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Citrus limon - (L.)Burm.f.

Common Name Lemon
Family Rutaceae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards Low potential for sensitization through skin contact with volatile oil [301].
Habitats Original habitat is obscure, probably a hybrid involving C. medica x C. aurantifolia[200].
Range Original range is obscure, possible Asia.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (5 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Citrus limon Lemon

Citrus limon Lemon


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Citrus limon is an evergreen Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower all year. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Apomictic (reproduce by seeds formed without sexual fusion), insects. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


C. x limonia. C. limonum

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; South Wall. By. West Wall. By.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Oil
Edible Uses: Condiment  Oil

Fruit - raw or cooked[1, 3, 46]. A very acid taste[61]. Mainly used as a drink and as a flavouring[183, 238]. It is also used in salad dressings etc where it acts as an antioxidant as well as imparting an acid flavour[183]. The juice is used to help set jam[238]. The fruit can be up to 15cm long and 7cm wide[200]. The dried rind of the fruit is often used as a flavouring in cakes etc[1, 4, 61, 183]. The dried leaves are sometimes mixed with tea leaves for use as a flavouring[183]. An essential oil from the rind is used as a food flavouring[46, 64, 183]. The flowers are eaten in ice creams, fritters, jams etc[183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Fruit (Fresh weight)
  • 28 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 90%
  • Protein: 0.8g; Fat: 0.5g; Carbohydrate: 8.2g; Fibre: 0.6g; Ash: 5.4g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 33mg; Phosphorus: 15mg; Iron: 0.5mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 3mg; Potassium: 137mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 12mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.5mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.02mg; Niacin: 0.1mg; B6: 0mg; C: 52mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes: The figures given here are the median of a range given in the report.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antibacterial  Antiperiodic  Antiscorbutic  Aromatherapy  Astringent  Carminative  Malaria  Miscellany  
Refrigerant  Rubefacient  Stimulant  Stomachic  Vitamin C

Lemons are an excellent preventative medicine and have a wide range of uses in the domestic medicine chest. The fruit is rich in vitamin C which helps the body to fight off infections and also to prevent or treat scurvy[4, 240, 254]. It was at one time a legal requirement that sailors should be given an ounce of lemon each day in order to prevent scurvy[4]. Applied locally, the juice is a good astringent and is used as a gargle for sore throats etc[4]. Lemon juice is also a very effective bactericide[7]. It is also a good antiperiodic and has been used as a substitute for quinine in treating malaria and other fevers[4]. Although the fruit is very acid, once eaten it has an alkalizing effect upon the body[254]. This makes it useful in the treatment of rheumatic conditions[254]. The skin of the ripe fruit is carminative and stomachic[240]. The essential oil from the skin of the fruit is strongly rubefacient and when taken internally in small doses has stimulating and carminative properties[4]. The stem bark is bitter, stomachic and tonic[218]. An essential oil from the fruit rind is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Refreshing'[210]. Citrus species contain a wide range of active ingredients and research is still underway in finding uses for them. They are rich in vitamin C, bioflavonoids, acids and volatile oils. They also contain coumarins such as bergapten which sensitizes the skin to sunlight. Bergapten is sometimes added to tanning preparations since it promotes pigmentation in the skin, though it can cause dermatitis or allergic responses in some people[238]. Some of the plants more recent applications are as sources of anti-oxidants and chemical exfoliants in specialized cosmetics[238]. The bioflavonoids in the fruit help to strengthen the inner lining of blood vessels, especially veins and capillaries, and help counter varicose veins and easy bruising[254].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Cleanser  Essential  Miscellany  Oil  Polish  Pot-pourri  Repellent

