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Pink Lemonade Tree: Unusual Lemons You’ll Love

A pink lemonade tree is a perfect addition to the edible landscape. The variegated foliage makes them a beautiful ornamental plant with the bonus of a unique pink flesh lemon with a striped peel. The peel is striped green and yellow and changes to pink and yellow as it fully ripens.

The pink lemonade tree is a Eureka-type lemon, so the taste is similar to the standard Eureka lemons found at the store. Don’t let the name fool you! The pink-flesh variegated lemon is not the key ingredient for pink lemonade. Pink lemonade includes additional ingredients to add sweetness and the pink color, but you can still make some delicious lemonade with these. The variegated lemons can be used just as you would a regular lemon, but they offer an intriguing look that is great for cocktails, desserts, and décor.

A pink lemonade tree will not fruit as much as a conventional Eureka lemon tree, but it should produce enough for a single household if it’s well cared for. This particular cultivar loves warm weather and is sensitive to cold winters. If you live in an area with warm weather and mild winters, the pink lemonade tree will fit right in. Fortunately, pink lemonade trees grow well in containers so growing in colder areas is not a problem as long as the tree can be brought indoors during freezing temperatures. 

Whether you have a full-blown homestead or a modest patio garden, the pink lemon tree will fit right in adding beauty and providing a unique treat that everyone will enjoy. 

Quick Care Guide

Pink lemonade tree
A pink lemonade tree can be a lovely addition to a home orchard. Source: T. Christensen
Common Name(s)Pink Lemonade Tree, Variegated Pink Eureka, Variegated Pink Lemon
Scientific NameCitrus limon
Days to Harvest4-9 months
LightFull to partial sun
Water:Moderate; water weekly
SoilWell-draining
FertilizerCitrus formulation
PestsMites, thrips, scales, aphids, lepidopterans, Asian citrus psyllid
DiseasesPhytophthora root rot, Anthracnose, Botrytis, Huanglongbing (HLB)

All About The Pink Lemonade Tree

The pink lemonade tree is a eureka-type lemon under the species Citrus limon. It is also commonly referred to as a variegated pink eureka lemon and variegated pink lemon. The variegation on the tree makes it very attractive to home gardeners and the fruit also has some unique characteristics that include a striped peel and pink flesh.

The species Citrus limon originates from Southeast Asia, but many cultivars have been developed over the years. The original eureka lemon was grown from seeds originating from Italy and planted in California. The variegated pink lemon tree is derived from a natural mutation from a conventional Eureka lemon in a home garden located in Burbank, CA. Budwood was taken from the mutated sport and developed as a new cultivar.

The pink lemonade tree leaves are alternate, elliptic, and variegated green and white. Flower buds are magenta when developing and fade to a pale pink as the flowers bloom. Flowers and fruit grow in clusters. The fruit is also variegated but is green and yellow. As it matures, the variegation may fade to pink and yellow. The size and shape of the lemons are similar to the standard eureka lemon with the peel being a little more rough and bumpy on the variegated version.

The pink lemonade tree is typically sold on a dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock so the size ranges from 6-15 feet in height. It typically flowers in the spring and is ready to harvest in fall through late winter. The variegated lemon tree produces year-round if the temperature allows so flowering and harvesting will depend on the growing zone.

Luckily the pink lemonade tree is self-fertile, so you don’t need to grow multiple varieties to bear fruit. Keep in mind, variegated plants have a reduced ability to photosynthesize due to the decreased chlorophyll in the leaves. These grow slower than a standard non-variegated tree and will need more light to thrive.

Planting

The best time to plant this is from April through August. Saplings can be planted in the ground or a large container. Avoid planting when temperatures are above 100°F. Plant in a sunny location with good drainage. This species should be planted as a grafted tree. Rootstocks provide disease resistance and in some cases cold tolerance. When planting grafted trees, do not bury the graft union. If possible leave at least 4-5 inches of the rootstock above the soil.

Purchase yours from a trusted nursery that follows local regulations in regards to citrus. Citrus-producing states such as California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida may have movement restrictions on young trees. Check with your local agricultural extension office for more information on restrictions in your area.

