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Minnesota Horticulture: Lemon Trees and Exotic Plants

Updated on November 9, 2016

Growing Trees from Seed Takes Time

The lemon trees were easy to grow. I used a clear plastic bag with a wet paper towel inside and placed a lemon seed on the towel. The seed does not need air to grow, so seal the moisture in. The hotbox that I have keeps them warm and the light makes them grow up.

Others tell me that it takes six months to germinate and five years of growing to produce a lemon. Quite frankly, I have several lemon trees started and it is more of the novelty of getting them to grow than anything else. I gave one of the first lemon trees I grew to a friend and since she has a green thumb and placed it outside, that tree is very large now. The seeds that grew from the same lemon are at my house and they are very small compared to hers.

The purpose: Warmth and Light

This hotbox doesn't take up much space. Mine is made from a clear, plastic tote. I covered it with a black plastic contractors bag just to keep it insulated from the basement air. I purchased a grow light from Walmart. The grow light straddles the top of tote from corner to corner and gives the seedlings close, warm light.

The cover for the tote is covered with a black plastic bag also to keep the heat confined. There is another plastic tote that is upside down on the top of the cover, since there are some plants that need to be kept in the dark, but warm, so this serves a double purpose. It keeps them warm and keeps the drafts from the basement off of them.

I will move the cover so you can see

If you look closely, you can see the grow light across the top and you can see my seedlings below.

I have some lemon trees that I managed to grow from seeds that I purchased at my grocery store. I have an avocado pit that is rooting in a glass jar full of water. There is a mango seed in some dirt. It doesn't seem to be doing much. There is a small box of basil. The basil seems to be thriving.

I started some other seeds: Sensitive Plant, Passion Flower and some cactus.

The Alpine Strawberry seeds that I planted got too much moisture and apparently drowned. I will have to try them again.

I tried some green beans, but I think I drowned them too. OR the seeds were simply too old? Is that possible? [to have seeds that are too old? It doesn't seem possible, does it?] The green bean seeds simply did not germinate for me.

I thought it would be kinda cool to have a green bean plant in my house. It would look like a pothos, but it would produce beans. I suppose I would have had to pretend to be a bee at some point and pollinate the blossoms.

Lemon trees from seed

This is after months of waiting.

The technique is simple

How to start a lemon tree.

Where did I procure lemon tree seeds?

It was easy. I went to the grocery store and bought a lemon. I was lucky. The lemon had almost 12 seeds in it. I wasn't quite as lucky with the lime I bought. It was seedless

I cut the lemon open and removed the seeds. I had a glass of water and I placed the seeds in the water to wash the lemon juice off of them. If the seed floats, it is no good. I only had one seed that did not sink to the bottom of the glass.

I had an egg carton that I had just used up the eggs. It was the paper kind of egg carton. I put potting soil in the pockets. I then put a lemon seed in each pocket. I placed the egg carton in a plastic box. I put water on the potting soil and I put water in the plastic box so that the egg carton became saturated.

I closed the lid. The lemon seeds germinate in the dark. It was warm in the hotbox and the heat from the grow bulb encouraged the seeds to sprout. It took a couple months to see seedlings emerging from the dirt. When I saw the seedlings emerge, I uncovered them and let them reach for the light.

It took a few months for the seedlings to gain girth. One seedling looked a little thin so I picked it out of the dirt. I was immediately sorry. The root system was very strong, but the top looked flimsy. I think that if I had just left it alone I would have had one more tree today. I now know better.

I transplanted the lemon trees to a slightly larger cup after the fourth set of leaves was established. The root system seems very good. Out of 10 seeds, I have a total of seven trees that survived. Not bad for my first attempt at lemon seeds.

I will wait until the seedlings are tall enough to touch the top of the hotbox before I move them to my plant room.

Above: A Second, upside down tote for dark hotbox

See, I have lifted up a corner so you can see

I have a small dish filled with a mixture of sand and potting soil. I put a package of cactus seeds in the mixture. It is just simple sand, like you would put in a sandbox for children.

It is warm, since it is right above the light that throws a little heat, but it is in the dark.

Wish me luck.

The seeds are sitting under the top tote that is sitting on top of the hotbox. The purpose is to keep them in the dark, but provide warmth.

It should work.

We have germination!!!

the little seeds are sprouting.


Grow light

The grow light is key to ensuring the your hotbox has adequate light and warmth.

What a difference one day makes


Avocado pit is splitting

I can see the root beginning. It's a very good idea to make sure the water isn't black. Change the water every once in a while to keep it fresh. If the water turns black and foul smelling, chances are that the pit is dead and is decomposing.

After that? Outside on the deck?

Well, we shall see about whether they go outside or not. A friend of mine took one of the lemon trees that I sprouted two years ago and put it on her deck all last summer. The lemon tree is fairly large now. It endured one serious hailstorm and has almost recovered from having it's leaves split apart.

Yes. If your plant receives hail damage, try to just let it recover. Don't remove any dead leaves. It has been through enough. It will drop the leaves it is not using and will drop them. Then, the stem will thicken, more branches will grow and the leaves will fill in.

I didn't realize until I grew a lemon tree that they had spines on the branches like a plum tree. My sister in law takes the lemon leaves off occasionally, slices them up and uses them for seasoning her Cambodian food dishes.

Next step: to the dining room

I like to put my houseplants in an East window.

South would probably be a better choice, but my south window interferes with my husband watching television, so, East it is.

How About You

I have a hotbox

See results

The Lemon Trees Now


The Avocado Pit Now


A Different Subject - Coldbox


What's a Coldbox?

It's the opposite of a hotbox, which uses a warm growing light. The coldbox, aka the refrigerator, is used to cold grow seeds, like the Peach.

The peach pit is broken open and the seed is removed. You then take some potting soil and put it in a quart jar. Then, get the potting soil very wet and place your peach seeds in the dirt so you can see them.

Leave the jar inside your refrigerator until you see the seeds start to germinate. This took my seeds about three months to poke out a root. I'm just waiting to make sure they are ready and then I'll transplant to a warm pot. Perhaps to the hotbox.

There are Other Cold Seeds

There are a few more seeds that require being frozen before they can germinate. The seed needs to experience a dormant period and the freezer accomplishes that quite nicely.

I have cold shocked bleeding heart seeds and blueberries. I cannot report on how they are growing since they are still in the freezer.

Lemon Trees from Seed

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    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 4 years ago from Virginia

      Good stuff squiddly seed starter. This is something I can use as I would like to start a lemon tree too! Great lens and thanks a gazillion for sharing. COUNTRYLUTHIER thumbs up!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have been wondering how to make this work without an expensive setup. Thanks for the info!