When Does A Lemon Tree Bear Fruit? (3 Things To Know)


If you have recently planted lemon trees in your yard, you might not be seeing any fruit on the branches just yet.  In that case, you may be wondering when lemon trees bear fruit, and if there is anything you can do to help them along.

So, when does a lemon tree bear fruit?  A lemon tree will produce fruit 1 to 3 years after planting – you will get fruit sooner if you buy larger, more established trees.  A lemon may take 6 to 9 months to fully ripen. Different varieties produce fruit at different times of the year, although some lemon trees can bear fruit year-round.

Of course, it may take a longer time for your lemon tree to start producing fruit, depending on the variety and age of the tree when you buy it.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at lemon trees and when they bear fruit. Then we’ll look at the factors that can affect your harvest, such as fertilization and pruning.

Let’s begin.

When Does A Lemon Tree Bear Fruit?

According to the Clemson University Extension, a lemon tree needs 1 to 3 years to grow out of the “juvenile” stage and become a mature tree.  At that point, the mature tree will start producing fruit.

lemon tree
A lemon tree takes 1 to 3 years to mature to the point where it can produce a decent lemon crop.

As trees get older and grow larger, they become more established (more branches and roots), so they can support more fruit. As such, you can get fruit sooner if you buy older, more established lemon trees.

Of course, you will pay a premium price for these older established lemon trees. For example, FastGrowingTrees.com charges 3 times as much for a 4 to 5 foot tall lemon tree as for a 1 to 2 foot tall lemon tree.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, lemon trees grown from seed will rarely produce fruit. Keep this in mind if you are thinking of growing a tree from lemon seeds.

How Often Do Lemon Trees Bear Fruit?

According to Texas A&M University, most lemon trees have some fruit on their branches at any given time of the year. The time frame for getting ripe fruit from lemon trees varies by the two main types:

  • Eureka lemons – these produce the most fruit in spring and summer
  • Lisbon lemons – these produce the most fruit in the summer and fall

Don’t get too excited when you see fruit form on a lemon tree! According to the University of Maryland Extension, some lemons take 6 to 9 months to ripen fully.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, there is also the possibility that some lemons will fall off the tree in late spring or early summer. This is sometimes known as “June drop”.

lemons on tree
A lemon tree may drop some of its fruit before maturity, sometimes known as “June drop”. This is so that the plant does not produce more fruit than it can support.

This is simply a tree’s way of keeping only as much fruit as it can reasonably support to maturity. Think of it this way: instead of growing 200 half-ripe lemons, the tree drops 100 and grows the other 100 to full maturity.

Believe it or not, June drop can be a blessing in disguise. When the tree drops fruit it cannot support, that means you don’t have to remove extra fruit manually.

The bottom line is this: don’t panic if some of the fruit falls off your lemon tree before it is fully mature. It is a natural part of the process.

Do Lemon Trees Produce Fruit Every Year?

Lemon trees do not produce fruit every year.  In the first one to three years (and perhaps longer), a lemon tree will be focusing its energy on growth and storage of energy and nutrients.

lemon tree
A lemon tree may not produce fruit for a couple of years while it focuses energy into growth as it matures.

Keep in mind that problems like frost injury, over pruning, and over fertilization can delay fruiting on a lemon tree by a year or more.

In some cases, you will see what is called “biennial bearing” (also known as uneven bearing or alternate bearing) in your lemon trees.  This means that they will only flower and produce fruit every other year.

Often, this will happen after a year of very heavy fruit production.  Essentially, the tree’s resources are exhausted from using so many nutrients to produce a large harvest.

The tree then takes a “year off” from fruit production to recover its strength. During the off year, the tree gathers energy and nutrients to prepare for fruit production the following year (the “on year”).

How Much Fruit Does A Lemon Tree Produce?

Lemon trees can produce 100 pounds of more of lemons per year when fully mature. The amount of fruit your lemon tree produces will vary by age, variety, location, and quality of care given.

According to Purdue University, 3 boxes of lemons per tree is considered a satisfactory yield in Florida.  On the other hand, a 9-year-old lemon tree in India bore over 3,000 lemons in one year!

lemon tree
A single lemon tree can produce thousands of lemons, although you may not get quite that many from your tree!

According to the University of Florida Extension, a young lemon tree that is around 3 years old can start producing 38 pounds of lemons per year. Mature lemon trees in the 4th year and beyond can produce 100 pounds of fruit per year.

Do You Need Two Lemon Trees To Get Fruit?

You do not need two lemon trees to get fruit, since lemon trees are self-pollinating.  According to the University of Georgia Extension, citrus trees are self-fruitful (self-polinating) and do not need cross-pollination with trees.

When a plant is self-pollinating, it means that each flower contains both a male and a female part. Pollination occurs when the male part of the flower releases pollen onto the female part of the flower.

However, self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination.  The flowers still need to be pollinated by insects or by you (with an electric toothbrush or some other means).

bee on blueberry flower
Lemon trees are self-pollinating, but they still need stimulation from bees or other pollinators to set fruit. You can do the job yourself with an electric toothbrush!

This is especially important if you are growing lemon trees indoors.  Be sure to use an electric toothbrush, paintbrush, or other tool to stimulate pollination of the flowers on your lemon tree.

Why Is My Lemon Tree Not Producing Lemons (No Fruit)?

As mentioned earlier, a lemon tree may not produce any fruit in its first few years. Even a tree that is mature may not produce fruit for several reasons.

lemons on tree
The wrong environmental conditions could delay fruit production on your lemon trees by a year or more.

To get your lemon trees to produce fruit, you will have to give them the proper care. Some of the most important factors that affect fruit growth on lemon trees are:

  • temperature
  • watering
  • fertilizing
  • pruning
  • spacing

Getting even one of these factors wrong can harm your lemon tree or delay fruit production for a year or more.

