Bonsai Lemon Tree: How to Grow and Care


Bonsai, by definition, is an ancient Japanese plant art technique that takes normal tree seedlings and turns them into miniature art pieces of nature. The growing of a bonsai is a work of art and is only achieved by constantly bending, holding down, and cutting the branches. 

In this art of growing miniatures, lemon may not be the first plant that comes to mind when you think of growing a fruit bonsai, but citrus lemon trees tend to be a great addition to a bonsai collection. 

Although it might be hard to see this beautiful fruit, you’ll get to enjoy a beautiful evergreen bonsai which adds a lemony fragrance to your place.

How to Start a Bonsai Lemon Tree

Deciding on growing a bonsai seems easy, and you might think something as common as lemon can be grown easily from seeds. There is a lot to the process and we will walk you through it. 

To start a bonsai lemon tree, you do need to find seeds from a lemon tree suitable for bonsai. Meyer lemons work well because they are more compact than regular lemons. After the selection, we go on with the following steps.

The Requirements

  • A lemon. As was mentioned before, Meyer lemons might turn out to be your best choice. Regular lemons will be harder to bonsai because they are slow growers. Try to get an organic Meyer lemon to get the best results with germination.
  • Potting soil. Of course, we’ll need potting soil. With lemons, a regular potting soil mix works just fine. If you are looking at Meyer lemons, they grow best with slightly acidic soil, well-draining, which is what most regular potting soil should be.
  • Container. Make sure you use a shallow container to start the seeds. You need to start several seeds, just in case a few don’t survive. 
  • Plant Pot. Once the seedlings start popping, you’ll need a larger container. Start with a 4-inch pot once they are mature enough to be moved.

A step-by-step guide to working with Lemons

Growing a fruiting bonsai is a lot of work in itself, and growing one that isn’t necessarily one of the easier options is definitely going to have some quirks. Here are the steps to growing a bonsai lemon tree:-

Prepare the Seeds

For preparing seeds, you don’t really have to do a lot. You have to start by first removing the seeds from your Meyer lemons. Rinse the said seeds in cold water. Rinsing the seeds helps removes any particles that cling to the seeds that could cause your seedling to mold or rot. Early prevention of any of these symptoms will help your plant grow better in the long run.

Prepare the Planter

For a planter, you can use a shallow tray or container. Keep in mind that this is only for the seedling to germinate and not for growing the plant, hence the 4-inch pot you have prepared can wait for a little while. 

For the planter to be ready, evenly cover the entire surface of the tray/container in moist potting soil, with the specifications that were mentioned before. Then, your seeds are ready to be planted. 

Grow the Seedlings

To start the growth of the seedlings, put the lemon seeds about ½ inch deep in the soil and cover it.  Make sure that you leave some space between each seed to allow room for the seeds to grow. 

Make sure that the soil is kept moist as you wait for the seeds to germinate. Make sure the seeds are somewhere warm with a temperature of at least 22 degrees Celsius. There is no sunlight required by the seeds till they germinate and germination typically takes about 2 to 3 weeks.

Once the seedlings have sprouted, the tray can be relocated to a sunny place. In this phase, Meyer lemons need about 8 hours of direct sunlight every day to thrive.

Continue to water the seedlings whenever you see the top inch of soil is dry. When the seedlings have grown multiple leaves, it’s time you move them to a larger container. Now, each seedling has to get its own 4-inch container. 

Even if several seedlings are doing well, it is better that you keep them because it’s still possible that some lemon seedlings won’t survive. You can always use the extras as gifts when the seedlings are more mature.

You also need to give the seedlings at least one year before beginning to shape them into bonsai. At this point, your lemon bonsai should have vibrant green leaves, although the fruit will take a little longer. 

Lemons grown from seed can take anywhere from 5 to 15 years to fruit. Until then, you’ll enjoy the beautiful citrus fragrance and foliage.

How to Care for a Bonsai Lemon Tree

Now that we have successfully grown a few seedlings from scratch (and seeds), it is time we know what to do to take care of the plant in the best possible manner. Of course, fruiting bonsai need a lot of love and attention and the following part of the article guides us through the steps of taking care of the lemon bonsai.


Citrus bonsai lemons are suitable for indoor plants as long as you can provide them with access to direct sunlight. Of course, they tend to do better when they are kept outdoors for better exposure. 

If you reside in a place with a warm climate, you might be able to grow lemon bonsai outdoors all year round. 

However, if you live in a place that has a moderate or cold climate, your lemon tree should be outdoors during the summer season only or you might lose your tiny green friend.


It might be common knowledge at this point in the article that lemon bonsai likes the heat. Lemon trees require a temperature above 10 degrees Celsius. If the temperature is going to drop below 10 degrees at night, your tree should be brought indoors. 

Remember that temperature is something that our Indian readers often overlook and use plants as decorative items but it is a very important factor in the plant’s health and growth potential.


For the bonsai to thrive, it needs a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight exposure. It is better if the duration is leaning towards 8 though. Depending upon the place where you’re putting up, you might need to supplement the sunlight with artificial light, which is common during the winter months.

Of course, artificial light is no compulsion, but the growth of the tree might slow down, especially in winters, if it does not receive the appropriate amount of light. 

If you have started your lemon tree from seed, you have to make room for the possibility that your bonsai will require artificial light during the first few winters so your tree develops more quickly.


