Meijer lemon should keep growing and using fertilizer year 'round

These dwarf citrus grow outdoors year round in Southern California.

These dwarf citrus grow outdoors year round in Southern California.

In mid-November I brought my Meyer lemon tree in for the winter. I am hopeful this year that I've brought it back to good health so it will bloom and produce fruit as it did once, years ago. Just before I brought it in I fertilized it, using the African violet food you recommended for this, for its micronutrients.

I am wondering if I should fertilize it again. I thought it is not good to fertilize a plant when you bring it in to conditions where it will not be actively growing. I wonder if it is different because it will bear flowers and fruit in late winter and will still need fertilizer for that? - B -

 

It is true that the general rule is to withhold fertilizer on interior plants during the short, dark days of winter. From late October until sometime in March, plants in such low light cannot use the nutrients in a fertilizer because they do not have the necessary energy. The sun reaches them at too low an angle for too few hours a day.

Your lemon tree has to be an exception. If you expect it to flower and then set fruit you must provide supplemental light to keep it in active growth. In that steady light, it not only can use but will require fertilizer.

Many northern gardeners envy those along the Gulf of Mexico, in Southern California and the desert southwest who can grow citrus. Such pretty evergreens, such glossy broad, dark green leaves.... that the plants also have fragrant flowers and sweet fruit seems too good to be true.

Yet anyone can grow a dwarf lemon, lime or orange tree in a pot. Just bring it in each winter, keep it actively growing all year and it will flower and fruit.

Perhaps the biggest challenge after arranging a strong light source is keeping the leaves clean. Wipe or rinse them regularly to stay ahead of citrus scale insects and other pests.

This lime tree is 12 years old from seed. Its leaves are smaller and more pale than those of its California cousins because its winter home by a west window receives so much less light. It needs fluorescent light kept on 12-18 hours per day and fertilizer every month it's actively growing.

Lime tree, grown from seed, 12 years old.

Lime tree, grown from seed, 12 years old.