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What Size Pot Do I Need For a Lemon Tree?

Meyer Lemon

I have been curious about growing a Meyer lemon tree. I did know  I would need to bring this tree inside in the winter since it gets too cold in the winter where I live.  Growing in a container is a perfect choice for this!

What size pot to grow a Lemon Tree?  If you buy a tree in a 1 gal pot transplant it into a 5-gallon pot, if you buy in a 3-gallon pot- plant in a 5-7 gal pot.  This will be a great size for 2-4 years.  When the tree outgrows that pot, either move up 2 sizes, or pull out of your pot, root prune and top prune, and replant back in the same container to control the size.  Since you are bringing it indoors each fall- keep it to a size you can do that, physically your space and your moving capabilities.

Pot size and type will depend on numerous factors, including

  • The current size of Your Tree
  • Desired size of  Your Tree
  • Type of Potting Soil Used
  • Your Watering Habits
  • What size Pot You Can Move, Indoor/Outdoors
  • What the Pot Is Made Of

Current Size

of Tree

What size is your tree now?  What size pot is it in? What size to transplant into is a balance of how much size do you want it to grow, and not over-potting it.  

Over-potting is transplanting a plant into a pot that is too large.  What determines too large? Too large holds more soil than the roots can grow into and utilize the water it is holding.  


The extra potting soil will hold water like a sponge, keeping the whole root ball saturated too long promoting root rot diseases (over-watering)  Everything in moderation. Think of a hot dog eating contest, that lasted a week rather than 5 minutes.  That would be a pot that is too large.  (For more on potting soil and sponge analogy, read this post on if you need to add rocks to your pot)

The pot should be 1 size up from the pot it is in unless it is made from un-glazed terracotta, or fabric, then it can go up a couple if sizes due to water being wicked out from the sides, helping prevent over-watering.

Desired size of Tree

Yes, you can influence the size of your tree with many factors including pot size.  Think goldfish, rumor has it they grow to the size of the tank, up until a maximum size.  The more you restrict the roots and re-pot infrequently, the smaller your plant will be.  Have you ever grown tomato plants from transplants and had one left over in the tiny container?  Have you seen the size difference in a month, of each?  The tomato in the ground is over a foot high, and the one on the container is a couple of inches.  same age plant, both watered, same variety, just a difference in the amount of room for roots to grow.

Type of Potting Soil

Yes, it has to be potting soil.  Long technical story, has to so with the soil drainage mechanics,.  Don’t get me started 🙂

Back to which type.  Well-drained, like a cactus soil, mixed with standard potting soil. Or a mix of ⅔ good quality potting soil with ⅓ perlite and/or expanded shale (expanded shale doesn’t break down as perlite does, think long term drainage rather than drainage for just a year or so.  Click here to go to Amazon to see.

You can get as fancy and complicated as you like, there is a rabbit hole you can easily fall down on specifics of anything if you want (do you need the $75 hammer, or the $5 hammer, yes, the more expensive hammer is better, but how much better do you really need?).  This is a good perfectly competent basic mix for this endeavor.

Choice of potting soil and choice of the pot goes hand in hand.  If you are using a porous material pot such as un-glazed terracotta, use a standard potting soil mix, no need for extra perlite or expanded shale until you get up to a huge pot, such as 24”+ diameter.  Non- porous pots, use the recommended mix with perlite and/or expanded shale.

Your Watering Habits

Most folks usually fall into 1 of 2 categories

-water on a set schedule whether it needs it or not


whoops, I forgot to water.  (Both of you need to Check regularly, but water as needed!!!)  Click here to read a post I wrote- All You Need To Know About Watering.

As far as pot size, schedule waterer’s, use a smaller size pot than you think, and water forgetter’s, size up one size on your pots.

What Size Pot You Can Move Indoors and Out

Remember, unless you are living in a frost-free climate, you will need to get this indoors and back out again.  Your back will thank you for keeping this in mind.

What the pot is made of

Plastic, Resin or Metal –  Lightweight, non-insulating, non-porous ( doesn’t let water pass without a hole).

Concrete, or stone –  Heavily, insulating, non-porous

Terracotta/Clay -Medium weight, medium insulating, porous

Glazed Terracotta -Medium weight, medium insulating, non-porous

Depending on the answers to the previous questions, then you can see which will work the best for you.

Click Here for recommendations for self-watering containers!

Related Questions:

Do I Have To Move My Lemon Tree Back Outside In The Summer?

Unless you have a greenhouse or a plant conservatory, yes.  You need at least 6+ hours of direct full sun for best flowering (which translates into fruiting).

Do Meyer Lemon Trees Need Fertilizer?

Yes!  To start you can use a general purpose balanced fertilizer, but year 2, if you are serious about fruit on these trees ( think hammer analogy above in potting soil) move to a citrus-specific fertilizer.

Do All Supplies For My Lemon Tree Have To Be Organic?

No, but it is easy to accidentally over fertilize and burn or kill your plant with chemical fertilizers.  Think bleach, a tiny bit purifies and makes your water safer to drink, to much and you poison yourself. ( Don’t try this at home kids!!!  Don’t try purifying your water with bleach without research in how much!!!!)  

Many organics are slow release, avoiding this problem, and you are growing these to eat, so why not?

How about pest and disease control for the Meyer lemon?

Again, you are growing to eat so choose organic or specifically labelled for fruits and vegetables pesticide and disease control products.  You wouldn’t brush your teeth with laundry detergent now would you? Of course not! Yes, they both clean, but some things you just can not use inside your body!


Toni has a bachelor degree in Plant & Soil Science, has lived, gardened and growing all over the US, in Vermont, Tennessee, Idaho, coastal North Carolina and Virginia. She has been sharing her knowledge through writing, one on one consulting and talking to anyone who wants to listen at social gatherings everywhere : )

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