Care

Variegated pink lemon tree leaves
The leaves of this variety look just like Eureka lemon tree leaves. Source: jdehaan

Growing a pink lemonade tree is extremely easy. Follow the care guide below to have a problem-free growing experience.

Sun and Temperature

Although they can tolerate partial sun, the pink lemonade tree grows more vigorously in full sunlight. Because the tree is variegated, it requires more light than a non-variegated tree due to its inhibited ability to photosynthesize. It requires a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sun.

Eureka lemons are not very cold tolerant. The variegated pink lemon is hardy to USDA zones 9-10. Ideal temperatures during the winter are 45-55°F and summer 85-95°F. These may be grown in a colder zone as long as they can be brought inside during freezing temperatures.

Trees should not be exposed to freezing temperatures for an extended period otherwise damage or death will occur. They are more tolerant of high temperatures above 100°F. Sunscald or sunburn may occur on the foliage and fruit if the temperatures stay high for an extended period. Frost fabric and shade cloth can be used to protect the trees during excessive cold or heat. Stress can cause fruit to drop prematurely including stress-induced by extreme heat.

Water and Humidity

Irrigate in-ground plants once a week during dry periods until the soil is moist, but not soggy. Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation to avoid wetting the trunk and excessive runoff. It is not necessary to continue watering during wet periods. Monitor the moisture level of the soil and water as needed.

Variegated lemon trees planted in containers will need to be watered more often, especially during the summer. Water until saturated and allow to dry until slightly moist before the next irrigation. Expect to water your tree 1-3 times per week. Irrigation can be done using drip irrigation or manual watering with a hose. When watering manually, avoid wetting the trunk of the tree.

Soil

Eureka lemons can grow in all types of soil as long as they are well-draining. Loam soils are best because they hold the optimal amount of water and nutrients. Keep pH between 5.5-6.5 to prevent micronutrient deficiency or toxicity.

Variegated lemon trees will survive under suboptimal conditions, but the effects will be noticeable in the quality and growth rate of the tree. If the desired planting area has poor soil quality, amend with organic matter and plant in a raised bed to improve soil drainage.

Fertilizing

Fertilize from spring through the summer. Do not fertilize in the fall or winter. Fertilizing before the colder seasons will cause a new flush that will be more susceptible to cold damage. Use a fertilizer formulation specifically for citrus. There are many options that come in constant feed or slow-release fertilizers. Follow the instructions on the label for rates and frequency of applications. If the right formulation is unavailable, 12-6-6 can be used as a substitute. Look for fertilizer blends that also incorporate micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc, iron, and copper.

Pruning

Prune your lemon trees during the spring and summer avoiding flowers and fruit. Lemons do not require older wood to produce fruit. Flower buds are very noticeable. Pruning off flower buds will reduce the amount of fruit for the season. Lemons are not deciduous, so they will maintain their leaves year-round. Pruning should be done to remove dead or diseased branches, to maintain size, remove suckers, and open up the tree’s canopy.

Suckers are shoots growing from the rootstock. These shoots will be very noticeable because they will not be variegated. Rootstock suckers will not produce good fruit and they will take up energy the plant needs for other purposes. Remove suckers by cutting them flush with the main trunk.

To open up the canopy, remove any overlapping branches or branches that have a narrow angle on the main trunk. When removing deadwood or diseased branches, prune the branches several inches below the dead or diseased branch to ensure the entire infection or dead portion is removed. Old fruit should also be manually removed. It should fall off naturally, but removing the old fruit will prevent diseases and preserve resources for shoot development and flowering.

Propagation

Before propagating citrus, check for local restrictions on citrus propagation. In some areas, it is illegal to propagate citrus material that does not derive from a clean stock program. If you can propagate citrus in your area, there are a few different reliable methods for propagating citrus. Methods include grafting, rooted cuttings, and air layering.

Grafting is the most reliable way to produce a strong disease-resistant lemon tree. There are a few different rootstocks that are compatible with eureka lemons such as C35, Trifoliate, and Flying Dragon. Rootstocks are grown from seed but can be bought as liners. Once the rootstock is thick enough, it can be grafted. Chip budding is the most common method used for grafting citrus.

