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How to Bonsai a Lemon Tree (7 Steps)

You can bonsai just about any tree, including ones you wouldn’t normally expect, such as a lemon tree. 

And luckily, bonsaiing a lemon tree is not that difficult. 

For the most part, bonsaiing a lemon tree is not too much different from bonsaiing any other tree. 

You’ll just need to grow the tree, shape it, and prune it. 

Your biggest challenge will be ensuring that the tree’s fruits don’t snap the branches. 

In this article, I’ll provide a rough breakdown of how one should go about turning a lemon tree into a bonsai tree.

7 Steps to Bonsai a Lemon Tree

1) Choose the Right Soil and Tray

Some people may think you need special soil for bonsai trees, but this isn’t really the case.

In fact, if you already have a garden, you will probably be fine using soil from that garden for your lemon bonsai.

That said, if you want to go with prepackaged special soil you may get from the store, you can’t really go wrong with that either. 

You may even get better results since that soil has no chance of containing weed seedlings or other bad things.

On the other hand, when it comes to picking a tray for your bonsai, you want a shallow container roughly 6-12 inches (15-31 cm) deep, but no more or less than that. 

2) Plant Your Seeds

To begin, you’ll need to put your potting soil in your seed tray. 

And when doing so, leave about 0.5 inches (1 cm) of space between the soil and the rim of the container.

Then, water your potting soil until it is moist. 

Next, if you are going to take seeds from a lemon fruit itself, you should cut the lemon in half and take out the seeds. 

You’ll also want to wash them with water so the seeds are free of juice or pulp, which could give any fungus a breeding ground. 

Afterward, you will want to plant multiple moist seeds in your tray so that you have the best chance of at least one of them growing into a full-sized bonsai. 

When planting, make sure to place the seeds about 0.5 inches (1 cm) deep and at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart. 

Finally, after planting your seeds, cover the container with plastic wrap to ensure the soil remains as moist as possible.

You’ll also want to keep the tray somewhat warm because citrus plants, like lemon, don’t appreciate the cold. 

3) Pick a Sprout

It should only take about two weeks before you start seeing sprouts. 

At this point, you’ll want to remove the plastic from the tray and bring the tray to a place with plenty of sunlight. 

You will still need to keep the soil moist during this time, by the way.

Then, a month after you’ve planted your seeds, you should be able to see which sprouts are healthy and which are weak. 

At this point, you’ll want to uproot the bad ones so that the healthy sprouts don’t have to share nutrients. 

And after two months, the seedlings will be fully grown. 

You can then select which one you think will make the best bonsai.

4) Move the Sprout to a Pot

Now comes the time when you will move your best sprout to its own pot to grow into a bonsai. 

To do this, you’ll want to put 2 inches (5 cm) of pebbles at the bottom of a small pot to allow for water drainage. 

And don’t forget that you’ll want to choose a pot that is bigger than the tray but not large enough to give your tree a considerable area to grow. 

Then, you can fill the pot with soil, leaving at least 1 inch (2 cm) between the soil and the rim.

Next, dig up your seedling as carefully as possible. 

You want to avoid damage to the roots at all costs when you do this step. 

A seedling with damaged roots could survive, but it’s better not to risk something going wrong.

Thus, go slowly and carefully when transplanting your seedling. 

5) Train the Shape of Your Seedling

Unfortunately, lemon trees do not grow particularly fast. 

So, it will be about a year before you can start training your lemon tree into the shape you want. 

But, after that year, you will use metal wires to affix the trunk and the branches of the lemon sapling in the positions you desire.

Just remember that you will need to be careful while shaping your tree.

Obviously, the tree can flex a bit but make sure you don’t twist it in ways that actually cause damage. 

Also, never tie the metal wires so tightly that they cut into the bark. 

Additionally, if you want a shape that you can’t get with wires alone, you can use a weighted string to weigh down the trunk or branches in appropriate spots.

6) Prune Your Bonsai 

Six months after you have started to train the shape of your lemon sapling, you can begin pruning its branches. 

Basically, you need to prune areas that are growing upwards instead of outwards. 

Regular pruning will train the tree’s branches to start growing in other directions because if you always prune the sections that grow upwards, the branches will eventually stop growing that way.

7) Care for Your Lemon Bonsai 

Once you’ve hit this point in the process, it’s just a matter of allowing your tree to grow. 

All that’s really left for you to do is water and prune it regularly, assuming you have already removed the metal wires since the tree has acquired the shape you want. 

Other than that, you just need to leave enough space between the branches of your lemon bonsai tree for the lemons themselves to grow. 

And remember that the lemons will be the same size as those on a full-sized lemon tree, so you also need to watch out for breakage. 

Because the tiny limbs of your tree can easily break under the weight of the fruit, you’ll need to remove any lemons that look like they’re about to crack the branches. 


Overall, bonsaiing a lemon tree is not that much different from bonsaiing any other tree. 

Mostly, you just need to ensure you monitor the fruit when it comes in to prevent damage to your tree.

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