Your own endless supply of lemons

Zahra Ali lays out most of what you need to set yourself up for some citrus delights

Your own endless supply of lemons
Who doesn’t dream of having perfectly pruned, bushy green lemon plants loaded with ripe yellow juicy fruit? What if I tell you it is incredibly simple to get that pot-perfect lemon plant that you always wanted?

My potted lemon plants are loaded with scented white flowers these days. The sight of bees feeding on the nectar all day during monsoon season is simple divine. I feel very fortunate to live in Karachi where there are so many different citrus fruits that we can grow. Some plants produce several times during the year, which makes them a great addition to any garden. Butterflies love to lay eggs under the leaves and it all seems to become so much more meaningful.

Growing lemons at home is quite rewarding in many ways. It all begins with a nursery-bought potted plant and a good quality of soil mix. Here are few most commonly asked questions about growing your own lemons in a pot that will help you grow your perfect plant.

The lemon is affected greatly by growing temperatures

Which variety should I grow?

Some of the varieties that are commonly available here include Eureka, Lisbon, Desi and Kaghazi lemons. Kaffir or Thai limes and Meyer lemons are also occasionally available in some nurseries. Sweet and Kaghazi limes are also wildly available as potted plants.

Whichever variety you eventually choose to grow, it must be grafted. This will ensure a good supply of food and a healthy rooting system that will keep your plant growing and producing for many years.

What kind of soil will my lemon plant like?

Lemon survives in various types of soil. Sandy loam, loam and even clay loam works for it. They will not grow in heavy clay, waterlogged soils or sandy soils. They appreciate tropical or subtropical climates. Temperatures affect the blooming and food production greatly.

For a potting mix, you should go with the following: 1 part of compost, sand, woodchips and 5 parts of peat moss. These combine to make a light, rich and well drained potting mix.

Homegrown lemons in a pot

Should I prune my plant?

I have learned that it is best to pick a young plant with a good set of branches that will grow into a well shaped plant instead of pruning. I feel pruning can cause dieback – the gradual death of branches, starting at the tips – in most of the varieties. Desi lemons seem to survive pruning. It is best to only remove dead branches and pinch new growth to make it bushier or to discourage growth in a certain direction.

How often should I water my plants?

Water when the soil gets dried. During February to May and July to October when the plants are blooming and getting fruits, you may need to water more frequently as the water requirement increases.

How frequently should I feed my plants?

Add chicken manure, cowdung or compost four times a year or in each season. Lemon plants are heavy feeders and will require additional food during December/January before flowering beings and in March/April after fruit setting. For an additional treat, feed them with seaweed liquid fertiliser every fortnight. Do not fertilise your plants during their flowering season.

Additional care for lemons and limes

Water the roots and do not water the branches – especially when it’s flowering.

You may need to rub your figure over each flower to pollinate in the absence of pollinators in your area.

Keep your plants weed-free. They do not like competition.

Yellowing leaves mean they need more iron.

Remove dead branches and the ones crossing each other to get better air circulation.

Place your plant where it doesn’t receive any direct strong wind.

Pick fruits as soon as they are ripe.

I remember sitting under a beautiful, dense and green lemon tree in Shiraz, Iran. It was perfectly shaped, spreading its branches at 8 feet. Although it was not flowering season, the fragrant leaves were making the ambiance so very refreshing.

I have also felt the magic of its scent when I’ve felt depressed. It quickly brightens up the mood and brings vibrancy to your life.

Zahra Ali is a sustainability educator, writer and environmentalist. She blogs at Send in questions about gardening to