What Are the Different Types of Lemon Trees?
There’s nothing more cheerful than the sight of a flourishing lemon tree abundant with sunshine-yellow fruit. Lemon trees produce a tart and tasty harvest that adds zest to cooking, baking, and beverages, and their snow-white, citrus-scented springtime flowers are a beautiful accent to any garden.
Think all lemon trees are the same? Think again—there are dozens of types of lemon trees that thrive in a variety of climates.
If you’re considering adding a citrus tree to your landscaping, a lemon tree is a decorative and easy-to-care for choice. Keep reading, and we’ll explore the types of lemons, where they can grow, and how to choose the right variety for your garden.
5 Lemon Tree Favorites That Add Zest to Any Location
Lemon trees are rooted into five categories—some varieties are better suited to certain climates, while others produce sweeter fruity morsels compared to their acidic counterparts.
Let’s dive into all the juicy details.
#1 Eureka lemon tree
A true California icon, the Eureka lemon tree originated in the Golden State and is still the most commonly seen variety statewide. They thrive in the warmth of the coastal sun and sprout purple-hued flowers alongside their plump lemons:
- Fruit – Eureka lemons produce large, oval-shaped lemons with thick skin. The flesh of the citrus fruit is very juicy and acidic, which is excellent for baking and spritzing beverages.
- Tree size – These trees can grow to around 20 feet tall at maturity if not pruned to maintain a smaller size. If you want to keep your Eureka lemon on the smaller side, simply prune it to your desired shape. Eureka lemons can be grown as an espalier, shrub, or tree.
- Cold tolerance – While all lemons do best in tropical or semi-tropical zones, Eureka lemons are one of the more cold-sensitive varieties. If your region has freezing winter temperatures, you’ll need to protect it by covering its branches or moving smaller plants indoors when the thermometer drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
#2 Meyer lemon tree
There are several varieties of dwarf lemon trees that are ideal for growing in pots or small spaces to achieve a cozy indoor-outdoor aesthetic. One of the most popular dwarf lemon varieties is the Meyer lemon, which is lauded for its tasty citrus fruit and nearly thornless foliage:
- Fruit – Because they are a hybrid created by crossing lemons and oranges, they produce small, round fruits with a thin skin and a somewhat sweeter, orange-like flavor.
- Tree size – Standard Meyer lemon trees grow 8 to 12 feet tall, while the dwarf varieties remain even smaller to snuggle between your couch and bookshelf.
- Cold tolerance – While somewhat more cold hardy than other lemons like the Eureka, Meyer lemons still need protection from cold in USDA Zone 7 and below. However, Meyer lemons are happy to grow and produce lemon fruit in a container, making them an ideal choice for colder zones.
#3 Lisbon lemon tree
Another type of lemon tree commonly seen in California is the Lisbon lemon, which is native to Portugal. Lisbon lemon trees are known for being a thornier variety, with a purplish tint to the flowers and new leaves:
- Fruit – The lemons produced by Lisbon lemon trees are smaller and rounder than Eureka lemons, with a thinner skin. The flesh of the lemon fruit is also less acidic than that of the Eureka lemon.
- Tree size – Leave plenty of space in the garden for this one! At maturity, Lisbon lemon trees can grow to 30 feet tall with a luxuriant 25-foot-wide canopy, making its shade the perfect spot to set up your outdoor oasis.
- Cold tolerance – Lisbon lemons need protection from freezing temperatures. Looking for a festive way to protect your Lisbon in winter? Large-bulb holiday lights strung through the branches can generate enough heat to get your tree through short frosts. Gardeners can also cover the tree with a blanket for protection from longer cold snaps.
#4 Pink lemonade lemon tree
The pink lemonade lemon tree is a popular choice for ornamental gardens with its variegated green and white foliage. Technically a variant of the Eureka lemon, pink lemonade lemon trees are also known as variegated pink-fleshed Eureka lemons:
- Fruit – Pink lemonade lemons are striped green and white when they first sprout and turn yellow as they ripen. The flesh is pinkish in color, with a very tart flavor. Pink lemon fruit will appear year-round, but especially in spring through winter.
- Tree size – Pink lemonade lemon trees are often sold as dwarfs. If they’re grown in containers, they tend to stay even smaller. However, if planted in the ground, the tree may grow 15 feet or taller. That said, pruning can stunt fruiting, since the pink lemon fruits appear at the end of branches.
- Cold tolerance – Like their Eureka lemon roots, pink lemonade lemon trees are also sensitive to cold and will need to be brought indoors in Zone 7 or colder.
#5 Ponderosa lemon tree
Ponderosa lemon trees are less common than the other varieties on this list, but they are easy to recognize when you spot one. The fruit is pale yellow and grapefruit-sized, with a thick, bumpy rind. The flowers have a purple hue and can appear year-round in Zones 9-11:
- Fruit – Large, acidic, and very juicy, these lemons are the ideal cooking companion for bakers who love adding an acidic punch to their dishes. These lemons can also be left on the tree for months before harvesting and will stay fresh and flavorful year-round.
- Tree size – Ponderosa lemons grow slowly, so they are sometimes grown in containers while young. But expect to have a full-size tree on your hands at maturity—they can reach heights of 12 to 24 feet.
