Lime tree dropping leaves

MathetriaMarch 13, 2014

I realize a few posts have been on this topic already, but it wasn't quite the same situation, so I'm starting fresh.

I'm a Florida native transplanted to Omaha, NE, and I've wanted to have a key lime inside for a while. I bought one last summer, and brought it up here. It spent the summer outside, and did great.

This winter, I repotted it to what will be it's permanent home for a while (c. 12" diameter pot at top), and brought it indoors before the frost. It was fine till about January, when it started to drop some leaves, but not badly. A few leaves didn't alarm me, as citrus do that. By late February, the leaf drop moved to critical. It has less than half the leave it had in autumn.

I *think* it may be a water issue, but first, what I've done:

--Key lime was repotted specifically in Florida sand-dirt that I dug out of my father's lot to make it happy, with moss on the bottom, to help drainage. So it's NATIVE soil.

--It has it's own grow-lamp inside, and I put it in a corner away from all windows or doors, so no cold drafts. The house never drops below 60 degrees at worst (usually 63-64). So it's not cold and it doesn't lack light.

--I've ordered citrus food, but until I got it, I gave the lime both coffee grounds and Epsom salt, for the minerals. One bout of Epsom salts, two of coffee, a good month apart.

--There is no evidence of pests, and the leaves show no yellowing or spotting. they're still pretty dark green when they drop. That's why, at first, I wasn't worried, but after >50% drop, that's ridiculous.

--Watering MAY be the issue, as it's what I'm least clear on. Last summer, outside, the lime got a dose of water every day when I watered my flowers, and it loved it. But it was outside, with summer evaporation.

Inside, I'm not doing that. I started out watering it every 4 days or so, but around January, the leaf drop started...not bad at first. By mid-February, it was getting notable. I went online to find a solution, but found instead debated advice. I tried cutting BACK on watering, and the leaf drop started getting critical.

Then I tried watering every other day, and that made no difference. It's still bad.

After all I've tried to do, I don't want to lose my lime tree! My father left Florida (he's 89) to live with my brother in KY, so I don't have a chance to get a new lime tree. I have to save this one. I've done everything I can think of, but the poor thing is still dying!

Today is was over 45 degrees, so I put it outside to get some sun. Tomorrow it will be even warmer. But I need help on how to keep it happy INDOORS.

As noted, I have it potted in Florida dirt, drained, a grow lamp, citrus food as directed, and it's out of winter drafts. I just need to figure out the *proper* watering schedule, I think.

Please help?

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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Well, without photos, it's just a guess from any of us. Several concerns: "Florida dirt" (you should not be planting a container plant - any plant - in "dirt"), coffee grounds (unecessary, and doesn't do anything for a container plant), watering every other day (in dirt), no fertilizer, WAY too much magnesium (people, stop doing this with Epsom salts, why would you want to do this??). What we do for citrus and other plants in the ground is not the same as growing plants in container culture. I would go through some of the great posts on our forum by either MeyerMike, Mike in OK, and several other of our experienced container citrus growers to see how to grow citrus in containers, and inside for the winter. You want a well-draining potting mix (search for 511 or Gritty mix) so you don't suffocate your root system and keep things "clean", fertilize regularly with a high quality water soluble fertilizer that won't cause a build up of nitrogen by products that can cause root burn (most container folks on this forum use Dyna Gro's "Foliage Pro" which has the proper NPK ratio as well as the correct number of micronutrients, and not just magnesium), provide lots of additional light (which is sounds like you might be doing, but not sure - is your tree in a south or west facing window?)

Photos, please. Very close up photos of the leaves should be included. You can load all your photos on a photo sharing site, such as, then copy and paste the HTML string right into the body of your message. That way, you can post multiple photos per one message.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 10:14AM
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I posted earlier, but not sure it's propigated. Here are the promised images. One of the whole little tree, two of leaves.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 1:56AM
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