Lemon/lime tree - store bought - will it bear fuits??

rskrishnan(z10 CA.sf)August 19, 2005

Hello All,

I have been growing a lime/lemon (not sure which) plant - from a seed! It's now about approx 4 feet tall and has a nice woody stem - about 1.5" dia. It seems to be growing well in spurts, and shoots up when it hits a growth spurt.

The plant is about 4 years old - grew for about a year in a 1 gallon apple-juice bottle! Then got transplanted to my garden. So it has had at least 3 yrs in the garden soil.

This plant is from a lemon/lime bought in Safeway I think. So my question is will it fruit at all - or is it an infertile hybrid!

Has anyone had success with seeds from store bought lemon/lime fruits ??



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wanda(Z9 CA)

Generally, the citrus varieties that you purchase from a nursery are grafted. It may bear some type of small fruit, but won't be the type you originally purchased.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 7:45PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Quite often, citrus comes true from seed. You are carrying out an interesting experiment. And now that's it has been in the ground for 3 years, it should soon flower and then do its fruiting thing.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 8:41PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I agree you will probably get good fruit. Your tree will also most likely be a standard size Eureka lemon which may be a little large for the location. I have seen them pruned with a very low crotch and kept a convenient size. Al

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 10:10PM
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What a very timely post. I just cut open a Meyer lemon from my tree and the seeds had sprouted. I was wondering if I could grow them or not. Since reading your post, I will give it a try. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 12:26PM
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PoPazza(Sunset 16 CA)

The Meyer should be an interesting experiment. Historical sources say it is a cross between a lemon and an orange or mandarin or possibly all three. We know it's not a true lemon, but it would be fascinating to see what the seeds produce. I hope we're all around to hear your results in a few years, AptosCA.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 5:35PM
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KazooLee(Los Angeles)

I am growing a seedling that appeared, strangely, in a potted indoor Ficus around 7 years ago. It is fruiting for the first time. Oddly, all the lemons (limes?) are on only one branch. The largest is currently about the size of a golf ball. I am very excited to see what they will be like.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2005 at 9:59AM
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rskrishnan(z10 CA.sf)

Hey Kazoo - you got fruit from a seedling ?!!? Or is the lemon plant itself 7yrs old ?

It is odd that you have fruits on only one branch - perhaps something to do with node count ?? I never could exactly lay my hands on what is "the node count" though! Was the seedling a graft by any chance ?


    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 3:32PM
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KazooLee(Los Angeles)

Well, it was once a seedling! It is now around 7 years old and bearing. I reinspected the tree and there are indeed flowers on another branch. I do prune the tree to keep a good form - it is clear the tree will eventually be huge.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 9:59PM
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You can grow good citrus from seeds you plant but it may take 4 - 5 years or more to fruit. Citrus seeds that are polyembryonic (more that 1 embryo in the seed) will usually have at least one embryo or plant that is very close to the original plant. Seeds that are monoembryonic (only 1 embryo in the seed) will have traits from two citrus plants.
If you want to learn about different types of citrus & other fruit consider going to the Festival of Fruit next week in Santa Cruz & surrounding areas...tours from Davis area to Watsonville. Go to CRFG.org for info. If you go on the tour of Gene Lester's place in Watsonville you'll see over 100 types of citrus plants including citrus used as rootstock like Flying Dragon (so many big thorns it looks like dragons' claws!) Gene does have a few citrus that he grew from seed. When your tree gets bigger you could even bud different types of citrus onto it, like mandarins, pummelos, or oranges.
If you go on a tour of Chuck Rust's yard you'll see a citrus fruit cocktail tree.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2005 at 3:24AM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Meyers grow true from seed. I have a 10 year old bush that popped up across the fence from my neighbor's Meyer, from fruit that just dropped and fell on the ground.

You will wait a long time for Eurekas to bear, compared to Meyers. Meyers fruit heavily while young, but most citrus do not. It can take from 7-10 years to begin setting a decent-sized crop, but they will live a very long time with minimal care as they mature.

All citrus, including Meyers, taste better as the trees/bushes mature (Meyers are a bush by nature; if you have a tree it's been grafted or pruned into a standard).

Good luck with your seedling!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2005 at 12:02AM
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I have a 5 inch lime plant from a seed of a lime I ate. It has been in the patio room. I took it outside and the nest day it had orange spots on the leaves. Does anyone know what the orange spots are and why it happened when it was moved outside?
Thanks, :)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 4:02PM
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Hello Theresa,
Well, I grew my plant in a similar fashion (store bought fruit -> spit out seeds into a bottle). Well I have had the spotting on the leaves a long time back. A friend of mine claims that it's some fungal infection. I did not want to spray anything - so I just gave it a good wetting (plant + leaves etc) and gave it a lot of sunshine. It was perfectly fine after that. Now I have the plant (semi-tree !!) in the soil and it's doing great - but no fruits ... yet!

Good luck with your plant. These are great when you have a growth spurt (even in a bottle) - it pretty much grows overnight during such a spurt!


    Bookmark   July 31, 2007 at 12:38AM
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Just noticed about this site and I was wondering if anyone could tell me something. My dad has I think a lime tree now for like the past 4 or 6 years as far as I know and its about 10-12ft tall and nothing is happening, how can you find out when its about to bear fruit?

