How Long Does a Lemon Take to Ripen?

On the left is the Washington navel orange from One Green World. On the right is the Gurney's dwarf key lime. I ordered and planted both last spring.
On the left is the Washington navel orange from One Green World. On the right is the Gurney’s dwarf key lime. I ordered and planted both last spring.

There have been a lot of searches for citrus information lately on the blog, so I thought I’d give you an update on the dwarf lemon, lime, and orange trees I planted in pots last spring.

They’ve been doing a lot of growing! The Washington navel orange and Meyer lemon arrived from One Green World basically as two-foot sticks, with a few leaves and blossoms clinging to them. They’ve expanded on all sides and are going to need pruning next spring to keep them shapely. The key lime from Gurney’s started off quite a bit smaller, but it’s grown a lot, too. Its foliage (after this spring’s fertilization with a lime-free mixture) is lush and green as well.

There are more differences between the One Green World trees and the Gurney’s tree than just size, however. Which is what I would hope, given that I paid $6.50 for the Gurney’s key lime and $24.95 for each of the One Green World trees. The Gurney’s tree is still less than half the size of the others, and it hasn’t bloomed at all. The others have not only bloomed but actually begun to set fruit.

Here's a fruit set by the Meyer lemon.
Here’s a fruit set by the Meyer lemon.

Now, young citrus trees will often set tiny fruits that subsequently dry up and fall off, because the tree doesn’t feel it yet has the resources to bring any fruit to term. They did a lot of that last year. And the Washington navel orange still seems to be of that mindset, but this spring the Meyer lemon has some fruits that have swelled to over an inch in diameter and seem like keepers.

Citrus requires patience, though. Because the process of ripening doesn’t take weeks, as with most fruit I’ve grown. It takes months. Meyer lemons, from blossom to ripe fruit, take at least six. Which is why winter is citrus season. The fruit starts growing in the spring and it ripens all summer and fall to produce a wonderful Christmas treat.

Come to think of it, I remember getting oranges in my Christmas stocking as a child. I had no idea then that it had something to do with the seasons!

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Jennifer says:

    They are lovely. I’d like to try this. They’d have to be in pots because we’re just too far north to have them inside. 🙂
    Keep us updated on those cute little things.

  2. So exciting! I tried growing them once, but it was indoors and our house just doesn’t get enough light.

    1. Sharon says:

      I’m not totally sure what I’m going to do with them this winter. Last winter, I was at my parents’ house, which has plenty of light. I just bought a new house and was all excited about its south-facing windows, but it turns out the roof overhang is too wide to let any sunlight in! It’s great for energy bills in the summer, but no so great for growing plants in winter.

  3. Pat Smith says:

    I have a small (2ft) potted Meyer lemon tree that has 18 light green lemons about 2.5 to 3″ each. It is now Oct. here in Pennsylvania and I have the plant in an unheated greenhouse where it is doing very well. A few days ago I noticed that it is getting new blossoms. Should I trim those off so that the nutrients will go only to the current fruit? Or are those blossoms going to be next years fruit? By the way, I will be taking the tree into the house when the outside temp gets to 30 degrees.

    1. What I have read is that these trees will only set as much fruit as they can support, so I don’t think you HAVE to trim any of the blossoms. But you might get larger fruits if there are fewer of them. You could base your decision on what size fruit is more convenient for you. Also, even if you trim blossoms now, you’ll get plenty more early next spring, which will produce next fall’s fruit. So you’re not endangering a whole year’s harvest or anything.

      I am envious of your greenhouse, though, even unheated. That must really come in handy….

      1. Thanks for the advice Sharon. Glad to hear that I can trim off the additional blossoms because I want to put them in the house because of their lovely scent. I think they smell like gardenias!

        Regarding my little 6’x8′ greenhouse, it was my mother’s day gift and just I love it! It was a kit that was purchased from Harbor Freight. Thank you!

      2. Haha! I was just ogling those in the Harbor Freight flyer last Saturday!

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