Citrus yellow/narrow/curly leaves, immature fruit drop

CaliBong2014(9)July 14, 2014

Hello all,

I live in the Bay Area. I have posted a picture of the sadness that is my potted dwarf clementine. I got this tree from Home Depot 4 years ago. That was the last time it was healthy. It is still only 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. I feel like it hasn't grown at all since I bought it. After I bought it, ants got to it and there were scale insects everywhere. I used rubbing alcohol to get them off and the ants have been gone for a while but I think are coming back. But since then this tree has been very sickly and never has produced again.

I have attached a picture of one of the curling leaves.

You can also see that the rest of the leaves around that curling leaf are yellowish and very small/narrow. You can see how small they are in comparison to my fingernail. I have small hands.

There is a tiny little clementine fruit in the photo that will fall off in a few days. All the other ones have fallen off while that size.

There are spikes growing off the branches, and some of them have tiny black specks that look like scale insects, except I can't rub them off.

Other leaves have brownish gunk on the undersides of them that looks like gunky sap.

Please give some advice about how to save this tree. It has a host of problems and I don't know where to start. I currently water it with a drip system of 10 minutes 2x a day, once in the morning, again in the afternoon. Every three months I feed it with Vigoro brand citrus/avocado tree fertilizer granules, about 2/3 tsp at a time. It gets about 10 hours of sunlight. it's in a hardy plastic, 20 gallon planter. What should I do? Thanks for your help!!

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

Okay. First, I would re-pot and use a better draining potting mix, which I suspect you've probably used just something out of a bag. For me in S. California, I use 3 parts high quality Cactus Mix (I like EB Stone's products), 1 part small bark chips (I usually buy either Orchid mix or a reptile bark you can purchase at Petco, or PetSmart), and 1 part perlite. Water thoroughly, every week or so (depending on how hot it gets for you), so the water runs out of the pot. Don't over-water (but with this mix, that's pretty hard to do). I can't see how big your current pot is, buy you may need to pot up in size if your pot is on the small side.

I also will use a time release fertilizer such as Osmocote Plus, which has the proper NPK ratio along with all the micronutrients. I apply this every 6 months. Although Vigoro Citrus Fertilizer is a good product for in-ground citrus, I don't use it for my container citrus as in order to use enough of the product (2/3 tsp. isn't even close to enough), you may experience some burning from the by products of the nitrogen. And, I will also supplement with a high quality liquid fertilizer a few times a year. I prefer to use Dyna Gro's Foliage Pro. It is an excellent product, will not cause nitrogen build up, and also has an excellent NPK ratio and all the micros.

As far as insect infestation - you probably still have some sucking insect that is infecting your citrus. You can either opt to use Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control as a soil application, or, try spraying your tree once a week for the next 3 to 4 weeks with an insecticidal spray (Safer makes a good product.)

Pluck off any fruit for now until the tree has a chance to recover and produce a decent canopy.

Allow your tree to have as much sunshine as possible.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:04AM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

Where are you in the SF Bay Area? I ask because it sounds like much too much water for a potted citrus! [unless you are seeing excess of 100F and in full sun every watering day].

Your Clementine looks like it is suffering through malnutrition and perhaps over watering - tough to say. But if the roots are indeed soggy, then they will not take up nutrients. Patty gives excellent advice; especially on the soil / drainage!!!!

Adjust the watering schedule appropriately, change or adjust your soil and CHECK your irrigation water pH. [I trust that you are not watering with water that has been through a water softener system].

Adjust the pH as needed, some of the Bay Area water sources deliver very alkaline water [i.e. my EBMUD water is 9.1-9.4 out of the tap]. My most acid loving root stock [Carizzo] was clearly showing the worst malnutrition.

I had two Clementines [on Carizzo] and two Golden Nuggets [on C-35] that went through this issue. All were put on what i call my Intensive Care Unit [ICU] program and are / have recovered. I even pulled one out of the ground to confirm the soil conditions. I was giving them plenty of food, but still yellow and no growth until the ICU program. The "twin" Clementines were separated, one was dug up and moved to another location with a neutral pH water source. That one began recovering immediately. Which gave me the "aha" for the vinegar in the ICU.

ICU: weekly application of the following mix in addition to regular watering [my potted GN's only got 1/4 gallon at most of this mix - weekly]
ICU Mix: 1.5 gallons of water that contains 1 Tbsp. vinegar + 1 Tbsp. Foliage Pro or Master Nursery[EBStone] Liquid Gold [I alternate the FP and the LG].
I did not get results until i began adding the vinegar! But please CHECK your pH - !

I have added a picture of the two Gold Nuggets. The one on the left was pulled out of the ground and potted in a well draining grit/dirt mix a few days before the picture was taken on June 8, 2013. Both were being fed, but just not responding. My next post will have a pic of these two after ~ 2 months ICU.

This post was edited by Becauseican on Mon, Jul 14, 14 at 18:21

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 2:17PM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

And here is a close-up of the pulled and potted one (on left in earlier pic) after nearly 2 full months of ICU. Picture taken on August 1, 2013. The leaves have greened up and new leaves have grown!

Best of luck, George

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 2:21PM
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Hi Hoosierquilt!

Attached is a photo of my pot size compared to the plant size.

Thanks for the soil/drainage suggestions. Do you recommend that I replace the soil immediately, or should I repot in the fall? I will be replacing the soil with those products.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 5:41PM
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Hello Becauseican!

