Lemon Tree in Multnomah County
I have heard that the Meyer lemon will grow in the area west of Portland. Is this true.
Multnomah County Oregon
Here below are the collected comments based upon knowledge gained from working with this plant locally by experienced local gardeners. Also included is a on-line reference to growing the lemon tree that should be considered. In summary the meyer lemon can be grown successfully if you are willing and able to take care of the plant environment and nutrition needs.
You can successfully over-winter your lemon tree indoors or out. It all depends upon how well you can meet the tree’s requirements. I’ll offer you both conventional advice as well as my experience gained during nearly 20 years in Portland, Oregon. Meyer lemons do well here with less pampering than is generally thought.
The usual suggestion for a pot-grown Meyer lemon is to bring it into a bright sunny place, perhaps a sunroom, solarium or outdoor greenhouse. (Ignore any suggestions you’ve heard to mist the tree now and then because the effect lasts for a few minutes of the most. ) In general, the humidity as our climate maintains adequate levels, even indoors, as long as it’s kept away from heating vents.
Maintaining sufficient light levels indoors during the winter is the biggest challenge during a northwest winter. Here, a bright sunny window offers far too little help. So, when the tree is brought indoors for the winter, many of the sun-adapted leaves will drop to make way for new leaves adapted to the lower light level. Then in spring, when the tree returns outdoors, the process is similar; shade-adapted leaves drop to make way for new, sun-adapted leaves. All this leaf production wastes resources the tree needs to remain healthy and produce fruits. The means of avoiding that it to provide supplemental light. Local large garden centers should have the needed lights.
But, realize that you can keep your container-grown Meyer lemon outdoors , in a sunny site, year-round. Only when temperatures are predicted to go below 32F should you pull it into a sheltered place such as a garage or shed for the duration of the cold spell. Then back outdoors when temperatures rise again. (One year, my tree sheltered in the garage, with minimal light for 10 days, and was fine.)
Shelter the tree only as long as the cold prevails. After the threat of a freeze passes, move the tree outdoors again
mate. My garden-grown Improved Meyer lemon was luxuriant and produced plenty of fruit to share, growing over its 7-year lifetime to 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Flowering was so profuse the fragrance permeated the entire backyard. I began with an Improved Meyer lemon (3-gallon container) purchased from a local garden center during March, planted it outdoors into a raised bed during June, then kept it going until an unexpected hard freeze during early December killed the top growth (all the way down to the root graft). Thus, a complete loss.
“During the years previous to the killing freeze, I rigged protection from cold using two layers of frost blanket (available in garden centers) with 4 mil plastic over that, both materials clipped to an overhead support and held tight to the ground with a combination of soil, rocks, and short lengths of 2x4s. I arranged it so I could vent the plastic and row cover on warmer days but could close up when colder. During the coldest times, I set a 60-watt work light on the ground inside the 'tent.' The light was on all day, every day, for as long as the severe cold lasted. Come spring, the only damage was on the branches that touched the covering.”
-- Jean Master Gardener Diagnostician (Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas Counties) Oregon State University Extension Service Volunteer Metro Master Gardeners
If you decide to go with an indoor/outdoor (container-grown) Meyer lemon, here are some comments. The most common suggestion for an indoor lemon is to keep it in a bright sunny room, perhaps a sun room, solarium, or outdoor greenhouse. Lighting is perhaps the major challenge in bringing evergreen trees indoors because available light is always less indoors than outdoors. Most articles advise providing light for at least 6 to 8 hours during the off-season. (No need for so-called grow lights.)
You can ignore suggestions to increase the humidity as our climate maintains adequate levels, even indoors.
Keep in mind that if you do bring the plant indoors, many if not all of the sun-adapted leaves will drop to make way for new leaves adapted to the lower light level. Then, in spring, the process is similar when the tree goes outdoors. Then, shade-adapted leaves drop to make way for new, sun-adapted leaves. All this leaf production uses resources the tree needs to remain healthy and produce fruits. The container-grown Meyer can be put into a garage when temperatures are forecast to go below 32°F. After the threat of freeze passes, the tree can be moved outdoors again to a sunny site.
Here is some additional information on selecting the right location to plant the lemon and in caring for it.