Growing Meyer Lemons and Key Limes in Containers
Fresh lemons and limes enrich your culinary and mixology game. You can utilize the juice, pulp, and zest to add depth to a plethora of main courses, side dishes, and desserts. And don't forget the best part, rather, the pièce de résistance, the cocktail (or mocktail if you prefer). This is why we not only love citrus we want to grow our own!
The problem with growing citrus for most of us is that it needs a tropical or a subtropical climate. So, what are our options and are they not only plausible but possibly easy?
First you want to choose the best citrus for growing in pots. Key limes and Meyer lemons are by far the best choices for a citrus container garden.
Key limes, also known as the Mexican lime, is best know for mmmmmm, yep, key lime pie! A Key lime is a small fruit so one small plant (it's actually a shrubby tree) can produce many fruit even when kept as small as 2 feet in a planter. This makes the key lime one of the best citrus plants to grow in containers and by far the best choice amongst limes.
Meyer lemon trees are the number one indoor citrus performer and they are delicious too! Sweeter than traditional lemons, but still with that desired hint of tartness, the Meyer lemon is a hit in any citrus recipe! This prized citrus is the easiest to grow indoors and offers fragrant blooms and yummy fruit up to 4 times per year!
Caring for Container Meyer Lemons and Key Limes
Citrus care is not complicated if you provide their 3 main needs: sun, water, and food. I will add in a section about pollination...I've never had to do this but many swear by it. It can't hurt, and it could certainly increase fruit production and maybe even fruit quality. So I will broach this topic FYI, especially for those of you trying to grow indoors 100% of the time.
Natural sunlight is best for growing citrus and the more the better. You'll be able to get some flowers and fruit with at least 6 hours of full sun, but if you can get more, like 8 or 10, you will have even better results. In my experience the Meyer Lemon truly does seem to produce better than other citrus even at the lower end of sunlight (6 hours). With the Key Lime aim for more like at least 7 or 8 hours for good results.
Southern or south-western windows or glass doors will provide the ideal spot for growing citrus indoors.
I have had some success with good quality full spectrum grow lights. If you use just a basic lamp with a single bulb you will likely need one per tree when growing multiples citrus trees. I hung mine about 12 to 18 inches from my trees. But your Meyer lemons and Key limes will be happiest in natural sunlight.
It is a great option for most areas of the US to grow citrus outdoors until temps begin dipping below 40 degrees. Once this occurs move you plant indoors until temperatures begin to warm up again. Since your tree will be use to the protected indoor climate shoot more for around 50 degrees when moving them back outside.
The key is making sure your potting soil/medium drains well. Our basic potting mix is a great option. PittMoss Organic Potting Mix is another excellent option and has added benefits like increased nutrient absorption and water retention. Citrus plants do not like wet roots so be sure the soil has dried down to about 2 inches before watering.
Citrus plants like humid environments. In fact, this is one of the main reasons I see for citrus struggling indoors. Mist the leaves once or twice daily depending on the humidity level in your home. This is especially crucial in winter when we are running heat. I have also kept my pots elevated on saucers that were lined with rocks and filled with water to add humidity to the air. Just be sure the water line is below your pot so you avoid keeping the soil saturated. If you want to get fancy and spoil you Meyer lemon and Key lime plants you can even get a humidifier.
Meyer lemons and Key limes love fertilizer. When plants are grown in containers the fertilizer leaches out of the pot when you water so you need to feed them more often than plants in the ground. Keep this in mind when fertilizing you citrus. Fertilize your potted citrus with our balanced, slow release fertilizer when planting, the end of winter, early summer and again in fall. Espoma Citrus tone is a great choice if you want to find something locally. They even have specific instructions on the bag for container grown plants.
First off citrus trees are self fertile. So you only need one plant to get fruit. When you grow fruiting plants inside you could, of course, have a reduction of pollination because you tend to have stagnant air and a lack of insects. The way to remedy a lack of fertilization is to BE THE BEE! Simply take a paint brush or even a Q-tip, whatever you have on hand and gently brush from flower to flower. You are moving the pollen from the stamen to the stigma, but don't get caught up in the specifics and the terminology. It's easy. Gently brushing from flower to flower is going to do the job. Do this once daily while your tree is flowering for best results.
Well that pretty much covers it. You have all the tools in your tool belt to go forth and grow your very own citrus no matter where you live! Growing Meyer lemons and Key Limes indoors is a pretty fun hobby. The flowers are lovely and fragrant. The plants are beautiful and enjoyable to watch in all their stages from bud to flower to fruit. Even when your citrus tree isn't producing the leaves help clean your air and add color and life to your home. But harvesting your own citrus is the very best part. Just think about it; fresh Meyer lemonade, Key lime pie, and so much more! The possibilities are endless! So go get started and order your own Meyer Lemon or Key Lime today! With a little love and patience you can enjoy fruit in the very first year!