Meyer Lemon Tree Not Producing

kiropod(7)February 1, 2011

I have an 8 year-old Meyer lemon tree that used to flower and produce lemons every year, however it has not done so for the past 4 or so years. The tree is kept in my greenhouse during the winter months and then when the weather breaks here in NJ, it is placed outdoors. In the past I had a lot of leaf drop in the winter, however this year I kept the leaves moist 2-3 times per week using a hand sprayer and lost very few leaves. I am careful not to overwater the tree, has a number of large drainage holes in the pot and it has grown quite nicely over the years. I repotted a few years ago as I felt that it had outgrown the previous pot. Last year I cut back all the suckers as I thought that too much energy was going to the new branches and trimmed the tree roots accordingly. Is it possible that the tree has hit middle age and is just not producing anymore? Any suggestions?

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Hi , as I remember citrus trees need to be very tight in their pots to start flowering and one tip is to let the soil dry a little bit more than usual , this will promote ,if you are doing so for 2-3 time ,flowering. But never to forget onece the flowers appears the soil shoulb be moist enough.

Also good food , especially high in P will promote flowering

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 1:54AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I would examine the root-zone to make sure that the roots aren't congested.
As a containerized tree becomes root-bound, it will rapidly lose vitality.
Selectively pruning the older woody roots - in favor of newer, finer roots/roothairs -
will help return your tree to a more vital, productive state.

An important question to ask is what kind of soil mix are you using?


    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 10:46AM
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Hi Josh.

As noted earlier, I did in fact prune the roots approximately 1 year ago. Soil mix?? I purchased it from a local nursery as it was supposed to be specific for citrus. Mike

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 4:05PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

To be honest, I've never met a nursery mix that I liked ;-)

Pruning out the older roots will keep your tree in a perpetually juvenile state,
so you needn't worry about it hitting that mid-life crisis.

Another question would regard fertilization. What type, and what frequency?


    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 8:16PM
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I have used citrus specific fertilizer in the past. What would you recommend in regards to soil mix.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 7:21PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I like a fast-draining mix that uses Bark for the organic fraction, and then includes various
grit products for structure, drainage, and durability - products like Turface, Pumice, Perlite,
Quartz, and other small, sharp gravel.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 7:42PM
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Thanks Josh. I will look out for these products and attempt another root prune this spring. Other than that, I may consider donating this tree and purchasing a new one. Kind of tired of this battle.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 9:21PM
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I have had the same containerized Meyer lemon tree for over 25 years (it is about 34 inches tall, and has a trunk that is about 1.75 inches in diameter), and it still fruits (it has been in an 15 inch pot for about a year, but before that I kept it in a 12 inch pot for fifteen years. Every three years or so I pulled it out, cut an inch or two of the roots and soil away from the bottom and sides, and then put it back into the same pot, pre-filling the bottom, and refilling the sides of the container with new soil.

My tree usually sets its fruit in two bursts, one from around Xmas through March, and another when it goes outside for the summer in May. It is not consistent: last year it set 12 fruit inside, and about the same number outside (I think I had 25 lemons on it), and this year it has so far only set three fruit . . . but I have not pruned it yet.

One thing I find that helps the tree decide to flower is to wait for the tree to go through a bit of a rest period, and then to clip an inch or four or ten off last season's branches. This clearly causes the plant to respond with a growth spurt, and if you do it at this time of the year or in the spring it should result in flowers.

Right now, because I haven't pruned any of my trees, apart from what I did in early October prior to bringing them in for the winter, I notice that the few new shoots most of them are getting are thin and at the tips of already thin branches. the flowers are also few and far between.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 4:02PM
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kiropod: After posting my previous reply, I found my pruners and had at the lemon (and some of the other citrus), and cut it back quite severely. I'd estimate I took off about 30 to 40% of the branches. In some cases I was cutting fairly old (three or four years) wood. I tried to trim away any branches that had become either spindly or twiggy, and removed several branches that crossed other branches in an obvious manner. Often, I was cutting off a branch or twig that had borne fruit this year or last. These branches seem to become less productive over time.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 5:51PM
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Thanks Don in CT for your advice. I did a major prune last year of the branches, but will do another one this spring and do the same for the roots. I've lost a lot more leaves than usual this winter and see more dead looking branches as well. I did put a humidifier in the greenhouse this winter, hoping that would help the environment even more. Thanks again to all.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 8:59AM
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Would the size of the container have any bearing on the tree's ability to flower and subsequently produce fruit? I have a rather large container.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 8:02AM
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tanksalot(New England)

Don in CT: That is some tree!! 1.75 in. dia. trunk!! Any chance of a picture? Where in CT are you? I'm in Norwich.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 3:04PM
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Kitopod...It's true suckers take nutrients. They should be removed as soon as possible. Besides using energy, the larger they get, the bigger scar/s left on the trunk.

Do you recall the Citrus Fertilizer brand? What are the 3 numbers? NPK...Any added minerals?? Sometimes a second type of fertilizer is necessary.

Soil should be acidic..pH of 5.0-6.0 Ever test pH? PH meters are available online and local nurseries. They range from 20.00 to hundreds. A 20.00 meter is fine. PH meters are easy to use, 99% accurate. Insert prongs in soil, pH will display on a little screen.

