8 Lemon Tree Growth Stages (Lifecycle)

Lemon trees are sub-tropical trees that are commonly grown for their sourly sweet fruit. Lemons have many uses not just in the kitchen but around the home and in healthcare too!

Having an abundance of lemons isn’t something that should be feared as they can be preserved and stored later.

This article will discover how to grow lemon trees step by step, including planting, seedling, germination, vegetative growth, flowering, fruiting, harvesting, and drying.

How Long Does It Take For A Lemon Tree To Grow?

Lemon trees are one of the fastest-growing citrus fruit trees, and when grown in the right conditions, they can start to produce fruit 3-4 years after planting. They do require a little patience on your part but are worth the investment of time.

When fully matured, lemon trees can reach a staggering height of 20 feet (600 cm) outdoors, and you can expect to see a growth rate of roughly 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) per month during the growing season.

The root system of the lemon tree typically stays within the first top 24 inches of the soil and can spread out wider than the drip line.

The evergreen trees are part of the Rutaceae family and originate from Asia, specifically north India, Myanmar, and China. There are over 30 varieties of lemon trees, and all vary in fruit size, color, and taste.

Because lemon trees can take up to 6 years to bear fruit, gardeners purchase grafted lemon trees from nurseries or garden centers.

Lemon trees that are provided by nurseries are grafted into varieties where the roots of one plant are fused together with the shoot of another plant.

Grafted lemon trees can prove more reliable in producing fruit quickly and are more resistant to pests and diseases.

The lifecycle of a lemon tree starts with planting the seed from day one and can take 3-6 years to grow into a mature tree.

After 2 years the lemon tree will be 2-3 feet (60-90 cm), once the tree is 4 years old it will be 3-3.5 feet (90-106 cm) and a 6-year-old tree will reach a height of 8-10 feet (243-304 cm).

Take a peek at this timelapse video of the lemon tree growth stages.


Common nameCitrus Lemon
Scientific NameCitrus limon (L.) Burm. f. /  Citrus limonum Risso
Family NameRutaceae
OriginNorthern India, Myanmar, China
Maturity Size10- 20 Feet (304-609cm)
USDA Hardiness zone9-11
Light RequirementsFull Sun
SoilWell drained, Loam, Ph 6.0-7.0

Lemon Tree Growing Stages

The lemon tree growth stages are a vital aspect of its development. It is crucial to understand the different stages so you can give the appropriate care and maintenance.

We have unveiled how to grow a lemon tree step by step so you can follow along and start producing your very own lemons!


The first stage of lemon tree growth begins with planting creamy white seeds. After eating a lemon, you can plant the seeds from organic lemon fruit. Just make sure it is free from the pulp.

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Alternatively, you can purchase a pack of seeds from your gardening store or online.

Planting the seeds of the lemon tree is the most critical stage of the tree’s growth cycle as it lays the foundation for its future health.

To plant lemon tree seeds, fill some small plastic pots or cups (that have drainage holes) with premium, well-drained potting soil. Use a spray watering can to wet the soil and push the seed half an inch deep into the soil in the middle of the pot.

Cover the seed with a thin layer of soil. After you have covered the seed, spray the top layer of soil with a spray water bottle. This will ensure you don’t blast the seed out of the soil with water pressure.

Cover the pot with clear plastic; you can use cling film for this or a plastic bottle cut in half. Place the pot in a warm sunny position and continue to keep the soil moist.

After around two weeks, your lemon tree seed will start to crack and begin the germination stage.


After planting, germination is the next stage of the lemon tree growth cycle.

Germination is the process by which the seeds sprout and begin to grow. This will start around two weeks after planting.

During this time, you will see a small shoot appear from the surface of the soil, and a small root will begin to grow under the soil.

This stage usually takes between 2-3 weeks, and growers should ensure that the soil remains moist but not waterlogged. It is essential to keep the soil moist throughout germination and avoid overwatering.

If you overwater the soil at this point, you can cause the seed to rot and disintegrate.

Seedling Stage

Once the seeds have germinated, seedling growth is the next stage of the lemon tree lifecycle. During this stage, the seedlings continue to grow taller and stronger, starting with the first set of leaves.

The first set of leaves are called cotyledons and are used to absorb the sunlight to aid in photosynthesis. As the lemon tree grows, it will discard these leaves and use its true leaves to continue developing.

During this time, it is essential to keep the lemon tree seedling in a warm indirect sunlight position. Keep the soil moist using a spray bottle, and the lemon seedling will continue to its next stage of the growth cycle.

Vegetative Growth Stage

Following the seedling stage, the lemon tree will commence the vegetative growth stage.

During this stage, the small tree will focus on developing a sturdy root system and foliage. The leaves will become larger, and the tree will begin to form branches.

This stage can last anywhere between 1-3 years, depending on the variety of the lemon tree and the growing conditions.

Protect the lemon tree seedling from any harsh cold weather during this time, as it is important not to put the tree under stress in its early stages.

