Growing Meyer Lemons
in Northeast Florida Landscapes
(Citrus Meyeri, Improved)
Origin of Meyer Lemons For Northeast Florida :
Meyer lemon is the result of a hybrid cross, most likely between a lemon and an orange or mandarin citrus tree. It was introduced to the united States by Frank Meyer in1908 who brought it over from China. They are a small scale tree, have dense foliage, are nearly thorn less when mature, heavily bearing, and have approximately 10 seeds per lemon.
Meyer lemons are much larger than a typical grocery store lemon. The crossed parentage of the fruit becomes apparent when you look at its size, color, and most of all when you taste the flesh of the fruit. There is an immediate and notable difference to the taste of this lemon cultivar, you can tell it has a higher sugar content than most lemons, although it still definetely tastes like a lemon, it is just a bit sweeter. The peel is also a darker golden lemon color, and quite smooth to the touch in comparison with other cultivars.
It is my favorite lemon variety, regardless of its unknown parentage or it’s status on the ‘true lemon’ chart! Its dark sweet lemony flesh makes the perfect lemonade! Way back when, you know those pre “google it” days, I spent many years trying to track down this lemon variety for my garden. See the story of my 5 lemon trees here.
Winter Temperature Tolerance For Meyer Lemon Trees:
Lemons are the most cold sensitive of Citrus fruit and should only be planted in zones 9-11. Some sources say Meyers Lemons grow well in zone 8 as well, but caution should be taken to protect trees from temperatures below 20 degrees.
Meyer Lemons, however are more cold hardy than most lemon cultivars, probably due to their Orange or Mandarin parentage. So if you want to try a lemon tree in the more northern areas of Jacksonville, this one is for you.
See Lemon Home for details on where to plant lemon trees in Northeast Florida gardens.
Sun Exposure for the Meyer Lemon Tree in Northeast Florida:
Plant Meyer Lemon trees where they will receive full sun in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area landscapes.
Foliage of the Meyer Lemon Trees:
Meyer lemon trees have slightly darker green foliage than other lemon cultivars.
Soil Preference for the Meyer Lemon Tree:
It is no longer a recommended practice to amend the soil in the planting hole on Citrus trees in good soil according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. However, probably due to the simple fact that old habits die hard, one UFIFAS citrus publication cautions, if you are going to amend your soil be sure to use a 50-50 ratio. In other words, use equal parts soil amendment and native soil (that is the soil you dug out of the hole before placing the tree in it), and mix the amended soil together with the native soil before backfilling the hole around the tree.
Planting and Mulching Tips For Meyer Lemon Trees in the Jacksonville or St. Augustine area landscape:
NOTE: THIS IS IMPORTANT, I am going to say this three times in three different ways and hope at least one of these makes some sense!
-Be sure to plant into well draining soils, and keep the soil level of the dirt in the container above the soil level of the ground by 1-2 inches when you are finished planting.
-The soil that your tree was growing in should be slightly higher or level with the ground. Never plant the tree where the root ball of the tree once planted into the ground is lower than the grade of the yard.
– Never bury the top of the root system that the tree was growing in. The soil in the top of the pot should be exposed to the air after planting, not buried by soil in any way.
Caution: Do not build berms around Citrus to hold water, as is recommended for pretty much all other trees. Leave a 12 inch diameter area around Citrus tree trunks with no mulch, do not put mulch up to the trunk of the tree on Citrus Root rot can develop quickly and good drainage is essential to a healthy tree.
Remove the grass and weeds growing under the foliage of any Citrus tree in Northeast Florida about a foot beyond where the foliage stops. Don’t allow grass and weeds to regrow under your Florida Citrus.
When planting in areas with a high water table, consider planting your Citrus into a raised berm a few feet high and 6or more ft wide. This will keep your Citrus roots up out of the water soaked ground during periods of heavy rain.
Wow, that was a lot of don`ts! Here’s one last one. Don’t worry, it really isn’t as hard as it seems, once you get them going Citrus trees just keep on growing!
Size of the Meyers Lemon Tree When Mature:
The mature size on a Meyers lemon tree is around 10-15ft tall and 15-20ft wide. Densely foliated.
Pruning and Growth Habits of Meyer Lemon Trees for the Northeast Florida Landscape:
Meyer Lemon trees are short and wide with dense branching structures full of foliage.
