How to Water Lemon Trees


How to water lemon trees

Lemon trees are sensitive to over watering, so water your lemon tree only when the top two inches of the soil have dried out and then soak your lemon tree with a generous amount of water. Lemon trees require more water in the Summer and should be watered less often in the Winter to avoid root rot.

It is important to get the watering right when growing lemon trees as they are susceptible to root rot which is caused by over watering and slow draining soils.

Lemon trees demand more water in the Summer as they prefer full sun and they are actively growing and much less water in the Winter as they are in a state of dormancy

Keep reading to learn how often and how much to water lemon trees in pots and gardens to they meet their water requirements and avoid root rot…

How Often to Water Lemon Trees

Lemon trees are tropical plants and thrive in Mediterranean environments with full sun and lots of heat but their roots should not be sat in consistently moist soil as this causes water stress and promote the conditions for the fungal disease root rot.

It is critical that the soil around your lemon tree dries out somewhat between bouts of watering as this replicates the natural watering cycle in their native environment.

Lemon trees should be watered when the top two inches of the soil feel dry to the touch.

How often to water lemon trees in your climate can be easily established by testing the soil to a fingers depth.

If the soil feels damp then delay watering for a few days but if the soil feels as though it is drying out, this is the perfect time for watering.

How often you should water therefore varies according to your climate and conditions.

The factors that can affect how often to water you lemon tress are:

  • Heat and humidity (humidity reduces water loss from the leaves and slow evaporation from the soil)
  • Hours of direct sun (Lemon trees prefer full sun).
  • The size of the pot in which it is planted (Smaller pots can dry out much quicker).
  • The amount of airflow (Windy areas sap moisture from the leaves quicker).
  • The capacity of the soil to retain moisture. (Lemon trees require good drainage to prevent root rot).
  • The time of year for your tree (Watering frequency varies significantly from Summer to Winter).

Every climate, garden and home has different conditions so it is important to adjust how often you water your lemon tree to meet the water requirements of the tree without over watering and promoting the condition for root rot.

As long as the top two inches of the soil feel dry to the touch before watering, then you should avoid any problems.

How to Tell if you are Watering too Infrequently (Symptoms of Over Watered Lemon Trees)

The first indication of a lemon tree suffer from drought stress is when the leaves of your tree begin to curl with an overall drooping appearance.

Lemon trees with curled leaves revive very quickly as long as you water them with a generous soak and return to a healthier appearance after around 2 cycles of watering.

Lemon trees with severe drought stress can cause the leaves to turn brown and the leaves to drop off. Lemon trees drop their leaves as a survival strategy to minimize further water loss from foliage.

How it should be noted that if your lemon tree is dropping leaves this can indicate other problems as opposed to just drought stress.

(Read my article on lemon trees dropping leaves to learn why its happening and how to solve the problem).

How to Tell if you are Watering Lemon Trees too Much…

The easiest way to tell your lemon tree is over watered is by feeling the soil. If the soil is consistently moist and does not dry out after week or so then the lemon tree shows signs of stress such as the leaves turning yellow and drooping.

In which case you should scale back the watering immediately and wait for the soil to dry out.

It should be noted that lemon trees leaves also turn yellow in reaction to cold temperatures or nutrient deficiencies.

(Read my article why are my lemon tree leaves turning yellow for how to save it).

How Often to Water Lemon Trees in Pots

It is true of all lemon trees that you should wait till the top 2 inches of soil should feel somewhat dry to the touch before watering.

However it should be noted that lemon trees in pots do need to be watered more often then lemon trees in garden soil.

It is not possible to give any universal advice on how often to water lemon trees in pots as there are many variables but typically potted lemon trees should be watered once a week with a generous soak.

Potted lemon trees should be watered more often because:

  • If the pot is relatively small then there is less capacity for soil and therefore the soil retains less moisture and dries out quicker. So in the Summer months pots may require watering once every 3/4 days.
  • Potted plants often have greater airflow around the leaves due to being raised higher then ground level which can sap moisture from the leaves.
  • Some lemon trees are taken indoors for Winter protection. The air in our homes is often far dryer then outdoors and the temperature can fluctuate with indoor heating which increase evaporation from the soil and increase demand for water.

Consider these variables and take them into account when watering your lemon tree.

However it must re-emphasize the only way to establish a reliable watering schedule is to monitor the soil moisture yourself to a depth of 2 inches.

This helps you avoid stress to your lemon tree from over or under watering.

How Often to Water Lemon Trees in Summer

The demand for moisture can increase substantially in Summer when the lemon tree is actively growing and developing fruit so expect to water your tree more frequently.

