My Tree Journey: Lessons from a Lemon Tree

By Liz Baessler | April 22, 2021
by Liz Baessler
April 22, 2021

In 2013 I moved to a new city. I arrived the week of a massive snowstorm, which meant I was in a new city”¦ stuck inside. As soon as spring came, I was antsy to get out and figure out where I was living. I was also desperate to plant things. I had barely any outdoor space, but I had containers, and I was determined. In a fit of inspiration, I went to the grocery store in search of things I could put in the ground. I got myself rosemary, basil, cherries, and all kinds of plantable produce.

I also bought a lemon. I planted its seeds and hoped for the best. I hoped so hard that one sprouted. It was a tiny little green thing with leaves that smelled, unmistakably, like lemon Froot Loops.

Now, the city I’d moved to is not a good home for lemon trees. Summers are warm, but the winters are long, and cold, and very dark. But with a little perseverance (and a sunny window) you can grow a lemon tree pretty much anywhere! And I did.

My lemon tree would spend half the year inside, craning toward the winter sun. And then as soon as nights were warm enough I would move it outdoors, give it a dash of fertilizer, and watch it explode into green. The process repeated year after year, and soon it was taller than I was. We grew together. Maybe not vertically, but as I put down roots in my new home, making friends, learning my way around, it put down its own (less figurative) roots, in a series of progressively monstrous pots I managed to find for it.

I never had it in me to prune it or confine it – how could I, when it was such an obvious symbol of my own growth? And so it grew more and more impressive, too big to call a houseplant, but towering over my dining room and, when I brushed by it, making the whole place smell like Froot Loops.

All good things must come to an end”¦ but not my lemon tree! No, it was my stay in this new city, which had long since become my home. After eight years, it was time to move on, and my dear giant tree came with me. It rode in the back of the moving truck — it had far outgrown the car — and settled into its new residence, in a city even farther north.

At this rate, I don’t think any tropical climates are in my future, but that’s okay. I could never plant my tree in the ground, for fear I’d someday have to leave it again! My faithful lemon tree, my first friend in a new city, is in it for the long haul now, towering over my furniture in the winter and bursting into new growth in the summer in whatever patch of sun it can find, smelling like Froot Loops and reminding me how far I’ve come.

While beautiful, lemon trees grown from seed can take ten years to produce fruit. (I’m still waiting on mine!) If you want lemons right away, check out, the leading online retailer of high-quality trees, shrubs, and perennials.

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  • Stephanie
    Comment added June 15, 2021Reply

    Wow! I loved this blog! You shared how to Grow a Lemon Tree from seed, those simple steps mean a lot to me. It is a big helped, that I can start to grow a Lemon Tree on my own, this is a great idea and an educated idea that even a wants to have this kind of tips.

  • CZim
    Comment added June 3, 2021Reply

    Great story. Thank you for sharing. My sister and I each started a lemon tree from seed about 5 years ago. Neither of them produce fruit yet and it's totally okay if they never do! I add the leaves in my tea and other beverages and use them for cooking. They are wonderful and I swear, my beautiful tree is much happier when I use his leaves!! BTW, we started with 4 seeds. Two from organic lemons and two not organic. Only the organic seeds sprouted. Might have just been those particular lemons but worth trying organic if you want to start from seed.

  • Liz
    Comment added May 31, 2021Reply

    I SOOO love this post! I had two little tears in both my eyes for the entire read! Ope one just escaped! Simply delightful!

    Southern California

  • pamela goetz
    Comment added May 29, 2021Reply

    How wonderful. i bought a few meyer lemon trees at lowes about 9 - 10 years ago. I’ve been picking lemons for at about 7 years now. i even put the pots out on warm 50 degrees days in December in new york and the bees from the farm up the street come to enjoy. i usually get to pick and use them in winter-march.

  • Diane DeNuccio
    Comment added May 23, 2021Reply

    I love this. I have a dwarf Meyer lemon tree in a container. Unfortunately, a few years ago a patio umbrella blew over and fell on it, breaking the main trunk off. I was heartbroken. Lateral trunks grew off the sides of the root ball and eventually I got a beautiful tree again, but only leaves, it will never fruit again.

  • ZlaOsa
    Comment added May 21, 2021Reply

    OMG. That is an inspiration for me. So far I have 5 years old zesty lemon tree, also smells nice,from seed. No fruits yet! But tomorrow I am going to the store and I am getting: orange, mandarin, grapefruit, lime, and lemon. I Love citrus smell, hopefully sooner than later my living room will turn into paradise. ;)

  • Joan Roberts
    Comment added May 19, 2021Reply

    Grew 7 lemons trees from seven pips from same lemon about 15 years ago. The trees are big and thorny and I have put them in big pots now as the winters here in Southern Brittany, France can be frosty, Last year one tree, hard pruned that spring, had flowers and two lemons! I am so thrilled; there are always lots of new leaves but this is the first fruit. I did the same with a mandarin seed and had one flower, which fell off! Found my lemons loathe being indoors in winter, they sulk; so cover them well with fleece until spring. My neighbour has a small lemon tree which was very badly frosted; that year it had many flowers and then fruit, which are orange and round, not lemons, at all! Patience needed, and the fruit takes nearly a year to ripen! Good Luck! Only pests were scale insects, picked off by hand.

