When Does A Lemon Tree Bear Fruit?


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

So, when does a lemon tree bear fruit?  A lemon tree will produce the most fruit in the winter, although some lemon trees can bear fruit year-round.  A lemon tree will produce fruit 1 to 3 years after planting.  A lemon takes 6 to 9 months to fully ripen.

Of course, depending on the variety you choose, it may take a longer time for your lemon tree to start producing fruit.  There are other factors like improper pruning, over fertilization, and environmental conditions that can delay the growth of fruit on your lemon tree.  Let’s take a closer look at lemon trees, when they bear fruit, and the factors that can affect your harvest.

When Does A Lemon Tree Bear Fruit?

A lemon tree will take 1 to 3 years to grow out of the “juvenile” stage and become a mature tree.  At that point, the tree will start producing a larger lemon crop.

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

Many lemon trees produce most of their fruit in the winter.  However, there are some varieties that can bear fruit year-round.  You may see fruit begin to set in the spring, but remember that it can take 6 to 9 months for lemons to fully mature.

You may also see some lemons falling off the tree, sometimes known as “June drop”.  This is simply a tree’s way of keeping only as much fruit as it can reasonably support to maturity.

For more information, check out this article on citrus fruit from Clemson University.

Do Lemon Trees Produce Fruit Every Year?

No, lemon trees do not produce fruit every year.  In the first one to three years, 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.

Also remember that if you plant a seed harvested from a hybrid lemon tree, you may end up growing a tree that will never bear fruit.  To ensure fruit production on a lemon tree, buy an established plant from a nursery online or in-person.

In some cases, you will see what is called “biennial 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 to recover its strength and prepare for production the following year.

How Much Fruit Does A Lemon Tree Produce?

The amount of fruit your lemon tree produces will vary by age, variety, location, and quality of care given.

In Florida, 3 boxes of lemons per tree is considered a satisfactory yield.  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!

For more information on lemon tree varieties, check out this article from Purdue University.

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.

Do You Need Two Lemon Trees To Get Fruit?

No, you do not need two lemon trees to get fruit, since lemon trees are self-pollinating.  This means that the flowers contain both a male and female part.

However, self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination.  The flowers will 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.

What Other Factors Affect Fruit On Lemon Trees?

The quality of care that you give your lemon trees will determine how much fruit you get each year.  Some of the most important factors are temperature, watering, fertilizing, and pruning.

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).

Your best bet is to be prepared to bring your lemon trees inside if there is any danger of freezing temperatures.

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.

Although lemon trees prefer moist soil, soil that is too wet can 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 trees on a mound to assist with drainage.  For more information, check out my article on over watering.

Fertilizing For Lemon Trees

In general, compost and mulch is not necessary for a lemon tree.

It may be necessary to use fertilizers as a supplement, in order to provide extra nutrients if you soil is lacking. The best way to tell if you need fertilizer is with a soil test.

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

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.

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 as noted in a 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.

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

Conclusion

By 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 have any questions or advice about lemon trees, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jonathon. I’m the gardening guy (not guru!) who is encouraging everyone to spend more time in the garden. I try to help solve common gardening problems so that you can get the best harvest every year!

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