The Mystery of the Multiplying Meyer Lemons

I thought I had planted nine Meyer lemon seeds – 3 chitted and 6 direct sown….

…..and yet… I now count….

…THIRTEEN Meyer lemons! (There are four in the gray pot at the top right – two are tiny shoots that are difficult to see in the photo.) How did that happen??

I had to transplant the six plants on the left from the pot on the bottom right this weekend, because they were getting too crowded. At the outset of this experiment, I really didn’t expect many of the seeds to germinate. I thought of the nine I planted, I might get one or two, maybe three actual plants. But to my dismay (or delight) every last one, not only germinated, but formed a small plant with real leaves. Plus, I somehow grew four extra plants! Did I black out when I was planting seeds? Did I sow seeds in my sleep?

It’s a mystery.

Now I have to figure out if I’m going to bring all thirteen with me to California, or just select the best ones. That will be like picking a favorite child.

(See the other parts of the Meyer Lemon sage here, here, here, here, and here.)

We Have A Winner!

Over the past week, not one….not two… but FIVE direct-sown Meyer Lemon seeds have sprouted.

If you missed the first post about the Meyer Lemon seeds, and don’t know what I’m talking about read this first.

I chitted (green-sprouted, paper towel method, whatever you want to call it) three Meyer lemon seeds and direct sowed six seeds to see whether it was really worth the time and fussiness of green-sprouting first before planting. (Note: In my original post, I direct sowed three, but I was super skeptical that they would sprout, so I added three more to the pot a couple days later for good measure.

Well, as you know, two of the chitted Meyer lemon seeds germinated. I planted both chitted seeds in soil (the first on 4/11/20 and the second on 4/24/20). The one planted on 4/11 sprouted out of the dirt on 4/25. The seed planted on 4/24 sprouted out of the dirt on 5/2. In between the first seed sprouting and the second seed sprouting, FIVE of the six direct sown seeds sprouted.

The chitted seed is on the left and the direct sown seeds are on the right

That to me is an obvious vote for direct sowing. Five of six direct sown seeds sprouted in the same time it took 2 of 3 chitted seeds to sprout. Yes, I know it’s an N of 9, but I got better (or at least equal) results with direct sown Meyer lemons, and I didn’t have to bother with scarification or unfolding the paper towel every few days to see if anything had germinated. I just put the seeds in the soil, kept them moist, and waited.

To be fair, though, the chitted seed (in the above photo on the left) is a bit bigger than the other seeds, but I’m sure they’ll catch up quickly.

Another interesting part of this experiment is how long it took to get sprouts. I was almost about to give up. It took almost six weeks to get cotyledons. From what I read online, two weeks is standard. Not sure why my seeds are such slow pokes. My best guess is that they wanted warmer weather. Any other hypotheses?

Let’s just hope I can keep them alive during my upcoming move to California!

An Exciting Update!

Yesterday morning, Saturday, April 25th, I woke up to a lemon sprout poking its head out of the dirt! Success! We have a Meyer Lemon plant!

This is the Meyer Lemon seed that was chitted and scarified, and then planted in a pot once it had sprouted. I planted it two weeks ago, and was about to give up hope that it would ever come up. Altogether, it took 39 days to go from seed to the first cotyledons.

Additionally, last week, a second chitted Meyer Lemon sprouted, so I planted that one as well.

The blood orange seeds, on the other hand, have all rotted. I dug up the seeds that I had direct sown, and they were rotten too. Oh well. You win some you lose some. I’m just so pleased that the Meyer lemon seeds are working.

Update on the Citrus Seeds!

It’s been 26 days since I planted/chitted the citrus seeds, and the update is….well…mixed.

None of the seeds that were planted directly in soil have sprouted yet.

One of my chitted blood orange seeds rotted.

The seed at the bottom of this image is just soft white mush inside a seed coating

But….. one of the chitted Meyer Lemons has sprouted! Hooray!

A sprout!

The photo above is from 3 days ago. Nine days prior to that, I had removed the outer shells on the Meyer Lemons, after seeing no changes to the seeds for 14 days.

This, according to Plant Parenting, is called scarification.

While most annual vegetable seeds do not require pre-soaking or any special preparation for germination, seeds of some natives, perennials, and fruits with hard coats will require a bit of extra work on your part, whether it be a longer chitting/soaking period, scarification, stratification, or inoculation with rhizobium bacteria…. Seed scarification involves scraping away part of the hard coating to expose the seed to water and gases that trigger germination. In the natural environment, temperature, soil microbes, and even fire can break down seed coats. Animals eat seeds, which are then exposed to stomach acid which breaks down the seed coat.

Planting Parenting by Leslie Halleck

She has some very interesting suggestions for how to scarify seeds.

I just pulled off the seed coating using my finger nails. It’s hard to know if the scarification helped, or if the seeds just needed more time…

Now that I have a sprouted seed, I need to plant it! But how soon do I plant it? Should I plant it right away, as soon as I see a sprout? Or do I wait for the sprout to get bigger?

I couldn’t find any consistent solid guidance on this, so I decided to wait for the sprout to get a little bigger. Here it is two days after I first noticed the sprout (yesterday):

It grew a tiny bit more.

I decided to plant it at that point. I put it in the same pot as the direct-sown Meyer lemon seeds. As you can see there is no growth of the other Meyer Lemons (at least from what I can see above the soil). After planting the seed, I covered the pot again with a plastic bag to keep the humidity in, and crossed my fingers.