13 Problems of Growing Lemon Trees in Pots + Solutions 

Growing lemon trees in the garden may come with problems. However, when you are growing lemon trees in pots, problems are bound to occur. Most of these issues arise because the lemon tree is restricted in terms of space, soil, and nutrients. 

Lemon trees in pots face problems like yellow or brown leaves, loss of leaves and fruit, slow growth, dropping off flowers, sucker branches, pests and disease, increased vulnerability to cold and frost, and transplant shock.

Not everyone is blessed with a large backyard to grow their fruits or vegetables, so you have to improvise and make do with the area you have. However, with container gardening, you are likely to encounter a few problems. Prepare yourself to handle them!

Here are 13 common problems with growing lemon trees in pots and the solution to cure it. 

Problems Of Growing Lemons Trees in Containers

There are many problems associated with growing lemon trees in pots. These problems can range from not having enough sunlight to a lack of nutrients or pests and diseases.

#1- Yellow Leaves 

Lemon tree leaves turning yellow could be a sign of not enough water, or lack of Nitrogen. Nitrogen is needed by the plant to use chlorophyll to carry out photosynthesis, which is food production for the plant to grow and take out healthy leaves.


Water the container deeply until the water runs out of the drainage holes at the bottom. Every season feed the plant with chicken manure, that’s four times a year. This helps to replenish depleted Nitrogen levels. 

#2- Green Veins and Yellow Leaves

It seems that we are not the only ones that suffer from Iron deficiency, lemons do too! This is common in container-planted lemons that are not fertilized often, as they have a limited allocation of the mineral. Symptoms usually affect the young leaves first and then spread. 


This needs to be treated with Iron chelates, which you can buy in powder or liquid form. You should do this every spring to stop the problem. The lemon tree can also be given food meant for citrus trees. 

#3- Brown Leaves

A potted lemon tree can also suffer from brown leaves if it is moved from the shade into the hot sun. It can also be a sign that it is lacking water. Either way, it could even be a combination of the two that makes lemon tree leaves turn brown. 


If your lemon tree has been in the shade, gradually acclimatize the plant to the sun. You should be aware that your lemon tree will need more frequent watering than those planted in the ground. 

You can surround your lemon plant with other potted plants so that it is provided with shade and humidity. Here are solutions to lemon trees with brown leaves.

#4- Drooping Leaves 

Lack of water can cause your potted lemon tree leaves to droop in a few hours, this is common though. It may resolve and it may not. Be warned, don’t wait forever to find out! 


Water with a garden hose and water deeply at the end of the day, so the water is not lost to evaporation. Mulch the surface area of the pot to reduce evaporation.

#5- Fungus

Fungal growth can grow on leaves and can be white, black, or gray. The most common one though is Sooty Mold which is of a gray color covering the leaves. It is caused by excess water sitting on the leaves.


You can use a fungal spray if you want to, but there are other preventative measures you should take. Water the base of the plant and avoid getting water on the leaves, keep the tree trimmed to increase air circulation, and cut off infected leaves so the mold does not spread.

#6- Slow Growth

You may notice that your lemon tree is not growing much, or perhaps there is no growth at all! This could be a lack of nutrients or some other factor that is vital for lemon tree growth. Something is lacking or maybe it is present in an excessive amount.  


Re-pot your lemon tree with a good quality potting mix with a slow-release fertilizer. Also, add good organic matter for better drainage. Situate the plant in a spot that receives a lot of Sun. Frequently water the lemon pot plants. 

#7- Dropping Flowers

Lemon trees that drop flowers will mean less fruit. Naturally, a lemon tree will drop more flowers if it cannot bear too many lemons in proportion to its size. But, reasonless dropping of flowers is a common problem with lemon trees in pots. 


Lemon trees tend to get rid of flowers that are not pollinated. To solve this, move them where they can be pollinated by bees or other pollinators. Or if you do not have many potted lemon trees, you can do it yourself with a paintbrush. 

#8- No Flowers and Fruit

If your lemon tree is not producing flowers or lemons it could be too young. A tree would have to be 3 years old to be mature enough to start giving you fruit. So, it may also be that long until it flowers. 


Give the lemon tree a bit of time or try getting a relatively mature lemon tree. Read this blog about how long it takes for lemon trees to bear fruit.

