Lime Tree not looking so hot

tuggieMay 31, 2010

I bought a Bearss lime tree from my local nursery (about 3 feet tall) and it isn't looking so good. I have had a problem with leaves falling off, sometimes up to 8-12 a day.

I planted it in a gray plastic container with a 1/3 each mix of peat moss, cow manure, and that white foam stuff as well as put broken terracotta at the bottom and even added more holes to the put to promote drainage. I thought the pH may not have been acidic enough so I added about 2 Tablespoons to a gallon of water. It's been getting about 8 hours of full sun every day.

The weather has been a little crazy, 70's one week and upper 90's the next and then down to the high 60's. I have noticed citrus leaf miners but they have only affected a few leaves. There are a few mystery holes in some of the leaves I can not identify.

I'm just really worried and confused cause a lot of the bottom leaves have fallen off and a good chunk of interior leaves as well but I have 5 large marble size fruits as well as a flower bud. Can anyone help me?

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Hi tuggi and welcome here..

I will start...

First and formats is taking care of the roots..There is something obviously wrong with them which causes the top to suffer..

I would not use a manure in a container at all..What is the foam stuff? What did you add to make the soil acidic? Why didn't you add pine bark? When did you plant it? Where does it sit all day? Does it drain well and dry out rapidly?

Broken terra-cotta at the bottom of the pot will not promote drainage, unless the pot has no bottom holes..It will only fill in root space...

My concern is not the temps, nor the bugs, nor the Ph, nor your fertilizer at this moment..It is the soil and the roots I am concerned about. I would change that soil and plant into a mix that is porous and that drains rapidly as soon as possible..

Someone else can chime in after me..

Good luck..


    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 3:06PM
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tuggi you should not not use manure until after a tree has been one year in its new location. Even then you should not mix it in the soil let alone use it as 1/3rd of the soil mix.

You added 2 tablespoons of what per gallon?

You are going to need to re-pot the tree in a better soil mix for sure.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 6:50PM
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Your soil is the problem. Replant in a well-drained mix. Your peat moss content is much too high, I had a real problem last year with a very peaty mix. Plants were always dry even with watering everyday outside in the sun and heat. I changed the mix and they have been loving it ever since. Citrus may not like being transplanted, generally speaking, but sometimes you have to do it!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 7:47PM
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The white white foam stuff is perlite. I did add about 14 holes to the bottom of the plastic pot. The 2 tablespoons was of white vinegar. I transplanted the lime tree the first time about 3 weeks ago but it was in a terracotta pot (which weighed a ton) and the soil was composted tree bark, manure, and perlite which was way to heavy. I transplanted again about a week and a half into the new plastic pot and just added the old mixture and added lots of peat moss and more perlite.

Mike, what kind of pine bark should I use? Nuggets, mini nuggets, fine?

Thanks everyone for the help.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 10:58AM
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There are potting soil mixtures out there formulated specifically for citrus trees that have the right amount of peat, sand, and pine. It's the mixture that promotes the drainage, not the pot, and a 1/3 addition of perlite is way too much. Cow manure in a plastic pot is going to stay too wet (even with that much perlite)and promote root rot real quick. The rule of thumb is that by the time you see leaves dropping, the plant is usually already a goner.

Did you look at the roots when you repotted the last time? Were there any that appeared limp, slimy, porous or black? Healthy roots will feel firm and hold their shape when you squeeze them gently between your fingers. Yellowing leaves and falling leaves along with the kind of soil mixture that you describe would indicate that your little tree has probably drowned, or at least come pretty close.

Memorial Day weekend seems to be the traditional American gardening chores kickoff weekend. So I'd bet dollars to donuts that you repotted your tree again in the past couple days. I hope so and I hope you got it in a good mix this time. It's going to lose some more leaves, and may lose all of them in the process. But don't despair, give it some time and it may recover. If the branches begin to curl and you can snap them off, it's dead. But if you scratch the bark with your fingernail and you can see any green in the cambium layer it's still alive. Cheryl

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 12:10PM
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Thanks for the advise Cheryl. The only problem is that I live in Indiana near Chicago and citrus potting mix or fertilizer isn't really available. I did scratch the trunk two days ago and a deep green. so all good there.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 2:07PM
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Thanks meyermike for the advise

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 8:23AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Tuggie!
Mike gives great advice, and he's willing to lend a hand.
I've used several bark products in the past two years, and I've come to settle on Orchid Bark (marked as 'fine').
I screen the bark so that the majority of the particles are between 1/8 and 1/4 inch - although there will inevitably
be some bark in the 3/8 inch range. That's fine. It just makes for a courser mix that might dry out initially
(until new roots colonize the media and begin holding moisture more efficiently).

I begin with bark, then I add in pumice and perlite, making a mix very similar to the 5-1-1.
For an even grittier mix, I combine equal parts Bark, Pumice, and Perlite - all screened 1/8 - 1/4 inch.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 10:10AM
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gg24(6a CT)

Tuggie: About 3 weeks ago, I prepared a mix using 4 parts "repti-bark" (a fir bark for reptiles readily found in pet stores such as Petco), 1 part peat and 1 part perlite. My plants are loving it.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 10:44AM
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Hi tuggie,

There is nothing to add....:-)

Josh and gg got it just right....