You've done a great job caring for your Meyer's, including spraying leaves. When citrus are brought indoors after spending summer outside, some leaf drop is normal.
Eight-years is a good amount of time, but your citrus isn't going through mid-life crisis. It's still young.

How much light does your tree get? Sun is important year round, yes, including winter, even though it's impossible in some states. That's where artificial light comes in don't have to spend a fortune on lighting, either. Shop light fixures are fine. South and west windows are preferable to east or north.

People use different soils or soil-less mixes. I prefer a home-made mix consisting of Potting Soil, Perlite, a little Peat, and Bark.
I don't over-pot. A 2-3" gap between rootball and pot is sufficient. Repotting is best done in spring. As summer progresses the extra room provides roots to grow.

Pick up a citrus book/s, read online articles, and get answers here on GW. Toni

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 3:07AM
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I do not recall the fertilizer, but I purchased it from the Home Depot in Florida and the package stated that it was for Citrus trees.The tree gets plenty of sun in the winter as it is in my greenhouse with good exposure. PH appears to be 7.5 or slightly higher. Would it be possible for the container to be too big? Thanks again for your help.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 7:07PM
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Citrus (in my experience and growing circumstances), can resent excessively large containers. But your container does not sound excessively large, given the dimensions you've described. Provide a picture if possible. Otherwise, try letting it dry a bit more between waterings. Citrus seem to respond well to a certain degree of "tough love".

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 5:14AM
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what is the best way to decrease the PH of my soil as I see it should be acidic, which mine obviouisly isn't?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:55AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Kiropod!
You're right, that is a higher pH than citrus would prefer.
In fact most plants in container culture prefer a lower pH than if in the ground.

It's usually more effective to change the pH of your irrigation water than it is
to try and change the pH of your potting mix after the fact.

One of the easiest ways to lower pH of tap-water is to add white vinegar.
Start with a gallon of water, and measure the pH. Then, add white vinegar until you
bring the pH down to about 5.0 - 5.8. Write down the amount of white vinegar it takes
to lower a gallon of your tap-water, then simply add that amount of white vinegar to your water
when you water...or as often as you remember ;-)

Now, when re-potting, making an acidic mix is a good idea.
Many of us grow in bark-based mixes. Bark is quite acidic, which virtually guarantees
that your potting mix will be on the acid side. When mixing, I add 1 tablespoon Dolomitic Lime
to a gallon of potting mix to raise the pH and to provide calcium.
Hard to beat this mix, or similar mixes.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 8:08PM
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Thanks for your advise. I will repot within the next few weeks after performing a major pruning of the branches and roots and hope for the best.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 11:57AM
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best fertilizer for the lemon tree?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 9:47AM
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I just picked up a few bags of Catus, Palm and Citrus soil, consisting of sphagnum peat moss, composted forest products, sand and perlite. I also purchased a bag of pine bark mulch and potting soil. Any other suggestions for making up my container soil. I do have a new 2-3 year old Meyer arriving this week.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 7:34AM
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I live in Los Angeles and my lemon tree has been in the ground for about 2-3 years. It has never produced more than a couple of lemons here and there. It is in part shade, and I have clay soil. I probably don't fertilize it enough, but are there also other ideas? thanks.

Here is a link that might be useful: My own web page

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 6:54PM
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Your tree would probably be a lot happier--thus making you happier with a lot of lemons--if you dig it from its spot and mix a lot of organic material (fine pine bark or mulch), sand, and some peat moss into the soil before replanting. A little sulfur mixed into the soil at the bottom of the hole would be helpful, too, by lowering the pH of the surrounding soil a bit. If you could put it into a sunny location, that would be even better, but just improving the soil should help. As stated by other posters, you also don't want to over water. Deep watering once a month and checking to make sure it isn't bone dry every other week should be enough in most areas of L.A.

I hope that this helps.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 7:41PM
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Can anyone please help me? I have a Lisbon lemon, was a good size when planted 6 yrs ago and produced heavily each year. This past crop, I noted that some of the fruits began to split right before harvest. I watered more, thinking that was the issue. Then NO blooms at all. So I used a little more citrus fertilizer that is blended for our locale. It sprouted more leaves, but NO BLOOMS. What happened??

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 12:51PM
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I planted a lemon tree from a seed. I went to a green house and purchased the correct potting soil for citrus and food. My plants are 2 years old and not produced so much as a flower as yet:(
They are in like 6 inch pots, but planted close to the top and are now about 3 feet high. I have cut them back, severely, the first year, and this spring I have cut them back again.
I have seen some post mentioning doing something with the roots, cutting the older ones off?
I water them when they dry out and they get afternoon sun in the winter and are out with my hot pepper plants in the green house in the late spring and than are totally outside in the sun from July till September.
I'm at a loss. What can I do to force flowering and production of a few lemons?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2014 at 6:43PM
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Patience is the only cure. Some seedling lemons need 5-7 years or more to begin to produce fruit; whereas my grafted Meyers begin to set fruit in 6-8 months, with the first fruits ready for harvest at 16-18 months.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2014 at 7:36PM
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