Meyer lemon tree in 511 mix - any successes?

timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)July 18, 2011

Hi all,

I'm new to this forum, but have read very helpful past posts from MeyerMike, Al, Andrew, Josh, Toni, and others regarding growing citrus in containers in gritty or 511 mix. I live in San Fran and currently have 3 Improved Meyer (IM) lemon trees from Four Winds in the ground (I'll post pics another time) which are doing well after A few weeks ago, on advice from this forum, I made a 511 mix of micro bark, peat, and perlite, also adding 1 tbsp gypsum per gal of mix. I washed off all the nursery dirt from the roots and replanted in the 511 mix, then added an additional couple of inches of bark on top for insulation/moisture retention. Following transplanting, I kept the tree shaded and, using the wooden dowel method to test for dryness, watered every few days with plain water for two weeks allowing tree to acclimate to the media In the last couple weeks, I've recently been watering with 1/4 tsp Foliage Pro + 1 capful vinegar in room temp water w/each watering. The tree is situated in my very sunny dining room, getting good morning (East) and afternoon (West) sun; I'd say it receives 8-10 hrs of sun when there is no fog (which is more the case in SF than not, unfortunately).

As you can see from the pics below, although the tree is in full bloom, it has lost all of it's leaves following transplanting, and I'm doing my best to be patient and allow the roots (and hopefully leaves thereafter) to recover. My questions are as follows:

1) Anyone out there have any success w/Meyer lemons in 511 mix (especially in the SF/Bay Area)? I remember reading a post that even MeyerMike was having difficulties w/Meyers in containers (but could have been more to do with over-wintering issues in the NE).

2) How long does it usually take before one sees leaves after transplant shock?

3) Do any of you have pics of your Meyer lemon trees in 511 mix that you could post to give me hope?

4) Any other helpful suggestions you guys can offer would be greatly appreciated. :-)


Improved Meyer lemon after transplanting:

After a few weeks in shade & plain water, just started FP + vinegar:

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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

The 5-1-1 should have been made with dolomitic lime and not gypsum. The lime is used in the 5-1-1 to give you Ca and Mg - but also, importantly, to raise the pH to an acceptable level for most plants. The pH of your soil is probably around 5 right now (too low). You are also probably lacking magnesium in high enough concentrations. The 1/4 tsp of foliage pro per watering almost certainly hasn't built up soil magnesium levels to be comparable to the calcium levels. This might mean that what little Mg the FP has in it could be being locked out by high Ca concentrations. Do you know what the pH of your finished fertigation solution is (I mean with the FP and vinegar in it)? None of this has anything to do with the defoliation - that's all from your root work. But this will have to be corrected at some point.

1) I have several citrus trees in the 5-1-1. They are all flourishing. When properly made the mix will work very well for citrus - at least until the bark breaks down into finer particles over the course of a few years.

2) It's not so much transplant shock as repotting shock. How long it takes to recover depends on how gentle you were with the roots. It looks like you took quite a few fine roots with the old soil when you repotted (I know I did the first time I did it). It bloomed in a desperate attempt to reproduce before death (the blooming is a bad sign, not a good one). If you left enough roots it will recover. You will likely see branch dieback since the tree completely defoliated.

You will have to wait for the next growth flush to tell how much of the tree will make it. Don't give up even if it looks dead. Don't cut back any branches that look dead until you see the growth flush. I've had several trees come back after looking pretty terrible after repotting. The roots will be taking up far less water than before (as most of them are gone) so make sure not to over water while it recovers or what few new ones to develop will die from rot.

Here's a shot of 2 citrus trees (in the back) in the 5-1-1 taken about a month ago - I have 8 citrus trees in the mix:

They are still doing great, I just haven't taken many pics of the citrus lately because the peppers in front of them have grown up... hard to get good shots.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 2:56AM
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the branches look green and healthy. just give it a few weeks, you should start seeing leaves.

i do not use soil-less mixes, except for my dendrobium orchid, which i use LECA in a semi hydro pot. i noticed you have a large and healthy cattleya to the left. has it bloomed in that spot?

please keep us updated on its condition.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 3:48AM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

Redshirtcat: Thank you for your quick response, and great pic, BTW! You say that you have 8 citrus in the 511 mix - any Meyer lemons/either of the two pictured Meyers?