Lemon bonsai trees need a decent amount of water, but make sure they do not sit in wet soil all the time. Perform a finger test and water whenever the top inch of the soil feels dry. Make sure that you thoroughly soak the soil each time you water your plant. Add drainage holes to your bonsai container to allow excess water to run off.

Lemons tend to handle a little bit of drying out, so if you aren’t certain whether it’s time to water yet, you can probably wait for another day. Overwatering is more dangerous when you are parents to indoor plants. 

If the tree is outdoors, you might need to add water to the plant more frequently.

Avoid using water with lime content on your bonsai lemon tree. If you notice that your tap water is negatively affecting your lemon tree, switch to a different source (rainwater, bottled, etc.). 

Collecting rainwater is a rather cumbersome way of going about things but if the water available to you otherwise is hard tap water, it’s worth your time, watering your lemon bonsai with rainwater instead.



Lemon bonsai trees can benefit from a light fertilizer application during the main growing season, which usually lasts from April through August. It’s best that you ask your nursery to recommend you a fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants. 

Although a safe option is the use of a liquid fertilizer by diluting it more than the package calls for. At most, mix the fertilizer at half strength. Avoid using fertilizer sticks that are mostly designed for outdoor lemon trees grown (in the ground), because they will be way too strong for small bonsai lemons. 

Overfertilizing, especially in these fragile beauties, might damage your tree, so be gentle with the amount. 

Pruning and Training

A year after the growth is a good time to begin shaping your bonsai lemon tree. By this point in time, the tree is mature enough to tolerate the use of wires as you train it—just make sure that the wires aren’t too tight or it might damage the branches or trunk. 

After approximately six months of training, prune the top two leaves on the tree to encourage more outward growth.

As long as the tree seems happy and healthy, your bonsai can tolerate pruning. If you have sufficient light during the winter, your lemon tree may even continue growing vigorously then as well. In this case, you might need to prune during the winter, but that’s a decision that needs to be taken based on how the bonsai is doing.

Training a bonsai lemon is often considered tricky, especially when you do not have much experience with bonsai, so it’s not a bonsai tree recommended for beginners to try their hand at.


As was mentioned before, the bonsai might require repotting every 2 to 3 years. Make sure you move the plant to a container that is larger than the previous one so that you can allow the plant to grow. Plan your repotting in the spring before the main growing season begins.

Make sure that you trim the roots vigorously when you repot your tiny friend. Be sure to use fresh potting soil when you are repotting your bonsai tree. Water the tree afterward. The tree may show signs of stress after the first few days of repotting, but ultimately, it should rebound.

Pests & Diseases

Citrus lemon trees are quite vulnerable to a variety of pests and diseases, but most are fairly easy to deal with. Keep a close watch for pests like whitefly, scale, and spider mites.

Keep the leaves clean by washing them off with water from time to time to prevent pests. Check the back of the leaves to remain overly cautious. If you notice even one or two pests, take action before they infest the entire plant.

Once you see evidence of pests, you can start by using a stream of water to knock off the pests that can be removed. For some pests, this might be the most you’ll need to do. If that doesn’t work, you can go ahead with neem oil, or horticultural oil before moving on to stronger measures. 


There is a multitude of options available for propagating your lemon. Seed might not make the list because the bonsai might take quite some time to grow fruits of its own, let alone provide seeds for another plant.

It is however easier if you are using a stem cutting from a Meyer lemon tree. Choose a hardened shoot to take as a cutting. Continue the process by placing the cutting in moist potting soil. 

Water regularly until the stem begins to grow roots. The roots usually begin developing after 8 weeks of placing the stem in the pot.


Which is the easiest citrus plant to grow?

Although citrus bonsai is a fairly tough category to deal with, Meyer lemons might turn out to be your best bet as they are easy to procure and less complicated to grow.

How much time will it take to fruit?

If you are opting for a stem propagation method, you’ll see fruit in as little as 3 to 4 years given, that you can provide the right growing conditions. For trees that are grown from seed, the soonest you can expect to see fruit is after 5 years, but sometimes it takes much longer than that.

Which is easier, growing lemon indoor or outdoor?

Both the varieties might differ greatly from one another. A potted indoor plant is a slow thriving option and is quite delicate to care for, and the outdoor version, even though not as easy (and might take time to grow), will give you more fruits and fragrance. 

Also, lemon is a heat-loving plant and hence might survive better outdoors, with the proper exposure to heat and sunlight.

Should lemon be your first bonsai?

Absolutely not. It is one of the more complicated fruiting bonsai when fruiting bonsai trees in themselves are a hard category to deal with. Hence go for simpler options first. 


The bonsai version of a lemon tree is very beautiful and might seem quite utilitarian to most people. But be sure to not be selfish and grow the plant only because you want to get the lemons for cheap we all know the prices are skyrocketing). 

Watching a lemon tree grow from seed is definitely a fun experience (if you love gardening), even if you never get any fruit from the tree. 

Remember that if creating a bonsai from a Meyer lemon seedling doesn’t work as well as you hoped, you can always buy a citrus bonsai lemon tree instead and mold it into a fabulous plant for your home.

Let us know in the comments below if you have any further questions regarding a lemon bonsai and we’ll be happy to assist you. 

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