I am in San Jose, so pretty close to you where you are. And it definitely doesn't exceed 100 degrees here. I think my drip system is watering too shallowly too frequently. I will be changing my watering system to a deep watering once a week. I recently checked my pH with my swimming pool's pH tester and it showed to be basic, about 8. I will be adding some of that vinegar, I guess!

Also, if any of you knows what this brown stuff is in the picture, please let me know! I think it might be my scale bugs coming back??

Thanks for the tips!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 5:48PM
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This post was edited by CaliBong2014 on Wed, Jul 16, 14 at 17:53

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 5:50PM
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Also, anyone know what these black spots could be? I thought they were scale insects, but they are blacker and smaller and don't scrape off. Maybe some manifestation of some systemic disease? Not sure....

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 5:52PM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

CaliBong, i do not know what those spots are, sorry.

I am unsure about your water amount. I have a variety of potted citrus in a variety of soils (well-draining as well as plain dirt/clay) and generally they do better with a constant level of moisture (not soggy). I give them a good shot of water every other day. When it is hot, upper 90's or 100's i water every day.

The "ICU" that i described above with the weekly liquid feeding is actually a really good standard of care for potted citrus that i learned about from this forum. [I am rather new to potted citrus....].

The ICU is also the care that i have started this past June for all 45 of my in-ground citrus. I believe its a good prevention to dry, burnt roots - due to significant irrigation reduction; a consequence of our current drought.

Good Luck!
- George

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 8:04PM
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Wow, this forum is amazing. in 3 responses basically hit on every single nugget that has taken me a long time to Lear the hard way before finding this place.
In Fl we have all the nasty pest that make it involved to have a healthy tree.

you say you've had it for 4 years, In the word of TapLa, "rootwork". Just be light and air on the side of caution. pot size looks fine however it's a good idea to give the roots every couple year.

the Bayer has worked wonder for me, I apply about 1/3 of the recommended dose, religiously every couple months. I am not letting any fruit mature on my trees yet but will likely reevaluate once I get to that point but for now my new growth is safe!!

a good spray of some cooper every now and again also helps. Make sure to do In the evening or risk burning.

Some foliar application of chelated trace minerals and a dash of hort soap also seems to perk up the trees.

foliage pro has also done great things for my trees;)! Thanks gardenweb!!!

I think 1 a week may be to drastic, perhaps every 2 or 3 days is a good start, that still a lot less than 2 a day.

Good luck. Please do report back!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 9:50PM
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Btw your tree actually looks great to me! I have seen some train wrecks down here.

If you follow the excellent advice given you'll no doubt you'll see a growth flush in no time.

I personally like to lightly prune my trees for esthetic reasons, and find they. Respond very well to it, The key is very lightly, mostly branches that are out of place like growing inward and tangling.

When you change soil and do rootwork try not to let it get to much sun the first few days if you can avoid it.

Good luck

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 10:03PM
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just working out how to post a pic

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 10:12PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Cali, re-pot now, your tree is struggling. And then follow the instructions for watering and fertilizing. Not sure what the black specks are, or the rusty colored splotch. For my area, I water very thoroughly about every 4 to 5 days, more often if my temps start to approach 90. My municipal water is about 7.5 to 8.0, so for me, no need to acidify my water, but you should check the pH of your water in case it's like George's. That is just too high for young citrus, especially container citrus. So, I would definitely consider acidifying your tap water with your fertilizing for a while, until your tree recovers. And, overall chlorosis and poor performance with in-ground citrus can be due to proliferation of phytophthora in the soil, especially if you've over watered during winter/spring months (when temps are ideal for phytophthora growth.) Pulling them out of the ground and putting them in containers will reduce or stop the growth. I've had to "rescue" a few of my more rare citrus due to phytophthora and I make sure now that all my citrus (except a few that are either not compatible or are sour) are on C35, which is more resistant that Carrizzo/Troyer, which does much more poorly with regard to phytophthora. But not a guarantee, unfortunately. George, bet it was your Gold Nugget on C35 that recovered more quickly.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:04AM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

Hi Patty, always a pleasure to hear your input. - thank you!

The Gold Nuggets pictured are from Four Winds and so i believe on Cuban Shaddock. The Clementines are on Carrizo.

The symptoms of too little water can be similar to too much. Essentially, the roots are not functioning properly. I initially thought my issues were related to too much water and phytophthora, but by pulling the GN and later the Clem, i discovered 1/2 the roots with a bit of moisture and the other half bone dry. [the Clem had an additional issue - neighboring tree root encroachment that was taking up the resources].

One of the GN's and both Clems were in the ground, in fill clay, and on a significant slope - so no drainage issue.
Pulling that GN out of the ground and allowing it to enjoy constant moisture, food and water brought it back. Moving one of the Clems to another location with water pH of 7.1 and watching it respond gave me that "aha".

A key point here is to try your best to asses your specific situation and feed/water/fix accordingly.

And BTW, I would like to add that I still leaf-read, but its only one data point! I have noticed that Citrus leaves show evidence of their environment anywhere from 1-7 days [drought tends show more quickly]. If you adjust for something that you see the leaves showing you, it can set you up for some very wild swings in care.... the leaves might be telling you what happened last week!. - Golf is easier because your shot gives you instant feedback! [comments always welcome - just not about my golf game please]

Best of Luck - George

[edited to correct rootstock-sorry for any confusion]

This post was edited by Becauseican on Thu, Jul 17, 14 at 15:43

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:57AM
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I would not be surprised if those black spots were infant scale . Check the undersides of the leaves .


    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 1:33PM
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