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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - March 20, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Mid-summer watering needs of non-native dwarf Meyer Lemon tree in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Central Texas outside Austin city limits. I've recently purchased a dwarf Meyer lemon tree and planted it in a large pot. It's doing very well. I will be out-of-state from July through mid-August. Can you make any suggestions how to keep my tree alive for six weeks during the summer? Since I don't live in town, having someone come by to water the tree is not an option. I really like this tree, I don't want to lose it. Your help is greatly appreciated.

ANSWER:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants are being grown. This is because a plant native to an area is adapted to climate, envirionment, soils and rainfall and has a better chance of surviving in adverse conditions. The Meyer Lemon is a lemon tree brought from China in 1905 by a man named Meyer, thus the name. However, even if it were a native plant, and native to Central Texas, we do not believe it could survive the conditions which you describe.

On the website from Martha Stewart.com Dwarf Meyer Lemon, the necessary conditions for this plant are listed, including this excerpt:

"Water when top few inches of soil are dry but rest of root zone is slightly moist. Lemon trees require moisture all year, especially during active growth from late winter or early spring through summer, when fruit is developing."

How are you caring for the rest of your garden during your absence? If you have an automatic sprinkler system, perhaps the lemon tree could be moved in range of that system, or some portion of the system redirected. The tree will not survive 6 weeks without moisture in Texas in the middle of our very hot summers. We went online looking for commercial solutions to your problem. The best product we saw was unfortunately on a website from the U.K., so we ignored that one. We did find a site from Gardener's Supply Company on Watering which had some suggestions. We have no experience with a system of this sort, and suggest you first try a home improvement store with a nursery department and see if they have something to suggest.

Since this tree is considered hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11, and Wimberley is in Zone 8a, you are probably going to have to bring it in during the winter anyway. Sorry we couldn't be of more help.

 

 

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