Can I grow a lemon plant from lemon seeds?

March 24, 2007

You know, lemon seeds out of a lemon from my local grocery...

I have the seeds.

They look pretty. Nice and light yellow. Mmmm.

Can I get them to germinate easily? Is there a special way for this plant?

The seeds grow into lemon trees, correct? Can they be kept in pots, indoors, when they are young?

Comments (30)

  • xerophyte NYC

    take a nail file and break through the seed coat at one point so that moisture makes its way, they will then germinate in a week if it's warm.

    u will get a plant, but because of hybridization, it may be sterile (non-fruiting) or produce fruit very different than the grocery store

  • hoorayfororganic

    Damn you, hybridization!!

  • Dave in NoVA • N. Virginia • zone 7A

    I've read that lemons (Eureka, Lisbon) do grow true from seed -- but it doesn't really matter that much if they do or don't if you grow them as a houseplant. Seed-grown lemons have a long juvenile periond -- maybe up to 8 years or more -- before they can bloom and bear. And they must be quite tall before they will bloom. So I would not expect you would ever get fruit, unless you can grow it tall in a conservatory.

    Lemon trees from seed will probably be very thorny. What I do is when there is a new flush of growth, I break off the thorns while they're still small and soft.

    If you want a citrus that will bear fruit for you, you could order a Meyer lemon, Ponderosa, or other type, from a reputable mail-order source. Most of these are either grafted or grown from cuttings of mature (capable of fruiting) growth and can bloom and bear when quite small (like a gallon or two-gallon pot).

    In any case, they're fun to grow from seed and will produce a handsome plant with aromatic leaves.

  • karyn1

    I agree with what Dave said. It's worth growing though because they make a very nice houseplant. I had a lemon from seed that was about 7 ft tall and at least 10 yrs old but it never bloomed. I finally lost it when it got too big to take in. I have Meyer and Pink variegated grafted lemons that started producing fruit the second year when they were only 1-2' tall. They are very easy to winter over inside the house or a greenhouse. I don't soak or nick citrus seeds. I just plant them in a moist mix and provide bottom heat. As long as they are fresh they'll usually germinate within a couple weeks.

  • sortagreenthumb

    i had success sprouting a lemon tree last year in the summer. I planted the seed and left it outside for the rain and heat to do the work. i had a sprout in about two weeks, and the plant grew to about four inches and promptly died when i brought it indoors in the fall. I'm not sure what i did wrong. right now i am trying start another lemon and also a grapefruit indoors (it's way too cold to move outside yet).

  • birdsnblooms

    One way to hasten flowering/fruiting is to graft tree, but grafting is an art in itself. But it will speed up fruiting.
    If you don't graft you'll find yourself w/a thorny plant. The one positive thing about growing a lemon from seed, and I've done this, is, foliage have a lemony scent. Especially if you rub leaves w/finger and thumb.
    Sort, there's a number of reasons your lemon could have died..Insects, too hot a room, lack of humidity, overwatering, especially in winter. Toni

  • kris10powell

    I have a few lemon seeds from a my friends tree. I planted 3 of them and have cute little trees comming up. In just 4 weeks they were 5 inches tall. I hope they will bear fruit in a couple years. My friend who owns the parent tree had fruit within two years and the fruit is very tasty. I plan on trying lime and grapefruit next.

  • franktank232

    About 4 years ago i planted citrus seeds of all sorts (grapefruit, lemon, oranges (valencia), among others) and today i'm down to 3. I had to kill of some when we moved, but thats ok, they were free! They do grow quite large and are very hardy. I've probably replanted them 10 times through the years and they still don't even wink. I did lose a lot of leaves this winter when i forgot about them in a empty cold bedroom. Now there coming back strong. The leaves are very sweet smelling. They almost smell like Fruity Pebbles and Trix.

  • birdsnblooms

    I think starting seeds from store-bought fruit is an interesting experiment..I have a book called 'Starting from Scratch,' which lists a good number of plants you can start from seed..it details how to sow, what type of soil, sun, food, etc..some seeds need refrigeration before sowing, (3 months) I think apples is one type.
    They even discuss growing Sugar cane and ginger root bought in the produce dept.
    This book was published in the early 70's, and was given to me by a friend who passed away..Toni

  • franktank232

    This one is nearing 6 ft tall (including container) and yes, its crooked. I just replanted it.


    It has tons of new growth.

  • Dave in NoVA • N. Virginia • zone 7A

    Over on the Citrus Forum I've been copying information from particularly knowledgeable individuals about which types of citrus grow true from seed (can create fruit identical to the parent plant). It's interesting. Most citrus do grow true, but several do not. And it's these that are used to create new varieties.

