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CITRUS limon

Image of Citrus limon

Forest & Kim Starr

Family

Rutaceae

Botanical Name

CITRUS limon

Plant Common Name

Lemon

General Description

Puckery, cold lemonade and tart, sweet pies are modern pleasures made from the fruits of Citrus limon: the lemon tree. However, lemons have been used for centuries and prized for their medicinal qualities. The true origin of lemons is unknown, but most likely from the northwestern reaches of India. The trees have moved with civilization and burgeoning transportation routes around the globe. It is said Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds with him to Hispaniola in 1493, and it was among the first fruits Spaniards introduced to St. Augustine, Florida.

Lemon trees are medium to large, evergreen and have sharp thorns on their branches and twigs. The fragrant leaves are elliptical to oval and often have winged petioles (leaf stems). The flowers are born throughout the year, on many varieties, or heavily in the spring. Solitary or a few grouped flower buds are produced in the leaf axils (joint between the leaf and stem). The flower buds are red to purple-hued opening to reveal white, fragrant blooms. Highly variable, fragrant fruit is usually oval with a protuberance at the end. Fruit is generally yellow and has thick leathery skin dotted with oil glands and juicy flesh with or without many seeds. There are a multitude of lemon varieties available, each with a best use from commercial production to backyard orchards. Most lemons are grafted on to rootstocks, which impart tolerances to local soil, pest and climate conditions as well as preserving the desired varietal characteristics.

Lemon trees are more cold sensitive than other citrus. They prefer warm, dry winters, cool summers and can only tolerate a few degrees below freezing for a few hours. They require full sun and are tolerant of most soil conditions, even poor soils, as long as it is very well drained. The trees are somewhat drought tolerant once established, but must have regular applications of water for good fruit production. Citrus trees are heavy feeders and require regular applications of fertilizer. Lemons ripen individually and are harvested by hand as the fruits mature.

No backyard orchard in subtropical and tropical zones is complete without at least one variety of a prolific-bearing and long-lived lemon. Lemons make great tub or conservatory specimens where not hardy.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 12

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Fruit

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    4'-25' / 1.2m - 7.6m

  • Width

    5'-15' / 1.5m - 4.6m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White

  • Fruit Color

    Yellow, Lemon Yellow

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Bark Color

    Green, Gray Green, Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Hedges, Houseplant, Mixed Border, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds, Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    No