for those varieties and definitely heed your advice about pot exposure and fertilizer.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 11:11PM
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If you are in a suburban part of LA (which is most of it!) with yards then there are probably lemon trees all over with falling fruit. I would just pick those when you need them and go for another variety of citrus for your terrace.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 11:23PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Carla has given you great advice. I would also suggest a lovely Improved Meyer lemon. Be sure to purchase a semi-dwarf (on semi-dwarfing rootstock), to help with size control. Get a nice ceramic, resin or fiberglass pot (stay away from terra cotta, much too drying). Use very well draining potting soil, as container citrus do not tolerate wet roots. For all my container citrus I prefer to use EB Stone Cactus Mix. You can use this, and even mix in some small (size of a nickel) pine bark and perlite to improve drainage. As much sun as possible, and if you can provide some shade for the pot, that would be ideal, but my pots are in full sun, and my citrus in containers do just fine. Be sure to fertilize with just about every watering with 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer. The best out there is DynaGro's Foliage Pro. It has the proper NPK ratio, plus all the micros. I use that, as well as Osmocote Plus (it must be the "Plus" formulation as it has the micros included). Keep watered well in the summer - during our really hot temps you may need to water every day. Reduce watering as temps cool off. Here are are couple of my container citrus, so you can see they do very well in pots:

Also, we have a great Citrus Forum here on Garden Web, so I would suggest you continue your citrus quest over on the Citrus Forum. Lots of container citrus folks from all over the place there :-)

Patty S.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 11:54PM
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