Growing a lemon tree from a grocery store lemon. Good idea or Bad

cjhodgeAugust 21, 2006

I bought a lemon from the grocery and took the seeds out and soaked them about 48 hours. I potted them in tiny clay pots and in a potting mix for african violets. Will I get anything to grow from these seeds and will the plant be worth anything if it grows?

Thanks in advance


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It's good that you didn't let the seeds dry out, because most (if not all) citrus seeds lose there freshness rather quickly. You need to keep the lemons soil damp but not wet and make sure you keep the soil at around 60-70 degrees it'll take anywhere from a week to two weeks and it varies on how many years it'll be before it blooms and fruits. Other than that citrus is a great houseplant as long as it gets lots of sun and you keep it at a comfortable temperature. I mysel f have also just recently started so lemon seeds about 5 days ago and som key limes about 3 days ago. I wish us both luck. Here's a link to a great citrus forum.

Here is a link that might be useful: Citrus Growers

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 4:55AM
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I don't know how free draining african violet potting mix is, but you want something that drains very well. Also, put the seeds in a warm place to germinate. Once they do, make sure not to over water - let the soil be just dry the touch before watering - but don't let the seedlings wilt.

It also helps to provide water from the bottom while they're young instead of on the soil surface. That helps to discourage fungus growth which can kill the plants when young.

As for will they be worth anything - citrus started from seed go through a long period of juvenility. When the plants are juvenile, they usually have huge thorns (maybe 1" long on average), and will not flower or produce fruit for several years. Just how many years varies for the plant. It can be as few as 2-5 for key limes, up to 7 - 15 years for grapefruit. Also, not all varieties come true from seed (as in, the fruit you eventually get may not look or taste like the parent fruit). Lemons though, do usually come true from seed if I remember correctly.

So, if you just want the satisfaction of growing a pretty (but thorny) evergreen plant from seed - you're on the right track. If you'd like a lemon tree that flowers now, and produces lemons maybe this year, or next year - consider buying a grafted tree. These trees are propagated from mature citrus and that fools them into thinking they are "old". So, you get flowers and fruit much sooner.

For lemons, you can probably find one at a local garden center this time of the year (for $20 - $40) even though you aren't in the citrus belt. There are also several good places to order citrus online. Here are just a few to get you started:

Also check out the citrus growers forum japa mentioned - there's a section on mail order citrus there as well.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 8:20AM
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Years ago I planted an orange seed and it grew into a big beautiful tree but it never bloomed. I don't know if seeds grow true to the parent. Even if they don't you'll have a pretty tree in a few years.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 8:30AM
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Good Post Pelham,

I think lemons do grow true to seed also.

I don't have the patience now to wait for a tree to flower and fruit like I did when I was a kid. A pear seed I planted in the house where I grew up in Chicago is now a HUGE tree with a zillion bartlet pears on it every year. It's 35 years old now. I did get some Ugli fruit seeds from tradewindsfruit and 3 have sprouted. I know these aren't true to seed, so I wonder what I will be getting... I'll just call it mystery fruit.

Good luck Casey growing! Always fun! If you want lemons before 5 years, you can buy them and pretend they came from your tree. It will be just as good.

Citrusboy aka Marc

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 10:02AM
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Growing any plant from seed is a rewarding feeling..Follow the directions above and you'll have a beautiful tree..the thing about lemons growing from seed, the leaves are so much more fragent than any you buy from a nursery..I had a lemon growing from store-bought seed, but like an above poster stated, I didn't have the patience to wait for fruit so I gave it away. It was about 5-6 yrs old, w/beautiful dark green thing about seeds though is there are a lot more thorns to deal with.
If you're going to use AV soil, I'd add some sand or Perlite w/the mix so it's well-draining..Toni

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 4:59PM
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Thanks, everyone, for your advise!! I took the seeds out of the potting mix I had them in and added about half perlite to it and replanted the seeds. Suprisingly, the seeds looked very plump! They have only been in the soil for about a day. When I first put them in, they still looked wrinkled. I have a 10 gallon fish tank that has a lighted hood that they are currently in. I can control everything very well in there. The temp stays about 84 degrees. Is this too warm for these little guys?

I will check out the links that were suggested too!

I am really enjoying learning about the lime tree I have, so I am very curious to see if I can grow a lemon tree. I really don't care so much about the fruit right now. I want to know how to care for a citrus. When the time comes and it blooms and fruits that will be the reward for waiting and taking good care of the plant.