- Cold tolerance – Ponderosa lemons are especially sensitive to cold temperatures. If you’re not located in Zones 8-11, consider growing your ponderosa lemon tree in a container to provide it with plenty of protection from unfavorable weather.
How to Choose the Best Lemon Tree Variety For Your Home
From the rotund lemons of the Ponderosa lemon tree to the pinstripe designs of pink lemonade lemons, you can feel more like a kid in a candy shop when searching for a lemon tree that aligns with your environment and aesthetic.
With so many unique varieties, how should you choose which lemon tree is best for you?
Start by considering your climate to determine whether you’ll need to bring your lemon tree indoors for winter. Next, think about how you want to use the tree in your landscaping—are you most interested in having fruit, or do you prefer ornamental foliage and flowers?
Here are some tips for selecting the best lemon variety to suit your preferences:
- If the fruit is your priority, Eureka lemon trees tend to produce abundant crops
- If you live in cooler climates, choose a cold-hardy variety such as the Meyer lemon
- For container growing, look for varieties that have been grafted with dwarf rootstock to ensure small mature size
- For colorful foliage, consider pink lemonade lemon trees
Where Can Lemon Trees Grow?
Lemon trees are tropical plants and do best in warm, sunny climates. In Zone 7 and colder, you’ll want to grow your lemon tree in a large pot (half-wine barrels are a good choice). You can then move your potted tree into a greenhouse or your home for the winter.
Lemon trees will produce fruit fruitfully when they are grown in an area with full sun exposure, but they will also tolerate partial shade. The amount of fruit produced will depend on the number of hours of sunlight the tree receives each day.
How to Care For Your Lemon Tree
Lemon trees are relatively easy when it comes to lemon tree care, but there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure they stay healthy and productive:
- Regular lemon trees need a lot of sunlight. Plant your citrus tree in a sunny part of your yard. If you bring your lemon indoors for winter, place it near a sunny window where it will receive at least six hours of sunlight each day.
- Regular lemon trees require well-drained soil. Be sure to plant a lemon tree in a location that doesn't stay too wet or soggy after it rains. If the soil is too wet, the roots can rot.
- Protect your lemon tree from strong winds. Lemon trees are tropical plants and can be damaged by forceful gusts. If you live in an area with high winds, consider planting your tree in a sheltered location or using a windbreak.
- Lemon trees can be grown in pots or containers, as long as they are large enough to accommodate the roots. If you're growing your sweet lemon tree in a pot, make sure to use a high-quality, well-draining potting mix and fertilize the tree regularly.
- Don't forget to water your sweet lemon tree regularly, too. Lemon trees like moist soil, especially during the growing season. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out between watering sessions.
When Will I Have Lemons?
Most lemon trees begin fruiting once they are a few years old. It takes a bit of patience, but once your tree starts bearing fruit, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh lemons from late summer through winter. Some varieties of fruit year-round!
Are your lemon branches heavy with sunny fruits? You can add lemons too many of your daily tasks:
- When you’re cleaning – Combined with baking soda, lemon juice makes an excellent natural cleanser and deodorizer
- When you’re hosting – Add lemon zest, juice, or lemon slices to cocktails for a tasty zing
- When you’re cooking – Lemon zest can be used as a quick and fresh flavoring agent in cooking. You can also candy lemon peels or convert the lemon juice into a tangy lemon oil.
Give Your Garden Some Zest With Plants Express
Nothing says California more than colorful, fruitful citrus trees. With so many different types of lemon trees available, you can find one to thrive in almost any region. In cooler zones, simply overwinter your dwarf lemon tree indoors and enjoy citrus-scented flowers in your home all winter long!
Whether you want to grow lemons as a delicious addition to your cooking repertoire or simply as a sunny accent to your landscaping, Plants Express has the top-quality trees you’re looking for. All of our plants are grown and raised in California nurseries, so you can rest assured they’ll arrive at your door healthy, happy, and ready to brighten up your home.
Almanac. Citrus: Lemons, oranges, and limes. https://www.almanac.com/plant/citrus-lemons-oranges-and-limes
National Gardening Association. Edible landscaping edible of the month: Lemons and limes. https://garden.org/learn/articles/view/4105/Edible-Landscaping---Edible-of-the-Month-Lemons-and-Limes/
SF Gate. Difference in Meyer and Eureka lemon trees. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/difference-meyer-eureka-lemon-trees-54064.html
SF Gate. Dwarf pink lemonade tree zone. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/dwarf-pink-lemonade-tree-zone-84977.html
SF Gate. Lisbon lemon tree culture. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/lisbon-lemon-tree-culture-61744.html
University of California Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County. Meyer lemon. https://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/The_Kitchen_Garden/FRUITS/Meyer_Lemon/
UC Riverside College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Frost nucellar Lisbon lemon. https://citrusvariety.ucr.edu/crc3176
UC Riverside College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Ponderosa lemon hybrid. https://citrusvariety.ucr.edu/crc294UC Riverside College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Variegated pink fleshed Eureka lemon. https://citrusvariety.ucr.edu/crc2367