Keep the lemon tree properly over winter - bring it safely through the cold

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lemon Tree

A lemon tree awakens associations with sunny Mediterranean countries in many people and makes them want fresh, untreated and, above all, self-harvested fruits. If the conditions are optimal throughout the year, a lemon tree can reach a height of up to 2 meters and can flower in the cold season and, ideally, bear fruit. However, the right wintering plays a decisive role, because this is exactly where most mistakes occur, be it in the choice of winter quarters or casting behavior.

Wintering period

The wintering of this plant is not particularly complicated, provided one takes heed to some things. It is important to provide the plants with species-appropriate and their natural habitat adapted conditions and in every season. Only then can irreparable frost damage be avoided. The lemon tree comes from a very sunny and hot climate and is therefore not hardy. In this country the summers are usually short and relatively humid and the winters cold and comparatively long. So they can easily stand outdoors during the summer. However, as the growing season comes to an end, it is time to prepare for hibernation.
  • Gradually reduce casting volumes at the end of the growing season
  • From September, stop fertilizing
  • The right time to hibernate depending on prevailing weather conditions
  • They vary from region to region
  • Even minimal freezing temperatures can cause massive frost damage
  • One differentiates between mild, mild to cold and cold areas
  • Mild areas affect the west and southwest of Germany
  • Mild to cold regions to the north
  • Cold locations are in the east, southeast and highlands
  • Give lemon trees in mild areas around mid-November
  • In mild to cold regions from the beginning of November into the house
  • Wintering in cold areas starts from mid / end of October
In the spring measures must be taken to Auswinder. First, plants in mild regions can be outdoors around the beginning of April. The next follow about mid-April and in cold locations should be waited until the Eisheiligen. Ultimately, the prevailing weather conditions are always decisive.
Tip: Planting the lemon tree in a transportable bucket facilitates the transport from the garden to the winter quarters and vice versa.

Location in winter

lemon Tree

Before the lemon tree can be overwintered, it should be checked for possible pest infestation and, if present, first eliminated. Classic winter quarters are stairwells, bright cellar rooms, frost-free greenhouses and unheated conservatories. Frost-free outbuildings with sufficient daylight are also suitable. In contrast, heated residential or office space are completely unsuitable. Even the balcony is not suitable for the winter, here the bale would be frozen in a relatively short time, because the bucket walls are not insulated and offer no protection against frost. In addition, the respective location should be bright and draft-free.

Care in winter quarters

Unlike many native plants, this plant needs year-round care. In order to feel well in our latitudes, to avoid frost damage and to produce many fragrant flowers and fruits at best, there are some basic factors to keep in mind. Once parts of the plant have been frozen, they can not usually be salvaged. During winter care, light and temperature conditions as well as the correct casting behavior play a decisive role.

Temperature and light

  • Temperatures in winter quarters during the day between 5 and 15 degrees
  • At night, between 9 and 12 degrees
  • Strong temperature fluctuations should be avoided
  • Protect roots from rising ground cold in cold premises
  • Place on a Styrofoam plate or Kokosmatte
  • If necessary, wrap the bucket with jute or fleece
  • Provide sufficient light even in cool winter
  • Only then can she maintain her vital functions
If the lemon drops its leaves or forms so-called Geiltriebe, this can be an indication for lack of light. In addition, plant lamps can be used for a higher light yield. At a room temperature of up to 15 degrees, the plant needs about 6-8 hours of light.


