The Q&A Archives: Lemon Tree Pruning, Fertilizing, Ripening

Question: I live in the south of England, 3 yrs ago we bought a dwarf lemon for the patio, it is planted in a large pot & is at present inside due to frost etc. It has decided to go crazy with flowers and has set many lemons:

What do I feed it with?
When should I prune?
How long for the fruit to ripen? (my gin & tonic is waiting)!

I should say that I am to gardening what agent orange is to foliage.

Thanks. Have a nice Christmas.
John Romans

Answer: Lemons are prolific fruit producers, so I hope you can also make lemonade, otherwise you'll be consuming an awful lot of gin & tonics! Let's start with ripening. How long depends on the variety's characteristics. The best thing to do is taste test periodically after lemons have reached the appropriate size and firmness. Lemons can be ripe, even though the rind is still green. Typically, the longer fruit stays on the tree, the sweeter it becomes.

Pruning should take place in late winter/early spring just before new growth starts to show. Citrus does need a consistent supply of fertilizer. Try to find one formulated specifically for citrus and follow package instructions, or use a nitrogen fertilizer. The amount to apply depends on the size/age of the tree. A small/young tree, 2-3 years after planting requires about .75 lb. of actual nitrogen annually. Note that the figure is not the same as the amount of fertilizer to apply. You have to determine how much nitrogen is in the fertilizer you use. (See why I suggested finding a fertilizer formulated for citrus?) Also, it's a good idea to spread that annual requirement into 3 feedings: one in Jan or Feb; another in April/May and a final in Aug/Sept. Always water thoroughly before and after applying fertilizer to prevent burn. If you can't find a citrus fertilizer, and I've totally confused you with the percentage of nitrogen to apply, send another email to the Q&A site ( with the three numbers (NPK) from the fertilizer you did find, and I'll help you determine the proper amount. Enjoy those lemons!

Here?s some basic info on fertilizer and nutrients that plants require. The 3 numbers on a fertilizer bag refer to the percentage of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorous), and K (potassium) in the bag. There are different formulations for different purposes. In general terms, nitrogen produces lush green growth, phosphorous helps strengthen stems and produce flowers, and potassium keeps the root system healthy.

« Click to go to the homepage

» Ask a question of your own

Q&A Library Searching Tips

  • When singular and plural spellings differ, as in peony and peonies, try both.
  • Search terms are not case sensitive.

Today's site banner is by Marilyn and is called "Southern Comfort"