Lemon trees are some of the easiest fruit trees to grow indoors. All they need is a sunny windowsill, the right soil, and a lot of patience. Before we learn today how to grow a lemon tree from seed, however, let’s discuss a few important things you should know!

It can take a few years for an indoor lemon tree to bloom and produce fruit, but it’s worth the wait. Their shiny leaves and rapid growth are mesmerizing to any greenery addict and you really can’t compare the taste of indoor-grown lemons with store-bought fruit. As we said, lemon trees are some of the easiest and spectacular trees to grow indoors, but this does not mean you should not pay your full attention to their germination and propagation!

This article stands as a step by step guide to help you grow a lemon tree from seed.

First, we’ll go through all the items you will need to make sure the lemon seeds germinate, and then we’ll go into detail on how to make the seeds sprout and show healthy growth.

how to grow a lemon tree from seed - first leaves

April 3, 2019

How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed: What You Need

Without further ado, here are the items you should have at hand before planting lemon seeds:

You’ll also need a warm, shaded spot for germinating the lemon seeds AND a sunny spot for growing the lemon trees once they’ve germinated.

How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed: Method 1

Method #1: Germinate Seeds in a Paper Towel

I tried planting lemon seeds with the paper towel method during this winter and I was surprised by how simple and effective it is. I had a 90% success rate with germinating lemon seeds in a paper towel.

1. Gather the seeds

  • Cut the lemon and gather its plumpest seeds.

Keep in mind some of them might not germinate so you’ll need more than one; I recommend trying this with a minimum of 5 seeds.

  • Clean off the pulp from the seeds, then rinse them with warm water and dry them with a paper towel.

2. Peel off the white skin from the seeds (OPTIONAL)

This accelerates germination since the tiny sprout doesn’t have to break through the skin anymore – makes sense, right?
Be careful, though, not to cut through the seeds or you might puncture the sprout inside.

fresh lemon seeds

peeled off lemon seeds

Note: Some tutorials on how to grow lemon trees from seeds also recommend peeling off the second (brown) skin layer to accelerate the sprouting process even further. I didn’t do this, but I don’t think it would hurt if you’re careful enough not to puncture, cut, or break off the cotyledons.

3. Wrap the seeds in a moist paper towel & seal them in a bag

  • Place the seeds about one inch apart on a paper towel and carefully cover them with another paper towel.
  • Wrap them up gently and spray the paper towel until it’s wet.
  • Then, seal the whole thing in a plastic bag and write down the current date on the bag.

It’s okay to leave some air inside the bag – in fact, most tutorials online recommend this practice as the seeds need moisture, warmth, and air to sprout.

how to grow a lemon tree: day 7 of growth

Day 7

4. Place the bag in a warm, shaded spot

Your lemon seeds don’t need light at this stage, but they do need plenty of warmth and moisture, as mentioned before. Keep them out of cold or drafty spots in your home to accelerate the sprouting process.

5. After 2-4 weeks or when the roots are at least 1.5-2 inches long, the seeds are ready to be planted in soil

Day 14

Here’s what to do about a month after germinating lemon seeds with the paper towel method (i.e. when the roots are over 1.5 inches long):

1. Prepare soil and one pot for each seedling

  • The pots should be at least 3 inches in diameter and at least 5 inches tall.
  • The ideal soil mix should have a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.

You can use the citrus soil mix from Miracle-Gro or make your own using the ingredients listed at the top in even quantities.

2. Carefully separate the seedlings from the paper towel

It’s okay if they only have roots, the plants will grow if provided the proper care described below. Also, some paper towel stuck to the roots is fine – it happened to my seedlings as well and it doesn’t affect growth. Don’t risk breaking off a root just because there’s a bit of paper stuck to it, it’s not worth it.

3. Plant the seedlings about one inch deep

When making the holes in the soil, also take the length of the roots into account. When covering the seedlings, gently pat down the soil.

Do not press too hard or you might break off the roots. Allowing the soil to be a bit loose gives proper access to nutrients, moisture, and air and helps the plants develop healthy root systems.

4. Keep the soil permanently damp until 4-5 leaves appear on each plant

During this time, gradually move the plants to a sunny window in your home. The ideal spot for a lemon tree is right in front of a south-facing window for maximum sunlight exposure, so try to move them closer and closer to their future spot. If you want to make the lemon tree your next best office plant for stunning interior design, keep in mind to move the plant regularly until it reaches the ideal place.

Be careful not to burn them, though! Unfortunately, I don’t have any direct sunlight in my apartment, but mine has been doing wonderfully under a neon lamp!

5. Afterward, allow the first inch of soil (but no more) to dry out between waterings

Don’t let the whole pot of soil dry out, this will surely kill your plant as lemon trees are tropical plants and love moisture.

Lemon tree seeds showing roots

how to grow a lemon tree: planting the seeds

Day 22

Day 64

How to Grow a Lemon Tree From Seed: Method 2

Method #2: Germinating Lemon Seeds in the Soil

I did not try this method beforehand because I had a pretty good success rate with the paper towel, but many people vouch for this method and strategy.

Unlike the paper towel method, germinating seeds directly in the soil might give them a better chance at survival since they won’t go through transplant shock.