The humidity also influences the development of the plants. Again, the right degree must be found. At the same time you need a sure instinct. While too low humidity, as it often prevails in living rooms, favors an infestation with pests such as scale insects or spider mites, high humidity has both advantages and disadvantages.
At high humidity pests are difficult to replicate and plants absorb the missing moisture in the root area over the leaves.A disadvantage is e.g. the increased susceptibility to gray rot (botrytis), which occurs mainly in young shoots, fruits and possible wounds. If infested plant parts are not removed immediately, this fungus spreads further and can lead to the death of the plant.
Tip: The warmer the winter quarters, the more often the lemon tree can be sprayed. In rather cold premises, spraying with lukewarm and lime-free water is only occasionally recommended.

to water

lemon Tree

When casting, you should know that lemon trees are very sensitive to calcareous water. Consequently, one should use as possible only lime-free, natural rainwater, for watering and spraying the plants. If only tap water is available, it should be stale for at least a week. Of course, the water at the bottom of the watering can should not be poured out, since all the lime has settled here.
Especially during the hibernation should be poured as needed, or only so much that does not dry out the substrate completely and is not permanently wet. You should not plan a fixed pouring day, but check the soil moisture every few days. The cooler the room, the less must be poured. So it is sufficient to pour at temperatures of 5 - 10 degrees every 4 - 6 weeks.


If the hibernation in a cool district with temperatures around 10 degrees, can be dispensed with fertilizer completely. At these temperatures, the roots cease all activity, so they do not need or absorb nutrients.

To cut

The lemon tree should get a shape cut before the winter in the autumn. After such a cut, it can sometimes lead to loss of leaves but also the loss of fruits. But the remaining ones will be even bigger. Older specimens that have not been blended for a long time and are already bled from below offer a corresponding tapering cut right after the winter break.


  • When cutting shapes, remove disruptive, intersecting and inwardly growing branches
  • Also, cut out diseased and dead wood as well as branches that are too dense
  • No branch stub left behind
  • Always cut close to the trunk
  • Remaining stumps could favor Botrytisbefall
  • In addition, trim all shoots protruding from the crown by half
  • This also applies to new shoots that are longer than 40 cm
  • These cutting measures result in a better branching

rejuvenation pruning

A rejuvenation cut is supposed to give a decent shape to older, blunted plants and support them in a healthy growth. This cut is usually somewhat stronger and should therefore always be done in the spring, after hibernation. After that, the lemon tree usually recovers very fast and pushes out all the more powerful again. In order to get back to a healthy and well-branched crown, it must be shortened all around. It practically builds up a new branch framework and cuts the entire crown back to 5 - 15 cm long stumps, even if it blows.
While no stumps are required for the shape cut, they are necessary here, because from the sleeping buds of these stumps the lemon tree drives out again after about 2 - 3 weeks. And the more intense the cut, the stronger the renewal. In order to rebuild a beautiful compact crown shape, all new, herbaceous shoots are shortened to 30 to 40 cm. This encourages better branching and prevents re-kissing.

Repot before emptying

lemon Tree

Basically, it is advisable to repot a lemon tree about every two years in fresh soil, because its roots spread quite quickly. Up to the age of 4-5 years, even annual repotting is advisable. This has the advantage that the substrate does not harden, which in turn protects against waterlogging and suffocation of the roots. But even if it grows well and grows, it needs from time to time fresh soil, because the supplies the plant with important nutrients. At the end of hibernation, when the roots start to grow again, this is the best time.
  • The new pot about 4 cm in diameter larger than the old one
  • Fill the bottom third of the pot with drainage material
  • In question are e.g. Potsherds or coarse gravel
  • Then a 2-3 cm thick layer of loose, well-drained substrate
  • This can be a special soil for citrus plants
  • Or a mixture of approx. 85% commercial potting soil and approx. 15% fine sand
  • If necessary, incorporate a handful of horn chips
  • Then take the tree from the old pot
  • Carefully remove loose soil from the root ball
  • Simultaneously check the root area for pest infestation
  • Insert plant at the same height into the new pot
  • Tap the pot wall several times to avoid cavities in the root area
  • Then press soil with your hands and water well
Tip: Repotting before hibernation is not advisable, because at that time the roots almost completely cease their activities and the nutrients in the soil could not be utilized by the plant, they would be flushed out gradually as it is being watered.

