a tale of 2 Meyers; help me solve this mystery!

ejperrymanJune 5, 2012

Below I have 4 photos. The first two photos are of Meyer lemon A, the other two photos are of Meyer lemon B. Both trees are the same age. Both were planted 2 years ago. Both were 25 gallon trees at time of planting. Both were planted using same soil, amendments, etc. Both are fertilized at the same times with the same amount/type of fertilizer. Both are watered same amounts. Yet one tree looks great (tree A), while the other tree looks like crap (tree B). Both have fruit, but why does the second tree (tree B) look so bad? Leaf-less, yellow leaves, bare, UGLY.


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You are a brave person to grow these Meyers with so many competing plants around them; the Meyer does not compete well for food and water. Best guess, Tree B seems to have more fruit, which is very draining to a young tree. What often happens to garden trees is when they are young and producing fruit, flowers and growth, the older central leaves get sacrificed to promote the fruit and also new growth. The fruit and the remaining leaves look good; I would increase the fertilizer and water them once per week; and maybe add some foliar fertilizer every 15 days until Tree B recovers. Could also be that Tree B has been getting too much water; it seems to have less competition to steal the water; it also looks like it gets more sun?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 5:30PM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

If I had to give a guess I'd have to say its related to microclimate, which could mean a difference in anything from subsoil to sunlight/wind/temp between the two sites. For instance I have a similar situation where 3 exact Meyers (all from one grower planted at the same time) are only a few feet apart from one other but there is clearly a growth difference them due to variances in light. Also, might there be more nutrient & water competition from other nearby plants in one area vs the other for your citrus, as John alludes?

I'm curious. What type of fertilizer are you using (one formulated for citrus, I hope...) and how frequently? What part of the country do you live?


    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 11:10PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I am NOT saying that this is what is at issue with your plants....BUT....little is truly understood or appreciated about the affects of allelopathy on our plants. Many, many mysterious problems for all kinds of plants might be able to be attributed to the toxic effects to one from other via the shared rhizosphere under the surface of the soil. It's a scary world under there, lol!

Allelopathic relationships occur where we least expect it...even our lawns can have a very deleterious chemical effect on certain woody plants.

Anyway, professional growers have observed problems with grass, weeds, and other plants growing in close contact with their trees and have often blamed in on 'competition', when, in many instances, allelopathy is the real problem. Observant back yard gardeners have wondered about why one plant does well while another does not.

Something to think about, anyway.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 3:24PM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

Plants engaged in biological warefare/suppression(!)... Pretty interesting & cool possibility, and one few would consider, rhizo! I'll be truly afraid when next, we discover a plant species deep in the Australian bush that can uproot itself & walk!... :-)

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 5:55PM
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Hey guys, sorry I've been traveling and unable to reply. Your suggestions are genius. I would have never thought that I have too many plants competing for nutrients, etc. In fact, I always think I have too little planted back there! Can you imagine!

I am in Tampa, FL.

The fertilizer I use is Sunniland.


I just follow the instructions on the bag, which are basically like 1 cup every 6 weeks (during growing season) or something like that.

By the way I do not spray these trees with anything; I am trying to grow citrus in Florida w/out using any insecticides. I know, I am insane!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 6:23PM
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No, not insane. In fact I wish there were people concerened about chemicals and their effects on the environment like you.

By the way. Lucky you to be able to plant in the ground there


    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 9:56AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Allelopathy could certainly be the culprit, but I think a more likely possibility would be root issues. You mention the trees were in 25 gal containers. Interestingly, it is known that trees in smaller containers will actually establish better than trees allowed to grow in larger containers. It may well be that this one Meyer had developed root issues, and this is what you're seeing. Did you check the roots to see if they were circling the pot before you planted it? Did you trim those roots? Anytime I see an overall tree decline or overall failure to thrive, I first consider the roots. But, certainly, if this is not this issue and has been ruled out conclusively, then consider what plants are near this struggling Meyer and consider either moving those, or moving the struggling Meyer to a clearer area of your yard. With allelopathy I always think of Black Walnuts which are one of the most distinctive examples of allelopathy for us home gardeners.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 11:20AM
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The roots were not circling the pot, but I did not plant them. They were both planted professionally by the nursery that sold them to me. I saw them when they came out of the pot, were planted, etc.

Now, if there is a root issue on Tree B, how do I go about checking for that? Is there a book that explains this????

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 8:39PM
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I am by far no expert here but please if you can show some pics of ground level of both trees. I know you said they were planted professionally but it could be as simple as the one failing tree being planted too deep. My neighbor has a lime tree that was planted by their gardener and he planted it way too deep and put a ton of bark around it. Poor thing is almost dead.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 11:06AM
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Planting depth is not a significant issue for inground citrus; as long as you don't bury the bud union, which will likely cause the tree to die.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 12:52PM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

Hi Dave! Nice to see you.

I'm not at all surprised that your neighbor's lime tree declined by being planted too deeply & having mulch touching the trunk!

Especially for those of us living in the Bay Area with heavy clay soil, excess water/moisture retention around the trunk is a good formula for rot. What they should have done is planted higher up/raised the planting bed so that the root flare is slightly exposed allowing better drainage & oxygen exchange near the soil surface.

You can get away with planting deeply ONLY IF you have excellent drainage & water doesn't remain standing around the trunk.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 9:53PM
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I live in an area with heavy clay soil, and we have to plant everything a bit high because it will settle and the root line will be below ground level. that includes citrus. A stupid yardman killed an apple tree of mine by planting it at ground level, and it sank an inch or two and died before I could get it moved. It was essentially in a bowl and drowned.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 10:56PM
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