1. Gather the seeds

Pick the biggest, healthiest-looking seeds out of a lemon and clean the pulp off, then rinse them with warm water and dry them off.

2. Peel off their skin (OPTIONAL)

The seeds will germinate faster if the sprouts don’t have to break through the seed’s skin as well. Another way to speed up lemon seed germination is to soak the seeds in warm water overnight.

3. Prepare the pots and soil

The ideal pot for one seed is 3-4 inches in diameter and 5-6 inches tall, while the perfect soil mix for planting lemon seeds has a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. You can use the items listed at the beginning of this article to make your own soil.

4. Plant the lemon seeds about 1 inch deep

The pointy tip should be oriented downwards. Cover the seeds with soil and gently pat it down. The soil should be a bit loose to allow air and moisture circulation.

5. Seal the pot with cling wrap and poke a few small holes

This will trap some much-needed moisture and warmth while also allowing the seeds and soil to breathe.

6. Remove the cling wrap when sprouts come out of the soil and place in a warm, sunny location

Keep the soil permanently moist until the plant(s) have about 4-5 leaves, then water about once a week. No more than the first inch of the soil should dry out.

how to grow lemon tree from seeds - younglings

You can transplant the plants after about a year or when several roots peek through the drainage holes of the pot.

Before we wrap up our guide today, let’s take a look at the most frequently asked questions we received from you, our lovely community of casual gardeners!

How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed: FAQs

The answers below will also help you have a clear and simple picture of how to grow a lemon tree from seed.

1. Can I plant lemon seeds from store-bought lemons?

Yes. Store-bought lemons are affordable sources for lemon seeds that you can grow inside to turn into lemon trees. However, we recommend you buy a couple of organic lemons. Due to the treatments they go through, non-organic lemons usually come with non-germinating seeds.

2. Does a lemon tree grown indoors from seeds produce lemon fruit?

Usually, no. The best results you can expect when you grow a lemon tree from seeds is to have a luxuriant indoor tree yielding gorgeous flowers. If the seed is of high-quality and you meet all the germinating, sprouting, and lemon tree care guidelines, you may have the great surprise of enjoying lemon fruits as well. However, you have to have patience and keep your hopes to a minimum level to avoid disappointment. Just as our expert in citrus care says, your lemon tree will probably want to spend most of its time outside. If you can only grow it indoors, follow the care instructions to a tee and you may enjoy fresh lemon juice from your own production soon enough.

3. How long does a lemon tree grown from seed take to produce lemons?

After you plant your lemon tree, you should wait about three years before it can produce lemons you can actually pick up and use for consumption. When you grow a lemon tree from seed, no matter the method, you should expect three to six years before it becomes capable of producing edible fruits. The secret is to care for your lemon tree with the utmost attention.

4. Can I grow a lemon tree from dry seeds?

We do not recommend this approach. The best chance you have to grow a lemon tree is to germinate the seeds as soon as you took them out from your fresh lemon. The drier the seeds, the smaller are the chances they will germinate.

5. Can you grow a lemon tree from cuttings as well?

Lemon trees and citrus trees, in general, propagate well if you use cuttings. Nevertheless, keep in mind that if you choose this method over buying a commercially grown lemon tree, yours will most likely show less resistance in the face of common lemon tree diseases.

6. Which is the best fertilizer for lemon trees grown indoors?

Keep in mind that a lemon tree needs a lot of nitrogen to grow well. Experts recommend you should feed your lemon tree every 6-8 weeks all year long. For more information on how to water and fertilize an indoor lemon tree, check out this guide here!

7. Can I feed Epsom salt to my lemon tree?

If your lemon tree suffers a magnesium deficiency, Epsom salt is a good soil amendment to solve this issue. The magnesium levels are crucial for a lemon tree’s capacity to yield fruits. However, before you start conditioning and amending the soil of a lemon tree, make sure you test it first and learn about the potential deficiencies.

Conclusion

Now you know how to grow lemon trees from scratch! I hope you’ll have as much success as I did with germinating and planting lemon seeds.

In fact, I’m looking forward to reading about your experience with these techniques! Let us know how it went for you in the comment section of this article.

For more information on caring for a lemon tree indoors, check out the complete lemon tree care guide by Darren Sheriff, a.k.a the Citrus Guy.

About the Author - Florina Ionescu

Hi! My name is Florina and I’ve been a plant junkie for 4 years now. I love nature, hiking, reading, watching movies, and spending time with my friends and my cat. I’m also very enthusiastic about the World Wide Web – I think it’s an amazing source of info and a great channel for communication.

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25 thoughts on “How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed | Step-by-Step Guide

  • I have grown a lemon tree from seed. It is about 3 years old has not bloomed yet? Is there something else i need,to be doing?

    • Hi, Roberta!

      When it comes to blooming, the most important thing is the amount of sunlight your lemon tree receives. As you may know, lemon trees need a lot of sunlight to grow and thrive. However, there are also other important factors like pruning, fertilizing, temperature, and watering. You can find all the info you need in Darren’s article on how to care for a lemon tree.

