The Story of a Lemon Tree in Tennessee

Many years ago back when I was in college I brought home a lemon from the store. On a whim I decided that I would plant a couple of the seeds from that little lemon into a cup and see if I could grow a lemon tree. The seeds sprouted and several little lemon trees grew. The little lemon trees were sustained in pots inside the house which gradually grew larger and larger. This past winter I decided that I was done with the lemon tree experiment. I was tired of lugging the tree indoors every winter. I was tired of the thorns and spikes constantly sticking me as I walked by. I was also tired of the lack of fruit or flower on this experiment. In all the years it only flowered once and consequently only fruited once, only to have the baby lemon terminated prematurely by a severe case of spider mites! Citrus trees have their problems and spider mites are a big one, at least when it comes to growing them indoors.

As I mentioned, I was tired of the thorny little lemon tree that hadn’t produced anything in the 13-14 years I grew it. Last fall rather than bring it indoors I left it outside. I didn’t protect it. I didn’t water it or take care of it in any way. It sat on my front porch waiting for its demise. I abandoned it…completely. There was no way that lemon tree could make it through one of the harshest winters in many years to come to Tennessee.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the outcome! This spring my abandoned lemon began sprouting new growth along the branches. I trimmed up the dead branches and cut back a few of the larger branches to make a more compact tree and now here is how it looks:

Shiny, green, glossy leaves! Does this mean my lemon tree is hardy in Tennessee? Probably not but you never know. Most lemons are hardy in zones 8 or warmer not here in zone 6b. Maybe I have a lemon tree that could regularly survive our mild winters but I doubt it would make it through too many of the extreme winters. My lemon got lucky. Since my little lemon tree fought so hard to stay alive I think I’ll store it in the garden shed in future winters. Who knows, I might one day find myself with a lemon!

18 thoughts on “The Story of a Lemon Tree in Tennessee”

  1. That's great that it is growing new leaves. We have a lemon plant we grew from a supermarket lemon seed. It hasn't grown much in 2 years. Maybe I should move it outdoors too!

  2. That's very impressive that you grew it from a seed of a store bought lemon. We have a small Meyer Lemon tree that overwintered in the house last winter and still has one tiny lemon that's been growing for months. I might try leaving it on our porch this year too and see what happens, we just don't have much space for a tree indoors either. I hope you do get some lemons someday. Another blogger told me to put used coffee grounds around the base of the trunk and I swear once I started doing that it finally got blooms.

  3. Part of the reason may be because 99.9% of TN is actually in Zone 7. So while it's not exactly ideal Zone 8, with our weather lately, it's probably getting exactly what it needs to grow!

    FYI: The Arbor Day Foundation updated the zones in 2006 and everything has shifted up one half for the most part. So we are no longer 6b, but a full 7.

  4. Meemsnyc – The summer weather might do it some good!

    Catherine – Space was a major issue with moving it in and out. I've used the garage before but the trees still take up quite a bit of room!

    Missy – Even though they have updated the maps they still aren't right. In this area we are still much closer to zone 6b than 7 because of the cold temperatures. Consistently over the last few winters I've seen temperatures around -10 degrees F. Last winter was very similar but had more of the extreme cold days than usual. Until our winter temperatures stay above 0-10 degrees we don't really fit a zone 7.

    Racquel – It sure did come through!

    Cameron – You might be right about the house providing some heat. But the front porch is on the north side of the house and gets no sun in the winter for heating.

  5. What a nice surprise. Our lemon tree just hasn't produced lemons yet, of course it's in the ground. Maybe I'll try Catherine's coffee grounds tip.

  6. Congrats on the lemon tree! Perhaps I'll try planting some seeds; sometimes it's just fun to watch things grow.
    I really enjoy your blog; I'm just a few miles south of you in northern Alabama 🙂

  7. That is amazing and shows the will of some plants to survive I guess. I can't believe that you see -10 regularly. I am way north of you in Lexington, KY and we see our winter minimum in the -5 to +5 range most winter. We are normally closer to 0 to +5. Very interesting.


  8. Darla – I may have to try that coffee ground trick too!

    Meredehuit – I'm looking forward to that sequel too, hopefully it can be written!

    Erika – Thanks for reading the blog and commenting! I hope you all managed to get some rain last night too.

    Jake – It may have to do with the specifics of where we live. We are out in the country and live down in a bit of a frost pocket. Every winter the last three years we've seen a -10 temperature appear on the thermometer multiple times. The measurements were actually taken near the house which may be a little warmer than farther out in the yard. We definitely get cold here! Often plants that are zone 7 or borderline zone 7 don't make it through the winter. I think the hardiness map is only good as a general guideline.

  9. I think this little lemon tree is trying to tell you something. Maybe "Dont give up on me"… I remember my grandmother putting a grapefruit seed into a pot next to her breakfast table and it growing like a weed. That memory has never left my mind and I was just a wee tot then.

    I only wish my largest Crepe Myrtle looked as nice as your parents tree! I have worked with it but with every heavy rain fall, the limbs fall over to the ground. I am afraid we may have to take drastic measures next spring.

    That tomato looks so yummy and lucky you to have fresh maters this year. Our 3 plants were a flop for us as were the green peppers and cucumbers. The flowers are looking kind of sad too with all this heat getting to them. Thank goodness we have gotten rain yesterday and today with pop up showers. Not too crazy about loosing power for about 30 minutes but I was not on the computer so not a big deal. LOL…

    I will have to try to get more plants from my Huskers Red Beard as you suggest. Sounds easy enough…

  10. Hmmmmmmm my lemon tree has been looking sickly for years, and the heat indoors in the winter seems to be the culprit. It isn't producing lemons anyway and looks terrible, so there would be nothing to lose by letting it stay outside this winter.
    Yours looks GREAT!

  11. Citrus has specific need for micronutrients that are usually not in generic all purpose fertilizers.

    Find a fertilizer that is specific for Citrus. It needs 1 pound per inch of trunk diameter per year, split between three (or four) feedings. In Bud, after Bloom & Before fall (Oct) is my schedule, you can do it quarterly if it makes it easier to remember/schedule.

    Good Luck!

  12. I'm not sure how often you keep up with this post since it is rather old, however, I thought i'd give you some lemon tree advice! Lemon trees have to be polinated in order to produce lemons. So if it's an indoor plant you should keep it by a window with plenty of breeze. If it's too cold to leave the window open or to have a fan blowing gently on it, be sure that once ever other day you are gently shaking the stalks of the tree to spred the polination. Much like our children, lemons are the fruit of the tree's loins! LOL!

  13. Please give the lemon tree full sun, citrus ferterlizer and you can polinate it yourself by taking pollen from inside the blooms with a small brush and brushing it to the inside of another bloom.
    Do some reading and I feel sure you can get lemons. The Meyers Lemons are wonderful!!!!
    Good luck!

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