What is a Lemon Tree?

Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan
A lemon.
A lemon.

A lemon tree may be either the fruiting tree Citrus limon, a tree that produces somewhat tart fruits widely used throughout the world as a food and flavoring, or it may refer to the tree Backhousia citriodora, also known as a lemon myrtle. Many people find a lemon tree to be an ideal tree for both indoor and outdoor growing, as it is relatively easy to grow in a range of climates, and produces a fruit that people find enjoyable. There are different sorts of lemon tree available, but they are all generally the same, and require the same growing conditions.

Lemon trees were brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus.
Lemon trees were brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus.

The lemon tree was first cultivated thousands of years ago in China and Northern India. It made its way to Europe sometime during the 1st century, although it was not widely cultivated there for many centuries. In the 7th century the lemon tree made its way to Persia, and from there to the rest of the Middle East. By the 15th century it was in wide cultivation in Europe, and made its way to the New World with Christopher Columbus.

Over the next two centuries the lemon tree was grown more and more throughout Europe and the New World, and during the 18th century it was used in a series of experiments to try to eliminate scurvy from sailors. During this period lemons were used primarily as medicine, and the lemon tree was grown mostly as an ornamental plant with a pleasing fragrance. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the fruit of the lemon began being used more and more in cooking and food and drink preparations.

The largest grower of lemon trees is Mexico, with the New England in the United States, Spain, Italy, Turkey, India, and parts of Brazil and Argentina coming close behind. The lemon tree is also widely cultivated in Central America, the Middle East, Thailand, and parts of North Africa. Non-commercially, millions of lemon trees are also planted worldwide in people’s gardens and homes.

You can actually grow a lemon tree at home from a seed that comes from a store-bought lemon. So long as the seed hasn’t been damaged, if you germinate it, you can fairly easily grow it into its own lemon tree. If you plant it in a pot with enough room, a lemon tree will grow fine indoors, and if you get it enough heat it will even bear fruit. Many people love having a lemon tree growing inside, as they are beautiful, smell wonderful, and offer the convenience of being able to pluck a lemon for cooking without even going outside.

Ideally, rather than growing a lemon tree from a store seed, you will hunt out a variety specifically designed to be grown as a dwarf tree. The Meyer lemon tree, for example, which also produces fruit quite a bit sweeter than normal lemons, is a much smaller tree, and therefore more ideally suited for indoor cultivation. Many trees have also been grafted on to a dwarf root stock, which allows them to stay much smaller while still fully developing and bearing fruit.

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Discussion Comments


I have planted a small lemon tree in a very large pot. It is sitting on a movable platform, so it can be easily moved around the patio.

It is doing very well in its second year. The fragrant flowers and the fruit are so enjoyable and so worth it.

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    • A lemon.
      By: .AGA.
      A lemon.
    • Lemon trees were brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus.
      By: Georgios Kollidas
      Lemon trees were brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus.