At what age do lemon trees start fruiting?

So you are a proud new lemon tree owner. You’ve committed to taking care of this spindly, leafy specimen with the hope that it will grow and one day bear delicious and vibrant fruit for you to harvest and enjoy. But how long will that take?

The bright and juicy fruit that a lemon tree yields is uncontestably the best part of growing a lemon tree. Prized for their tart flavor that enhances a broad variety of recipes in the kitchen, lemons tend to be a favorite fruit grown by culinary dabblers and aficionados alike. Growing lemons, like any other plant, takes time and patience, however, as a lemon tree needs to mature before it will begin to bear fruit.

If you have a new lemon tree, or are considering acquiring one, you may be curious just how long it will take before you will be able to enjoy fruit from your tree.

When do lemon trees produce fruit?

A healthy lemon tree will begin to bear fruit in between 3 and 5 years of age, and continue to do so until its death.

It takes a lemon tree about 3 to 5 years for it to reach a reproductive maturity that results in fruit production. Although this may seem like a while, it is worth the wait, and your tree will reward you with bountiful harvests of vibrant and tart fruit for you to enjoy, year after year.

However, if you have not yet purchased your lemon tree and think you might not have the patience needed to wait for fruit production, consider sourcing one that is more established and already a few years of age. Many lemon trees sold in nurseries that are between 2 and 3 feet high are likely nearing or already of fruit bearing age, and may even have fruit on them already.

During which seasons do lemon trees bear fruit?

Lemon trees are considered everbearing, so given favorable environmental circumstances and proper care, a lemon tree will produce fruit year-round. However, depending on your variety, you may find that your lemon tree is much higher yielding during the winter and spring, with more sporadic fruits continuing to develop throughout the summer and fall. Eureka and Lisbon lemons have a seasonality that is partial to producing in the winter and spring, while the Meyer variety is more of a true everbearing species.

How much fruit can I expect my lemon tree to bear?

The amount of fruit you can expect your lemon tree to bear depends in part on whether or not you’ve chosen to plant it in ground, or keep it in a container. Read on to find out what kinds of yields you can expect with each method.

In-Ground Lemon Trees
If your lemon tree is planted outdoors, when it first begins to fruit at around age 3, you can expect it to bear around 40 lbs or fruit that year, if it is healthy and thriving. As it grows, a lemon tree’s yield will increase with each year, until it reaches full maturity at about 5 or 6 yrs old. At that point, you can look forward to a healthy and happy lemon tree producing over 200 lbs of fruit each year. That’s more than 800 lemons! (And lemonade for days!)
Container Grown Lemon Trees
If you are growing your lemon tree in a container, expect the yield to be slightly less, as growing your lemon tree in a container limits both its canopy and root support system. At full maturity, a potted lemon tree can be expected to yield around half the amount of its outdoor counterpart, or about 80-100 lbs of fruit per year. That is still over 300 lemons per year!

When are lemons ready to pick?

For an individual lemon to grow from a blossom into a ripe, juicy, and ready-to-pick lemon can take anywhere from 5 months to a year. The variance in time can be explained by varietal variance, climatic variance, and water availability, or a combination thereof. The more optimal the environmental conditions are for the lemon tree, the sooner the fruit will reach ripeness, however expect that the process will still take several months.

As a lemon grows, it remains green for a majority of the process. A lemon is ready to pick from the tree once the green hue transforms into a full and rich yellow coloring. To pick the lemon, just twist and pull the fruit away from the tree. If the lemon is ripe, it should separate from the tree fairly easily, and is ready to be enjoyed.

While the temptation can be significant, it is important that you employ patience and refrain from picking your lemons from the tree too early, as a lemon reaches its optimal and sweetest flavor while ripening on the tree. If you pick your lemons even just a few days too early, they will likely reach ripeness if kept at room temperature on the counter, but their flavor may still be compromised. If you pick your lemons over week too early, the lemons may not reach ripeness before they start to dry and spoil.

Is a lemon tree ever too old to bear fruit?

A lemon tree is never too old to bear fruit. Once a lemon tree begins bearing fruit, as long as conditions are favorable and the tree remains healthy, it will continue to bear fruit until its death. The lifespan of an average, healthy lemon tree is approximately 50 years, however particularly hardy and healthy trees have been known to live for as long as 100 years. With proper care, your lemon tree will produce fruit for you for you to enjoy for many years to come. With a little TLC, your lemon tree could even outlive you!

Related Topics:

  1. Hand Pollinating an Indoor Lemon Tree: Is It Necessary and How to Do It
  2. How to Fertilize a Lemon Tree
  3. How often should I water my potted lemon tree?