Lemon myrtles are prized for their lovely lemon-scented foliage and fabulous white flowers. Lemon myrtle trees thrive in warm conditions in USDA Zones 10 to 11 and need moist soils. In this article, I’ll share my experience on when and how to water lemon myrtle.
The Importance of Watering Correctly
All plants need water to survive because it’s a crucial component in photosynthesis. Water also forms up to 95% of a plant’s total mass. Without enough water, plants can’t develop strong, healthy growth.
During photosynthesis, plants absorb water through their roots and carbon dioxide and sunlight through their leaves. These ingredients are mixed together to produce glucose. The glucose is used as fuel to manufacture cellulose, which is the basic building block of plant tissue.
By absorbing water from the soil using their roots, plants can also absorb vital nutrients and minerals. These nutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Plants require these nutrients to produce healthy foliage, develop flowers, and improve their absorption of water and other nutrients.
When to Water Lemon Myrtle
While lemon myrtle trees (Backhousia citriodora) are fairly drought-tolerant, they still need water. Water lemon myrtle plants approximately once a week or so during the growing season. This keeps the soil slightly moist without letting the plant dry out completely.
How much you need to water your lemon myrtle depends on the plant’s age. Lemon myrtles are slow-growing plants that can live for several decades. As such, reaching maturity takes lemon myrtles approximately 3 to 4 years.
Water young or newly planted lemon myrtles more frequently than established trees. Young lemon myrtles must stay moist, so water them once or twice a week. Maintain this schedule for 2 or 3 years until the plant is well-established.
Lemon myrtles can also be grown in large containers. However, potted lemon myrtles need watering more frequently than those growing in the ground. Container plants dry out more quickly, especially in hot weather.
Seasonal Changes to Consider
Established lemon myrtles are reasonably drought-tolerant. However, you’ll need to monitor them closely during hot, dry summers to stop them from drying out completely. Water your lemon myrtle thoroughly once a week in hot summers, especially if the soil feels dry.
Lemon myrtles are evergreen plants that go dormant during the winter. However, they still need to stay hydrated. Water lemon myrtles once every week or two during the winter months. Check that the top few inches of soil feel dry before watering to prevent overwatering.
Give your lemon myrtle a thorough watering in the fall before the first frost arrives. Then apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant. This helps keep your lemon myrtle warm while also conserving water.
How to Water Lemon Myrtle
It’s important to water lemon myrtles correctly to avoid problems like root rot. Here’s a quick guide explaining how to water lemon myrtle:
- Check that the soil feels fairly dry before watering. You’ll need to water more frequently during hot summers and less frequently during the winter.
- Water the soil around the base of your lemon myrtle thoroughly. Try to avoid splashing any water on the leaves or flowers.
- Add a layer of mulch around the base of your lemon myrtle to help the plant conserve water. This works equally well during hot summers as it does during the winter.
Signs of Overwatering
Overwatering causes serious problems like root rot. The main symptoms of overwatering include:
- Drooping, wilting, or yellowing leaves
- Brown, mushy, or smelly roots
- Waterlogged soil
Signs of Underwatering
Underwatering also causes problems for lemon myrtles. Common symptoms of underwatering include:
- Cracked, dry soil
- Soil pulls away from the edge of the pot
- Limp, yellowing foliage
- Flower buds not opening or dropping off
Water young lemon myrtles once or twice weekly for the first two or three years and established lemon myrtles once a week. Water more frequently during the summer and less regularly during the winter.
For more, see our in-depth guide to growing and caring for lemon myrtles.