Lemon trees can survive outside in winter in pots or in the ground. For areas that frequent frosts you will need to prepare your lemon tree for the cold. Move pots near masonry walls or undercover, cover the soil with bark mulch and water the plant deeply every 4 weeks.
Lemon trees can survive outside in winter. This article will explore my top 11 tips to safely leave your lemon tree outside in the winter so they survive and thrive.
Top 11 tips to safely leave lemon trees outside in winter
These are my top 11 tips to help lemon trees to survive cold winters. If you get frosts then you will need to take some steps to protect your lemon tree so it is ready to grow flowers in spring.
1. Place it near a masonry wall
For potted lemon trees placing the tree near a masonry wall that gets morning sunlight. The gentle sun that appears in the morning and the warmth that reflects from the brick wall will help the tree to avoid frost.
The warmth can stay in the brick wall overnight and prevent frost from damaging the lemon tree leaves.
2. Cover the soil with bark mulch
Covering the soil around the base of the lemon tree with mulch is essential to protect it from harsh winters. Bark mulch is perfect for lemon trees in the ground that experience mild winters. Layer 2 inches of mulch around the root zone of the tree.
Bark mulch will help to protect the delicate lemon tree roots that sit near the surface of the soil. It will also help to feed and protect soil bacteria and worms which help to break down organic material. The soil bacteria will slowly break down the bark and release the nutrients into the soil.
But, if you get extremely cold winters, Tip number 10 is for you.
3. Bring it under a verandah
Bring potted lemon trees under cover if you experience very cold winter, below 50 degree Fahrenheit or 10 degrees Celsius. The risk of frost can be high at these temperatures and the delicate leaves can be damaged.
Move small potted trees under protection of a verandah, shed or even bring them inside. Place the pot near a bright window and make sure the plant has airflow throughout the day.
4. Surround the plant with a wire cage and plastic
For very cold areas where lemon trees are outside in the ground you may need added protection if the temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and you can’t move them, small lemon trees will benefit from a cage.
Use a circle of wire around the outside of the plant and cover it with shade cloth for air movement. Place a clear plastic on the top and this will protect it from frost.
Remove the cover as soon as the weather starts to warm up in spring and you can save your lemon tree during a cold winter.
5. Water the plant deeply
Water lemon trees less often but deeply in the winter. A thorough water every 4 weeks will help to keep the roots moist, healthy and to protect soil bacteria. It can be easy to forget to water lemon trees during the cold of winter but if you are getting low rainfall it is very important.
6. Leave any frost damaged leaves on until spring
If your lemon tree does get damaged by frost in winter it is best to leave them on. Any frost damaged leaves will protect the healthy leaves from additional frosts.
When the spring weather arrives you can then remove the damaged leaves ready for the plant to grow new stems. Don’t wait too long otherwise you might risk trimming off new flower buds. As soon as frosts have passed, tidy up your tree with a light trim.
7. Use pot feet to improve drainage
For potted lemon trees it important that they are able to drain well over winter. With heavier winter rains potted lemon trees can get too much water. Lift the pot off the ground with pot feet to help it to drain well and your lemon tree will be happy over winter.
8. Use good quality potting soil for new plants
When potting up new lemon trees before winter it is very important to use the best quality potting soil you can afford. This will help your lemon tree to survive winter as it will be full of organic matter which will help the roots to settle in.
Always try to pot up new lemon trees in fall before the cold of winter arrives. Give it a feed of pelleted chicken manure and it will be ready for a cold winter.
9. Seaweed solution will strengthen root systems
Avoid adding fertilizer to lemon trees in the middle of winter but instead add seaweed solution. A monthly dose of seaweed solution during winter can help your lemon tree to survive cold snaps by strengthening roots and stems.
Seaweed solution will also feed soil bacteria which will help to break down organic matter. It is a natural root and soil tonic and is great for protecting lemon trees over winter.
10. Create a straw blanket
For very cold areas a blanket can be the perfect way to protect lemon trees. Layer 3-4 inches of straw mulch on the soil around the base of the lemon tree to help to insulate it. Straw will keep frosts from settling on the soil and will protect worms from the cold weather.
Your lemon tree will love the straw blanket in winter which will break down and can be topped with bark mulch in spring.
11. Surround your lemon trees with companions
Over winter I like to surround my lemon tree with flowering annuals. This adds some bright color to my garden, protects the lemon tree roots and attracts bees in early spring. I like to plant ground cover herbs like thyme as they smell great and can help to deter pests.
While this lemon tree looks like it is planted very close to these annuals, there is actually a big distance between their roots. This allows all of these plants to thrive in a small space. Make sure you add some pelleted chicken manure in spring to feed all of these plants together.
How to safely leave your lemon tree outside in winter | Summary
Lemon trees will survive winter if their roots are protected. Young lemon trees are more delicate and will suffer during heavy frosts but established trees are hardy. A few mild frosts can damage leaf tips but the tree can quicky recover in spring.
Water the tree well, fertilize the tree in spring and always cover the roots with mulch. You will have a happy and healthy tree ready to grow flowers and fruit in spring and summer.
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I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.