Emergency citrus saving mode, PLEASE help!

cfox248(3)March 2, 2014

So, I recently posted about my citrus getting possibly burned by the sun and dropping all of its leaves. Now, it's in a sunny windowsill in a warm kitchen with a small humidifier next to it. Figured it would get better. Here is the thread about it so I don't have to retype it ALL.

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/citrus/msg021404573680.html?12

Now my poor tree, with ONE good leaf left, is browning at the branch tips! I don't know what to do. I NEED to save it. I was thinking maybe root rot that was started at home, and the moving it back to school just traumatized it enough to exacerbate the issue. So even though it's doing really poorly, tomorrow I'm off to get new dirt. I'll soak the roots in 20% bleach solution for 20 minutes. Does that sound good? Here are current pictures of the tree and roots. I clipped off all the brown ends.

The roots are brown. They aren't slimy and the coating doesn't come off in my hands if I rub it. But I guess I'm not sure what else it could be. I haven't watered it in a long time - several weeks - because the soil has been damp, I haven't needed to, which is what makes me think the beginnings of root rot. I can't take it out of the pot - it doesn't just slide out, so I dug up some to take a picture.

What do you think?

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orangelime1

Cfox try not to panic I know your tree does not look great right now this is fairly common for growing citrus indoors . Your tree is still alive the branches look nice and green and I also see new white roots . I have had trees go this way and as soon as I brought them outside in the spring they exploded with new growth . Well you will not have to worry about adapting your tree to the sun this spring just place it in the full sun. You can place it in new dirt if that makes you feel more comfortable or just leave it in the dirt you have it in and water only when needed. The more we panic sometimes the worst we will make things . I love the fact you care so much for that tree . That's great.

Brian

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 8:51PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

I would not stress it out any more by changing the soil. Citrus do not like wet feet (wet soil) so there is no way I would soak it anything. Give it as much of the two things it needs: heat and sun, heat and sun, heat and sun. Water sparingly until you have warmer temps. Keep giving it heat and sun.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 9:00PM
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cfox248(3)

But spring won't arrive for another month at least! The tips are browning so fast, what if they all die back by the time spring gets here? It's just the tips now but it'll eventually consume the whole of the branches, and then I won't have anything to put outside come spring, if I can't figure out how to stop the branch browning

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 9:00PM
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cfox248(3)

Thanks! I didn't mean soak the whole pot, but I was reading at the below link to soak the dirtless roots in the solution then put it in dry soil.

http://www.500m2.com/2011/02/19/treating-root-rot-in-citrus/

However, if you think it'll be too much a shock, I'll hold out. I dug around in there to loosen the soil up at least so it's not so compacted around the roots.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 9:02PM
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orangelime1

Cfox the sunshine coming through your window is getting stronger a lot stronger now everyday . We are gaining 3 minutes of sun every day now so your tree should start responding soon very soon . Soon the branches should stop turning brown and new growth will start coming out the buds. Let's keep are fingers crossed.

Brian

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 9:27PM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

Are you concerned about your soil staying wet too long? It looks like it does..

To hold you over until a complete repot, that is until your tree gains strength again and is actively growing I would do one of two things..

Melt some holes into the bottom of that container..I know the holes in that one are not big enough for great drainage and set that pot on top of another filled with a least an inch of mulch only on the bottom...This way the mulch will draw the moisture out of the pot your tree is in very well..

Or Two,

Use the wicking method...Push a mop rope up into the bottom holes, or lift your tree out of the pot and strategically place rope into the root ball then through the holes at the bottom so they dangle...The pot has to be lifted so the rope will dangle pulling the moisture out of the root ball Don't water until the wicks feel dry to the touch.

Hope you understand this..I was tired trying to make as much sense as possible..The sooner you do anything draw moisture out of that pot, the longer you will be able to wait on repotting and save your tree:-)

Mike

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 10:10PM
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cfox248(3)

Thank you for the tip! I will do so right away in the AM. I don't have a drill, but I have old cotton rags I can use as wicks. The soil isn't actually super wet - it's damp, and it's stayed about that dampness for a few weeks. I dug around and fluffed the soil up a little bit, as it's looking rather compacted, I'm really hoping that helps.

Is it true to not fertilize a plant in distress? I have some miracle grow but I've heard to only fertilize healthy happy plants. If this is so I will skip it. I just want it to live. :(

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 10:17PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

CORRECT - No fertilizer! Only fertilize plants that are actively growing - not declining nor dormant.