    Among those that grow true are: Most sweet oranges (with exception of Pineapple and some navels, which can make some variation in seedlings, though technically nucellar), most grapefruit, most lemons, most mandarins, key lime, calamondin.

    Among those that do not: Persian lime (mostly seedless anyway), pummelos, Temple 'orange' (actually a tangor), and Meyer lemon,

  • jumpers

    I love all this info about citrus plants but I'm having a hard time about finding lemons with seeds in my grocery store. I know I started some plants years ago, but have all the lemons gone virgin? Is there anything I should be looking for by the type of lemon, thin skinned, or thick skinned? It's hard to tell from the outside whether they have seeds in them or not. lol

  • birdsnblooms

    Jumpers, I know what you mean..Though I buy citrus trees, I've looked for lemon/lime seeds and couldn't believe, but like you found seedling fruit..I guess w/all the hybrids it's almost impossible finding seeded fruit..lol..Toni

  • Central_Cali369

    my uncle has a lemos tree grown from seed in his backyard. it puts out tons of foilage and THORNS. those suckers are about four to five inches long! its been growing year after year and it has not once flowered despite the fact that it is growing here in central california where citrus is grown comercially. dwarf (grafted) varieties on the other hand flower and fruit profusely. i have two navel oranges, two honey mandarin, a variegated pink lemon, a meyer lemon, a tangelo, a cara cara navel orange, and a sweet lime tree, all of which have just finished blooming and have fruit already setting in despite being only four to six feet high and less than five years old.

  • franktank232

    If i bought a grafted variety (from a nurserY)could i take a cutting and graft onto my large seed grown trees????????? (i think i can, just need verification)...thanks

  • Dave in NoVA • N. Virginia • zone 7A


    Very likely yes. In fact if you know of other people who are growing different varieties, you could beg some cuttings from them and graft multiple varieties onto your seedling rootstock. In the industry, grafts are usually made onto specific rootstocks that impart a dwarfing effect, are less susceptible to viruses, and are hardier (to cold), such as trifoliate hybrids like 'Flying Dragon' or 'Troyer'.

    Depending on the variety, you could just try to root cuttings. I know that Ponderosa lemons, for instance, are fairly easy to grow from cuttings. Other varieties may be more difficult.

  • franktank232

    Thanks. I might order a citrus from Burnt Ridge. They come on Flying Dragon. I believe its a type of navel, but i'd have to check again.

  • goldfishgray

    We got a lemon tree sapling and it is a good height, we had it for 3 years and it is now giving out lemons.

  • pueokai

    Kind of the point here is that unless you have about 6 to 8 years to gamble its always more assured you'll get desired results from growing a properly grafted tree. I went through this delemma when i decided to plant over here, with citus as well as all kinds of tropical fruits and avacado. Everyone has stories and keikis (babies) of stuff that has fallen from the tree - it sure is a lot cheaper - but can you face defeat ?

  • fuzzycats

    I purchased a lemon seedling in a box from a grocery store about 10 yrs ago and now have an 8 ft tree that has born 6 of the juiciest lemons you have ever tasted. The tree spends the winter indoors, but not until I have done some pretty harsh trimming to keep it in standard shape. It moves to my patio when there's no threat of frost. Glad to hear that you can grow seedlings from these seeds, as I save a few from the last lemon. BTW, I also grew a lime tree the same way, but it has not produced fruit yet.

  • Boredomfiend_hotmail_com

    So I was thinking about germinating lemon seeds to use as a citrus rootstock for my cocktail tree, but I'm wondering if there is a better one to use?

    I am skilled in grafting and I'll do all that myself. In the end, I aim to include oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, and grapefruit all on a single root system, but I am wondering what grows big/strong enough to support all of those? What is the most vigorous citrus??

    If you're knowledgeable, please email me directly.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Myspace

  • ruben_mostlymaths_net

    I have successfully grown seedlings by removing the cover of standard grocery store seeds. You can visit a post I wrote about sprouting lemons to give to friends for Earth's day

    Here is a link that might be useful: Earth day give-away project: lemon trees from seed to save the planet

  • ruggy

    A couple weeks ago, my friend in the Valley gave me a number of lovely HUGE and wonderfully flavorful lemons from a tree in her yard... I got one open tonight and found seeds sprouting, inside the lemon! They have gone into starter pods now, and hopefully I'll be able to report some healthy baby trees soon!

  • katiepaints

    I love the idea of sprouting seeds from ordinary food that we would normally just throw away. Does anyone have any books/articles that they could suggest for sprouting/cultivating these seeds?
    hopefulauthor z5IL (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 30, 07 at 15:06
    Sounds like an out of print book; who was the author??