It would be great if you posted a picture of your finished product.....I am certain with everyone's ideas, you will come up with a mix that satisfies both you and your plants needs..


    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 11:17AM
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Well I found the post on the soil-less potting mix the other night; 5 parts pine bark (I used nuggets but chopped up the bigger pieces a bit), 1 part perlite, and 1 part peat moss but I was a little skeptical about it at first. Looking at it just seems kinda weird without actual soil and it is about 30 lbs lighter then then the soil mix I had in it before.

When I pulled the tree out the root system looked pretty good, no rot or anything of that nature and even had lots of new growth.

To be honest I didn't do my research when I first got this tree. I have a vegetable garden and thought if I could grow peppers in clay soil I could surely grow a tree in a pot. So yeah thanks for the tips. I'll be sure to post a picture of the tree and the new soil real soon.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 12:40PM
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With all the gas exchange at the root zone, LOTS and LOTS of oxygen, not to say a missing perched water table, and a nice mix that let's you water and fertilize more frequently without fear of root rot, and salt build up, I would say the roots are in heaven...:-)

Wait till the cold weather comes back, along with copius amounts of rain, and you can sit back with peace of mind, knowing that your roots will still be happy along with the inability for "fungas gnats", everyone's worst nightmare, to take up residence in your soilless mix just to eat the new fine roots that provide most of the nutrition your plants survive on..You'll see..:-)

Good job!


    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 12:53PM
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Hey mike, I just wanted to say in the two weeks since starting the new mix I've lost only 8 leaves which is what I was losing everyday in my old mix. So your mix has already improved it 10 fold.

I seem to have another problem now. I have this weird film, which has been on the plant since I bought it, on my leaves that looks almost like powdery mildew but scrapes off in flakes and is sticky.
I've also noticed a few brown/black spots on some leaves that look almost like a human mole is growing on it but comes off with my nail. Oh yeah, and the undersides of my leaves are developing these spots where they are thinner then the rest of the leaf (like something ate patches of the underside of the leaf).

Any ideas?

Oh yeah, I've been treating it with Fish/Seaweed emulsion and ferti-lome blooming and rooting which is a 9-59-8 (following the directions on both to the 'T') on the foliage ever 2 weeks or so and then Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew for the citrus leaf miners twice.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 7:14PM
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9-59-8 isn't a good Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potash (NPK) ratio for your lime tree. I'll defer to the group but you want 3:1:2 or something close to that, or a multiple of it like 9-3-6 or even 24-8-16. Then you should buy something for trace nutrients. There are several choices - people can help with suggestions. I've used Foliage Pro for both NPK and/or trace elements for years, many others here use it as well. It's can be relatively expensive and not necessarily easy to find, but you can't go wrong. If you don't want to go that route or can't find it right away, Miracle Gro also works well. Another approach, alone or together with liquid fertilizers: Mike convinced me to try a time release fertilizer called Osmocote plus, it has NPK and trace elements as well. I had to order it on-line, couldn't find it in the stores around here. Just wondering, did the ferti-lome directions mention not foliar feeding in direct sun? Also wondering approximately what size you made the pine nuggets? Tuggie, from your description of the prior soils, I'm surprised your tree didn't crash and burn long before now. Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 11:39PM
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Hi tuggie...

That is awsome, although I am a bit concerned about the ratios you are using...I use to use high middle number ones too, and my plants eventually died anyway..

Mandarin1 has givin good advice, and I have posted a link to help you understand a plants need even more..

Good luck:-)


Here is a link that might be useful: About container fertilizing.....Important to know..

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 12:54PM
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Well I am/was using the high P fertilizer to just get the roots going. The container doesn't state that it can not be used in direct sun but I've only ever put it on during early morning or early evening. I also used Myke's which has a kind of fugus that helps rooting. I did forget to mention I was using Osmocote plus, so I got that covered.

Oh, this soil-less mixture is my third transplant of this lime tree in the first month I bought it. The first mix I had was straight miracle grow potting mix and manure. Then changed it to the mix I had posted about, and then the one it's in now. I'm not sure how it survived this long either.

It has been raining like crazy the last three weeks. 5 out of 7 days are rain and there have not been any sunny days in a row, so I think my roots may be a little too wet (yellowing leaves has lead me to believe this). Unfortunately there aren't any covered spots over here and I've tried to keep it close to the house away from all this rain.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 11:26PM
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buylady(z5b IL)

Please HELP!!my meyer lemon is doing the same thing dropping leaves like crazy, its an older plant i bought from an individual theirs bears constantly,mine is bout 4ft tall never beared yet for me hers are a lot biggerrrrr, i got acid for fruit trees i clipped a branch and the center is green..after reading all the posts here today..can some please give me a ratio for the soil mix..i'm goin to look already mixed kind but i bet its not around here i'm in southern IL an all plants in in the winter or they DIE for sure..also my wood heat in the winter is terribly dry...thx for any help

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 2:44PM
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