    Bookmark   September 25, 2007 at 10:59PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Julius, when the tree blooms it will start fruiting. Standard citrus start blooming when they are older than the dwarf varieties. Al

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 9:20AM
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We always used to make fun of my grandpa (in a fun way because we loved him a lot) but he grew a gorgeous orange tree from seed. The tree grew to be very large and healthy (we used to climb in it as kids) and what a prolific fruiter.....unfortunately they were the sourest oranges you ever tasted. Completely inedible! I still laugh to myself thinking of grandpa's orange tree!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 7:31PM
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joereal(Ca z9/SS z14)

Key Limes would be one of the quickest to bear fruits from seeds. There are others trifoliate types which can also bear much fruits even earlier than key limes but they are used as rootstocks or ornamentals but not for palatable fruit use.

Fortunella hybrids that include hybrids of kumquats such as Calamondins, limequats, lemonquats, mandarinquats, sunquats would often come true to type from seeds and they also bear fruit early.

Perhaps the longest to bear fruit from seeds are the pummelos and their hybrids like the grapefruits. The oranges come intermediate when it comes to bearing fruits from seeds.

Grafted or not, but very often, the first few fruits from your citrus tree would be lousy tasting and of poor quality. It usually improves with tree age, with the quality starting to peak and stabilize after about three to four seasons from first fruiting. So don't chop off your tree when the first fruits do not compare with the ones you buy from the stores.

The vigorous sour orange most probably came from rootstocks used way back in 1872. Here's short history:

Before 1880's, most of California Citrus groves were composed of seedling trees. Most popular are lemons and oranges planted in the missions and haciendas of Southern California.

Around 1872, the almost seedless Washington navels became so popular that there were not enough seeds to plant more navel trees, and so rootstocks became a necessity.

First rootstock used was sweet orange (C. sinensis) and used until the 1940's.

The next more popular rootstock starting around 1890's was the sour orange (C. aurantium) which tolerated phyhtopthora gummoosis and produced high-quality fruit.

Then the rough lemon (C. jambhiri) was introduced around 1900's as rootstock for lemons and grapefruits where it achieved high yields even in sandy desert areas, but alas, due to poor fruit quality and susceptibility to cold limited its use.

Then Cleopatra mandarin (C. reticulata) was used when trying to find tristeza-tolerant rootstocks. Its value was discovered in saline soils. It produced excellent quality grapefruits, but alas, it is susceptible to foot rot and also lost its popularity.

All the above rootstocks were popularly used in commercial citrus industry of California until the 1940's.

Around the 1940's a big event happened in California. Tristeza virus was discovered to be causing devastation of most citrus groves on sour orange rootstocks. This has lead to various works on rootstock development and changed the rootstock usage in California todate. Thus it ended the use of sour oranges and the hybrids of Sweet x Trifoliate oranges (Troyer and Carrizo) were introduced.

Lately, there is a resurgence Citrus Tristeza Virus in Southern California which could mean that citruses on sour orange rootstocks and the sour oranges themselves would face another bout of devastation.

As to the ultimate multi-grafted citrus, I currently have a 61-n-1 citrus tree. Tomorrow, I'm grafting 4 more cultivars unto it.

Here's the tree when it was still 50-n-1:
Fruits from 50-n-1 citrus tree

And here's the best technique to add a cultivar when your tree is already mature. Budding is good for younger trees, but bark grafting have better success rates when multi-grafting to a mature tree.
Citrus Bark Grafting Demo

Here is a link that might be useful: Citrus Rootstock History

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 3:26AM
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Hi all - I, too, have grown a lemon tree and a lime tree from seed. They are about 3-4' tall now, but they do not look happy. They both had a slight infestation during the winter, but that's all cleared up now. They are just doing nothing. No new growth, dropping leaves like crazy. The orange tree's leaves are lying almost flat against the 1" trunk; the lime tree has lots of branches and leaves, but seems lifeless. I've fertilized now for spring and don't know what else to do to make them happy. They are getting plenty of sun.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 4:04PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

versatilegardener you did not say if your citrus was in containers or the ground. Your problem I believe is related to the soil they are in. Give more information about the soil and we may have some suggestions. Al

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 8:57AM
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To begin with, I was born and raised in Southern California then much to my dismay we moved, life goes on, blah blah blah, I know, I know :0) However, in my last home there we had what must have been an enormous Meyer lemon bush, oh the beauty of the thing and the exquisite fruit... anyway I've been left longing for twenty years for a citrus tree of my own and now I've found one but seeing this thread has opened a sore spot. I need to know only one thing, how in the world are you all getting the seeds to sprout??? They're wrapped up like Fort Knox. I've tried letting the seed dry, I've tried it fresh out of the fruit I've tried scrubbing the thing to get the slime off of it, I've tried nicking the seed coat, I've tried planting straight in soil, in a wet napkin in the window sill all to no avail, so if some one will please enlighten me to the little dance and magic words I must have missed I would greatly appreciate it :0D
Much Thanks, Putter

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 11:11PM
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I planted a lemon seed I got from an lemon in a plastic cup (without drainage holes), and left it on a window sill facing east for about 2 weeks. Then I moved it to a window facing west and now, after a week I have a 2 and a half inch seedling with a small leaf!
I'm thinking about starting a key lime and getting rid of this lemon though, cause it'll probably have thorns in the future... :'(
P.S. I watered the seed EVERYDAY with about 4-7 drops of warm water.
Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 9:01PM
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Any luck yet, it has been 4 years.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 8:18PM
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rskrishnan(z10 CA.sf)

Hello GoldFish + Others,
Yes !!! :)
It finally had a couple of flowers around Oct/Nov of 2008 and now I have a tree that seems to flower like crazy - and even has 3 fruits in development. The biggest is about as big as a ping pong ball and very nice green colour. I suppose I'll have wait a while for the fruits to ripen. I'm pretty thrilled that the plant found a way to flower and fruit!


    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 10:13PM
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Propaganda Garden Design

Ha! Nice follow up to the story. :)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 10:37PM
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