  • Hi, I just planted my seed and root into the soil (from the paper towel). When you say keep the soil damp, how many times a day should I water, and is a spray bottle the best method?

    • Hi, awesome to hear that! There’s no exact number on how many times you should water it per day, as it depends on other factors like temperature, soil type, pot size, etc. Just make sure the soil is moist and not completely dried out. Also, a spray bottle might work at first, but won’t be enough once the root system starts to develop.

  • I’ve managed to ‘accidentally’ grow 5 lemon trees from seeds. Well they are still seedlings, approx 3 inches tall but they are doing well. I just thought I’d test to see if they’d grow, not expecting them to at all. They were in one of my veggie gardens, but tonight I have transplanted them under a grow light as the place they began in is in too harsh conditions in the heat. We have 45 degree Celsius weather and it burnt some of the leaves. I will give them a couple of weeks to get stronger and then transplant them into their final pots. Fingers crossed my green thumbs are still alive!

  • My seeds germinated beautifully from the paper towel method. I planted them in small pots. They are growing fast. They are long and lanky. They’re standing up strong and proud but is this normal? Will they eventually get too top heavy and should I transplant them in slightly larger pots and bury them deeper into the soil? I wish I could send a picture. Thanks in advance!

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  • I have been struggling with this method, as my seeds get moldy before they germinate. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Chrissy! We are sorry to hear your tries haven’t been successful. You could try with a less damp paper towel, or have a go at method 2. Alterntievly, you could grow a lemon tree from cuttings as well. Keep us posted on how it goes!

  • Hi! Can I put my seedlings directly into soil? I have read that some people put their seedlings in eggshells filled with soil first until they sprout out of the soil – any thoughts on this? Also, when covering the pot with cling film, where should I place the pot? Still in a warm sunny location? Thanks!!

    • Hi Kanisha! Thank you for your questions! You can plant your seeds directly into soil, see method 2 for how to do that. Some gardeners plant their seeds into eggshells and then the seedlings and eggshells into pots after two weeks with some success. Give it a try and let us know how it worked! The seedlings leaves shouldn’t be put in direct sunlight at first, so keep your covered pots at room temperature and away from direct sunlight. Gradually move them to a sunny spot after they have 4-5 leaves.

  • I can get my lemon seedlings to grow to four leaves but then they die off. I keep them moist and on a sunny window sill.What am I doing wrong?

    • Hi Ann, thank you for your question! As we said in our guide, you should slowly and progressively move the seedlings closer to the sunny spot, but only after they have their first leaves. Be careful when moving the pots, as the leaves can burn if they take too much sun too fast.

  • hi there!
    I feel discouraged of so many articles saying lemon tree grown from seed will probably won’t bear fruit. So Maybe there are other ways to make a “not-bearing-fruit-lemon-tree” bear fruit.
    Will the cutting from a lemon tree grown from seed bear fruit? Should I graft it? should I do Marcotting from that tree to start a new one?

    • Hi Lannie, thank you for your comment! Don’t feel discouraged, lemon trees usually require patience. It takes a seed-grown lemon tree about 6 years to bear fruit, in ideal conditions. Cutting-grown lemon trees also bear fruit, but they too need time to get big enough for that.

  • Wonderful input and a well-organized article: thank you for sharing 😁. I am currently waiting for my own lemon seeds to sprout!

  • I used the paper towel method anomy seeds are not in soil and starting to sprout, but they are sprouting on the the sides of their pots. Should I be concerned, or move them to the center again?
    Also, how large should the 4-5 leave be before I allow the top soil to dry a bit? Thanks for you help!

    • Hi Paul, sorry for the late reply! We hope your lemon trees are doing great! As a rule of thumb, make sure you don’t overwater your lemon tree, as it can lead to some nasty problems like fungus gnats.

  • I put my seeds directly into a pot of soil. They started growing well.These are outside and when they got big I planted one in the yard and gave away two . This one is over 7 feet tall. I started another one still in the pot but only 4 feet now . When should I expect fruit?

    • Hello Sonja! Thank you for your comment, we are glad your lemon tree is going so well! Lemon trees take years before they bear fruit. In ideal conditions, a lemon tree takes up to 6 years before it starts yielding fruit. Experts advise patience with outdoor lemon trees. If yours bears fruit, we would love to hear from you and see some pictures!

  • I have currencly 5 seedlings that are 3 months old and from 3-4 inches tall. I tried both with-seed skin and without skin seeds, the without skin seeds germinated faster and are an inch taller than the with skin seeds. I live in northern europe and with autumn starting I have put them indoors on a window sill. I plan to repot them in bigger pots in spring.

  • My little lemon tree, grown from seed, with 6 leaves, so far, has little fly like creatures lurking about in the soil. There doesn’t seem to be any damage to the plant. Should I repot it?

    • Hello Tarina! Thank you for contacting us. It seems you have a fungus gnat situation, try removing and replacing the top inch of soil with sand or gravel. Fungus gnats usually appear when you overwater your lemon tree, so try watering it less frequently. If you have an infestation on your hands, you could also try setting some sticky traps or repotting the plant altogether in fresh, well-draining soil. Hope this helps and keep us posted!

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