When you repot this plant, do not use a heavy soil. If you buy something like Miracle Gro (and definitely NOT Miracle Gro Moisture Extender) mix it with pine mulch (my favorite) or perlite to increase the drainage. Repot it right at the beginning of your growing season. Don't wait until it is fully leafed out. Do it just as soon as you see the buds begin to swell. Then put it outside (as long as threat of freeze has passed), give it full sun and let it do its thing.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 10:25PM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

Yes, I would never fertilize a stressed tree for many reasons others can explain....Once the roots are working properly, then they will take up food..

For now follow what the others have said here..Great points..
Between warmth, sun and wicking, the mix should dry out for a re-watering much more rapidly..

The more often you are forced to water, the healthier the roots will be! The more often you water, the more often your provide oxygen to the root zone, just what the doctor ordered..

Good luck

Mike

This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Sun, Mar 2, 14 at 22:29

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 10:28PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

"The more often you are forced to water, the healthier the roots will be!"

Don't misinterpret this by thinking it means "water more often".

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 11:19PM
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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

You can increase the aeration of the roots as I have.


!/8 inch hole. about 300 in the bottom and 400+ around the perimeter of the lower half of the container. The side holes can easily be covered with packing tape for summer water holding in high temperatures and winds.

Steve

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 11:50PM
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madferret(UK 8b-9a)

If you absolutely must treat the roots I had one a while back with severe root rot caused by me not unwrapping the stem properly when I planted it, and then putting it in too heavy a soil.

I think I used a solution with bicarbonate of soda in it (Bordeaux sol. Would probably work too). It worked for the root rot but the rootball is really tiny ATM and has only just started to look as if the tree is actively growing after 2 years, but then again the northern UK isn't citrus country.

The roots on yours look ok to me though.

*Edit* I'd just like to say I'm no expert in a sense of the word I do have a good selection of 2-3 year old citrus from seed grapefruit, kafir lime and a few store bought plants, even managed to get a few cuttings going. I've killed a few over the years however so all my knowledge is trial and error.

This post was edited by madferret on Mon, Mar 3, 14 at 4:16

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 3:56AM
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cfox248(3)

Okay, an update for this morning.

Lemon tree is moved to full sun. He's in the same spot but the blinds are pulled all the way open, whereas before they were shaded to let in just filtered light. Too bad it's not sunny outside. The grow light is on and the humidifier is running.

I'm working on melting some holes into the bottom of the pot. I pulled off the attached water catcher and I'm going to try to shove some wicks into the drainage holes. It's a slow process. I don't have a drill, and I don't have a lighter, so I'm heating the tip of a scissors against the coil of the stove to melt the holes. Makes the house stink.

I tried to pull the tree up to put the wicks in, but the whole tree wants to pull out and leave all the dirt behind, so that's not an option. It's looking okay today. No worse, no better. The tops haven't browned any more - it's easy to monitor since I cut the brown ends off if they've continued to brown.

Crossing my fingers. Come on spring, hurry it up!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 1:03PM
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garret_87(Zone 6)

Oh dear, this is a very low point for your tree. The picture made me cringe! Its always sad to see a Meyer looking like this, but there is hope! Like I said in your previous post, my Meyer looked almost just like yours its first winter. In fact, I thought that it died so I threw it in the back corner of my kitchen hallway where it got 0 sunlight, and no water for a month. All branches but one turned brown and died - "Twig dieback", and only one leaf remained.
After forgetting bout the tree for a month or more I decided to do research on this forum, contact the nursery, water and cut off all the dead branches. Take the advice here seriously, and your tree should* rebound in the spring.

I would advise that next time you repot to use a well draining soil mix as described on several posts here. Im glad you are using a humidifier now and keeping the grow light on for 8-12hrs a day.

Your tree will probably look fugly like this for a while. Finish up your TLC then stand back for a while and wait for it to recover.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 3:11PM
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garret_87(Zone 6)

I got my Meyer from Four Winds Nursery, and am very pleased with their quality trees and customer service. I want to pass along to you what their website states about twig dieback:
-----------------------------------------------
Leaf Drop/Twig Dieback
Leaf drop and twig dieback can be caused by lack of light. Citrus trees need a minimum of 6 hours of full sun to grow. If growing indoors, it's possible that your trees will do better with a grow light for the winter. A sudden change in lighting or humidity can cause problems, so be sure to move your tree gradually from one spot to another, or from inside to out.

If your tree receives adequate light, and experiences leaf drop, improper watering is probably the culprit. A lack of water can cause the tree to dry out and lose leaves, while excessive watering can cause the roots to rot, so that they lose the ability to take water and nutrients up to the leaves. If you modify watering to provide even moisture, often the tree will recover, albeit slowly. A moisture meter is useful to be certain that watering is necessary, and can help you develop an appropriate watering schedule.