  • Potted lemon trees that are in blazing sunshine and enduring high temperatures should be watered as frequently as once every 2 days.
  • Lemon trees in garden soil are more resistant to drought and can last up to a week without watering in Summer as long as they are watered with a generous soak and planted in soil with lots of organic matter to retain moisture.

Adjust your water scheduled accordingly if you have particularly fast or slow draining soils or perhaps more wind which and sap away moisture from the leaves.

As long as the top two inches of the soil are somewhat dry rather then damp before watering then you can avoid any problems associated with over watering or under watering.

Bear in mind leaves can curl sometimes as a reaction to really high temperatures as a strategy to conserve water in times of drought.

As long as you tree is watered appropriately the leaves should recover in the cooler temperatures of the evening.

How Often to Water lemon Trees in Winter

Lemon trees are most susceptible to the affects over watering in the Winter months as they are in a state of dormancy and require much less water.

Typically watering once per month for potted lemon trees is appropriate so that the soil does not dry out completely.

Lemon trees in garden soil can attain all their moisture requirements from the environment in Winter if they are a mature plant and it is unlikely they need watering until the following Spring.

It is important to note that lemon trees that are taken indoors can require more water if they are located near sources of heat or in the air current of any air con or forced air which saps moisture from the leaves.

Keep a close eye on your indoor lemon tree and look for any signs of stress due to under watering (leaves curling and dropping off) or signs of too much moisture (leaves turning yellow) and adjust your watering frequency accordingly.

How Much to Water Lemon Trees

Lemon trees should always be watered with a generous soak so that water visibly trickles out the base of the pot or you soak the soil with a hose if planted in garden boarders.

A generous soak encourages the development of the roots of your lemon tree so that it is more resistant to drought and can access the nutrients that it requires.

If you water too lightly so that only the first inch or so is moist then the water does not infiltrate the soil effectively and reach the roots where it is required and you lemon tree shows symptoms of drought stress such as the leaves dropping.

(If your lemon tree is dropping leaves read my article for how to save it).

Well Draining Soil Mitigates Over Watering

Lemon trees should be planted in soil that is rich in organic matter (such as compost or leaf mold) as organic matter is able to retain moisture around the roots yet also be very well draining to allow excess water to escape.

This provides the optimal moisture balance for lemon trees to access the moisture they need to grow healthy whilst also avoiding water pooling around the roots which causes root rot.

If you lemon tree is in clay soil or compact soil then there is greater risk of root rot and you should water less frequently, and ideally transplant it to an area of the garden with well draining soil or amend the soil by adding lots of compost and some horticultural grit to improve drainage.

If your garden soil is boggy then it is best to grow lemon tree in pots as pots have more favorable drainage and it is easy to create the optimal, well draining soil profile for lemon trees by planting then in compost amended with some grit in pots.

Plant Lemon Trees in Pots with Drainage Holes in the Base

It is important that lemon trees are planted in pots with drainage holes in the base of the pot to allow excess water to escape after watering.

Watering your potted lemon tree so that water trickles out the base is also the best way to ensure that you have used a generous enough amount of water.

If lemon trees are in pots without drainage holes in the base then water pools around the roots and causes root rot, which turns the leaves yellow and causes it to die back.

Water can still collect around the roots of your lemon tree and cause problems if:

  • The drainage holes becomes blocked with roots or compacted soil. If you notice water draining from the soil slowly, then check to the hole in the base of the pot and clear anything that is slowing down the rate of drainage.
  • The use of saucers and trays under the pots of lemon trees. Trays are often placed underneath the pots of lemon trees to prevent water spilling indoors. If the tray collects the excess water from watering then the soil remains too damp which can cause root rot.
  • The ground underneath the pot is damp. It can be helpful to raise your potted lemon tree onto ‘feet’ when outdoors so that water can easily escape from the pot without being trapped on a patio underneath the pot.

Key Takeaways:

  • Water lemon trees when the top two inches of the soil are dry to the touch and then water generously at the roots. Lemon trees should be watered less often in Winter as they are dormant and watered more often in Summer when they are actively growing.
  • Typically lemon trees should be watered once a week in pots in the Summer and watered once a month in Winter although watering frequency varies according to climate, weather and whether the plant is brought indoors for protection from frost in Winter.
  • Plant lemon trees in well draining soil that contains a lot of organic matter or compost. Add some grit to improve drainage and prevent root rot in Winter.
  • Plant lemon trees in pots with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape instead of pooling around the roots. Empty the saucers and trays regularly so that the soil does not stay damp, to keep the lemon tree healthy.

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