Liz Nogowski

How to grow citrus in southwest Georgia

Start with a lemon tree

If you want to produce some kind of fruit or vegetable, have limited space, and perhaps your green thumb isn’t quite so green, consider buying and growing a lemon tree! You can grow your lemon tree indoors or outside, and it’s not difficult, providing you keep its soil and branches moist and warm. With just a little care, your lemon tree will share its splendid aroma and in a short amount of time, will yield fruit you can share with friends and family!

Here’s the scoop on lemon trees from Lindy Savelle, president of the Georgia Citrus Association:

SWGA Farm Credit: Lemon trees seem like a great way to start producing your own crop—even if it’s just one or two lemons. And, they smell and look wonderful. What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about buying a lemon tree?

Lindy: Lemon trees are not as cold hardy as other citrus varieties.  Navels, tangerines and satsumas seem to do better in South Georgia/North Florida than lemons and limes, BUT lemons will grow here.  One must first start with a tree that has been budded/grafted  on a cold hardy rootstock.  If you’re buying your tree in a commercial store, you may not be able to know or determine what type of rootstock your tree is budded on.  So, the first step I would suggest is to buy trees from a local nursery that actually propagated the tree.  They will know the rootstock and whether it is cold-hardy for our area.  There are several rootstocks that do well in our area; a few  are Rubidoux,  Rich 16-6, and a dwarf called Flying Dragon.   A Flying Dragon dwarf tree will reach about 6 feet in height which is good for a homeowner.  It can also be grown indoors year round.

SWGA Farm Credit:  Is it ok to keep your lemon tree outside in southwest Georgia? We’ve read that below 55 degrees, the trees don’t do well. Would you advise that it be an indoor plant until spring comes around?

Lindy: Lemon trees are not as cold hardy but will do well above freezing.  Most homeowners buy a Meyer lemon tree, which does fine until the temps drop below freezing.  I would advise a homeowner to protect their lemon tree by planting it on the south side of their home (away from the wind) and covering it with an arctic bag when the temperature starts to plummet.  If they do not have an arctic bag, sheets and blankets do well with a light underneath to keep the temperature up.

SWGA Farm Credit: Seems like this might be the best time of year to plant a tree?

Lindy: Lemon trees, as with all citrus, should be planted in the spring, say from late March on.  This way a late freeze won’t get the tree.  The University of Georgia has a trademarked cold-hardy lemon tree called Grand Frost that is more cold tolerant than other lemon trees.  It produces a large seedless lemon that juices very well.

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