Rooted cuttings are another option for propagating citrus trees. Cuttings should have 2-5 leaves or nodes. Use a rooting hormone and keep cuttings under high humidity until they form a sizable root system. It is not recommended to plant these in the ground because they are susceptible to root diseases. They will also be less cold tolerant than grafted trees.

Air layering will produce the same product as rooted cuttings, but the beginning size is much larger. For air layering, select a small branch no more than a foot long. Peel about one inch of the bark layer from the branch. Cover the wound in substrates like peat moss or coconut coir and wrap tightly in plastic. Keep the substrate moist and monitor for root development. Once a root system has formed, the branch can be pruned off the main tree and transplanted. It is not recommended to plant these in the ground because they are susceptible to root diseases. They will also be less cold tolerant than grafted ones.

Harvesting and Storing

Variegated pink Eureka lemon tree
The variegated pink Eureka fruit has a striped rind. Source: JHochstat

Harvesting lemons is flexible and easy. There are a few different options for short-term and long-term storage.

Harvesting

Harvesting time for lemons is fairly flexible. Lemons harvested early will have a higher acid content compared to lemons that are allowed to ripen longer on the tree. The color of the fruit is the best indicator for harvest. When the peel is bright yellow and the variegation starts to slightly fade, they are ready to harvest. The lemons can stay on the tree much longer until they begin to turn pink. At this point, they will be much sweeter and less acidic.

To harvest, twist the lemons up at an angle to break them away from the tree. Pruners can also be used to cut produce from the tree. Wash lemons with soap and water after harvest.

Storing

Lemons can be kept for about a week at room temperature and 2-3 weeks in the fridge. Keep in mind, produce purchased from the store has a waxy coating to prevent moisture loss and extend the shelf life. Fruit grown at home will not have a waxy coating, so it will not last as long due to moisture loss.

For long-term storage, these can be frozen or dehydrated. Lemons can be frozen whole and later used for the zest. If the juice is desired, the juice can also be placed in the freezer for long-term storage. Freezing lemon juice in ice cube trays is convenient if you only need small amounts of lemon juice at a time. Dehydrated lemon slices make an excellent addition to desserts, cocktails, and teas. They also make great accessories for home décor.  

Troubleshooting

You may run into some problems when growing your eureka lemon tree. Below are some common issues and ways to resolve them.

Growing Problems

Variegated pink eureka trees are often planted for ornamental purposes without much consideration for production. It is common to plant these decorative plants near homes or patios where they may not receive enough sunlight for fruit production. The tree will continue to grow in partial sun, but may not produce, or produce very little. If the purpose of the tree is to grow fruit, it is essential to choose a sunny location with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.

Another concern with growing variegated lemon trees is frost. Lemons are not nearly as tolerant to frost as other types of citrus, so protecting them when freezing temperatures are forecasted is crucial.

Pests

Mites are small arachnids that feed on the leaves of lemon trees. There are several species of mites that feed on citrus. The most common mites leave stippling damage. Heavy infestations will cause leaf drop. Mites are extremely small and difficult to notice. Usually, the damage is noticed before the insect. To identify the type of mite, a hand lens or microscope needs to be used. All adult mites are small, eight-legged, and tend to stay in clusters on the undersides of leaves. Some mites produce webbing while others don’t. Mites tend to attack weak or stressed plants. Keeping a healthy tree is the most important defense against mites, as they have a good balance of pests and the predatory insects that prey on them. If mite populations get out of control horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps can be used to knock down heavy infestations.

Thrips are small yellow to orange insects that feed on the leaves and flowers of Eureka lemon trees. Feeding damage causes leaf curling/scarring and scarring on young fruit. In general, thrips are not damaging enough for treatment on mature trees. In saplings, they may stunt growth. Creating an environment that promotes beneficial insects is the best way to keep thrips populations under control. Thrips are very difficult to control by spraying, so it is not recommended. If thrips become a major problem on younger plants, a good option is to protect the tree with insect screens until the new foliage is no longer tender and attractive to thrips.

