Growing a Patio Lemon Tree in Winter

How to Grow Lemons Outdoors Year-Round in a Northern Climate

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
February 14, 2023

Want to grow fresh lemons on your patio in the winter? With a few simple protective measures lemon trees can adapt to outdoor year-round growing in a cool northern climate.

Video: Growing a Winter Patio Lemon Tree


For me, the best lemons grow in winter: fragrant blossoms and juicy, fresh citrus fruit when most everything else in the garden is cold and dormant.

I brought home my little potted Meyer lemon tree on a whim. The idea of growing citrus outdoors appealed to me. I’d heard that lemon trees are hardy enough to survive our Canadian South Coast British Columbia winters (plant hardiness zone 9).

Citrus trees are subtropicals that typically grow in warm, sunny places like California and Florida. Growing a subtropical lemon tree outdoors in the north takes extra work and care.

When do Lemon Trees Bloom?

A lemon blossom and a ripening green lemon. Growing a Patio Lemon Tree in Winter.

A lemon blossom and a ripening lemon.

Lemon trees can blossom at any time of the year. In warm climates, they often bloom in spring and fall. Here in southern BC, my lemon tree blooms reliably in January and in the spring, producing two crops of fruit each year. Some years, the tree also produces more blossoms during the summer months.

Container Lemon Tree – Growing Conditions

As I began to care for my container lemon tree, I learned more about its needs. Like all citrus, lemon trees like warmth and light. Overall, they require at least six hours of sunlight per day. They thrive best in temperatures between 18–24ºC (65–75ºF), but can survive down to freezing.

Lemon trees, especially when grown in containers, also need sufficient nutrients. It’s helpful to fertilize during active growth, however there are some factors to consider. Fertilizers high in nitrogen tend to promote new leaf growth at the expense of blossoms and fruit. Fertilizers with higher phosphorus help blossom and fruit growth. Rather than relying on a lot of fertilizer, I apply an organic fertilizer at key periods, and then use fish-based compost the rest of the time.

Summer Patio Lemon Tree Care

During the summer, I keep my potted lemon tree at the edge of the patio to catch as much sunlight as possible. Because the tree does not like overwatering, I let the soil dry out a little between waterings, and water only when the soil is dry down to 5 cm (2 in). On hot, dry summer days, I also mist the leaves with a spray bottle of water.

Winter Patio Lemon Tree Protection

Container lemon tree with winter protective covering and lights. Growing a Patio Lemon Tree in Winter in a Northern Climate.

Inside a layer of protective fabric, 7-watt lights warm the lemon tree in the winter.

When fall comes, I take measures to protect the tree from the cold. In spring, you’ll want to reverse these steps very gradually as the plant reacclimatizes to being out in the elements.

Starting in late October or November, when temperatures get down to about 6º C (43º F), I move the potted tree up close to the house for warmth, in a place well-protected from rain.

As temperatures drop, I wrap the tree with row cover fabric (Reemay) and 7-watt Christmas lights for additional warmth. (It’s important to use 7-watt lights, which provide heat; LEDs do not.)

This protects the tree throughout most of the winter, except in high winds, or when temperatures dip below freezing. Then, wrapping a layer of cardboard around the tree provides extra protection.

Winter Lemons

On a cold, freezing day I open the wrapping and inhale the sweet scent of lemon blossoms. Tiny new green lemons are forming. And there are still one or two yellow lemons ripe for the picking!


More articles:

A Low-Carbon Citrus Greenhouse in Canada A Low-Carbon Citrus Greenhouse in Canada

Flowers, beets and chard grow side by side in this diverse cool-weather garden. Grow a Climate Change Resilient GardenGrow a Climate Change Resilient Garden

10 Tips for Year-Round Vegetable Gardens10 Tips for Year-Round Vegetable Gardens

2 Responses leave one →
  1. 2024 January 25
    Jean Nelson permalink

    I was thrilled to receive a Meyer lemon plant for Christmas but it doesn’t seem to be thriving. My house is 20.5 degrees in the day and down to 17 at night. I would appreciate suggestions.

  2. 2023 February 15
    Laura Shelton permalink

    I grew up surrounded by citrus groves, first grapefruit and orange, and later lemons. The smell!!
    So great to read your article, you almost have me tempted.

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