I was reading another post when I accidently wrote "gypsum" above - I apologize for the error. I just went to double check on what I used, and the box does indeed say "Agricultural lime (dolomite lime)" from EB Stone, so hopefully my Ca, Mg, and pH are okay. It's possible that I may have been a little rough on the roots, but I recall that the old soil did readily wash away exposing fairly intact and white-ish/healthy-looking roots that I made sure to keep unsevered, moist and immediately plant in the 511 mix.

I think the leaf drop is just as likely due to the tree's poor health at the nursery to start. From the top pic, if you squint, you can see that the majority of the leaves were already turning yellow esp. at the tips which I thought an indication of root rot, malnourishment, or both. What you can also see is that a few branches had already lost all their leaves. When the denuded tree suddenly erupted in flower, I too thought this a last-ditch effort to try to reproduce itself. Which brings up my next question: In this state (of no leaves), should I even be fertilizing with FP + vinegar, or is it best to withhold and do just plain water. Should I keep plant away from sun until leaves return?

Houstontexas: Yes, it's a Cattleya 'Jack Cole' I've had for about 13 years that I potted up 6 or so years ago into a 15" plastic container of large-sized bark. Haven't since repotted and this seems to do the trick just fine, as it flowers without fail every Feb. Most it's ever given me was 14 fist-sized flowers that fill the room with an amazing fragrance. And yes, I keep in that same location, so I have hope that I can successfully also keep the Meyer in that spot!

Oh, BTW, on both the orchid and Meyer, you can kinda see (for the orchid at least) that I've made a moat with pot feet (the feet raises the pot about 1-2 inches) placed on a high-lipped saucer. I fill/always keep filled the saucer with water at a level just before it touches the bottom of the pot and make sure that water never actually touches the pot. The purpose of this is two-fold: 1) To provide some additional humidity to the plant, and 2) to prevent ants from "herding" scales in their attempt to gather nectar from the plant. I previously had a bad scale problem on this orchid, but ever since installing the moat, haven't had even one recurrence. I've started to do the same with the Meyer (after first thoroughly checking for no scales) in hopes that this will work equally well.

Cattleya 'Jack Cole' surrounded by moat of water:

So back to the Meyer and my initial question. Do you have a picture to share of your flourishing Improved Meyer lemon tree potted in 511 mix?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 2:55PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a


I don't grow a Meyer Lemon, so I'm not much help in that regard.
However, I do have a Ponderosa Lemon that I potted this winter.
It had five leaves, lost three, and then didn't do anything for a month or so.
Only now, five months after potting, is it growing leaves and blooming. I fertilize
with Foliage Pro and white vinegar every Friday, 1 teaspoon per gallon.

Your tree was in poor condition before the re-pot, so I'd expect a slower recovery.
I'll keep my fingers crossed!


    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 4:31PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Both of my improved meyers are in the gritty mix. So no, I don't have a meyer in the 5-1-1. I do have 3 oranges, 3 bearss limes, 1 key lime, and a clementine in the 5-1-1.

I'm glad you used the lime instead of gypsum. In my opinion you should keep fertilizing - the soil contains 0 nutrients from the start so I would want at least a minimum level in the soil for the plant to use once it did develop its root system. The nutrient levels shouldn't build up if you water correctly.

Sounds like it should come back just fine...

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 5:30PM
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First off I'd like to say that you have one beautiful lily there. It is so amazing. Now I want to get one.
I also love your moat idea to keep ants away and raise local humidity. Good thinking.

I Have a couple of plants in the 5.1.1. mix that are citrus and if I can, I will get out and snap a shot.
Most of mine are in the gritty mix, not because they perform better, but because I am going to leave them in the same pot for a long time and the gritty mix will outlast the 5.1.1 by a huge margin structure wise.

That is the only reason I choose to use the gritty. My plants thrive whether in the gritty or the 5.1.1 just the same.

Redshirt: Beautiful trees:)

Hey Josh, you know I can't wait to see your latest pics..:-) I am on my way to e-mail buddy!