Pruning may be needed on occasion to remove suckers that sprout up from the trunk, or to remove dead wood that can cause problems when left on the tree.
When purchasing trees from an S & J Nursery container less than a 30 gallon pot size, pruning may be needed to shape the young trees into a desirable framework, and light pruning each year to develop the lemon trees rounded or mushroom shaped canopy.
As the tree matures it should be shaped by selecting 3-5 main branches, well spaced along the trunk for fruiting production. Remove branches with narrow angles, and sub branches that are crossing or rubbing on other branches.
Pruning Tip for Citrus Trees: Light but frequent pruning has a tendency to relocate fruit from being produced mainly on branch tips to inside the canopy of the citrus tree. This can help increase the trees yield and keep the end heavy branches from breaking during overly productive years on some Citrus species.
Blooms and Fruit of Meyer Lemon Trees for Northeast Florida Landscape:
There may be nothing quite like a citrus tree in full bloom. The smell is magnificent! Mature citrus trees are said to be able to produce up to 100,000 blooms in a single year! They bloom mostly in fall in Florida, but often do a second smaller flowering , meaning fruit can be picked sporadically throughout the year.
Meyer lemon trees are self pollinating, so there is no need for a second tree to pollinate your lemon tree in order for it to produce fruit.
Meyer Lemon Vs Grocery Store Lemon:
Meyer Lemon fruit is larger than grocery store lemons by far, I tested mine out this winter to see just what the difference was.
I peeled the skins from one of my Meyer lemons and a grocery store lemon with a potato peeler removing only the colored portion, no white pith.
I chose an average size Meyer lemon, in no way one of the largest of f the tree, and chose the larger size lemon from the grocery store for my test.
The results….I got three times more peel and 3-4 times more juice on an average sized Meyer lemon to the larger sized off the shelf lemon.
I guess I do have to concede the Meyer lemons superiority to a typical lemon on one point in the spirit of fairness. ( I am biased, I love my Meyer lemons) However, it would be fair at this point to say, that although the juice of the Meyer lemon is superior, the peel does not have a true lemony fragrance from its oils that you may be looking for in culinary preparations.
And if your recipe calls for lemon zest instead of lemon juice, you may want to use more than the recommended quantity when using a Meyer lemon. (* which of course will be no problem, because one Meyer lemon zest is equal to the total quantity of zest you can get off of three or more standard lemons!) Ok, my optimism bias kicked in on the lemon zest again, and I found a way to make Meyers lemon zest just as good. But the truth is, Meyer`s lemons are not produced commercially due to the inferior oils produced by the peel. :(Keeping your Meyer Lemon Tree Free from Pests and Diseases:
When it comes to gardening, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is to say that, paying attention to proper planting, watering and fertilizing practices for your tree is the best way to keep it healthy and growing well.
Water Requirements of the Meyers Lemon in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area Landscape:
Newly planted citrus trees require watering every other day for the first month and twice a week for the first few months, or in sandy soils when the top two inches of soil is dry to the touch. Take care to make sure that newly planted citrus trees receive water at least once a week for the first 2 years after being planted, skipping watering altogether once the local rain season is here.
Mature citrus trees need little to no supplemental irrigation and are more often damaged by over watering than under watering.
When citrus trees need supplemental irrigation, make sure to irrigate the soil only and not the trunk or foliage, this is best done by hand with a hose.
Fertilizing Your Meyer Lemon Tree for Norhteast Florida, Jacksonville and St. Augustine area Gardens:
Lemon trees tend to be a bit demanding on the fertilizing side of the equation. But Meyers lemon trees produce fruit heavily and reward you bountifully for your efforts!
A good quality fertilizer specifically formulated for citrus trees should be used. Fertilize in spring, again in summer and ,skip the fall application in Northeast Florida, and then again in January. Spread your fertilizer out into the circle of non grass area under the Canopy of your citrus tree.
Harvesting your Fresh Meyer’s Lemon Tree Fruits:
Meyers lemon trees when mature will produce more fruit than one family could use. The golden yellow fruit will ripen in Winter and spring, and sporadically throughout the year. Usually from December to April, just in time for baking holiday treats in Northeast Florida, Jacksonville and St. Augustine area.