Lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) is a compact evergreen tree native to Australia. The lemon-scented leaves can be used for cooking and flavoring. While lemon myrtle isn’t common in the United States, it’s worth giving it a go. In this article, I’ll share my experience of growing and caring for lemon myrtles.
Where and How to Plant Lemon Myrtle
Lemon myrtle needs full sun to partial shade and fertile, well-draining soils that still retain moisture. These adaptable shrubs can tolerate various types of soil. However, they do prefer slightly acidic soils with a pH range between 5.5 and 6.5.
Dig a hole that’s as deep as the root ball and twice as large. Add organic matter such as compost or manure to provide nutrients. Place the lemon myrtle’s root system into the soil and fill in around it before watering it in. Lemon myrtles can also be grown in containers.
Lemon myrtle needs full sun or partial shade to produce its best flowers. Lemon myrtle requires about 6 hours of direct sunlight daily in warm climates. However, lemon myrtle shrubs need partial shade in hot, dry climates.
Lemon myrtle shrubs thrive in most soils as long as the conditions are well-draining. For optimal growth, they require moderately moist soil but hate being waterlogged. In addition, lemon myrtles also need slightly acidic soils with a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5.
Temperature & Humidity
Lemon myrtles are native to subtropical rainforests, so they need warm, humid conditions to grow at their best. They can tolerate cooler climates, but this can inhibit the size of the plant. In addition, lemon myrtles struggle when exposed to frost, so grow them in containers and move them indoors in cooler climates.
Water established lemon myrtle shrubs approximately once weekly if the soil feels dry (more frequently in hot, dry summers). Water young or newly planted lemon myrtles regularly to help them establish good roots. This takes approximately three years.
Fertilize lemon myrtles once a year after the flowering season finishes. Use slow-release fertilizer granules or apply a diluted liquid fertilizer. Always follow the instructions on the fertilizer packet.
Avoid harvesting leaves from your lemon myrtle straight after it’s been fertilized. The ingredients in the fertilizer can affect the taste of the leaves.
Lemon myrtle shrubs can be pruned at any time of year. However, the best time is in winter or late spring when the shrub is dormant. Lemon myrtles can be easily trimmed or shaped to suit your needs. Always use sterile, sharp cutting tools when pruning your lemon myrtle, as this reduces the risk of disease.
Common Lemon Myrtle Pests & Diseases
Aphids and spider mites are the most common pests that attack lemon myrtle shrubs. Eliminate them using insecticidal soap or horticultural oils.
Lemon myrtles are susceptible to myrtle rust, a fungal disease that causes purple spots on the leaves. Myrtle rust cannot be cured, so provide your myrtle with ideal growing conditions to reduce the risk of infection.
Lemon myrtle shrubs add fragrance and elegance to subtropical gardens. The leaves are used extensively in cooking thanks to their lemony flavor. For optimal growth, lemon myrtle shrubs require full sun or partial shade and well-draining, slightly acidic soils.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.