Should your tree lose all its leaves, don't despair. You can prune it back lightly to help push new growth; then, with improved growing conditions (adequate light, correct watering) it should recover. Remember also to feed regularly with a good citrus fertilizer (3:1:1 ratio or similar).

Check your tree regularly for pests. Severe infestations of scale insects, or mites can cause defoliation. Regular monitoring will help you to take action in time, before severe stress (defoliation) occurs.
--------------------------------------------

Your trees roots dont look dry, so you may want to consider you have over watered while using the wrong soil. I use a moisture meter to be sure (was only $4 and free shipping on amazon). I really feel for ya cuz many of us have been there! Keep your head up! I have picked 3 fresh lemons off my tree in the past week :) (even tho its 15 degrees outside!) You will have success if you meet the trees needs, and in my experience, it took a couple years to learn how to meet those needs. Good luck, and please post updates.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 3:30PM
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Steve, Micro (6B ground, 5B roof)

I took possession of my friends blood orange trees in critical condition.

I gave them light and warmth inside this grow box.


One tree is pulling through the other is in very bad shape but still green.

I am glad these trees belonged to my friend and not mine. That made it easy to care for these trees objectively.

steve

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 4:03PM
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cfox248(3)

Do you know what I think found today on my citrus branches? SCALE! I was scouring for spider mite webs - I battle them off and on, I keep them mostly at bay - and I noticed small squishy pods on the branches of my tree. I can easily smush them with a finger. Perplexed, I looked it up. And THIS looks 100% like the pods on my poor tree. As if it needs anything else to deal with!

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/scale-bugs-on-stem1.jpg

I'm not sure if that is the bug itself, or some kind of egg pod. I have a neem oil/water mix in a spray bottle, as well as rosemary oil. Also, to search the forum for dealing with scale - though, tips are appreciated. Now that it's got next to no leaves it should be easy enough to treat.

Funny, I NEVER see bugs on my branches. I look close, but all I ever see is the occasional web - and apparently these pods. See the little brown and black spot on the picture? That's what I'm talking about. Sorry it's a bit blurry, it's hard to take ultra closeup photos! It's a little brown raised squishy thing.

This being said, I do not think this is the main reason for its distress. It could be, but there's only one or two of these things, and I never see live bugs. I still think the leaf drop is the major stress of the conditions it was in at home, followed by the major change in the moving.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 4:19PM
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garret_87(Zone 6)

Good eye! Yes that is a scale! They start off as tiny little babies hardy visible and turn into that ugly thing. My tree gets scale every winter, but as long as you are prepared with Neem Oil or Horticulture spray are one step ahead. Some people will use homemade mixtures of dish soap and rubbing alcohol, but this never did the trick for me.

Use Neem as directed ASAP, then again in a week to smother the emerging eggs and babies. Especially spray the undersides of leaves because their babies like to hide there.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 5:32PM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

Oh yes, that does not surprise me..They and any pest usually attack weak plants...

I do what Garrett says and that works for me too..It takes time but works if you are consistent...

You can also treat the roots with Physan20..Everyone should have a bottle of this stuff in a first aid kit for plants...I absolutely need it for Orchids and any bacteria or rot that can attack leaves or roots...

Garrett..Great info and thank you for that! I love 4Winds trees too...Boy do I wish I had tons of sunlight for mine all winter..I guess we make do until they go back outside,,You are not kidding..They can sure look like garbage by the time it's spring..

Steve, with all that light, I am SURE it will pull through...It alreadys looks much better!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 6:46PM
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cfox248(3)

Just a quick update.

So, this past week I have been hawking over my poor lemon tree. I'm sure if you asked my roommates you'd know how obnoxious I am about it. Every morning I come out, turn on the light and humidifier, and check it for leaf buds. Before I go to classes I move it so the single good leaf is soaking up as much sun as possible in its windowsill. The branch tips have continued slowly browning, which is discouraging.

And then this morning I came out like I do - and saw this! Do you see that little nub by the spike? That's a LEAF! That branch has little leaf buds growing along the whole thing all the way to the browned tip. None of the others do yet but just the fact that it's getting buds makes me SO happy! I'm sure it will make it to spring now - it's got to!

I've been so careful with watering too. The soil never really gets dry (It's looking like if it's going to leaf it's time for a pot change soon with some better soil!) but when it seems dry enough that the plant can't get enough water, I give it a few cups. Looks like it's the right thing to be doing! I'm so happy it's finally on the upswing!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 11:52AM
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garret_87(Zone 6)

Glad to see that your tree is attempting to put out new growth. I understand being obnoxious about it lol It's a daily routine to care for citrus in northern climates. Sounds like you are on the right track, keep it up.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 7:10PM
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