20171128A Debra Roby, WC
Most indoor lemon trees are actually Meyer lemons (Citrus meyeri), a hybrid species with sweeter, rounder fruit. The true lemon (Citrus limon), easily recognized by its curious winged petioles, is not so amenable to indoor culture.

Question: I bought a potted lemon tree this summer and it produced three lemons. However, they’re still green. The plant is now indoors for the winter, but the fruits don’t appear to be ripening. Should I harvest them now even if they’re not mature or should I leave them on the plant?

Manuel Poulin

Answer: Leave them on the plant. Citrus fruits are very slow to ripen. It can easily take 4 to 6 months even when the plant grows under optimal conditions, but up to 11 or 12 months under lower quality conditions … such as on a temperate-climate terrace or indoors. And unlike tomatoes that will ripen after harvesting, citrus fruits won’t ripen once you’ve removed them from the tree. So you have to leave them on the tree until they reach full maturity.

Once the fruits are mature, though, you can often leave them on the plant for a month or a bit more if you want to enjoy their ornamental effect for a longer time.

To learn more about growing citrus fruits in a temperate climate, read A lemon or orange tree from seed?

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Why Aren’t My Indoor Lemons Ripening?

  1. Fruits like grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, etc., are an excellent source of vitamin C. These are essential because the human body doesn’t produce or store but needs this vitamin for proper functioning and well-being. Vitamin C promotes white blood cells and antibodies’ production that is useful to the immune system and helps fight cough and cold. Thus, consuming citrus fruits in sufficient quantities regularly is essential.

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