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To propagate your most beautiful lemon tree, all you need is a little patience and sound instructions. You can grow the Mediterranean flowering shrub with the tart fruits in a variety of ways. The most natural option is to sow the seeds. Other methods use cuttings or sinkers to grow a magnificent lemon. This green guide explains the whole process in detail.
Regardless of the chosen approach, the quality of the potting soil makes a decisive contribution to the desired root formation. Pure adult plant citrus soil is too nutrient dense to propagate a lemon tree. In order for seedlings and offshoots to strive for vital root growth, the substrate should be lean, loose and structurally stable.
The following variants have proved their worth in practice:
- Peat-free and unfertilized coconut fiber substrate
- Mix of 2 parts leaf compost, 1 part lime-free sand and 1 part peat
When purchasing commercial potting soil, please ensure that it is low in lime and has a slightly acidic pH value between 5 and 6. In order to use your supply of citrus soil for cultivation, thin the substrate with lime-free quartz sand, fine-grained lava granules or Seramis in a ratio of 2 :1. To ensure that the growing and sowing soil is actually germ-free, place the substrate in the oven at 150 degrees for 20 minutes. Sterilization in the microwave is faster within 2 minutes at 600 watts.
Sowing lemon seeds
You can use the seeds of a fully ripe fruit from your lemon tree or from the organic shop as seeds. The fresher the lemon, the easier it is for the seeds to germinate. Since the seedlings form deep taproots early on, use high 13-cm pots as seed containers. When growing a lemon tree from seeds, expect a failure rate of more than 50 percent. We therefore recommend sowing as many seeds as possible. The usual makeshift solutions, such as egg cartons or yoghurt pots, are not suitable for growing a lemon tree in them. Place a curved potsherd over the bottom opening to protect against waterlogging.
Proceed with these steps:
- Remove the seeds from the pulp and rinse just before use
- fill the sterilized and cooled substrate into the pot above the drainage
- Place the fresh seeds 3 cm apart on the ground and press down
- Sieve thinly with earth
- press again for a good ground contact
- moisten with a fine spray of rainwater or decalcified tap water
A combination of slightly moist substrate and temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius puts the seeds in a bright location in a good mood to germinate. The seed finds ideal conditions in a heatable mini greenhouse. Alternatively, you can construct the mini greenhouse yourself using simple means. For this purpose, fill a 4 cm layer of expanded clay in a larger planter. Place the cultivation pot with the lemon seeds on it. After pouring, put the whole thing in a transparent plastic bag that you close with a clip. With this trick you generate the advantageous warm, humid microclimate that is important for a successful course.
Pre-treatment shortens the germination time
In the plant world, the seeds in fruits are equipped with a germination inhibition. With a waterproof and hard seed coat, Mother Nature prevents germination at the wrong time. The process only starts when the cores come into contact with heat and moist soil. Under windowsill conditions, this can take 6 to 12 months or even longer. The following pre-treatment makes the peel of a lemon stone porous, so that heat and moisture can act more quickly on the embryo.
- Roughen a rinsed and dry core with sandpaper
- alternatively work the hard shell with a fine file
- Put the seeds in a thermos flask and pour warm water over them
- leave to soak for 24 hours
- Soak larger seeds for 48 hours
If roughing up the seed coat is too time-consuming and nerve-wracking for you, you can soften the shell with potassium nitrate. Potassium nitrate is also known as saltpeter and is used, among other things, as a fertilizer additive or in the preservation of food. The natural salt is available in pharmacies and drugstores as open goods. Since it is readily soluble in water, you can easily use it to make a 0.2 percent solution. Soak the hard lemon seeds in it for 24 hours, then rinse them off and sow them immediately. Thanks to this pre-treatment, not only is the germ inhibition broken, but the failure rate is also significantly reduced.
Nurturing and pricking
As a result of the recommended pre-treatment, germination takes between 2 and 4 weeks. Ventilate the mini greenhouse or plastic bag daily and check the moisture content of the soil. It should be slightly damp and never wet. Fertilizer is not applied at this stage. Once the seedlings have developed well enough that each has 2 cotyledons and at least 2 more pairs of leaves, move on to the next stage of growing a lemon tree from seeds.
How to prick a seedling correctly:
- fill a sufficiently large and high bucket with citrus soil
- previously create a 3 to 4 cm high drainage of expanded clay above the water outlet
- Pre-drill the planting hole in the substrate with a wooden or pricking stick
Now take a spoon or the pricking stick to lift the young lemon tree out of the potting soil without pulling on the shoot. Place it in the prepared planting hole just below the cotyledons. Press the substrate and water with soft water. On the warm, sunny window seat, care in the first year is limited to regular watering with lime-free water.
Contrary to popular belief, the wildlings that you grow from seeds definitely have the potential to produce flowers and fruit. Of course, it will take between 5 and 10 years until then. In the meantime, the Mediterranean ornamental tree from our own cultivation delights with an evergreen dress of leaves.
Propagation by cuttings
Generative propagation by sowing seeds always carries the risk that you will not like the result. No one can predict which traits of the parent and grandparent plants will prevail in the young lemon tree. By propagating the lemon from cuttings, you avoid this guessing game. As part of vegetative propagation, you breed young plants that have almost identical attributes to their mother plant. Although these are still wildlings, you can look forward to the first lemons within a few years. Although these are significantly smaller than the fruits of refined lemons, this hardly reduces their decorative value.
The best time to take cuttings from the crown of your lemon tree is during the summer months between June and September. At this time, the plant life pulsates up to the tips of the branches, which benefits the vitality of the top cuttings. Since a lemon, as an evergreen plant, is not completely dormant at any time of the year, the cutting method can be carried out at any time. The following preparatory work sets the course for a successful outcome.
- cut off annual, non-flowering or fruiting top cuttings with a length of 10 to 15 cm
- start the cut just below a sleeping eye
- defoliate each cutting except for the upper pair of leaves
- Dip the cut in rooting powder
Set the prepared cuttings aside to prepare the seed pots. A size 13 plastic pot should be available for each cutting so that there is enough space for rooting. The bottom opening is covered with potsherds to prevent waterlogging. Fill in the recommended potting soil up to 2 cm below the edge of the pot. The small free space fulfills the purpose of preventing water and substrate from spilling over as a pouring rim.
plant and care for
Place a cutting two-thirds its length in the moistened potting soil. To protect the sensitive capillaries at the interface, pre-drill the planting hole. It is important to note that there are at least 3 to 4 shoot bases (leaf nodes) within the soil.
How to care for the offshoots until they are rooted:
- set up in a semi-shady, warm location
- put a transparent hood over it, like a glass bowl or plastic bag
- regularly moisten the substrate with soft water
- air the cover daily to prevent mold from developing
If you are growing a lemon tree from cuttings, it will take anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks to root. If a fresh leaf sprout at the top, the process is going as desired. You can now remove the cover. A semi-shady location should initially be maintained so that the cuttings do not dry out. Only when a young lemon tree has completely rooted its pot is it repotted into a larger bucket with nutrient-rich citrus soil. From this point on, the cultivation leads to the normal care protocol for an adult lemon.
Increase by lowering
Lowerers serve as an uncomplicated and promising method of growing a lemon tree. The main advantage of this approach is that the offshoot remains connected to the mother plant until it forms its own root system. Only then does the separation take place. The result is a vital young plant that flowers and bears fruit within a few years.
How to do it right:
- fill a 13 or 14 plastic pot with potting soil over a drainage
- set up next to the lemon tree
- pull a semi-woody, one-year-old shoot from the outer crown area onto the substrate
- defoliate the contact area between branch and soil
- use a razor to score the bark minimally in this region
- Cover the defoliated and wounded part of the shoot with substrate and weigh it down with a stone
Insert a plant stick into the pot to tie the shoot tip of the sinker to it. Pour the soil with soft water. While the mother plant continues to provide the offshoot with nutrients, keep the substrate constantly slightly moist. Fresh roots will sprout from the buried section of the sinker within a few months. If new leaves thrive on the fixed shoot tip, rooting progresses quickly. If after 2 to 4 months you feel a clear resistance to a slight pull, the process is complete. Now the mother plant and offshoot can be separated.