Meyer Lemon scorched - will it survive?

cfox248(3)February 24, 2014


So, I've got myself a lovely Dwarf improved meyer lemon this last summer. It did great outside in the blazing sun of the porch. Come winter, it was brought inside and placed in a sunny windowsill with a grow light hanging overhead. It was doing very well and even offered to bloom new fruit.

Over break here at school, it was brought home. There is no sunny windowsills, so it sat near a window and had its grow light. Come to bump it one day and half the leaves fell off! After googling, it looked like it was a case of the roots being too cold and the leaves being too warm (or maybe I have that backwards...) so for the last day at home, I moved him to the floor near the heater and put the grow light on. Seemed to be doing better.

Once back at school, I put him in his favorite sunny windowsill with his light. This was late last night. This morning, I turned the light on. And right now, in the afternoon, I look and I see what look like scorch spots all over the leaves! They're mottled brown, and some are curling up and shriveling and dying. It was my own fault for not acclimating it, I assumed it would be happy to return to a warm sunny sill from the sunless window at home but I didn't think to do it slowly.

Now, it's near a window that's got less direct light. Still has the grow light on, since it's cooler light (it's fluorescent). But after half the leaves fell off just a few days ago, I'm worried all the leaves are going to fall off and I'll be left with a bare tree. Will it die then, with no leaves?

It's got three healthy little lemons hanging on it I might cut off to give it a better chance. Here is a few pics - the spots are recessed and dry. The worse of them are curling up and falling off. It was fine this morning, no spots whatsoever, then the sun came up and BAM. This happens! Please tell me there's hope for it yet!

Link to album of pics below:

Here is a link that might be useful: Scorched tree pics

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garret_87(Zone 6)

A lot could be going on here. You want to replicate a tropical environment to the best of your ability. I would advise that you enlist of help of some technology to help, since you are at school and on the go. Buy a digital temperature/humidity meter, moisture meter, timer for your grow light and humidifier.

Place the temp/humid meter right by the tree so you always know if it is warm and humid enough. What type of grow light do you have? Fluorescents are generally weak and the plant has to be right up close to the bulb to get the most lumens. Keep the light on a timer and leave on for anywhere between 12-18 hours a day. Also make a habit of refilling your humidifier when returning to your room.

I bet your tree is suffering from shock after being moved around so much. If the soil temp drops below 50-55 degrees the tree stops growing. The tree can survive if it drops its leaves, it will regrow more as long as you meet the trees needs.

Not sure what is happening with the leaves forming these spots after the sunlight....possibly the sunlight is way too strong? Also if it went from a dark time at home to sudden mega bright spot in the window, maybe the leaves cannot take it. I would leave it in one spot, make sure its needs are met, and give it time to recover. If you can get it through the rest of winter, then it will really come back alive when you place it back outside.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 3:31PM
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Thank you for your reply!

I don't remember what type of light it is, just that's it IS a grow plant bulb - two of them side by side, 2 feet long. Fluorescent of some sort. The light does hang very close to the tree - the hooks are installed right above the window, so it's typically just a few inches from the top of the tree. It would be turned on when I got up in the AM, 9:00, and turned off before bed, 10:00-11:00.

I don't have a humidifier yet, but I will look into getting a small one. It was so happy on that windowsill, and then bringing it home just threw it all off. It got accustomed to the dark, and since it's not had direct sunlight in ~2 months, I'm willing to bet money that the sudden direct sunlight and warmth burned the leaves. The ones closer to the window were the worst. Now I'm scared to put it into any sunlight, but I don't know of another way to acclimate it!

It's sitting by a window now that doesn't get direct light, with the grow light propped next to it. Hoping it makes it till summer, then I can acclimate it to outside and it'll explode in new healthy growth again!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 3:42PM
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garret_87(Zone 6)

What zone do u live in? I bet it was the drastic change. I'd say keep it in the bright windows and the next growth of leaves will used to the new light levels. Def keep the light on as long as u can, and keep the soil above 50 degrees. Is it still on the floor?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 4:10PM
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I'm in the oh-so-frigid Minnesota, in Zone 3b, according to the 2012 USDA plant hardiness zone map. Nothing will grow here outdoors all year, so it HAS to come inside.

It's still on the floor. I'm thinking of putting it back in that window now that the sun isn't beaming inside, and moving it for the hours of the day that it is, and hoping that will be a slow enough introduction to sunlight that it won't kill off the rest of the leaves - I'm scared it will die if it drops them all, as it will have nothing to photosynthesize with then.

The soil is warm. I live in a duplex with heat included - the neighbor has heat control, and he keeps the heat in the 70s. (He's even pumped it up to low 80s!). So now that I am back here the temperature should not be a problem for it at all.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 4:23PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Could the lemon have gotten too cold when it was being transported between school and home? Maybe the lemon was left in the car while you ate? Or the car doors were open for a few minutes while you put belongings in the car?

Even if it wasn't terrifically cold, the lemon might have had enough shock for it to drop leaves.

I have no explanation for the leaf spotting, though.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 6:20PM
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Whoops, double post. Sorry!