The thorns don't really bother me, either. My mother-in-law knows a lady that had 4 or 5 LARGE cacti that she wanted to get rid of. I ended up with one pot that has 3 in it that are about 3' tall and another that is between 6' and 7'. I won't have to worry about the dogs getting into them! LOL

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 10:43PM
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I grew a lemon tree from seed and had it for 11 years, it never flowered but I loved it as much as if it had. I lost it last spring.I would rub the leaves a little bit to enjoy the fresh lemon smell.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 11:18PM
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orchidguyftl(z11 FTL FL)

I have grown some citrus from seed, lemons, grapefruit and orange. The only problem I see with trying to grow in a terrarium/fishtank setting it lack of air flow. Ity can rot seedlings very fast.
Warm with plenty of light, let slightly dry before watering, mine are all potted in an equal mix of pro mix and sand. Also, Citrus have a strong need for Iron. They can become very chlorotic, splotchy leaves with dark veins. to avoid this I always put a few nails/screws, that will rust easilly, into the top of the pot surface, they will release iron slowly enough into the surface, but quick enough for the plant to absorb.
The other good use I have for citrus that hasn't yet bloomed or set fruit, is cooking. I use the lemon, lime and other citrus leaves just as I do with my fresh Bay leaves; soups, stews, fish, etc. They give a wonderful subtle flavor to the dishes. Just make sure that any leaves that you use for cooking hasn't been sprayed with insecticide for the time on the lable set for edibles.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 12:52AM
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Stevi,weren't the leaves fragrant? I think they're much more fragrant than the nursery-bought trees. It smelled just like Lemon Pledge..Toni

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 3:35PM
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I put my seeds in a paper towel sprinkled on root stimulator wrapped them lightly soaked the paper towel and placed it in a clear Starbucks coffee cup and put the lid on (made a mini green house) and stuck it in my kitchen window. This was about two weeks ago and now I have several sprouts with roots I will transplant them to pots when the roots get a little stronger. My neighbor said he thought it had to be grafter to make fruit but was unsure of it. Any specialists out there know if this is true?
Just my two cents

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 2:10PM
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The best way to germinate them is in a damp papertowel in a plastic bag, keep it warm at 30C and after a day, break the outer shell off the seeds, then return them to the bag, leave or a couple of days and they normaly will have sprouted, the lack of shell means the roots grow straight instead of curling inside the shell
Once growing plant then in a very very quick draining material such as perlite , 100% perlite or 50/50 perlite and compost , lime free sand works well as well
They will usualy fruit, all at different times, it depends on the variety, some like grapefruits probably never will unless you let them grow giant
They need to grow a certain number of leaves before they will flower, if you prune the tree, the number of leaves are reduced, so it needs to be let grow as big as possible, the quicker it grows the quicker it will flower/fruit, key limes are quickest at about 3-5 years, lemons about 5 to 10 years, but it can be much quicker and much slower, it all depends
They dont need to be grafted, the reason they graft trees is you can grow a tree such as a trifoliata bitter orange or a calamondin , from seed or a cutting once large enough to handle you can graft or tbud from a fruiting age tree to the young roots, the parts you add remeber there age and therefor produce fruit rapidly without having to age to a certain size, you can pick roots to help with certain conditions and to help control the size that the tree will grow

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 4:10PM
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I planted some grapefruit seeds a few wks ago and now have a few 1-2" starts. I was told that these will never bear fruit since the grapefruit was from the grocery store. Is this true?
I also have a nice-looking apple tree that I started 4 yrs ago from a grocery store apple. Maybe it will never bear fruit but I enjoy experimenting to see if I can get seeds to sprout and grow into a plant or tree!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2008 at 6:58AM
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The grapefruit will grow fruit, if grown correctly. I have yet to hear of one fruiting in a container since they need to get really big before maturing to fruit-bearing age, but in ground shouldn't be a problem if the conditions are right. Try lemon, mandarin or lime seeds for quicker fruit

    Bookmark   December 16, 2008 at 2:18PM
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This message is 3 years later than the forum that satrted us all off, so I hope you all got your plants, because i did, mine has two good healthy big lemons growing, about 20 fell off.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 8:14PM
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Im no expert but i know apples need to be pollinated from a totaly different plant to produce true apples. I also read somewhere this is true for citrus. goldfish if you see this could you shed some light on it. Did your tree have a companion or does it just not matter. Also how is your tree i see you posted in 09 and it was 3 years old so it must be 6 now. What are your fruits like. Any seed production?

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 4:08PM
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I am no expert on trees although I own about 30 of them. Some of them reward me with delicious fruits and some I take care of them hoping God will foregive my sins. From my reading fruit trees to make fruits it has to be grafted on a root stock how this with a tree from seed. I have a mango tree from seed and is doing deadly other that it looks good.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 10:16PM
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