A semi-drying oil obtained from the seed is used in soap making[46, 61]. An essential oil from the peel is used as a food flavouring and also in perfumery and medicines[7, 46, 61]. A higher quality essential oil is obtained from the flowers[7]. The peel contains 0.4% essential oil[240]. An essential oil obtained from the leaves and young twigs is called 'petitgrain oil'. Yields are around 0.4%[240]. The dried fruit rind has been used as an insect repellent in the clothes cupboard[7] and also in pot-pourri[238]. The juice of the fruit is used for polishing bronze and other metals that have been neglected[7]. It can also be used for removing ink stains[7]. The juice is used as a bleaching agent[272]. Wood - nicely veined, it takes a beautiful polish[4].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers a moderately heavy loam with a generous amount of compost and sand added and a very sunny position[1, 200]. Prefers a pH between 5 and 6[200]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.8 to 8.3. Plants are intolerant of water logging[3]. When growing plants in pots, a compost comprising equal quantities of loam and leafmould plus a little charcoal should produce good results[260]. Do not use manure since Citrus species dislike it[260]. When watering pot plants it is important to neither overwater or underwater since the plant will soon complain by turning yellow and dying. Water only when the compost is almost dry, but do not allow it to become completely dry[260]. Dormant plants can withstand temperatures down to about -6°c so long as this is preceded by a spell of 2 - 3 weeks of cool weather to allow the plant to acclimatize[3]. If the change from mild to cold weather is more sudden then the plant will still be in growth and will be much more susceptible to damage and can be harmed by temperatures below 0°c[3]. The young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun[K]. It is best if a winter minimum of 4°c is maintained[3]. The lemon is widely grown for its edible fruit in warm temperate and tropical zones, there are many named varieties[183]. In Britain it can be grown in a pot that is placed outdoors in the summer and brought into a greenhouse for the winter[3]. By budding onto hardier species such as C. aurantium, C. ichangensis or Poncirus trifoliata, the lemon becomes more cold tolerant and its climatic range can be somewhat extended[3]. The flowers are sweetly scented[245]. Plants dislike root disturbance and so should be placed into their permanent positions when young. If growing them in pots, great care must be exercised when potting them on into larger containers[238].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

The seed is best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it ripe after thoroughly rinsing it[164, 200]. Sow stored seed in March in a greenhouse[3]. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 13°c. Seedlings are liable to damp off so they must be watered with care and kept well ventilated. The seed is usually polyembrionic, two or more seedlings arise from each seed and they are genetically identical to the parent but they do not usually carry any virus that might be present in the parent plant[200]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least three growing seasons before trying them outdoors. Plant them out in the summer and give them some protection from the cold for their first few winters outdoors. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Layering in October.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Citrus aurantiifoliaLime, Key Lime, Mexican Lime, Mexican Thornless Key LimeTree6.0 10-12 MLMHNM423
Citrus aurantiumBitter Orange, Sour orange, Bergamot orangeTree9.0 8-11  MHNM334
Citrus hystrixKaffir LimeShrub6.0 9-12 MLMHNM323
Citrus ichangensisIchang PapedaShrub4.5 7-10  LMHNM22 
Citrus latifoliaCitrus Tahitian LimeTree5.0 9-11 MLMHSM422
Citrus reticulataMandarin, Tangerine, Unshu orange, Satsuma Orange,Temple Orange, TangerineTree4.5 9-11  MHNM332
Citrus sinensisSweet OrangeTree9.0 9-11  MHNM433
Citrus x meyeriLemonShrub3.0 8-11 MMHNM355
Citrus x paradisiGrapefruit, Pomelo, PamplemousseTree7.0 9-11 MLMHNS411

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

david Nicholls   Thu Oct 18 2007

Citrus aurantifolia(I thought permaculture/pff explorers might be interested in this) Louis Glowinski in "The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia" says the Tahitian Lime as opposed to the Mexican Lime is almost as hardy as the Lemon. The leaves are sometimes said to be medicinal, might be worth a try in cooler places. He even says the fruit "may well be able to ripen in cool climates". I haven't found anything else to indicate this, you'd think everyone would know if it could, but I thought worth mentioning, he is an outstanding author in my opinion.

bob   Tue May 6 2008

wikipedia have a look at this site

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