Temperature For Lemon Trees

Most lemon trees will grow outside in Zones 9 and 10.  If you grow lemon trees elsewhere, you will need to keep them indoors for part of the year to protect them from cold.

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the temperature should be consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) before moving a lemon tree outdoors.

However, an unexpected frost may not necessarily be the end of your lemon tree.  For instance, according to Penn State University, Meyer lemons are cold hardy to 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-5.6 degrees Celsius).

frosted leaf
Some lemon trees are cold hardy and can survive temperatures below freezing.

Your best bet is to be prepared to bring your lemon trees inside if there is any danger of freezing temperatures. If you can’t bring the tree inside, use a blanket to provide at least some protection from the cold.

Another possibility is to use row covers to protect your lemon trees from cold. You can learn more about row covers in my article here.

Keeping the soil around the lemon tree moist will slow down the loss of heat from the ground during cold weather. This will at least help to protect the roots of the plant from cold.

Watering For Lemon Trees

Avoid letting the soil get too dry for too long, especially if you have young lemon trees.  If you have a problem with dry soil, check out my article on preventing dry soil.

garden hose
Keep the soil moist, but not wet, for your lemon tree.

According to the University of Arizona, lemon trees without enough water will start to produce smaller fruit. Then, the leaves will turn dull green and the edges will curl inward, as will many plant under drought stress.

If the lack of water is severe enough, the lemon tree will drop flowers and fruit. The University of Arizona suggests watering citrus trees every 7 to 28 days with deep watering, rather than watering shallowly and often.

Although drought is a problem for lemon trees, soil that is too wet can also cause problems.  Over watering can spell death for your lemon tree, due to root rot or fungal diseases.

If necessary, you can plant your lemon tree on a mound to assist with drainage.  For more information, check out my article on over watering.

Fertilizing For Lemon Trees

According to Texas A&M University, compost and mulch is not necessary for a lemon tree.

However, it may be necessary to use fertilizers as a supplement, in order to provide extra nutrients if the soil is lacking. A soil test is the best way to tell if you need fertilizer.

For more information, check out my article on soil testing.

If a soil test indicates that fertilizer is necessary, than you can use a low-concentration fertilizer. Penn State University recommends using a 2-1-1 fertilizer during the lemon tree’s active growing season.

Remember that it is possible to harm or kill your lemon trees by over fertilizing them.  For example, too much nitrogen can prevent your lemon tree from producing any fruit.

ammonium nitrate
When using fertilizer for lemon trees, use a weak fertilizer, and don’t apply too much all at once.

For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing, and my article on low-nitrogen fertilizers.

Pruning For Lemon Trees

Pruning lemon trees is usually not necessary, except in the case of damage from winter cold and storms.

For more information, check out this article from Texas A&M University.

Spacing For Lemon Trees

Lemon trees should be spaced 12 to 25 feet apart (for dwarf citrus trees, leave 6 to 10 feet between trees).

Of course, you can adjust the space between trees depending on the width, which you can find in the description in the nursery catalog.

Leaving enough space between trees is crucial to prevent competition for water and resources.  This extra space also gives you room to tend your trees as needed.

lemons on tree
Leave enough space between lemon trees to prevent competition between neighboring trees.

For more information, check out this article on lemon trees from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

What Kind Of Lemon Tree Should I Buy?

When selecting a lemon tree, make sure to choose one that you can grow in your climate!  For more information, check out the USDA Zone Hardiness map to see what zone you are in.

Here are some different varieties of lemon trees that you might want to try:

  • Meyer Lemon – this tree grows in Zones 9 to 10, and produces medium yellow fruit that matures in late summer through winter.  The mature tree is 8 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.  The tree will bear fruit in 1 to 2 years.  For more information, check out the Meyer Lemon on the Stark Brothers website.
  • Eureka Lemon – this tree grows in Zones 9 to 11, and produces medium golden-yellow fruit that matures year-round.  The mature tree is 12 to 20 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide.  For more information, check out the Eureka Lemon on the Park Seed website.
  • Lisbon Lemon – this tree grows in Zones 9 to 10, and produces medium yellow fruit that matures year-round.  The mature tree is 10 to 15 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide.  For more information, check out the Lisbon Lemon on the Nature Hills website.
  • Genoa Lemon – this tree grows in Zones 9 to 10, and produces medium yellow fruit that matures year-round.  The mature tree is 8 to 12 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide, and grows in a shrub form.  For more information, check out the Genoa Lemon on the Nature Hills website.
  • New Zealand Lemon – this tree grows in Zones 8 to 10, and produces sweet yellow fruit.  The mature tree is 8 to 12 feet tall and 5 to 10 feet wide.  For more information, check out the New Zealand Lemon on the Nature Hills website.
  • Variegated Pink Lemon – this tree grows in Zones 9 to 11, and produces fruit that is yellow with green stripes on the outside and pink flesh inside!  It is prized for decoration more so than fruit quality.  The mature tree is 15 to 18 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide.  For more information, check out the Variegated Pink Lemon on the Nature Hills website.

How Long Do Lemon Trees Live?

Lemon trees can live for decades. However, they may stop producing fruit before the end of their lives.

You will need to decide when it is time to retire an old lemon tree and replace it with a new one that can produce fruit.

Conclusion

Now you have a good idea of when lemon trees are mature enough to produce fruit, and what time of year to expect fruit.  You also know a bit more about how to take care of lemon trees and how to avoid the problems that can affect your harvest.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you are interested in growing citrus trees, then you should also check out my article on growing lime trees.

You can learn about dwarf fruit trees, which are easier to maintain and harvest from, in my article here.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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