Moving to the garden

Before the lemon tree can finally go outside, it should be slowly getting used to the new environmental conditions. In order not to unnecessarily expand the time without vegetation, and depending on the temperatures prevailing in the region in question, these plants can be partially out in March, on warm sunny days for a few hours outside. A place with direct sunlight should be avoided, otherwise burns threaten.
In the late afternoon, when it gets cooler again, they have to go back to the house. You must not get frost. Temperatures should not fall below 5 degrees both during the day and at night. The warmer it gets, the longer the plants can stay outside, until finally they can stay out of the ice saints, after May 15th. Especially good is a cookie in front of a south-facing wall, which stores during the day the heat of the sun, which then benefits the plants at night, at least in the first time.

Care mistakes during wintering

The most frequent care mistakes during the wintering concern the casting behavior. Usually too much is poured. If the plant is then still in a cold room, the leaves can turn yellow quickly and fall off. Once overpoured this plant harms much more than twice too little. In addition to the amount of water, the quality of the water also plays an important role. Lemon trees prefer a rather acidic soil without lime. Since drinking water in Germany is very calcareous, should be poured exclusively with rainwater.
When using tap water, lime accumulates in the soil and chlorosis (deficiency symptoms) occurs. The plant can no longer sufficiently absorb important trace elements such as manganese, iron or zinc, as they are present in the soil but are no longer available in plant-available form. In addition, care must be taken to ensure adequate ventilation in winter quarters to avoid gray mold. However, drafts should be avoided. Since this heat-sensitive plant is sensitive to cold feet, it makes sense always to put the pot on an insulating pad.

lemon Tree

A common problem is falling leaves. Stressful situations such as frequent relocation can be a cause for this. Leaf loss also threatens to dark locations at the same time too much moisture. In this case you should quickly provide more light, e.g. by placing the plant closer to a window or, if that is not possible, using plant lamps. Casting takes place only when the substrate has dried well to the lowest layers or you are planting in drier soil.


If the lemon tree is wintered cool, it is usually well protected from pest infestation. However, the warmer the winter quarters are, the more susceptible the plants are and the faster pests can spread. Particularly affected are plants that are already weakened due to unfavorable wintering conditions.

spider mites

The eggs and fine spiders of the spider mites settle mainly on the undersides of the leaves. An infestation occurs especially in warm and dry room air. An initial infestation can often be eliminated by repeated vigorous shedding of the plant. Smaller plants can also be dipped headfirst into a soapy water, however, the substrate must be covered beforehand so that the lye does not reach the ground. With advanced infestation usually only appropriate insecticides from the specialized trade help. It is important to make sure that the insecticide in question is also suitable for indoor use.

Wool and lice

Wool and lice are coated with a white, wooly wax layer and a kind of hairiness. The leaves of affected plants take on a yellowish color, curl up and eventually fall off. After the plant has been isolated, it can be sprayed or brushed with a solution of 1 liter of water containing 15 ml of spirit and curd soap or paraffin oil. The treatment should be repeated at intervals of 2-3 days until the infestation is completely eliminated.

Scale insects

Also scale insects usually occur under unfavorable housing conditions. They are recognized by small brownish labels on leaves, petioles and twigs and on sticky leaves, which are honeydew, the excretions of these pests. In light infestation you can strip the animals with a cotton swab soaked in spirit. If he is already advanced, they can be treated with oily preparations.

Southern flair in the home garden

Many people associate a lemon tree with sun, Mediterranean and Mediterranean joie de vivre. In this country, he is becoming more popular as a container plant. However, he is sensitive to frost.If you forget him outside, he is quickly frozen and can not be saved. However, if one takes into account the conditions in his natural habitat and practices as much as possible when cultivating and maintaining these plants, cultivating a lemon tree is not as complicated as one might think.

Video Board: Winterizing Lemon Trees | At Home With P. Allen Smith.

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