Advice on mini orange tree

perfect_12August 19, 2006

I have had a mini orange tree growing indoors for the past year and a half. It recently started to lose a lot of leaves, which we have discovered was due to over watering - we took it out of the decorative pot to put it onto gravel, and there was loads of dirty water in the bottom of the pot. The tree had got 18 mini oranges on it each about an inch in size which i have now removed.

The tree has now been outside on gravel for three weeks and i've not watered it, but it is still losing leaves - and the branches where the leaves have come off have gone all brown and woody.

Are these branches dead?

Should i trim them off or leave them on?

Have i rotted the roots by overwatering?

Is there anything else i can do to help it?

The tree has been very healthy up to now with no sign of disease and has always had lots of fruit on it.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Becky

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Yes you have probably rotted the roots from overwatering it. Re-pot the tree in a free draining potting mix. Try mixing a little potting soil with a good bit of pine bark, sand, and perlite. If there are any dead or rotting roots, trim them off when re-potting.

Use a fingernail and scratch the brown branches. If they are green underneath, they are still alive. If they are dried and brown then they are dead. If they are dead, prune them off by making a cut into live wood above the dead branch.

Also, after repotting, prune the tree back by maybe 20%. The branches dying is most likely the tree's way of coping with too much canopy and not enough of a healthy root system to support so much.

Better to trim it back now and have it grow back vigorously once it is healthy again.

If your "mini orange" is a calamondin (which it most likely is) they're fairly hearty and it should bounce back quickly.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 3:19PM
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I agee w/Pelham. It's too bad it was overwatered, because it sounds like a nice tree.
Also, remove any dead roots by cutting w/clean scissors. Do you have a pic of your tree?
Don't worry about decorative pots right's important the tree resumes its health..Toni

    Bookmark   August 19, 2006 at 3:44PM
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Thanks Pelham, I really liked your tip of scratching the branches with a nail, unfortunately they were mostly dead so i have pruned them off. The tree lost about a third of its branches, so this may have sorted out the difference between roots and canopy. This was a really helpful suggestion and makes so much sense. My mum is coming to visit on Tuesday, so i'll get her to help me repot the tree, and sort the roots out.

Toni, I do have a pic of the tree, but not sure how to post it. I'll try to figure it out and post it later this evening.

Hopefully the tree will be ok - it has always been very healthy and everyone says how nice it is (or rather was!) It did lose a few leaves over xmas and bounced back so fingers crossed. Sorry, you were right Pelham, it is a calamondin - the name had escaped me. It produces loads of fuit, which look gorgeous but are completely inedible! (unless you like very sour 'oranges' with lots of pips!)

I hope that anyone who has trees growing in decorative pots reads this and takes them out. The top of the soil is often bone dry, and until you take them out you do not know whether they are sitting in water. We were absolutely shocked by the amount of water in the bottom of the pot!
They are going to live on a tray of gravel from now on...


    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 2:20PM
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Becky, my dh is always after me to buy decorative pots, but I tell him time and time again, plants do best in either the ugly plastic pots they come in, other types of plastic or clay (depending on plant)
What materal was your decorative pot? Materials make a lot of difference, too. Ceramics can be difficult working with, even though they're nice-looking.
All citrus are in pots for trees bought online.
Your Calamondin will do fine in a regular grow pot, just give it time. Toni

    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 2:59PM
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Toni, my parents gave them as prezzies along with two painted clay pots, which looked really nice. We've now got rid of the pots and are in the plastic pots they came in on saucers filled with gravel (and water for humidity) Just wished i'd known this before hand - but at least we've learned from our mistakes!

Thanks for your help, you've all been great.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 3:12PM
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I'm glad to help. I wouldn't worry too much about the calamondin. When I was out of town, mine didn't get watered (someone forgot) while I was gone and it lost half its leaves -- a month later it was growing like crazy again.

I like calamondins - nice and sour! You can make "calamondinade" with them just like lemonade or limeade. I hear they're also good for making marmalade and my mother says she has a recipie for making calamondin bread too.

Good luck with it - I'm sure it will recover just fine once you change the pot and watering habits. Make sure the pot you pick is also not too big. Citrus like to have a pot that fits somwhat snugly - it helps to prevent them from sitting in water.



    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 3:12PM
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I think my calamondin may be just about to be like Becky's was - we came back from holiday to find the pot sitting in a saucer of water because of heavy rain while we were away. Have poured out the excess water, but a lot of leaves seem to have gone, though there are still a lot of ripe and small green fruit on the branches. I don't think any branches have died off yet. But I need some advice too!

Pretty soon I suppose we shall have to bring it in, as the autumn sets in (early!). Would it be best to repot it now, or wait until spring?

PS - I make tiny quantities of marmalade as the fruit ripens - today I made a very small potful with about 8 fruit finely sliced and a tablespoonful of spiced dark brown sugar, fantastic as a coating on baked ham!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 6:36PM
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Elvira, if your tree's stems look healthy, you can probably get by repotting in spring..Only if the soil feels/looks like it's not drying out would I repot.
But, if you do, use a well-draining soil. I use a mix of all purporse, peat, sand and Perlite. Adding bark will also help w/drainage.

