Why Is My Lemon Tree Growing Straight Up?

The growth habit of a lemon tree can be influenced by various factors, including its genetics, environment, and cultural practices. Some lemon trees may naturally grow straight up, while others may have a more spreading or weeping growth habit.

Understanding why a lemon tree is growing straight up can help in providing the appropriate care for the tree and encouraging a healthy and productive growth.

Lemon tree growth habit

Lemon trees are typically large shrubs or small to medium-sized trees that can reach heights of 20-30 feet (6-9 meters) when mature. The natural habit of a lemon tree is a slightly upright shape with a dense and spreading canopy.

The branches of a mature lemon tree typically have a weeping habit, which is characterized by drooping or arching branches with a curved growth pattern. The leaves of a lemon tree are glossy and dark green, and they are fragrant when crushed. Lemon trees also produce fragrant white flowers and small, round fruit that ripens to a yellow color.

It is important to note that not all lemon tree will have exactly the same growth habit and this can vary based on the cultivar. Some lemons tree may be more dwarf, bush-like and others are more columnar or vase-shaped.

Factors that influence growth habit

  1. Environmental factors:
  • Light exposure: Lemon trees need full sun to produce healthy fruit and leaves, but too much direct sun can cause the branches to grow straight up, in search of the light.
  • Soil conditions: Poor soil conditions, such as compacted or poorly drained soil, can restrict the tree’s root growth, causing it to grow taller and straighter to reach for light and nutrients.
  1. Pruning:
  • Heavy pruning can cause a lemon tree to grow straight up by removing the lower branches and leaving the top branches untouched.
  • Incorrect pruning can also cause an imbalance in the tree’s canopy, leading to an excessive growth of certain branches and a straighter overall shape.
  1. Pests and diseases:
  • Infestations or diseases can cause a lemon tree to grow straight up as it struggles to survive and redirects its energy to growing taller rather than wider.
  1. Genetics:
  • Some lemon cultivars may have a naturally upright growth habit, while others may have a more spreading or weeping habit.
  1. Cultural practices:
  • The way a lemon tree is grown and cared for can also influence its growth habit. For example, improperly staking or tying a tree can cause it to grow straight up.

Cultural practices

  1. Staking: Staking a lemon tree can be used to control its shape and growth habit. A properly staked tree should have a single, straight trunk with a strong, sturdy stake to support it. This can help to prevent the tree from growing too tall and leggy, and instead encourage a more balanced and healthy growth habit.
  2. Tying: Tying the branches of a lemon tree to a support, such as a stake or trellis, can help control the tree’s shape and growth habit. This can also help to keep the branches from breaking under the weight of fruit or heavy winds.
  3. Training: Training a lemon tree involves manipulating its growth by tying and pruning branches to encourage a desired shape. This can include selecting and maintaining a central leader, and removing crossing or rubbing branches to keep the tree symmetrical. Training should begin when the tree is young and the goal is to establish a strong structure.
  4. Watering: Lemon trees need regular watering to produce healthy fruit, but too much water can lead to root rot and other issues. Watering the tree when the top inch of soil is dry, and watering deeply, can help to keep the tree healthy and promote a balanced growth habit.
  5. Fertilizing: Fertilizing a lemon tree is important for promoting healthy growth and fruit production. The tree should be fertilized with a balanced fertilizer that contains the necessary nutrients for growth, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as additional micronutrients.

All these cultural practices should be applied under the best knowledge and matching the tree’s development stage. It is important to follow the best practices and consult with experts when dealing with specific lemon tree cultivar.


In summary, a lemon tree’s growth habit can be influenced by a variety of factors including genetics, environmental conditions, cultural practices and pests or diseases. Understanding these factors and providing appropriate care for the tree can help encourage healthy and productive growth.

Factors such as full sun exposure, balanced pruning, and appropriate cultural practices can help shape the tree’s growth habit and encourage a more spreading or weeping shape, rather than straight up. Additionally, paying attention to the tree’s health, and taking steps to prevent or address any pest or disease issues as soon as possible, can also help to maintain a healthy growth habit.

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