Leaves curling up on orange trees

akaurgardener(9)August 8, 2014


I'm in Northern California, zone 9. I have a washington navel, valencia orange, and taracco blood orange tree and all three are experiencing upward curling leaves and yellowing. I also have meyer lemons, but those are fine.

These had dark green leaves about a month-two months ago. I've fed them Scotts Avocado, Citrus, Mango tree slow release fertilizer as per the label and given them FST over the months. I water once a week, and we have clay soil that I amended with compost and garden soil when I put these in the ground in April.

I also haven't noticed any new growth on any of these trees. I don't know if that is normal.

Any ideas? I've grown attached my trees :( I hope I haven't killed them.

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Not unusual for young orange trees to do that in the hot summer. I would try giving them a little more water.

The Meyers probably has a greater root to plant ratio; and thus is able to better sustain the tree in the heat.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 4:46PM
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Hi Johnmerr,

What are symptoms of overwatering? I have clay soil and I'm afraid of giving them too much water. What will I notice if I water too much, do you know?

Also, I haven't noticed any new growth on any of these trees. All of them have different fruit seasons, so I'm wondering why that might be. Do you think this is a problem?


    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 4:54PM
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BarbJP CA 15-16/9B

I agree with the more water advice. We've had some really hot weeks in the last couple months, high 90's and up in my area (near San Jose,Ca).

Once a week is probably not enough in this kind of weather, even in the ground. I've been watering my in-ground citrus 2 to 3 times a week, depending on how hot it's been.
Your tree isn't too bad yet, but it does look thirsty.

When you do water, how do you apply it? Hand water, drip irrigation, spray or shrub head on a regular irrigation system? Soaker hose?

And for how many minutes do you let the water run each time?
Have you checked how far down the water goes each time, by digging a small hole, or poking a dowel down at least 12 inches?
You would be surprised how slowly clay soil becomes moist further down in the soil. It tends to run off before it soaks in much.
Low and slow is the motto of clay; meaning it's better to apply water at a lower volume and a slower rate in most cases.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 5:03PM
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Sadly the symptoms of overwatering are the same; the way to know which you have is core soil sample, wooden dowel, tensiometer, etc. My first guess without any of those is based on your zone and the season; I would think it unlikely you would be overwatering, especially at a rate of once per week.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 6:52PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Definitely more water. Leaf cupping is a symptom of dehydration. The leaves cup to converse water loss via transpiration from the leaf surface. Usually with over-watering, you'll see more drooping, and less cupping. You can buy an (expensive) tensiometer, or simply get yourself a long stick (I use a plastic-covered green plant stake, cheap and effective) and push it down into the ground around your tree. Try to push it down 18 to 24". If it comes back up moist, you're good. If it comes up dry, OR, if you simply cannot push it down far enough, water. Water deep enough to get the water down 18 to 24", where the feeder roots reside for citrus. As John mentions, considering your temps, even though you're on clay, it would be highly unlikely you are over watering. And, do not amend your holes. You'll just create a "bathtub" effect. You're much better off planting your trees in your native soil, but on mounds. Top dress with amendments (as Mother Nature does).

Patty S.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 8:44PM
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Thanks to everyone who pitched with some great answers/explanations.

I'll up the watering to 2x a week. We haven't hit the 90s much in Orinda, CA, but we've been seeing high 80s.

One last question- I noticed these bumps and odd deformaties on some of the leaves of the blood orange (pic). Are these aphids or something else?

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 1:33PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Severely chlorotic (fertilize), and the deformed leaves is probably due to aphid damage with the leaves were younger and more tender. Some of the damage may also be due to Citrus Leafminer, but cannot tell for sure.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 8:44PM
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Hi Patty,

I've been fertilizing with Scotts Avocado, Citrus, Mango tree slow release fertilizer. I've given them a capful (about 1/2 cup) twice since April. Should I try FST? How must should I give them? They are in the ground.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 11:12PM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

Once a week water to a young tree in Orinda is much too little. Unless of course your specific planting location is getting hydration from another source (i.e. from a neighbor's yard up the hill, adjacent sprinkler leak, etc).

Echo above; check the hydration with a dowel/skewer. Also check the pH. EBMUD delivers very alkaline water to me here in Danville. I need to add vinegar to it so that the roots can absorb the food. [1 Tbsp per 1.5 gal watering can]

You may have burnt the roots as i did 2 years ago. Too much fertilizer for the level of hydration. Be patient with the recovery. Forgo the solid fertilizer until next year; give it a weekly dose of the FP (and vinegar if needed).
Good Luck!
- George

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:33PM
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I've upped the water to 3x a week, and my trees are definitely happy!

Thanks to everyone who responded!

George - I'll try the vinegar as well. I've just moved to the area and did not know our water was alkalinic. Thanks!

I'll update in a month again, in case there is someone else out there looking for a fix.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 1:43PM
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