#9- Fruit Drop

Any sudden change in temperature could stress out your lemon tree and cause it to drop its flowers or lemons. A lack of water could also cause it to do the same. Either way, it is a sign of stress! 


If you know that the next few days are going to be hot or cold, prepare your plant. If it is hot, water your lemon tree pot. But, if it is cold, bring it into a warmer area or cover it.

Some parts of the day are hotter than others, make sure your lemon tree is in shade during the most extreme periods of sun exposure. 

#10- Sucker Branches

Another problem with lemon trees in pots is that like their counterparts, they are prone to sucker branches. These are branches that grow out of the rootstock.

Many times nurseries will graft lemon trees on hardy rootstocks to improve the hardiness and other characteristics of the lemon tree.

However, under stress, the rootstock will try to take over the tree! In such cases, these protruding branches become a nuisance. 


Remove sucker branches as soon as they appear! Using a sharp pair of pruners, cut these thin branches cleanly. Try to cut them off as close to the trunk without damaging the wood of the trunk. Keep a watchful eye for their return! 

#11- Pests

There are many pests that will mount an infection on lemon trees grown in pots. The most common are aphids, scale, and bronze orange bugs. All of which attach to foliage and suck sap from the tree. Ultimately, this affects growth, flowering, and even fruit production. 


All these bugs can reproduce quickly, so immediate treatment is essential. Treat aphids by first hosing them down under high pressure. Thereafter, treat all these pests with a combination of Neem oil and soapy water. Severe applications will require more applications.

#12- Diseases 

Lemon trees, pot-bound or ground-bound, are not immune to diseases!

Depending on tree quality, location, and hygiene when grown, a potted lemon tree suffers from diseases such as Blight, Citrus Canker, Root Rot, Tristeza, and Citrus Stubborn disease. 


The best solution for the disease is actually working hard to prevent it. Water lemon trees with clean water, inspect for pests regularly, and just make your tree healthy and happy. Severe infestations may call for pesticides.  

#13- Cold and Frosts

Your lemon tree will be more susceptible to cold and frost compared to a lemon tree in the ground. Naturally, a potted lemon tree will only grow in a USDA zone warmer than what its ground-grown tree would survive! 

So, a lemon tree suited to ground growth in USDA zone 9 will only grow well in a pot in USDA zone 10. 


Protect your plant from the frost by bringing it indoors. But, if it is too large and there is frost outdoors, surround the pot with other pots for protection. Also, you can choose to insulate the plant by wrapping it in breathable fabrics that keep the plant safe from frost. 

Transplant Shock – Problem For Lemon Trees in Pots

Almost every lemon tree grown in a pot has been through this problem, transplant shock. If not done properly or not amended fast enough, it may claim your lemon tree! It may even be the leading problem when transplanting any plant or tree. 

Transplant shock occurs when you take a plant from its existing environment and place it in a new one. The longer the plant is away from its soil, the more severe the transplant shock will be. 

Before transplanting a lemon tree, ensure the new location is completely suitable for lemon tree growth. The closer the new conditions are to the old ones, the better. But, with sound care, the lemon tree will make it. 

Solve the mystery as to why lemon trees are sticky? 

Advantages of Growing Lemon Trees in Containers

  • There are dwarf cultivars that do well in containers such as Meyer, Lisbon, and Ponderosa Dwarf.
  • Water is not wasted, so it is a Waterwise culture.
  • Sometimes garden soil quality can be poor, whereas in a container you can control the soil quality.
  • You can move the pot to a different location if needed.


You are likely to encounter several growing problems with lemon trees in pots. They suffer from the same conditions a grounded lemon tree suffers from and are more related to its pot-bound nature. 

Problems likely to affect potted lemon trees are: 

  1. Discoloration of leaves (yellow, brown, green veins)
  2. Loss of leaves and fruit
  3. Slow growth
  4. Dropping of flowers
  5. Sucker branches 
  6. Pests and disease
  7. Increased vulnerability to cold and frost 

Have another problem with potted lemon trees in pots? Read about why lemon tree leaves drop off!


Are pot-grown Lemon trees more hardy than ground-grown Lemon trees? 

Grounded lemon trees are more hardy if you want to plant your lemon tree outdoors. But, if you are willing to have a permanent indoor lemon tree in a pot, the potted variant will be more hardy as it will not have to tolerate cold weather.