At this moment, until your tree shows any sign at all of renewed growth, just the transplant alone will be just fine for it for a couple of weeks. Even if you decide to fertilize at such a weak dose with anything, anything the tree does not take up will just get flushed with each watering with the 5.1.1 mix and that is one of the biggest advantages of it.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 6:02PM
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Neither the 5.1.1 mix, nor the gypsum had anything to do with the Meyer Lemon dropping all of its leaves. The tree's root systems must have damaged during the transplanting. The fact that the tree bloomed profusely after leaf drop is not a good sign, normally, with a rare exceptions, the bloom is followed by twig die back. I would only give the tree a 15 - 20 percent chance of recovery.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 6:22PM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

Thank you guys for your posts - it's really very much appreciated!

Josh: I'm happy to hear that you have a lemon in the 511 mix and similar watering/fert. regimen to mine. It seems I may have a long wait ahead of me, if the tree should survive at all...

Red: What you say about the absence of nutrients in the media and therefore the need to continue with the fert. makes sense to me. I'll proceed accordingly, and we'll keep our fingers crossed.

Mike: It's a Cattleya orchid actually, and quite easy to grow in my area - I just water once/week and fert. maybe once/3 years if I remember.

Silica: To reiterate, I misspoke when I said gypsum. After double checking, I truly did use "Dolomite lime", I promise :-). In regards to root damage causing excessive leaf drop, again, I was quite careful in washing away the soil from the otherwise healthy-looking roots. Also, how do you account for when root pruning of bonsai have to happen and up to 1/3 of roots are removed without too detrimental an effect on plant vigor?

All: From what I've perused of the citrus forum, I've come across a few instances of Meyer lemons being potted up in 1-1-1 gritty that seem to do just fine/actually flourish. However, I'm hard pressed to come up with examples (and the lack of actual testimonials here would also indicate) that the 511 mix would also work well for Meyers. Is it possible then that, as much as it will work for other citrus, many people have tried the 511 mix for Meyers and most have failed due to something inherently different from the gritty? If this is the case, I may be setting myself up for failure and should try to procure ingredients for the gritty (which seem a little harder to come by) after all.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 7:09PM
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Hey Tim:

I was thinking of an older thread just last year that will show you some trees that were thriving in the 5.1.1 mix. I will link you and enjoy.

Have a nice night.

Here is a link that might be useful: Citrus in the 5.1.1 mix

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 9:18PM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

Thank you for the link, Mike. It's very kind of you to remind me of it and to help me in this way. Yes, I think I shall go through the entire (very long, but excellent!) link and take note of all the instances where Meyer lemons are planted in either gritty or 511 and report back to this thread. Come to think of it, I think I'll also do searches for 'Meyer lemon', '511', and 'gritty' to add to this tally.

BTW, just wanted to say it's a pleasure to meet you and the others here. Have a good night, likewise. :-)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 10:06PM
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Hello Tim,
I live in Marin and last year at this time I had a meyer that was almost leafless and potted into a probably too big pot in an unscreened 5;1;1 mix(as I was in a hurry and did not read about screening until after) and it is a picture of health now. I also recently repotted another meyer that was healthy but a bit root bound in its original pot into a screened 5;1;1 mix and it is doing picture perfect too. I am not good at posting pics and am on my way out for a vacation in Iowa (riding RAGBRAI) but will try to remember to post pics when I return. I owe it to this forum. Mike and Josh coached me through. I must say I have a satsuma in the al's gritty mix and it is not impressing me at all. Everyone also told me to be patient. It is hard to be but I really didn't think the leafless meyer would do anything and it came out of last winter with a bang and keeps improving.
good luck and dont over water or under water,

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 1:21AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Tim, it's nice to meet you, too!

Dave, good to see you. Be safe out there in Iowa!
Post pics when you return.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 10:59AM
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I purchased 5 trees this year from Mckenzie farms in SC. When I received them, I barerooted them into 511 mix.

One of them was an improved meyer lemon.

In the 6-7 weeks since I put them into 511, all trees have had a growth flush. I mixed some Dynamite CRF in the 511 and recently got some Foliage Pro, which I use whenever I water.

IML on left:

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 11:43AM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

Dave and mgk65, you guys fill me with hope for Charlie (he does look kinda like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, no?...)! mgk, thank you for posting your pics, and Dave, we look forward to seeing yours upon your return! Hope you had a good trip, BTW.

So what about the rest of you? There can't be just these few examples of successful Meyers grown in 511!...

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 4:34PM
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Lol...Hi Tim. Lately this forum has been abbot slow except for the same few that post all the time.
I can bet you that once the weather starts getting lousy, many more will be back from vacation.