  • Michelle
    Comment added May 18, 2021Reply

    I did the same thing! About 9 years ago planted a bunch of seeds from a lemon I bought at the grocery store. It grew and grew. It’s moved with me to two new houses and it’s still growing. No fruit yet. I don’t expect it to really, but it smells lovely just like lemons!

  • Tarina Blood
    Comment added May 14, 2021Reply

    A lovely story ? I am also growing a lemon tree and an orange tree also, both from pips out of the fruit, still in pots - on my windowsill at night,on the patio in the day. They give me joy.

  • Vicki Haberman
    Comment added May 13, 2021Reply

    I grew a huge lemon tree from a seed when I was 6 years old back in the 50s. Unfortunately, at 15 I had other things on my mind and had planted it outside. We moved and I left it. Over the years I have tried to grow another one to no avail. I have even bought organic lemons but no luck. Would anyone with successful lemon trees be willing to share some seeds with an old lady in Texas that loves to garden?

    • Karen
      Comment added May 26, 2021Reply

      I’ve been trying to grow those from Lowe’s and had 4 now and still no luck. Don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

  • Paulette Casale
    Comment added May 8, 2021Reply

    I did the same thing. I took seeds from an organic lemon I bought at the grocery store and planted the seeds. Several weeks later it started to sprout. Months later it was large enough to plant in my backyard. After about seven years it started to produce lemons. This tree is about 13 years old now and I get hundreds of lemons each year. Since then I've started several lemon trees for my friends from the lemon seeds from this tree.

    • Tina
      Comment added June 2, 2021Reply

      I am trying to grow an orange tree from seed. I got my seeds to sprout by a sunny window. I have a southern
      exposure where I put all my succulents and vines. My cat's favorites live in my daughter's room. Tina

  • Wenche Kjær
    Comment added May 5, 2021Reply

    I live in Norway - the southern part. Long cold winters. But Nice warm summers. 5 years agoMy spanish friend brought with him a small lemon tree and gave me a. I did plant it the soil in my greenhouse as I keep below frost in winter. And the lemon tree has grown BIG and always has fruit and flowers on. But I would love to spade it up and plant it in a big pot so can stay outside in summer?do you think that is possible?

    Comment added April 26, 2021Reply

    So how was the lemon fruits? Did you get some fruits? My lemon tree has plenty of flowers, but only about 2,3 fruits I got. And they are small, about half the regular lemon size.

    • Eve
      Comment added May 6, 2021Reply

      I planted a Meyers lemon tree here in central Fl. They told me it might take seven years before I saw fruit and they were correct and now after 12 years I have more lemons than ever. Love that tree...

  • john baltovich
    Comment added April 26, 2021Reply

    I have a Gledicia tree planted front verge, it used o have a yellow flower now it stopped flowering.
    The tree has the buds but before it flowers it drops the buds.
    I have photos how do I send them to you.

  • Jill
    Comment added April 25, 2021Reply

    I got to your blog by googling pruning honeysuckle, which was a very helpful article. Thank you.

    I loved your story of your lemon tree. When my husband was a small child he planted a seed from a grocery store lemon also and the adults told him it wouldn’t grow, but it did, indoors, in Wisconsin, for more than 40 yrs.

    • B. Saff
      Comment added May 18, 2021Reply

      You just gave me life and inspiration! I live in Wisconsin and am planning to plant lemon seeds indoors in the coming days.

  • Suella Kirkham
    Comment added April 24, 2021Reply

    Thanks so much for your story. I too have moved north to south and east to west and always planted plants, in the wrong soil, heat/cold and humidity/or lack there of, very unsuccessfully. I applaud your paitience with your lemon tree. However, I am going to the website you rccomended and get out my grow lights. Thanks again.

  • Deb D
    Comment added April 24, 2021Reply

    I took a lemon purchased from the grocery store, cut it open for a slice in my tea, looked at the seeds, and thought: Hmm, I wonder...?? Ten years later the tree in a very large pot in my backyard (Southern CA), finally blossomed. The first year one lemon. The second year 3 lemons. What have I learned? Patience is rewarded.

    • Tarina Blood
      Comment added May 14, 2021Reply

      I was having my customary honey and lemon drink on morning last autumn and I thought "why not put a seed in a pot? I have nothing to lose" ? I was delighted when it sprouted! We live in England, but both orange and lemon trees have made it through the cold winter.

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