Tips, Tricks, References, & Info About Growing Lemon Trees from Seed (A Debunking of myths)

**Today’s post is going to be a little different than my usual posts, because it’s going to involve a gardening, education related direction**

*This post is not intended to be a guide on sowing lemon/citrus trees, more so as tips and tricks to enhance the probability of success in growth and health rate. If you are looking for a sowing guide, at the bottom of this post there is a reference guide where you can click on a site that goes through a step by step process on sowing lemon seeds.*


I have always loved citrus, and though I don’t know exactly when this passion began, but I can assume it began sometime during my young childhood in midwinter when my mother would by clementine’s and my sisters and I would sit around our kitchen table and gorge ourselves.

Growing up in Canada, citrus was only cheap (affordable) during mid winter. So I was lucky that when I was having a food shortage when I was in residence at University that it was during the time where oranges where in season and dirt cheap! For several weeks my diet was comprised of only oranges from the local Sobeys.

During high school I was often referred to as Lemon Girl, so it was no surprise when I told my friends that I was growing lemon trees from seed. It was also no surprise to my friends, when they were curious about my then 12 lemon seedings where dying off.

I learned a lot about lemon trees, how they grow, what to do, what not to do, and have sent a lot of sad trees to citrus heaven. Nonetheless I have comprised a list of information, references and helpful info that may help you on your journey with the success on your lemon tree gardening, now let’s begin!\

Tip #1

Save yourself some grief, and purchase organic lemon seeds, or if you needed to buy lemons from the supermarket (like I did) purchase organic ones.


Long story short, the commercial lemon seeds from commercial lemons don’t produce healthy sprouts, they are generally unhealthy at birth, they don’t grow… like at all. Just don’t do it. Spend a little money and but organic lemons and plant their seeds, you will actually have about 60%-90% growth rate from all seeds planted.

Tip #2

Fertilizer. Don’t use it unless you know what you are doing. I know this is common sense, but it’s crazy how much information there is on the internet about what types of N:P:K ratios (the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratio) in fertilizer. I have heard things from getting specially formulated citrus food, (that is super expensive and still in my closet from 6 years ago) from to a certain ‘special’ ratio that is impossible to find or things from 20-20-20 to rose fertilizer.

Here’s a trick. It doesn’t matter what you feed your lemon tree, as long as you feed the tree as directed from the packaging. Of course don’t go buying any random fertilizer that is dirt cheap or sketchy and you question why this is in the dollar store, but what I am trying to say is that all those things on lemon forums, articles, and so forth you can use any of them. Just pick one. Of course some are more specialized than others, but in reality if that’s the only thing your plant has ever known and you haven’t over fertilized it or screwed up in other ways (like I did, oh so many times) your lemon tree will be completely fine. (Again please use common sense when fertilizing).

Tip #3

Pruning. When people prune plants for a certain aesthetic reasons, generally they just snip off what they want. You can do it that way, but there is a better way. It’s called directional pruning (tutorial/guide in references) and it’s basically pruning the branches a certain way to promote future growth in the desired direction. It’s pretty neat and it does work. It is a bonsai tip, but nonetheless extremely useful.

Tip #5

Your lemon tree can be trained as a bonsai tree. If your lemon tree is just a short stubby thing (like mine) you can turn it into a bonsai tree. It takes a bit of effort and time but is a very rewarding hobby. (link below)

Tip #5

Water. Do NOT overwater your trees! They do not like it. They will get angry. And they will revolt! (or they will just be limp and slowly die). Just don’t do it.

A good tip is do not water in a schedule, because different factors affect the moisture content in the pot. For example if it is hot inside/outside the plant will use more water and will need to be water more frequently then when it is a cool day and the moisture is not absorbed by neither plant nor sun. It is better to get used to the feeling of the soil with your hands or using a moisture detector to decide when to and when to not water. Also, citrus trees prefer deep waterings, so when you do water the tree/plant make sure there is a hole at the bottom of the pot and water until the water comes out of the bottom of the pot, let it drain, then dump the excess water and let the plant dry out between waterings.

Tip #6

Open soil and water attract fungus gnats, and once they come they do not leave. More on them below but in short they lay eggs in the overly moist soil and the larvae eat your plants delicate roots. Just avoid them completely and stay clean and don’t overwater. It takes a while to attract them, but if it’s been for a couple of weeks to a few months I would clean up the mess before the little buggers come.

Tip #7

Most citrus seeds are polyembyonic (list of which are and which aren’t below in link) and this basically means that there are 2 or more plants that grow out of the one seed. One will grow true from seed the others would be a hybrid. (ie one will be identical to the parent, the other will not, and probably will not even produce fruit). It’s good to see which citrus trees you grow are polyembryonic, unless you are okay with a citrus tree that when you rub it smells like lemon, but never produces fruit.

Tip #8

When you have a polyembryonic seed, thus 2 or more seedlings from the one seed there is this confusion about whether the one that grows first is the lemon seed identical to the parent or it is the lemon seedling coming later (because the polyembroyonic seedlings do not grow at the same time, and the second seedling is generally weaker). I’ve read a lot of discussions, mostly heated about who is right and who is wrong. Currently there are people who kill one of the 2 (or more) seedlings to let the true from seed grow strong and healthy, but there is this argument about which ones to kill. Some people say that it is the first and strongest growth, others say it is the weakest, etc. Truth is, the seedling true to seed could be either of them, it all depends on how the lemon flower was pollinated.

According to a study (linked below) The authors suggest that when a lemon flower is open pollinated (meaning is left outside and the pollination is via bees, birds, wind, etc) that the zygotic (a seed/embryo that has both female and male gametes) embryo is a hybrid (a seed/embryo that has different gametes not both from the same flower [for one flower has male and female parts] thus pollinated from 2 different flowers), it may be more vigorous, and hence compete better with nucellular (true from seed) embryos. However when the zygotic embryo is not a hybrid (ie fertilized itself in single flower) the rigorous growth would be the nucellular embryo. The end conclusion is that there is no physiological way to tell the true from seed and hybrid apart.

So in summary keep all embryonic seeds, label them if they are pairs or multiples and wait, for you cannot tell unless they have a trifoliate leaf (a leaf with 3 points vs 1) or when it produces fruit.

Final Tip #9

It can take anywhere from 4 months to 60+ years for your lemon tree to produce fruit. It is generally said that lemon trees grown from seeds van be expected to fruit by the 10-20 year mark. But some grow sooner, others later, some not at all. It’s a waiting game, and can be frustrating, so my tip to you, just keep growing them. Keep sowing them every spring/summer, you’ll eventually get when that produces a real lemon, and they can make great gifts!

In conclusion, as you can tell from my tips I am a lemon nerd, but I’m okay with that. I have a couple more tips but this post is already long enough, so maybe another time. If you have any questions please leave a comment below and I’d be happy to answer as best as I can. I’m no professional but I definitely have learned a lot so far!

Thanks for joining,


Sonja P.


Online References:

Personal Favorite Lemon Seed Planting Instruction:

Fungus Gnat Guide:

Types of polyembryonic Citrus seeds:

Polyembryony and identification of Volkamerian lemon zygotic and nucellar seedlings using RAPD

Youtube channel Nigel Saunder, guide to bonsai lemon tree care and pruning (directional/clip and grow)


Book References: (Get them on amazon vs chapters… it’s cheaper. The only reason why I list the Chapters site is because that’s where I got my books)

A good Lemon and Citrus General Care and Maintenance Book

What’s Wrong with my Plant and How to Fix it (Reference book)


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