germinating store bought lemon seeds

riptidefrogAugust 21, 2014

A week or so ago I caught the citrus bug and started scanning websites on the best way to germinate store bought lemon seeds. one of these sites said to take off both the husk and the thin membrane that is attached to the seed itself.

So I have done this and it seems to me that the seeds seem flimsy and I worry that perhaps it was not the best advice to remove that thin attached membrane.

From what I observe it seems that the majority of the seed is what will become the cotyledons once germinated. These are attached at one point which I assume will elongate into the root.

This is the only attachment point and the soon to be cotyledons are a bit mobile. Not to the point that they have broken from the attachment point but enough to cause me concern.

Added to that is the question that by removing the membrane might I have interrupted some sort of chemical cascade that begins in that membrane which is necessary to initiate germination. (I'm digging deep into my limited knowledge of seed germinating here, maybe 15 years, so I might have dreamed such a thing up.)

When scanning webpages about this many of them seemed a bit commercial. Almost like an advertisement of how to do nifty things at home and I am unsure which site I originally found this information. I find myself not entirely trusting those sites. I've been around the houseplant forum in the past so I have confidence that many of the posters here may be able to tell me if I have erred or not.

Thank you for your time.

Here is a pic. The seeds are in a ziplock bag on a moistened paper towel. You can see the offset of the cotyledons.

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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

Don't worry, that's normal for most citrus seeds. Plant them and the strongest or only plant is the clone plant. Good luck


    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:58AM
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I just put the fresh seeds...NOT dried, in warm moist soil; plant them about 1/2 inch deep, cover with plastic wrap if you like, keep the soil warm and moist, and in about 2 weeks you should get 90+% germination. Personally, I think the plastic bag method results in a weaker, slower growing plant due to the "transplant shock".

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 4:15PM
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Well I think that the question might be answered. I'm starting to see what might be the beginnings of roots. Also the seeds look just a bit green instead of yellow.

I thought about planting them direct but I like to see whats going on too much.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 11:09PM
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Actually peeling them does improve germination a lot =)
Do you cover your seeds with clear glass or plastic container? That helps to increase humidity around seeds and speeds things up too. It is better to keep your sprouts in such "greenhouse" until 2nd set of leaves.
Good luck with your baby-lemons.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 9:16AM
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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

I put my seeds in a clear plastic container with a lid. In the winter time I place them in my heater duct and they are up within a week with some poking through in as little as 4 days. After they have a few days up I move them to individual cups and move them to my bucket light as seen below.

meiwa kumquat sharing bucket light with 3 sweetlee tangerine trees

During non heating season I place them in between my storm and regular window and block the tub from direct sunlight with a sheet of white paper. It is warmer between the window and the paper keeps the plants from cooking. once they are up for a few days I move them to their own cups and place them out side in a shady spot and acclimate them to sunlight.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 10:00AM
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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

Hi. I found the picture of the trees at 1,5 years age grown under the bucket light method.

The picture of sweetlee from seed is below. To see the other 2 sweetlee tangerine trees and the entire history pictures click the link.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 1:29PM
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I have an update for those out there that enjoy the small but exciting changes in plants.

The roots are forming and elongating from the seeds and I'm totally geeking out. Compared to other seeds from other types of plants, herbs, etc these seem slow. It really makes it more interesting though. Instead of seeing a seedling suddenly pop out of the soil each change can be noted.

After that first photo and post the seeds looked just a tinge green the next day, then the tiny beginnings of the root, then the root elongating and bending down.

The seeds in the photo are still in their original positions but have been jumbled about by my ministrations. You may notice that the seed in middle bottom has a root that is pointing up; I flipped it accidentally. Also the top middle seed has had a cotyledon broken off but the larger portion is still proceeding as the others are. Other seeds have been spun inadvertently

So far i am seeing activity in 100% of the seeds.

So does anyone else enjoy this or have I found yet another quirk that separates me from the flock?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 7:47PM
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Always interesting to see them grow.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 10:12PM
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Just adding another photo of the germination progression for any who might be interested.

