For those of you feeling the winter doldrums, wishing you could be outside gardening, here's something that might lift your spirits. There are some fruit trees that thrive indoors in the cold and darker months that will give you fruit later in the year, and in some cases, during the winter, too. Meyer lemons are at the top of that list.
I was at my friend Eileen's house over the holidays and noticed how many citrus trees she had around. The house was filled with the sweet scent of their blossoms. Some were even bearing fruit. Imagine: in December, beautiful, plump, organically grown fruit. Why hadn't I started an orchard in my house? So I dialed up her preferred online source for fruit trees (Logee's, see below) and now I'm mommy to a Meyer lemon. Faith's had a birthday recently, and guess what she got?
Here's what you need to know about growing citrus, specifically Meyer lemons, indoors:
In climates that have cold, freezing winters, dwarf citrus trees can spend the summer and early fall outdoors then come indoors just before the first frost, which can be anywhere from late September through November, depending on geography. (Here is a US first frost date map.) During the late spring through early fall months, the trees are happiest outdoors.
Indoors, they can still produce their signature deep golden yellow fruit. Even when young, these plants bear fruit. Meyer lemons are the hardiest of the citrus trees, so they can stand if your house gets chilly (they will tolerate a minimum indoor temperature of 50° F.) Outdoors, they're hardy year-round for zones 9 and higher.
Meyers only demand that they be grown in full sun (try a south-facing window.) When conditions are right, they will produce fruit in the winter and summer.
Depending on the size you choose, you can spent as little as $10 for a tree. If you want fruit during the first season, select one of the larger trees.
Where to Buy Fruit Trees:
• Dwarf Meyer Lemon Trees from Four Winds Growers
(1 year plants are 12-16" tall, $22. 2-3 year plants are over 2' tall, $40. See photo above to see the difference.)
• Tiny Meyer Lemon Tree
(2.5", Logee's, $10.95)
• Small Meyer Lemon Tree
(5" pot, Logee's, $21.95)
Note, due to agricultural regulations, most retailers will not ship citrus to Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California.
• Find your estimated first frost date
• Find your agricultural zone
(Images: lead photo by Faith Durand, citrus collection by Flickr member The County Clerk licensed for use under Creative Commons, bushy Meyer lemon tree from Logee's Tropical Plants, side-by-side Meyer lemon comparison photo via Four Winds Growers)