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Meyer Lemon Tree Vs Bush: What Are The Differences?

There are lots of ways that Meyer lemons endear themselves to warm-climate gardeners, such as providing lemons with sweet, mild flesh and skin and adding a charming tropical touch to the landscape. If you're considering adding this beautiful plant to your garden, you might wonder whether you should choose a tree or a bush.

Well, you've come to the right place. We've done the research and will tell you everything you need to know about Meyer lemon bushes and trees.

Meyer lemon trees and Meyer lemon bushes are actually the exact same plant. Confusion sometimes happens because although it is technically a bush, the Meyer lemon can be pruned to look like a tree.

So, even if it looks like a tree, the correct term is Meyer lemon bush.

Although now you know that Meyer lemon bushes and trees are the same things, there's still plenty to learn about Meyer lemon bushes. Keep reading, and we'll answer the rest of your questions!

ripe yellow orange meyer lemons on lemon, yellow citrus lemon fruits green leaves, Meyer Lemon Tree Vs Bush: What Are The Differences?

What Are The Differences Between a Meyer Lemon Tree Or Bush?

As we discussed earlier, the Meyer lemon is technically a bush. Therefore, calling it a tree is a misnomer.

However, gardeners sometimes prune off the lower branches, which makes it look like a tree. This is done for aesthetic reasons and is perfectly safe for the plant. If you just let it grow, though, it takes on the shape of a bush or shrub.

What Is The Difference Between A Regular And Meyer Lemon?

Meyer lemons are actually a hybrid between regular lemons and mandarin oranges. This makes them both smaller and sweeter than regular lemons.

While regular lemons are extremely sour, Meyer lemons are almost sweet, which makes them popular for desserts. They also have thinner skin that's much sweeter than regular lemon peel, perfect for making lemon zest.

fresh meyer lemons white bowl marble

In terms of what the whole plant looks like, Meyer lemon bushes tend to be smaller than regular lemon trees, which are 10 to 20 feet tall.

Both plants have glossy, evergreen leaves of dark green and white blossoms with purple undersides in the spring.

The fruit looks different, with Meyer lemons having a rounder shape and smaller size than large, oval regular lemons.

yellow fruit on evergreen dwarf lemon

How Big Are Meyer Lemon Bushes?

Because they grow to fit the size of their container, standard Meyer lemon bushes can be found in many different sizes. When planted in a pot, they usually grow no taller than 3 to 6 feet.

Their eventual height depends on the size of the pot and also increases with age. When grown in the ground, however, Meyer lemon bushes are 6 to 10 feet tall and about 8 to 10 feet wide.

You can also find dwarf Meyer lemon bushes, which have the branches of a standard Meyer lemon grafted onto a dwarf lemon tree. Whether they're growing in the ground or in a pot, dwarf Meyer lemons grow to no more than 7 feet tall.

Our article "How To Grow A Lemon Tree Indoors From Seed (Quick Guide For Beginners)" will tell you more about growing lemons indoors or in containers.

yellow citrus lemon fruits green leaves

In Which Zones Can I Grow A Meyer Lemon Bush?

Meyer lemon bushes thrive in zones 8-11. This means they do the best in hot, tropical places. In the U.S., this is typically found in the southern part of the country and on the west coast. Like all citrus, they require hot temperatures to survive and will need extra care when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meyer lemons can be grown in zone 7 with some precautions. Plant them in a sheltered area, away from cold northern winds. You can also try insulating their roots with mulch and wrapping their trunks and branches in a blanket and plastic.

Otherwise, plant your Meyer lemon bush in a pot so you can bring it indoors during the winter.

If you'd like to learn more about overwintering your Meyer lemon bush in cooler climates, check out our article "How To Overwinter Lemon Trees."

ripe yellow orange meyer lemons on lemon

How Fast Does A Meyer Lemon Bush Grow?

