Lemon trees will have a dormant period in winter where they slow their growth. They are evergreen so will remain covered in leaves but will not grow new leaves or flowers over this time. To protect your lemon tree in winter, cover the root zone with 3 inches of bark or straw mulch to insulate the soil.
This article will explore all you need to know about lemon tree dormancy in winter, how to protect them and prepare them to grow lots of fruit in spring.
Lemon trees are a rewarding tree to grow. With a bit of care over winter, they will be ready to produce loads of flowers and fruit from spring all the way through summer.
What happens to lemon trees during dormancy
When the weather cools at the end of fall or early winter the tree will go into a protective mode where it will slow its growth. Lemon trees will not drop their leaves like deciduous tress during this time but you may notice very little happening with the tree at all.
The first thing to notice that during the lemon trees dormant period, it will add almost no new leaf growth. New leaves start off looking a dark red color and then grow into a light green leaf. This then turns into the darker green color of the adult leaf.
Dormant lemon trees will have a large coverage of dark green leaves but very few smaller lighter leaves. The tough adult leaves are great protection over winter and can protect the tree from mild frost.
Frost damaged leaves will develop yellow or brown edges and can be trimmed off when the chance of frost has passed in spring.
Most lemon trees will not produce flowers over the winter dormant period. The tree will be conserving energy during the cooler and shorter days. When warmth returns in spring and the days lengthen, this is a sign for the plant to start to produce flowers.
In some mild climate areas including tropical and sub-tropical areas you may see flowers over winter. I had experienced this during an unseasonably warm winter where there were no frosts. You can leave these flowers on if you like and you may see fruit develop in early spring if they are pollinated.
No stem growth
Lemon trees will slow their stem growth in winter when they are dormant. The tree will stay the same size for 3-4 months. When the warm weather arrives, the stems can add another 1/3 to their length in 1-2 months rapidly expanding out to grow new leaves and flowers.
How to keep lemon trees alive in the winter
When the weather cools it is important to protect the roots of the lemon tree. I always add a 2-3 inch layer of bark or straw mulch around the root zone to help to insulate the soil. This helps to regulate the soil temperature, protect worms and soil bacteria and prevent damage to the roots near the surface of the soil.
Lemon trees in pots can be moved to a protected space if your area experiences frosts. This will prevent any leaf damage and get them ready for quick growth and flowers in spring. Remember to return them to a full sun position when spring arrives for more flowers and lots of lemons.
Young lemon trees grown in the ground can be protected from frosts using a wire cage wrapped in shade-cloth or plastic. This will stop the frosts from falling on the leaves and damaging them. Make sure the tree still has air movement to prevent mold growth.
For more on protecting lemon trees in winter, check out my previous article here: Lemon tree winter care | 6 Tips and Tricks
Do lemon trees lose their leaves in the winter?
Lemon trees do not lose their leaves in winter. They are an evergreen tree so have a good coverage of green leaves throughout the year. Lemon trees may drop leaves if they experience a period of stress including extreme weather, a lack of water or pest attack.
Why is my lemon tree flowering in winter?
Lemon trees can flower in winter in areas that have a mild climate. If you live in a tropical or sub-tropical area where winters are still warm and there are no frosts, lemon trees can continue to grow and flower. In some areas, lemon trees can flower and fruit for almost all the year.
It is a good idea to allow the tree to have at least a 3 month period without flowers or fruit. The tree uses up a lot of energy producing fruit so allow it to rest. You can pinch of winter flowers to allow the tree to focus on leaf growth.
Always remember to fertilize your lemon tree regularly throughout the year to encourage a good crop of fruit in spring and summer. Use pelleted chicken manure at the start of each season and add trace elements or citrus food in spring.
For more on how to fertilize lemon trees, check out my previous article here: How to Fertilize a Lemon Tree | 6 Easy Steps
Lemon Trees Go Dormant in Winter | Summary
Healthy lemon trees will have a dormant period over winter where their growth slows. The tree will conserve its energy and nutrients ready to grow rapidly in spring. When the weather starts to warm at the start of spring, feed them with pelleted chicken manure and a citrus food to replace the nutrients used up during the previous year’s fruiting period.
Lemon trees are a great fruit tree to start with if you are a beginner gardener and a great feature for any garden. If you have a small space, plant a lemon tree in a pot and you can move it under shelter when the cold winter weather arrives.