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How to Germinate Lemon Seeds to Grow a Lemon Tree

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When I first started gardening, I had no idea that some seeds like special treatment prior to planting compared to others! Lemon seeds and other citrus seem to be that way, at least from what I’ve seen. In my efforts to learn how to germinate lemon seeds to grow a lemon tree at home, I luckily found the best method that works quickly!

If you’ve already read my post on How to Grow a Clementine Tree from Seed, you can apply the same process here with planting lemon seeds!

And if you’ve found this post first, that’s great as growing lemon trees was my first foray into planting citrus seeds.

Let’s get started with a little information on lemons followed by my tips on how to germinate lemon seeds and grow a lemon tree!

How to Germinate Lemon Seeds - Harvest Seeds from a Lemon
How to Germinate Lemon Seeds – First, Harvest Seeds from a Lemon!

Can you eat lemon seeds?

Believe it or not, yes, you can eat lemon seeds! Unlike apple seeds, cherry pits, and stone fruit pits, lemon seeds are not toxic or dangerous. Lemon seeds contain salicylic acid and have similar nutritional properties to the rest of the lemon. That being said, while you probably don’t want to munch lemon seeds like mixed nuts, it won’t hurt you if you accidentally swallow them!

What are some different types of lemon trees?

Most everyone knows the Meyer lemon tree, but quite a few different variants of the Citrus limon species exist. Lisbon lemons tend to be one of the most popular and commercially available lemons. Other types of lemon trees include pink variegated, Eureka, Bearss lemons, Primofiori, Verna, Avon, Greek Citron, and Ponderosa, to name just a few.

Also, I found this great lemon list on PlantSnap that describes what makes each of the different kinds of lemon trees special, useful, or unique.

Do lemon trees have thorns?

Yes, most true lemon trees have thorns. You may be able to find select varieties of thornless lemon trees, but the quality may not be the same. Generally, most of the best tasting lemon trees do have thorns. Use caution with kids and pets as lemon tree thorns are very sharp if touched.

If lemon tree thorns are problematic, you can take a small pair of scissors and snip the thorns while they are young and small to remove the point. I’ve done this with our seed-grown lemon trees and they are doing great!

How long does it take for lemon seeds to sprout?

Germinating lemon seeds can happen as quickly as a week or less, given the right conditions. You may see signs of germination in just five days. Once the lemon seeds sprout, they will grow roots, stems, and leaves as they develop into baby trees.

How long does it take to grow a lemon tree?

Several factors come into play when looking at the lemon tree growth rate. Outdoor lemon trees can grow up to 20 feet tall and may take 6 years to produce fruit. Growing lemon trees indoors changes the expected height as you may prune the tree to fit inside. The size of the container for a potted lemon tree also impacts how tall and how quickly the tree grows.

This year, our homegrown lemon tree is almost as tall as our five-year-old at about 18 months old!

Lemon Tree Height - almost as tall as a five-year-old!
Indoor Lemon Tree Height at 18 months old – it’s almost as tall as a five-year-old!

If well cared for, lemon trees can live for 50 years or more!

How to Germinate Lemon Seeds

Learning how to plant lemon seeds is easier than you might expect! The first few steps are a little time-consuming, but the rest of the process is a snap.

Planting Lemon Seeds from a Store-bought Lemon
Planting Lemon Seeds from a Store-bought Lemon

Materials

To do this project, you will need paper towels, water, zip-top baggies, a permanent marker like Sharpie, lemons, and possibly a knife and spray bottle.

DIY: How to Plant Lemon Seeds

Follow these steps to plant a lemon tree from seed.

Harvesting Lemon Seeds

  1. First, cut a lemon into wedges and pick out the seeds. Set aside or store the lemon wedges for cooking or making lemon water.
  2. Rinse and then soak the lemon seeds in a small container for about 15 minutes.

Germinating Lemon Seeds

  • Use your thumbnail or a small knife to nick the seed coat and then remove it from the lemon seed.
  • Fold a paper towel in half and lightly wet it with water. I use a spray bottle.
  • Space the lemon seeds out so they aren’t touching. You can spray a little more water if you like. It should be damp but not dripping or pooling.
  • Fold the paper towel down over the lemon seeds so they are fully covered.
  • Carefully move the wrapped seeds into the zip-top bag.
  • Use a permanent marker to label the type of seeds (lemon) and the date.
  • Set the baggie somewhere warm and out of the way. I place mine on top of the microwave and around heating vents.
  • After five days to a week, check to look for lemon seed sprouts. You may notice the root radicle coming out of the nut-like lemon seeds. If you see this, your lemon seeds have germinated!

Transplanting Sprouted Lemon Seeds into Pots

Once your seeds have sprouted, you can move them to small pots.