Um, your idea w/calamondin oranges on ham sounds fantastic..better than pineapple..Next time I make ham, I'm going to try it..My Calamondin is filled w/oranges now, so I don't know if it'll fruit again by Christmas. If so, I'm going to give it a try..Thanks, Toni

    Bookmark   August 20, 2006 at 9:01PM
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Hi Toni, thanks for this. The soil feels dry on top and the beginning of the rootball is very visible - it looks as if it's bursting out of the pot it's in, which is why I think I ought to repot it sometime. But I'd rather leave it till the spring when it can come outside onto the balcony again and enjoy the sunshine of smoggy London, and from what you say (and what I've gathered from other posts on this marvellous forum!) it looks as if I can. We've got a lemon tree too (both presents for our wedding this spring) which is healthy but only one tiny fruit as yet. They'll both go into a cool light room for the winter then we plan to repot them in the spring. Is this OK, do you think?

Oh, and why is ham only for Christmas? Enjoy!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 11:56AM
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London, Congrats on your marriage..Be happy.
What a nice present, citrus trees.

Yes, everything sounds perfect..waiting till spring to repot will work. Only if a plant was really potbound would you have to transplant now.
Better a cool room then too hot. My citrus also stay in cool rooms away from heat. In south windows. And several in a tiny gh where it's pretty cold in winter.

Why ham for Christmas? WEll, let's see..for one, we don't use ac so baking a ham now would be too hot..also, they are really expensive this time of year..only for the holidays do they go on sale..Even the sliced ham, one big piece the size of a Porterhouse steak is about 5.00..I only buy that piece when I make cheesy brocoli casserole. But Christmas is only 17-18 wks away when you think about it. So, Merry Christmas..LOl..Toni

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 2:49PM
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I have taken all the advise that i have seen in the mails on this site, my tree looks like it was dead but i think now it may still be alive, i have re-potted it in specil potting compost and sand, i have sat it on gravel with some water in to create humidity, there are some leaves left at the top of the tree but i have removed all the dead ones and cut back the dead wood. Should i be watering the plant at all, do i need to feed it with anything. Please help if you can.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 12:31PM
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Hi all, I just registered as a similar thing happened with my silly overwatering.

here is the state of my tree, can it be saved?

im a total noob at this, it had some great fruit earlier in the year.


many thanks all

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 5:34PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

for sure looks like root rot.. scrape off a small layer of bark, if you see green you may have a chance at saving it.

1. inspect the roots, you want them to be white, yellowish or brown and its might be a goner
2. wash all the soil off the roots and plant into a very good draining mixture, 5:1:1 or gritty is most people favorites, Ill link the mixes at the bottom.
3. filtered sunlight, either outside or close to a window and dont overwater
4 cut off the dead leaves and branches.

this is what I would do to try and save it. others may have a better idea.

Here is a link that might be useful: Al's container mixes

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 5:50PM
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    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 6:27PM
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Oh my..

What Mkgsmth would do..

Maybe someone can recommend a product to sterilize the roots too..? I do see green near the base which spells hope asap..If not, then put 1 capful of bleach into a gallon bucket and rinse the roots before replanting..


    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 6:31PM
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I've never had luck with bleach solutions, but I guess you could try that. If I wanted to dip the roots in something, I would personally choose copper.

What mksmith said is pretty much what I would try, too. When you repot it, make sure you plant the tree so that the place where the roots meet the stem (the "crown" of the plant) is 2 cm or so above the ground. No dirt at all should touch that part of the tree. If it seems wobbly that way, you can use that stake to hold it up.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 9:06PM
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I live in SW France and have similar problems. During last winter, (a rather severe one for this region) the tree was not, I think, correctly protected from the frosts. I late March, all the leaves together with a few buds, fell off and the tree appeared dead.
There is now a green shoot growing out of the 'trunk' which we noticed about four days ago. The tree is in a large pot which stands on 'feet' in a plastic dish. I have pruned all the dead wood off. What can I now do to salvage it ?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 11:34AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)


was this a grafted tree? Is the new growth above the graft line?

If the new growth is above the graft then the desire to try and save the tree, in my opion, would be higher than if this is rootstock growth.

either way, give it plenty of sun, have good draining soil, water and fertilize appropriately and you should be able to get it growing good again.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 1:01PM
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Thanks for that. The tree was a gift about three years ago, was already in a small pot, tree was about 30 cm high. It did very well indeed, even when we moved it outside. before the leaves fell off, it has produced a mass of small oranges and had achieved a height of about 70 cm.
Question: Can the shoot (about 30cm long) be planted separately ?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 1:12PM
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I live in MI, have a miniature orange tree which has not blossomed or produced oranges in about 5 years but still has has been pretty healthy. I always move it outside when the weather gets warm enough and it flourishes. This year, we had a few warm days and I moved it outside too soon (it was too cold at night) now, most of the leaves have died and fallen off but there are still some green healthy looking ones at the bottom. Is there anything I can do to save it?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 9:34AM
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