Its still exciting for me. The photo is not the clearest but i can see the beginnings of true leaves starting in the middle bottom seed. Kind of suprosing because I thought that the top left and top right were further along due to color and opening of the cotyledons.

The top center is an anomaly. One of the cotyledons broke off but continues to survive. the remaining seed looks like it has another small cotyledon along with the remaining original. I wonder if this would have been a seedling with three leaves. It also occurs to me that this may be an example of polyembryony but i doubt it. there was a groove on one end of the broken cotyledon where the root was developing in the seed. My intuition tells me that indicates it being part of the original seed and not an additional embryo.

There is slight darkening at this grooved area of the broken cotyledon so i wonder if it may be trying to form a root or if it just starting to decay at that point. Im not sure if a seed can create new meristem tissue at this stage of development. Too soon to tell at any rate.

If all the seeds continue to thrive i may keep all of them and it will be interesting to see if that three-cotyledoned seed has any mutation or greatly differing growth habit.

These seeds were taken from a store bought lemon found at Smiths (Kroger) in Salt Lake City, Utah. It had a sticker that had the 4-digit purchase code on it and also "Chile". Does anyone have any clue as to what type this lemon was? From what I can gather it's likely Eureka or Libson. I'm not familiar with citrus enough to be able to tell the difference on sight.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 7:41PM
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I have another observation that i find interesting.

It appears that some of the seedlings are a bit different than I expected. I have numbered the seedlings in the following picture to be more clear.

Seedlings 1, 4 and 6 are progressing in what I assume to be a normal fashion. There are 2 cotyledons, a root and the beginnings of a pointed growth which I expect to elongate and develop the first true leaves of the seedling.

Seedlings 2, 3 and 5 appear to have 4 cotyledons each, 2 sized as the normal seedlings are and 2 that are smaller as well as one root. #2 also appears to have one pointed growth like the first group of seedlings.

I have heard about polyembryony and have actually seen it once in seedlings that sprouted inside of a grapefruit about 12ish years ago ( or more). The second set of seeds may be poly embryonic but if thats so then it raises questions.

One set of cotyledons is much smaller than the others. I have read here as well as other places that in polyembryony the strongest, most vigorous seedling is considered to be the clone of the parent.

For seedlings 2, 3 and 5 the extra cotyledons are attached to the same base of the seed as the other 2 (except for the one I accidentally broke off earlier) and there is only one root. Additionally seedlings 2 and 3 dont seem to be as well developed as some of the other seedlings. True that #2 has a stem developing but the root for that seedling has not grown as much as some of the others. Compare that to #s 1, 4 and 6 all of which have a well developed root and two of which are developing their stems.

Would a clone seedling of the parent out-compete a monoembryonic seedling? Additionally i would have expected a polyembryonic seed to be shaped differently than a conventional seedling; Sort of like 2 seeds squished into one. The second group of seedlings here all had the extra cotyledons inside, between the larger cotyledons.

So I'm not sure if what I'm seeing are examples of polyembryony or if these are just common occurrences found in citrus/lemon seedlings.

It has occurred to me that some or many of you may find these observations to be pedantic. I guess I cant help that if that is the case. I intend to continue posting the progress of these seedlings both because there may be others out there that find it interesting and because it gives me a great place to easily see and mark progress and differences. I hope none of you consider it as clutter on the forum.

P.S. I'm not so good at posting pics i guess. Clicking on the photo shows an upright picture.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 6:55PM
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Exciting (for me) changes.

Roots have taken off, sometimes they were displacing the seed positioning overnight. I have planted each seed into its own numbered pot. Check mark were placed on the pots with seeds that i identified as "conventional" in my previous post.

Those seeds that have extra cotyledons are indeed growing with the first set of true leaves coming on as whorls of three leaves on at least 2 seedlings.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2014 at 12:26AM
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Photo of one of the normal seedlings

    Bookmark   September 10, 2014 at 12:28AM
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Close up of seedling number 5. The small extra cotyledons can be seen near the base of the seedling base above the larger cotyledons.