  1. Place a coffee filter or cut piece of one into the bottom of the pot to capture soil so it doesn’t drain out with the water.
  2. Fill the flower pot with potting soil. (My favorite potting soil to use indoors is ProMix!)
  3. Place the sprouted lemon seed or lemon tree seedling in the pot. Cover the seed completely or plant the baby tree with the trunk and leaves above the surface.
  4. Water thoroughly and place in a sunny window or under grow lights.

This entire process shouldn’t actualy take you too long, but I wanted to make the steps as clear and easy to understand as possible. If you’re having any trouble or have any questions, just post a comment. I respond to each and every one!

Fun Idea for Germinating Lemon Seeds

Growing lemon trees from seed is so easy and fun that I often want to share this joy with others.

Kids would be great gardening buddies to help grow lemon trees from seed. You can also get a friend to join you in your lemon growing adventure.

Lemon trees are so much fun to grow, but the joy is also wonderful shared with others. Consider this fun idea for a special someone! (or yourself!)

Fresh, delicious, yellow lemon on a wooden deck
Fresh, delicious, yellow lemon on a wooden deck

Planting Lemon Seeds in a Mug

Imagine a lemon tree growing in a cute mug! My preference would be to find a lemon or citrus themed mug and then go about planting lemon seeds in the mug.

Make a few personalized gifts with lemon seeds growing in a mug for those you love. Grandmothers, aunts, and moms may especially love this fun garden related gift.

Also, planting lemon seeds in a cup would be a super cute teacher gift, if your teacher likes gardening. (We all know teachers have plenty of regular mugs already! But how many have a lemon tree…?)

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You’ve also got to love this fun mug flower pot! That checks off both boxes when planting lemon seeds in a mug.

Lemonade Dreams

Now that I know how to germinate lemon trees, I am addicted to growing citrus from seed! My young lemon trees are some of my favorite plants and wintertime houseplants. I just love them!

And, I can’t wait to see my clementine trees following along in this awesome path!

I’m so glad to document the journey from seed to – hopefully – fruit!

At the publishing of this article, my homegrown lemon trees from seed are probably about 20 months old. Ahh, I have toddlers!

New Growth on Young Lemon Tree
New Growth on our Young Lemon Tree

Now, if I can just keep them happy, maybe I will have some lemon blossoms next year or the following!

For years now, I’ve had visions of sipping lemonade on my deck while working on my blog with my pup chilling out nearby.

If all goes well with my baby lemon trees, hopefully I’ll be making fresh-squeezed lemonade with my own homegrown lemons!

Here’s a lemon tree growing in the Adirondacks of New York – it’s actually at a place called the Lemon Tree Brewery. I am sure they dig it up because it gets WAY colder there than it does here. But, isn’t it beautiful?!

Lemon Tree Flowering at Lemon Tree Brewery in Speculator, NY, Adirondacks
Lemon Tree Flowering at Lemon Tree Brewery in Speculator, NY, Adirondacks

(In the meantime, I buy store-bought lemons and make fruit-infused lemonades like this fresh blueberry lemonade! Although, I think my favorite is the strawberry lemonade and I just haven’t had time to write about that one yet.)

Do you have a lemon tree at home? Are you excited to try growing baby lemon trees or another citrus along with me?!

Let’s chat in the comments – it makes my day hearing from you guys!

Happy Gardening!

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6 Comments

  1. I planted a lemon seed about 5 months ago. I live in an assisted living. It is about 9 inches tall and looks healthy. Any advice for me.

    1. Hi Thelma, thanks for stopping by! How wonderful for you that your lemon tree sapling is already about 9 inches tall! These truly are one of my favorites for indoor plants. I water when the soil looks dry and try to keep it near natural daylight when possible. I have added some spent coffee grounds here and there, mixing them into the soil. I haven’t pruned mine yet but will post an article on that when I get there. I’ll try to gather some more tips – mine started like yours and now my biggest lemon tree is 31 inches tall! It has grown numerous branches all on its own and puts out new leaves nicely. Wishing you lots of success!

  2. My little lemon seeds have grown their little tails. I am wondering do I put the tails in the soil or the seed‍♀️ I can’t seem to find a straight answer to this question anywhere. Please help me

    1. Hi Jody! Just seeing this now – thanks for your comment and question. So excited for you that your lemon seeds germinated! I’ve done it both ways – I’ve planted a whole germinated seed completely in soil and then watered it, or, if the green stem is also poking through, you can put that part above the soil and the root below. As an alternative, you can actually leave them in the baggie for a little longer and just spray a bit more water if you want to give it more time. Feel free to email me a picture if you still aren’t sure!
      Best wishes with these little beauties!

      1. Oh, bless you . I think I am going to leave them in the bag for a week longer and then see what happens. Thank you so very much for answering my question

        1. Oh my pleasure, so happy to help! Would love for you to come back with an update when you have one. Best of luck and happy gardening!

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