This post was edited by cfox248 on Mon, Feb 24, 14 at 18:41

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 6:39PM
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When you hear hoofbeats, you think horses; but it could also be zebras! The damage to me looks like chemical. Did you perhaps mist the leaves with water from a water softener? That would be salt being applied to the leaf with a sprayer. It doesn't look like burn to me; but I don't know what your exact conditions are, nor am I a container citrus expert. What I do know for sure is that Meyers are VERY sensitive to light changes. Try to keep it in one place if you can and only move it inside and out as the seasons demand. Search here for Meyer lemon sensitivity to light and you will find informative advice....maybe even some from me.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 6:45PM
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I sprayed it with Neem oil late January because I suspected mites (was more a precaution). It's not been sprayed with anything since then.

I will try to keep it in our kitchen. I'll keep it by the window when direct sunlight isn't a factor, and I'll move it when it beams in just in case.

I actually thought it looked a lot like the kind of burn you can get if you mist your leaves lightly when it's blazingly sunny out - the water droplets will intensify the rays and everywhere there's a droplet you'll get a burn. But they haven't been misted, they were perfectly dry, so I kind of put that thought on the back burner.

I'll inspect for bugs. I I can't see it being a sudden bug attack but you never know! Maybe it's not horses OR zebras, maybe it's a herd of deer!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 6:52PM
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garret_87(Zone 6)

We have some things in common. I live in a cold northern climate - Zone 6, Western, NY and also deal with cold low light days this time year. My first winter with my Meyer was awful. It lost all its leaves but 2, and all but 1 branch died back. It looked pretty fugly, and almost threw it out. To my pleasure It branched back out in spring. Four years later it is lush, pushing out new growth and ripening 9 lemons. During the winter It only gets 3 hours of direct sunlight on a clear SUNNY day and no direct sunlight when it's cloudy. For more light I bought a fluorescent, and it helped, but not as much as I hoped. Now I have a 150w HPS for $60 and the tree has been much happier.

So it's possible to get Meyers to thrive and fruit in our northern climates, but it's a learning experiance. Have u done any research into what kind of needs your tree will require? Do you have a fertilizing routine? Do you check for pests?

A humidifier will go a long way towards the trees humidity needs. Most heated rooms are 10% humidity and that is like desert air! I have read you should keep humidity up towards 50%, and that can be a hard feet in the dead of winter. Spritzing and misting are little to no help. I picked up my cool mist humidifier at Goodwill for 2.99 and it works perfect. Try that out if you can't afford new.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 6:59PM
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I looked into it a bit after buying it. I had been meaning to buy one from 4 Winds Growers, but they were so out of my price range - let alone the shipping. I found one at my local greenhouse though for $20 and I snapped it up. I potted it into a 5 gallon pot with fresh soil and I periodically give it some miracle grow fertilizer. I do all my repotting and whatnot in the spring once it warms up, so I'd figured on giving it some fresh soil and it's final home pot when it gets warmer.

I will look into a humidifier. Can't hurt, it's dry here! I know my orchid would appreciate it too. Due to a crazy emergency vet bill, I can't afford the higher powered light, but I can probably swing a cheap little humidifier for the plant area, I'm sure I can find one on Amazon for cheap.

My new plan. Put the lemon tree on top of the fridge. The fridge is next to the plant area and window, so it's nice and bright. Slowly shift closer to window, until it can handle being in window light. Hope that it doesn't die.

Should I chop off the three lemons it has going to help it use its resources to grow leaves and be healthy? I already chopped off the branch with the four biggest on it (and it killed me to do so, they would have been my first fruits from it!)

And THANKS for your help so far everyone!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 7:31PM
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Okay. Improvised.

Lemony is back on the windowsill. I did notice it's below a heat register in the ceiling and gets a good amount of warm on it. This was very good for it before all of this happened, it was quite happy. I'm thinking the sudden direct sun mixed with the heat from the register cooked it.

now I have it to the side of the counter that's in front of the window. There are other plants on the counter so I couldn't close the blinds completely but I have them slanted - the side nearest to Lemony (Yes, I call my lemon tree Lemony Snicket, even though I never read his books) is shut, and it slants so the rest of the plants get sun.

The soil is moist, so I won't water it now. The leaves that are burned are starting to curl up and die, I think, unfortunately. I'm looking at those USB humidifiers and a USB wall plug - due to the shared electricity cost I couldn't keep it on all day, but a few hours per day could be done.

I will keep it where it is unless you guys think it's too much for it to handle. My bedroom where it was sitting over break is cool inside. It was near a window, which admittedly lets in quite the draft, so it was in a draft for a while. This is why I think it dropped a bunch of leaves. It didn't have its grow light and didn't get much light that month. It was not optimal growing conditions.

The area its in now is brighter and with the fluorescent grow light. It's really warm under the heat register, which it should come to like. It's in the kitchen, which is just about as humid as it'll get (our bathroom is in the kitchen, and the bathroom door is RIGHT next to the plant counter.) So it'll get all the shower humidity post-shower and all the cooking humidity. I am looking for a personal humidifier.

Sound good? Should I change anything? It's quite the change and it obviously is not happy with that, but if I'm going to let it be and cater to it this is I think the best place for it in the long run, especially if it's going to grow sun adapted leaves in the spring (I hope).

Oh, I hope the whole dang tree doesn't die. The place I got it shut down, so I couldn't even go get another one.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:08PM
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