I am also glad to have met you. I am confident that you will be able to succeed with the Meyer. I can actually say that I have gotten a few through winter successfully when I once couldn't, all thanks to the 5.1.1. mix.

Hey Josh!

Dave: So glad to see you back.Yahoo!:-)

Mike: Your trees look so nice. I love them all. Great job Mike.
How do you lime them bumpy pot? I have seen them somewhere before. I like the looks with those nice trees.



    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 4:53PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

I"ve seen them before too.. Maybe over in Figs is where we saw them Mike.

Air root pruning pots?


    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 5:11PM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

Hi Mike. Yes, growing citrus, I'm learning, is clearly an exercise in patients(!); the trend seems to be about 5-6 months recovery from leaf drop following repotting. You'd think I would have learned a bit on waiting, as my inground Meyers have yet to produce ripe fruit. Thankfully, there are various sized fruit hanging and I might even harvest at least one ripe one this winter! Speaking of winter, Mike, I remember reading back on another post of your winter leaf drop problem, and someone had suggested keeping your (wasn't it Meyer lemon?) tree in much cooler environs between freezing and 50 degree temps (in an unheated garage, if I recall correctly)? Did you try this and did it work for you? If Charlie lives, one day he may have to move to a house in NY, so I'll need every help in this forum to keep him and other citrus alive in Zone 6!

mgk65/Mike(?): In your top pic, 2nd from right, is that a Kaffir lime and if so, have you tried making Thai curry with the leaves, which I hear is quite yummy!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 5:58PM
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Those bumpy pots are air root pots, available from and they seem to work well. I found that using them with heavier mixes, that the bases need to be tied or the bases will fall.

I ran out of 3 gal air root pots, so I used some nursery pots in the pictures above.

From left to right, the picture shows:
Moro blood orange (tall tree)
Imp. meyer lemon
Eureka Lemon
Kaffir Lime
Key lime

I haven't yet made thai curry, but I will! I also have an indian kaddi (curry) tree that we have used in indian food.

mgk65 not mike. :)

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 1:47AM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

Mgk65, very cool! You've got to post a pic of your Indian Kaddi tree...

Well guys, I'm surely not out of the woods yet, but in looking over Charlie before we head out of town to Lassen tomorrow, I think I've detected new growth(!), though wasn't expecting it so soon! What do you think?

Although a bit smaller, I've counted about 11 of these little nibs along different branches...

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 9:07PM
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I think WONDERFUL! I am so happy for you.

How long will you be gone? Who will water your tree?

I hope you have a blast and it all works out. I see a whole lot of new growth there:-)


    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 9:47PM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

Thanks, Mike! I feel like a new Dad, & I couldn't have gotten this far without you guys!!!

I'll be gone for 4 days, which is just about right when the dowel tells me to water (I just did so), therefore I think I should be OK. I'll post pics again when these growths are a bit bigger and I'm certain that they're really leaves.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 10:04PM
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timsf(CA Z8B/Sunset17)

Update: Hi all! It's been 3 weeks since Charlie lost all but one leaf (and a bit over 1 month since being repotted into the 511 mix), and I'm happy to report that he's had NO twig die-back whatsoever. On the contrary, there are leaves on every branch (or tiny ones on the way) and he seems to be making a speedy recovery! I've cut back on the FP fertilizing to 1/2 tsp (+ 1 capful white vinegar/gal) at every watering (2x/week). In a few weeks after the leaves are a bit more mature, I'll decrease FP concentration further to 1/4 tsp at each watering for maintenance. Here are some pictures to give hope to new Meyer lemon container growers in 511 mix.

Reposting of first signs of growth:

Taken today (8/9/11):

:-) Tim

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 11:37PM
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Hello All,
Just popped in to check out the forum..Iowa was hot and humid..I have been super busy but will try and post a few pics soon...Tim your 5;1;1 meyer looks great..just give it more time....and be happy for the fog, I bet they would give a few hundred acres of corn away for free to have our natural air conditioning in Iowa...Although the bike ride was super fun.. I am in Marin so we get a good burn off usually...
Mike ..sorry to hear you got hurt
take care,

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 12:53AM
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2 years later, how's it looking now?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 9:31PM
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Tim, yes! And how have you been? It's been that long? Scary isn't it? I hope you are well:-)

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 9:47PM
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