Meyer lemons tend to be a slow-growing plant. They usually need several years before they start flowering and bearing fruit. This process is a little quicker in grafted trees, typically taking only about two years.

On the other hand, if you grow your Meyer lemon bush from seed, it usually takes at least seven years before you'll see any fruit.

The good news is that there are things you can do to speed up this process. Adding nitrogen fertilizer specifically made for citrus trees can help your plant bear fruit more quickly.

You can also expose it to cooler temperatures in the winter, but be sure to cover it if temperatures go below 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Finally, make sure your Meyer lemon bush gets at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day.

EZ-gro makes a liquid citrus tree fertilizer that provides the perfect amount of nitrogen for your Meyer lemon bush.

Check it out on Amazon here.

jar lemon plant portrait fresh yellow lemons healthy clean

How To Prune a Meyer Lemon Bush

Meyer lemon bushes should be pruned in late winter while they are still dormant. Pruning helps improve the overall health of your bush by removing weak or diseased branches ad allowing sunlight to penetrate the bush more fully. Only remove up to one-third of the bush's branches per season.

Before you start pruning, make sure that your shears or saw are very sharp. You need to make clean cuts because shredding or breaking the branch could leave it open to infection.

To disinfect the blades before making any cuts, wipe your pruning shears with rubbing alcohol on a cloth and let them dry.

If you need a new pair of pruning shears, check out these 8" ones. They're lightweight but strong enough to cut through tree branches.

Click here to view them on Amazon.

What You Need

  • Pruning shears or pruning saw
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cloth

Remove Shoots

First, check the tree's trunk for shoots. Shoots are the small beginnings of new branches, but too many can sap a plant's energy. Cut or saw the shoots off flush with the tree trunk. If you're pruning a dwarf Meyer lemon, remove all shoots growing below the graft site.

Next, remove shoots from the branches. This includes shoots that are vertical or almost vertical and water sprouts. These should also be cut off flush to the branch.

Cut Off Dead or Hanging Branches

Remove any branches that are growing back toward the middle of the tree or rubbing against each other. You can also prune away branches that are dangling toward the ground or rubbing on buildings, as this can damage the branch or allow insects and other pests to climb onto the bush.

Finally, cut off branches that are clearly dead. You can tell if a branch is dead by lightly scratching through the bark. If it feels dry and brittle, and the flesh is white, it's dead. However, if the flesh is green and moist, it's still alive.

Prune Away Diseased Branches

meyer lemons hanging tree bright

Inspect the tree for diseased or pest-infested branches. This might manifest as tiny holes or sawdust, blotchy leaves, or strange-looking fruit. If you find branches like these, cut them a few inches below the affected area into the healthy part of the branch.

Thoroughly clean the pruning saw or shears with rubbing alcohol after you're finished to avoid spreading disease to other trees.

You'll also need to properly dispose of the diseased or pest-filled branches. Even though composting is typically a great way to dispose of organic matter, it's not the right choice for this situation!

You don't want to send the disease or pests right back into your soil. Instead, put the branches in a plastic garbage bag, close it securely, and throw them away.

Shape The Bush

Finally, after you've finished clearing away the branches that should be removed for your bush's health, you can shape your Meyer lemon bush.

First, check for overly long or leggy branches. These can simply be trimmed back instead of cutting them off at the base.

However, make sure to cut no more than 1/4 inch away from a bud or spot where another branch joins.

You can also trim the bush's canopy to give it a nice rounded appearance. You can also do this to reduce the size of your Meyer lemon bush. Frequently step back from your bush to check its overall appearance and keep it balanced. 

In Closing

ripe yellow orange meyer lemons on lemon, yellow citrus lemon fruits green leaves

Although the Meyer lemon plant is interchangeably called a tree or a bush, it is technically a bush. However, they can be pruned to look like a tree without causing harm to the plant or its fruit. We hope this article helped you clarify this question on your Meyer lemon growing journey!