Soft and armored scales can be found on twigs and branches There are several species of scale in a variety of colors ranging from yellow to brown to black. Damage does not come directly from the scale. Scales produce excessive amounts of honeydew which leads to sooty mold. Sooty mold covers the leaves which inhibits photosynthesis and leads to leaf drop. Scales are usually controlled with natural predators and parasites. If treatment is necessary, oil sprays are effective.

Aphids are small soft-bodied insects that feed on the sap of tender plant tissue. They come in a variety of colors such as yellow, orange, green, and black. Aphids can cause some deformation in leaves. They also produce honeydew which can lead to other problems like sooty mold. They are usually controlled by natural predators, but populations can still become off-balanced and damaging. Manually remove leaves with heavy infestations and hose foliage off with water. Horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps are also effective in controlling aphids.

Lepidopteran pests include several types of moth larvae that cause damage to the leaves. There are a few leaf roller species that cause damage to tender new leaves. Citrus leaf miner is also a lepidopteran pest that causes mining damage typically on the undersides of leaves. Lepidopteran pest damage is mostly cosmetic but can stunt growth in young trees. Larvae can be manually removed on young trees. Treatment should not be necessary on mature ones. If citrus leaf miner damage is bothersome, there are pheromone traps that can be placed in the branches to disrupt mating.

Asian citrus psyllid is a small mottled brown insect about the same size as an aphid. Nymphs are yellow to green and lay flat on leaves and twigs. These psyllids produce white spindly excrement, which makes identification easier. Psyllids inject a toxin during feeding which may cause burn back on young foliage. However, feeding damage is not the main concern. They are considered a major pest because it vectors a devastating disease called Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening disease. Depending on your area, the presence of Asian citrus psyllid will warrant different responses. Research local regulations and reach out to your agricultural extension if there are any questions.

Diseases

Phytophthora is one of the most common root diseases in citrus. It causes an overalll decline. The foliage will look more pale than usual. Advanced stages will present “gumming” or sap oozing from the trunk of the tree. Trunks may also exhibit a water-soaked appearance.  Phytophthora is prevented by using best irrigation practices and planting in well-drained soil. Some rootstocks are resistant or more tolerant of the disease. It is extremely important to leave at least a few inches of the rootstock above the soil line. Most fruiting varieties are very susceptible to Phytophthora, so leaving the graft close to the soil will increase the risk of infection. There are beneficial microbes and mycorrhizae products that can be applied to boost plant health and immunity to diseases like Phytophthora. However, good watering practices will be enough for the prevention of this disease.

Anthracnose and Botrytis are both foliar diseases that thrive in wet conditions. Symptoms of these two diseases are twig dieback, leaf drop, and fruit decay. Anthracnose is identified by the dark spores on the leaves and twigs while Botrytis spores are a lighter gray. Both diseases can be managed with good cultural practices. Keeping them pruned to allow adequate airflow is important. Removing dead or diseased twigs and old fruit will prevent the disease from infecting the following season. Using proper cultural practices will eliminate the need for chemical fungicide sprays.

Huanglongbing (HLB) is also referred to as citrus greening disease. This disease is devastating to citrus as there is no cure. Symptoms of this disease include yellow mottled leaves, sudden death in young saplings, small or deformed fruit, and discolored or green fruit. This disease is spread by the Asian Citrus Psyllid, so controlling the insect will prevent the disease. The disease can also be transferred when grafting with infected plant material. Once a tree is infected, it needs to be removed. It is important to ensure that any new plantings come from reliable nursery sources that are following regulations set by each state. For example, citrus trees grown in California should have a CDFA label that ensures they have come from clean nursery stock.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How big does a pink lemon tree get?

A: A variegated pink lemon tree grows between 6-15 feet when mature. The height depends on the rootstock used.

Q: Do pink lemons taste different?

A: Pink lemons taste just like eureka lemons. The main difference is they become less acidic and sweeter as they age compared to the average eureka lemon.

Q: Is pink lemonade made from pink lemons?

A: Pink lemonade is not made from pink lemons. Pink lemonade is regular lemonade with the addition of dye or flavoring with red fruits such as strawberry or raspberry to give it a pink hue and sweet flavor.


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