  • rberenguel

    Hi, I am changing my plant blog posts to a subdomain, so my previous link should be corrected to this. Keep on growing your trees!


    Here is a link that might be useful: Earth day give away project: lemon trees from seed

  • riograndegal

    I saw this post just by accident and thought I would put in a few thoughts while I still had some left at the end of the night. I am from the Rio Grande Valley where Valley Lemons are a very common fruit tree. I bought a valley lemon a few years ago and I am growing in a large pot only because we have a problem with cutter ants and they just love citrus trees. when I bought it, it was about 2 feet tall and started fruiting that year and has been ever since. My mother passed away 2 years ago and she had started seeds from her neighbors valley lemon tree that he planted from seed and so i brought the seedlings home and shared with friends. My 2 seedlings that I kept are bigger than the one I purchased at the nursery and now have lemons and its only been 2 years since they were planted from seeds. they were about 3 inches when my mom passed away. The lemons taste the same and are very large with very thin skin and very mild. The differance is as someone mentioned, they have more thorns, but I also cut them off as soon as I see them.

    Here is a link that might be useful: My trade list

  • GemofaTeacher

    I planted a lemon seed that I sucked up from my iced tea in 2004! That tree is NOW almost as tall as my second story house and has about 24 lemons on it! Last year, 2010, was the first year I got any fruit, and there were only TWO lemons! This year I got a lot more and right now the tree is blossoming and there are literally HUNDREDS of blossoms and buds! I just picked my first lemon today and the taste is AMAZING! I'm actually brewing some iced tea as I type! :-) As long as the three is fruiting... I may NEVER have to buy a lemon AGAIN! The post earlier about the thorns is correct... they are NASTY buggers! VERY sharp and I even get an allergic reaction to them if they scratch my skin! Even if my tree NEVER produced fruit, I'd still be glad I tried! It's so cool to see it grow! I live in FL and the citrus population is abundant here, so I don't know if that has anything to do with the success of my tree, but where ever you may life, it's worth the try!

  • subtropix

    Most of my Citrus (including the lemons) were bought as named, standard cultivars (Eureka, Meyer's, Lisbon). But other citrus that I am not really growing to eat or are harder to obtain, I'll plant from seed. So in recent years, I have grown pomelo, citron, and sour oranges from seed. I was just in the local Asian market and they have their annual crop of sour (Seville) oranges and pomelos and getting the bug to plant more seeds in the grove. I find pomelos and sour oranges particularly robust from seed by the way. Happy New Year!

  • mcgyvr2009i

    Actually, all you need to do for a lemon tree is plant it in loose soil, water the soil lightly, and stick it in a ziplock bag. See this thread: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/trees/msg111341588777.html

    That lemon tree is mine. I grew from seed. All I did was (STEP BY STEP leaving out absolutely NO information)

    1) I grabbed the seed from a lemonade drink made from a lemon bought from a lemonade stand, this past summer
    2) put the seeds in a cup of water. All of them sank(sadly, I have no clue where they are now)
    3) Placed them in a container somewhere (except for 6)
    4) took that plastic cup and cut some holes in the bottom
    5) put soil (which turned out to be harder than rock when watered) inside the cup
    6) stuck the seed in the cup
    7) watered the soil lightly
    8) stuck the seed in a plastic ziplock baggy
    9) put it on the counter
    9) Forgot it was even there

    About 2 weeks later, I said "OH CRAP! AM I TOO LATE? IS IT DEAD? I CAN'T BELIEVE I FORGOT ABOUT IT!!! OH MY GOSH, PLEASE DON'T BE DEAD! PLEASE DON'T BE DEAD!!!" After panicking and looking for about 20 minutes, I finally found it buried under a lot of crap. I looked into the bag and I'm thinking, "Awwwwww!!!! It's so cute!!!" There was a little lemon tree with it's first two leaves sprouting. After I saw that, I stuck it in the windowsill where it's currently working on it's 5th leaf while finishing up it's 4th. It's the most beautiful thing ever. I would've increased the germination rate though to all six seeds instead of 1 of 6 if I had followed the directions provided online though(nick the seed coat and all that other stuff). But really, just planting the seed and forgetting about it for about 1-2 weeks seemed to work fine. I probably just got lucky though.

  • steiconi

    There's a great old book about growing plants from seeds in grocery fruit:
    "The After Dinner Gardening Book"
    by Richard W. Langer..
    Collier Books/Division of Macmillian Publishing Company
    copyright 1969 There are several copies available on Amazon.
    It's funny and instructional. I grew a papaya and a mango following the instructions. (nowadays, I just toss the seeds out into the yard and trees spring up. Paradise!)

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