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Make sure your lemon tree doesn’t suffer this winter. How to care for it

If you’re one of the many people who own a lemon tree, you know just how sturdy those trees can be. But despite its tenacity, harsh winters can still threaten your plant. While your lemon trees can survive a few chilly nights with the proper protection, too many freezing nights will decrease their likelihood of survival.

Depending on which zone you live in, you may be able to choose whether or not to keep your tree outdoors during the winter holidays. If your winters are colder and brisk at night, stay on the safe side and bring the tree indoors. If you live in a warmer climate, you can opt to keep your tree outside, but it would still be a good idea to take some extra precautions to protect it.

If you bring your tree indoors

If your lemon tree isn’t too tall or too wide, consider putting it in a container and bringing it indoors. Make sure to do this approximately six weeks before the first frost. You want your lemon tree to adjust to being indoors while the soil is still warm. When you bring your lemon tree in, place it in a location that gets full sunlight for half the day. Move it into the shade for the other half. During the last two weeks before the first frost, keep your plant in full shade. This will help your citrus plant adjust to the winter season without too much wear on the plant.

Before bringing your tree indoors, it’s important to wash it. Make sure to check the leaves and branches for critters like aphids. Aphids can be removed by hand or with a natural insecticide, essential oils, or neem oil. It’s important to remember to be patient. Even though aphids move slowly, they multiply quickly, and you might have to invest time into getting rid of them.

Locate the coolest — but not the coldest — location in your house that has the most sunlight. A good rule of thumb is to put it in an area with about eight hours of direct sunlight. South-facing windows work best. Park your tree there and prepare for the winter season.

Your lemon tree is going to need humidity because the air indoors tends to be a lot drier than outside air, especially if you live in a zone where it’s colder for a longer period. You’re even going to have to adjust how you water your lemon tree. While your tree remains inside, make sure you’re watering the root ball just enough. You don’t want to make it too moist. And don’t overwater or leave your tree in standing water.

If you keep your lemon tree outdoors

The first thing you’re going to want to do is harvest your ripe fruit before the frost hits. You’re going to continue to water throughout the winter by giving your tree about an inch of water from November to the early spring. Of course, this varies depending on where you live and if you see more rainfall during the winter, so make sure to do your research. When watering your tree outside, try to water the ground as opposed to the tree directly. By watering the soil, you’ll ensure that the water won’t freeze and the dirt underneath will stay warm.

You’re going to want to fertilize your tree, but only if the leaves aren’t a visible green. Most importantly, resist the urge to prune. I know it might be hard when your lemon tree is in a winter vegetation state, but pruning too early can cause more harm. If you happen to spy dead leaves, loose tree bark, or split branches, your tree might be experiencing frost damage. While you can treat and repair your tree once frost damage is confirmed, know you’ll have to treat the damage on the tree for up to two years!

If your leaves or branches are dead, make sure to dip your rounding shears in alcohol. You’re going to want to prune only what you need to prune. Try to prune no more than two inches away from the healthy part of your tree for optimal growth.

Using this guide, you’ll be able to keep your lemon tree healthy through the winter season, ensuring many more abundant harvests for years to come.

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