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A thicker trunk will appear, and as the tree starts to develop branches, it will produce thorns and thicker leaves.

Once the lemon tree has grown to a height of 2 feet (60 cm), it is strong enough to be planted outside or into a larger pot. If planting outdoors, be sure to transplant into rich, well-draining soil.

Plant your lemon tree after the risk of frost and choose a sunny location in the garden that is sheltered from strong winds.

Water your lemon tree into the ground, use a balanced fertilizer 6-6-6 to feed it, and help it settle into its new home.


After 1-3 years of the lemon tree’s vegetative growth stage, it will begin to produce buds and flowers. The purple-white buds of the lemon tree are produced in winter (November or December) and open up when the temperatures rise in spring.

The flowers of the lemon tree are made up of 5 white petals, a female pistil, and pollen-carrying stamens. Lemon trees are self-pollinating, so you don’t need two trees to produce fruit.

As the flowers’ pollen falls into the flower’s reproductive organs, the flowers will become fertile and eventually produce fruits.

When this is successful, you can see a small fruit appear from the center of the flower, and the petals will drop off. The number of blooms on your tree will give you an idea of how many fruits you will receive.


Once the lemon tree has gone through the flowering stage, the fruits will begin to form. It is important to keep up with tree maintenance at this stage.

The fruits will continue to grow for the next 6 months, and keeping them fed with a well-balanced fertilizer will ensure you grow nice juicy lemons.

Use a slow-release fertilizer in the form of granules and apply once at the beginning of spring and once before the end of summer to prepare your lemon tree for the winter months. Water the lemon tree once a week with an inch or two of water.

This may vary depending on the climate and conditions of your garden. The best way to check if your lemon tree needs a drink is by checking the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the soil.

Try to avoid over-watering as this can cause the soil to clog up and cause root rot.


After six months of the fruiting stage, the lemons will be ready to harvest. When the lemons have become yellow-green and are 2-3 inches in size, they are ready to be plucked from the tree.

The lemons should feel firm to the touch and have glossy skin when fully ripened. Lemons will not continue to ripen when off the tree, so it’s best to wait until they have fully turned yellow to harvest them.

Suppose you have an abundance of lemons on your tree and can’t harvest them all at once.

You can leave the lemons on the tree until late winter, but remove the fruit before the tree begins to bloom for spring.


The lemon tree will continue to go through its cycles of producing fruit each year until it has reached its old age (an average of 50 years).

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After producing fruit, if you leave them on the tree, they will start to dry out and turn brown.

Eventually, the lemons will fall off the tree, and you risk attracting fruit flies and other undesired pests. Keep the tree clear of rotting fruit, and ensure you harvest your lemons when they see fit.

Signs That Your Lemon Trees May Bear Fruits

One sign that your lemon tree will bear fruit is when the tree starts to bud in the months of December to March.

After the lemon tree has produced buds, it will open to flowers in the warmer months of early spring.

After the flowers have opened and pollinated, you will notice small fruits form in the center of the white flower. This is a true sign that your lemon tree will bear fruit.

Optimal Conditions For Lemon Trees

Optimal conditions for lemons to grow are temperatures of 75 to 85°F (23-29°C) and humidity of 50% is ideal.

Lemon trees thrive in a location where they receive full sun for 6-8 hours per day. Lemon trees are somewhat drought tolerant but are sensitive to frost.

Fertilize the lemon tree twice per year with a slow-release fertilizer in the form of granules. Apply the granules at the beginning of spring and at the end of summer.

What Is The Best Fertilizer For Lemon Trees?

The best fertilizer for lemon trees is a well-balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 6-6-6 (6% nitrogen, 6% Phosphorus, and 6% potassium).

This balanced mix will allow your lemon trees to produce good foliage and fruit over their life cycle.

Be sure to follow the directions on the fertilizer packet and always err on caution with the application. Over-fertilizing can cause the fruit to drop off the tree and severely damage the tree’s root system.


To summarize, the lemon tree growth stages are similar to that of other plants, and although their growth rate can test your patience, they are worth every effort in the end. Providing you select organic seeds to germinate, you will have great success in growing a fully mature tree over the years. Many gardeners prefer to skip the germination method for lemon trees because of the waiting time for fruit.

Lemon trees that are grown from seed have experienced your garden’s environment from the moment they sprouted, resulting in a stronger tree later down the track!

Lucy Young

Meet Lucy, a seasoned gardener with a green thumb and a wealth of experience cultivated over 10 years in her own backyard oasis. Now, she channels her passion into writing, sharing invaluable gardening knowledge on her website. From nurturing plants to expert pruning techniques, Lucy's articles are a treasure trove for both seasoned enthusiasts and budding gardeners. Join her on this leafy journey as she sprinkles insights, tips, and tricks to help you create your own flourishing paradise. Get ready to dig into her gardening wisdom and unlock the secrets of a thriving garden!

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