Rooting cuttings taken from lemon trees (aka: cloning lemon trees) is an easy
and rewarding way to make your own lemon tree. If you own the basic garden
supplies you can make your own lemon tree for free compared to the $50 or more
you might pay for a two year old tree at your local nursery. Besides the savings
in cost, taking cuttings from a lemon tree allows you to select varieties
that do well in your growing area. Look for an established tree in your area that
seems to be in good health and has lots of fruit on it. The cuttings shown in the
pictures included with this article are from a meyers lemon tree planted by my
grandmother in the 1970's. The tree is 8 feet tall and wide. It produces an
enormous amount of fruit year round and has withstood the winters of its coastal
environment for the last 30+ years.
So as far as tools needed for this project:
You need a pair of clippers (sharp clippers are good here)
Some good unused potting soil (seed starting mixes are good for this)
A 1 gallon planting pot (clean it before use, save it it when done)
Some rooting hormone powder. I use Rootone. It is made by Gardentech and features
a fungicide that helps your success rate tremendously. One bottle of Rootone will last the
average home user for many years.
To take cuttings from your selected tree, first locate small branches that
arent holding fruit. Cut lengths about 8-10 inches long leaving all the leaves
intact for now. These are a little longer than the final planted cutting.
I use new wood identified by its lack of bark and green stem color.
Take as many cuttings as you feel like planting. For this example I used 12
cuttings to fill a gallon pot.
For these cuttings I used a damp paper towel to wrap up the cuttings and then
put these into a paper cup for transport to my house.
Once home, gather the required materials together and begin the planting process.
I wouldn't wait overnight to start this but in a pinch you could put them in water
to hold them untill you had time to plant.
Fill the gallon pot with your potting soil and soak this soil thouroughly. New
soil has a tendency to repel water at first if it is very dry. Using a pencil or
similar sized object, poke as many holes as you have cuttings a few inches deep
in the soil in a pattern that will allow each plant to have more or less equal
space between them.
Now for the cuttings you took earlier. Take each cutting one by one and cut off
all but 3 upper leaves. Remove any forming fruit buds by pinching them off. Then
make a cut on the stem removing the lower part of the stem and leaving you with
a cutting of the desired planting length about 6- 8 inches. I make an angled cut
on the stem with the theory that it increases surface space of the cut, thus increasing
After making this cut dip the plant in your can of rooting hormone about as deep
as you intend on planting the cutting. Rooting hormone powder keeps the plants from
getting stem rot and encourages cuttings to take root. I use Rootone because it's
what I'm familiar with and I have always had reliable results from it, but I have
recently seen some organic alternatives offered, however I haven't talked to anyone
that has tried it. You could also try to root them with no rooting powder and probably
get some success but the powder it cheap insurance for success.
Stick this cutting into one of your previously made holes trying not to rub off
too much of the rooting powder. This is you last chance to position you cutting
at the hieght you prefer and with the remaining leaves oriented how you like.
When positioned to your liking, gently pack the soil around the stem with your
Repeat these steps with the remaining cuttings until the pot is filled. My
finished pot of cuttings looked like this.
So thats the hard part. Now its just a matter of keeping this pot moist and warm
and waiting. If you live in a non freezing environment you could probablyt just
leave this outside and keep it moist. I put mine in a cold frame I have to protect them
from the occasional frosts we get. You could bring it in the house if you have the
space. It doesn't require bright sunlight to make the cuttings root. Don't leave it
in total darkness however. Most important is to keep the cuttings in a warm average light
environment with good supply of moisture. Drying out the soil, especially in the early
stages will almost certainly result in total loss. You could also use one of the
available heating pads for placing under the pot of cuttings and this would probably
speed up this process, but this article focuses on keeping costs and complexity to
Over the course of a few months I gradually lost some of the cuttings. Not all of
the cuttings will make roots, try not to take it personally. The idea is to take more
than you need so that some loss is accounted for. After a month more I notice that some of
cuttings had produced small flower buds at thier tips. These developed into small fruit
which consequently turned black and fell off. These plants then began to grow new branches
and leaves. After I was sure the plants were properly rooted (proabably another 3-4 weeks)
I carefully removed the individual plants and potted them up to individual plants
in thier own gallon sized pots.
From here its matter of patience and occasional feeding until you feel that the plant
is ready to put into a larger pot or put into the ground in your desired home. If things
go right you should have plenty to experiment with in different spots. Don't prune the new
plants for the first few years until the plant can become established in its new home.
Fruit from the new tree varies with a ton of different factors including the type of tree
you got the cuttings from and how well they adjust to thier new life as a cutting taking
root and being repotted. The key here is patience, patience, patience. This is a tree
not a tomatoe plant, don't expect lemonaide the first year.
Hope this article contained some helpful information to you. If you have any questions
or comments about this article, I would love to help you out. feel free to e-mail me @