- Author: Leonard Cicerello
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Leonard Cicerello UCCE Master Gardener
Citrus x meyeri
Planting area: Sunset zones 8, 9, 12-24.
Size: 6' to 12' tall and 6' to 10' wide.
Bloom Season: Spring.
Exposure: Requires at least six hours of sun per day. Afternoon shade is okay, but not required.
Pruning needs: Prune during first or second year after fall harvest. Prune suckers, weak limbs, crossing limbs, and dead wood. Also prune to improve light penetration. Watch for thorns.
Water needs: Allow soil to dry out only slightly between waterings.
Snapshot: The Meyer lemon was hybridized in China in the early 1900s. It is a cross between a lemon and a Mandarin orange. By the 1960s, a majority of Meyer Lemon trees in California were destroyed by a virus they carried. One stock that was deemed free and clear of the virus in the mid-60s became the source of what was named “Improved Meyer Lemon”.
The Improved Meyer lemon is self-pollinating. Plant it in well-drained soil in the right location. Fertilize with citrus fertilizer monthly between April and September. Yellow leaves indicate a need for water or fertilizer. These trees do well in large containers. For larger fruit, thin when they are marble size.
Meyer lemons have thinner rind than other lemons and has a slight orange tint. The aroma of the fruit is spicy and tropical. Its flavor is sweeter and less acidic, yet still juicier than other lemons.
Citrus does grow and fruit well on the central coast but do to protect your tree from frost if that's an issue in your corner of the county. Professional citrus growers use large wind machines for frost protection. Homeowners can cover their trees with cloth, not plastic, to maintain heat. Remove the cover during the day.
Meyer lemons brighten desserts, sauces, salads, and roasts and are highly prized by chefs. A special treat for those who love limoncello and make their own at home, is to make it with fresh Meyer lemons.