Lemon trees not growing, with yellow leaves and drying

socalorchidmanAugust 17, 2013

You could say I have a semi-green thumb. For some things I'm very successful and others I'm not. For example, I grow orchids, and I do very well with them. In my front yard I have an 4ft growing avocado tree, a 3ft growing guava tree, which just flowered and has 3 growing guavas, a full grown cherry guava tree which gives me fruit more and more every year and.... 2 sad lemon trees. One was given to me in a pot and it was growing very well before I tranaplanted it, and a calamansi (calamondin) tree I purchased at my local Home Depot. It looked very healthy. Both trees where about 2ft tall when I planted them. It's been over a year, the calamansi, had fruit once and then the leaves changed from green with white spots to yellow green. The other lemon tree did the same and the longest growth started to dry. They have not grown one inch since i planted them. I planted all the other trees and they have been growing fine. In desperation I purchased citrus fertilizer and from growing orchids I learned to apply fertilizer a little weaker than suggested. What could be the problem? Please help!!

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krismast(6 S.E. PA)

Citrus are heavy feeders, so I don't think you need to go weak on the fertilizer. Also, what are your watering habits? Citrus, especially newly planted trees, need regular deep waterings to be healthy.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 9:18AM
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Thanks for your response krismast. I have water sprinklers on my lawn. They run 20 min every other day. plus my mother always comes behind and waters them separately. I'm about to give up and pull them out, but I will try to water them on the off days. Thank you again.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 3:29PM
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In this picture you can see how the calamansi leaves should look like (green with white and how the are now. About 80% of the tree is like this.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 4:11PM
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On this picture the lemon tree and a full view of the area where I have them planted. It's leaves used to be much greener and as you can see half of the main growth is dry. I noticed a new growth from the bottom, all hope may not be lost. I drove a metal spike around both trees to allow water to go deeper but the ground is soft so water absorption may not be the issue. The sprinklers ran yesterday morning and the soil was still damp. As I pulled the spike out it came back with damp dirt. I will try to water in-between watering to see what happens.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 4:21PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Okay. You've planted citrus trees in the absolute worst possible spot for a citrus tree to be planted - in a lawn. Citrus do NOT like to be hit by sprinklers, it will spell the sure demise of a citrus tree. Plus, your poor little citrus trees are getting exactly zero nitrogen, as the grass is utilizing every bit (which is why your trees are so terribly chlorotic looking.) Re-plant in an area away from grass and sprinklers. Place your trees either on a drip or on micro sprinklers. Deep water every week, or if it's really warm out, twice a week. Apply FULL STRENGTH citrus fertilizer in the amounts recommended on the bag (citrus are not like potted orchids - weaker fertilizers are often recommended for container culture due to salt accumulation that can occur using full strength fertilizers. Easily enough remedied by flushing your container plants very well with water about once every 2 months). Once your trees are out of the lawn, and are being watered and fertilized appropriately, they should perk up for you.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 5:36PM
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Thank you for your advice Patty. Unfortunately the front lawn is all i have. Do you think this will eventually affect my other trees also? Avocado and Guava.They seem to be growing good. My back yard is concrete. I will have to put them in pots then until the are strong enough again. What if I wait until the are bigger, plant them back in their original spots and add extra nitrogen to the fertilizer? I live in a corner lot so my front yard wraps around my house. My other option is to remove the lawn from the side of the house and plant them there latter. How much lawn should I cut back? The only problem is that this area gets only partial sun, like from noon to 4 pm. Would this be an issue? my Avocado is planted there, and its growing fine.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 1:31AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Yes. Avocados are like citrus - they utilize a lot of nitrogen, so they also will be competing for nitrogen with your lawn. Avocados also do not like their roots disturbed and will not do well in a container culture (with rare cultivar exceptions). If your avocado is doing okay, then remove lawn out to the drip line and a little beyond. Avocados need a little more water on average than citrus, which is why it is probably doing better, and plus, if the leaves are drooping down and protecting the trunk from being constantly hit by the sprinklers, it might make it. Avocados are also susceptible to gummosis (foot root), so they also do not like their trunks constantly hit by sprinklers. And, they're not going to want to get hit by sprinklers. You can pull your citrus out of the lawn, and pot them up, but they can't go back where you had them, they just will not survive being constantly hit by sprinklers. Also, with your lemon tree, if you're getting sprouting from below the graft, this would be the rootstock sending up shoots, so you would want to prune those shoots off at the trunk. I can't tell for sure, because the photo isn't close enough for us to see if they are emanating from below the graft line or not. Frankly, I think you're much better off removing a strip of grass, and planting the citrus in an area where these is no grass and no sprinklers. Place them on drips or micro-sprinklers. Depending upon what kind of guava, if it's a strawberry or pineapple guava (Psidium cattleianum or Feijoa sellowiana, respectively), are less particular and more hardy. Also, they are not high nitrogen users, and don't need the heavier feeding schedule that citrus or avocados require.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 10:24AM
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Patty, thank you very much for the info. I really appreciate it.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 4:43PM
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