Valencia Orange tree

Lizzyw2001February 20, 2012


My husband and I just planted 4 Valencia Orange trees on the slope in our backyard last weekend, they are small, about 2-3 ft tall and the trees are not looking as healthy this week.

In particular, one of the trees leaves are turning from a deep green to a lighter shade of green, more like a light lime color, and the leaves are also curling in.

Before we planted, I was told to give the trees a good watering 2-3 times per week for a couple weeks, until the roots set, and to mix the dirt with 50/50 with planting soil. The day we planted them, we gave a good watering, then moderate rain on Wed. About 20 feet above the trees are three 25' radius sprinklers which we also installed last week. We set the sprinklers to run twice a day for the first week to help establish moisture on our otherwise previously dry hill.

On Saturday, after watering the trees with the hose, is when we noticed how the color has lightened over the past 7 days.

From our searching on the internet, we're not sure if we're over watering, under watering, pest issues, or just shock from transplanting.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


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You probably should have just planted them in the dirt without the mix; they usually come potted in a organic-heavy mix to start with, and you've been drowning the poor things, leading to decay of the organic material, which consumes oxygen and leads to root rot. They may not survive I'm afraid, and there's not much you can do at this point other than cut down the water.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 10:33AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Okay, applenut is correct, never amend your soil. You just create a hole the tree will love to live in, and the roots will be less inclined to venture out. Instead, you should dig a hole about 2 to 3 times as wide as the root ball to loosen up your native soil. Plant the tree at the same height it was in, in the pot. Create a nice large well around the tree, with the perimeter of the well lower than the height of the trunk (so water will drain away from the trunk, and to the feeder roots which are at the edge of the canopy and a little beyond. What is known as the "drip line".) Mulch 2 to 4" deep with compost, then top with wood chips to help maintain moisture. If you're on clay soil, you're much better off building raised beds (a whole different topic). Wait to fertilize for a couple of months, until the feeder roots are established, then fertilize about every 2 months from Feb/March through Oct/Nov with a good citrus fertilizer that also contains micronutrients (Grow More Citrus & Avocado food is an excellent product). Don't worry about adjusting the pH. Not necessary here in S. California. NEVER allow overhead sprinklers to water your citrus trees as you currently are doing. They do not like their trunks wet, and this is a sure way to kill a young citrus tree, fast. Instead, use microsprinklers or 2 to 4 drips to fill the well (with young trees, they only need one or two drips, but lay 4 and turn them on as your tree grows, as well as move them out and away from the trunk to follow the canopy edge). Water well enough so that the soil is moist for about 12 to 18" deep. The philosophy of deep watering has been revamped for citrus. Citrus are shallow rooted trees, so if you're watering 2 to 3 feet down, you're just wasting water. The easy way to know - use a rod (I use one of those cheap green plastic covered metal plant stakes you can get at Home Depot/Lowes). If you can easily insert the stake 12 to 18" down, your soil is moist enough. You may also need to apply a micronutrient foliar application, soil drench or micronutrient granular application in the early spring/late winter, as our S. California soils tend to get depleted, and our colder winter rains can lock out the absorption of micronutrients, which will cause your leaves to look chloritic. It's usually not iron deficiency for most folks in S. Calif, but manganese deficiency. You can use Grow Power Citrus Grower's Blend, which is a water-soluble micronutrient product that can be sprayed on the leaves or poured into the soil. Here is a good resource for you to manage your citrus. I agree with applenut, your trees may be too wet. Check the soil and see. If so, turn off your sprinklers, then pull them out, and set microsprinklers or drips. Once established, a once a week watering is probably fine except during our very hot days in the summer, when you'll need to check and make sure your trees don't get too dry. They first symptom of being too dry will be cupped leaves. This is actually how commercial growers know to water their orchards.

And, bookmark this site:

This is the UC Davis Backyard Orchard-Citrus page. Very helpful for us here in California.

Lastly, you're probably better off posting this sort of question either on the Citrus Forum or on the California Gardening Forum.

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: Four Winds Growers: How to Grow Citrus in the Ground

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 12:03PM
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Thanks for the advice. Hopefully that one will make.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 5:15PM
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Just a side note, the hill that we planted the trees on is basically made of decomposed granite. It's very sandy and drains well. That's why we added the dirt. I'm hoping by stopping the excess watering it will help. Should I post a pic so you can get a better idea of what is happening?

Thanks again, I really appreciate the help/advice.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 9:46PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Lizzy, I addressed this over on the Citrus Forum where you reposted, but to answer this again, my soil is also almost all DG. You still do not want to amend the soil :-) You want to create a rich topsoil by filling your wells with 3 to 4 inches of compost. Add your fertilizer, then top with wood chips to hold in your soil moisture (if you're in a dry area like I am, you don't tell us where you live.) Here's what UC Davis has to say about how to plant a citrus tree:


Planting citrus properly is critical for the success of citrus in the home garden. Containerized citrus can be planted almost any time of year. The best time is after the last frost in spring.

Trees should be planted at the same depth as they were in the container. If planted too deep, soil and water tend to stand against the trunk, which promotes root and crown rots such as Phytophthora or oak root fungus. If planted too high, the roots will dry out too quickly.

Dig the planting hole, so that the root ball sits about 1 inch above the soil line. The width of the hole should be about twice the diameter of the root ball. Make sure the bottom of the planting hole is firm to prevent the root ball from sinking. Cleanly remove broken or decayed roots. Backfill the planting hole with native soil and water in thoroughly after planting. Construct a watering basin that is about a foot away from the trunk of the tree. Keep the trunk dry as much as possible while irrigating.

I know Four Winds says to mix 1/2 and 1/2. This is old theory and not the current tree planting philosophy, especially with citrus. Here is another link for you to read regarding how to correctly plant a tree.

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: Urban Forestry: How to Plant a Tree

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 2:35PM
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Being in So Cal zone 9 means that Valencia oranges will be dead simple for you. Even moisture with the soil is key, and just let the oranges sit on the tree for as long as you possibly can. Other than that, the best advice you'll ever get comes from that four winds growers link that was provided previously.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 12:20AM
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I think your planting is ok. I think you're just overwatering. I'd cut it back to a deep drench every 7 days and you should be fine.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 4:30PM
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Hi Guys,Can some one help me,I need to buy some orange trees. I live in south Florida.Please name some of them that grows well in my place and where can I get them,Thks

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:27AM
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Randy31513(Georgia 8b)

Its interesting on "Creating a well" Here in the Southeast that is as bad of a no-no as amending the soil. But then we have entirely different soils.

Sheeba123 ask around for a good local nursery. Also ask your neighbors for samples of what they have.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 1:44PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

That well idea in the picture of the link looks a little weird. I always plant my citrus on a mound with the "well" kind of lower and more at the edge of the root ball. Kind of like a "moat" so that the well forms a circle around the root zone and does not come in contact with the trunk/crown. I do make sure that the tree gets water to the roots without flooding the trunk area.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 12:54AM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

BTW Patty. Where do you find the fertilizer you mentioned? Do you have to order it online or is it available locally?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 1:06AM
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