The whorl of leaves at the top can be seen better if you can zoom in. I wonder what the next flush of growth will look like.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2014 at 12:36AM
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Before I face censure from the forum I shall out myself on a few points and offer an explanation.

1.) Yes these are self-watering pots. No I am not planning on using them as such. They were the smallest and cheapest I could find at the stores I checked.

2.) This is common potting soil, Miracle grow, that I had leftover after filling the flower baskets from this past spring.
I have tried a variant of the gritty mix in the past for houseplants but found that when i have to work more I don't have the time to tend the plants and respond to their needs as often. This led to the plants suffering and seeming to be chronically dry and wilting.

Over watering has not been a problem for me in the past (aside from a poor and very fussy departed ming aralia) and the fact that the soil holds water works for my home/work lifestyle. If the soil has gotten exceptionally dry then I place my plants in the sink and let a slow drip slowly saturate the soil.

3.) The pot diameter may be a bit too large for the seedlings right now. Again, these were the cheapest and smallest I could find at this time. It was important to me that all of the pots were the same. I'm sure that this will mean careful monitoring of the soil moisture until the roots and plants have grown some.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2014 at 12:53AM
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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

You should be fine. Just water from underneath and don't get the stem wet. here is what I use for pots clck link below


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 10, 2014 at 7:40AM
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For those that may be interested I should be posting update pictures soon. If only i could figure out how to post multiple pictures in one post.

The seedlings are progressing fine except for #3. That one had an underdeveloped root and did fine for a few days but suffered when the weather got sunnier and warmer outside. It perked up when i domed it with a ziploc baggie yesterday though. I hope it just needs time to catch up and wont be weak throughout its life.

The most robust has been #5 by far. it has an extra thick stem and looks like it has several new leaves developing beyond the original 3 first true leaves. The stem beyond the first set of leaves has yet to elongate just yet. I might have been wrong calling that first set of leaves on this plant a whorl. There are slight differences in their placement on the stem. Just 3 first true leaves with short internode lengths i suppose. I'll be keeping an eye on its growth to see if it continues to be different from the others.

Some of the others look like they are preparing the next set of leaves too but they are thin and small, reminding me of commas or hyphens at this point.

Pics to follow soon.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2014 at 9:39PM
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Here is the latest update. #5 is still the most robust but is a similar size as the rest except for #3. #5 appears to have already branched and thus has more leaves than the other seedlings.

The orange cat in the background is one of the strays that i began feeding this spring. Its caretaker moved away at that time and he was begging for food and looked dangerously thin. I know many people say not to feed strays but I would feel horrible to find that the cat had died when I could have saved it. Besides I know this cat and he is part of this community....I'm too much of a softie.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2014 at 5:40PM
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And here is #3, very much behind in development. I've decided to wait until i see stronger growth before removing the tenting. Maybe its slower root growth at the beginning might lend itself well to containerized growing?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2014 at 5:42PM
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marilyn_c(z9 Tex.coast)

Riptidefrog, enjoyed your pictures. Loved your observation about not being one of the either. I love growing plants of all kinds from seed. I have grapefruit, key limes and lemon seedlings. The grapefruit plants are about 3' tall now. The key limes are about 2' tall. The lemons...just started them and they are a couple of inches high. I soaked them and started them on paper towels, but moved them to soil before they actually sprouted. I removed the husk on some...some I didn't. I got a good number to sprout....and some are still sprouting, about three weeks after the first ones.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2014 at 1:11PM
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Thanks to those of you that have helped so far.

And thank you Marilyn, its nice to know there are others separate from the flock besides me.

I hope to keep posting more pictures as things develop. I need to have something green and growing to concentrate when it gets cold out and wont be seeing the sun for a month or more.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2014 at 2:06AM
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BTW Marilyn, I'd love to see photos of your citrus plants.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2014 at 2:08AM
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