Lemon trees are some of the easiest fruit trees to grow indoors. All they need is a sunny windowsill, the right soil, and some patience.

It can take a few years for an indoor lemon tree to bloom and produce fruit, but it’s worth the wait as their shiny leaves and rapid growth are mesmerizing to any greenery addict. 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

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: Germinate Seeds in 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; 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 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 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.

Be careful not to burn them, though! Unfortunately, I don’t have any direct sunlight in my apartment, but mine have 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 Lemon Tree

Method #2: Germinating Lemon Seeds in Soil

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

Unlike the paper towel method, germinating seeds directly in 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.

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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4 thoughts on “How to Grow a Lemon Tree from Seed

  • 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.

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