Leaves dropping on citrus tree

jennymoorelineOctober 29, 2008

I was given a dwarf citrus in May [orange] and potted it as directed 2 gallon pot 10 inches across at top]and only give it a qt of water every two weeks. Every other time been using fertilizer in the water[same as I use on my orchids]. All went fine this summer but I brought it inside two weeks ago and it is shedding leaves daily. Right before I brought it in I washed it well in dish detergent water mixture as I do all my plants before bringing them inside. Has lost over half of them already. I also noticed small brown scales as well as little white dots on it. Mites? I have sprayed with a permethrin plant spray. Is it too late? Have I killed it?

Thanks for the help. I have never had a citrus tree before and this was a Mother's day gift. I have it in a south facing window. Room temp is around 70 degrees F

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Hi Jennie,

All is not lost! Firstly, it is natural for citrus to drop leaves when the environment changes. Make sure temps never go below 60F-65F when there is light outside, and ensure you keep the tree humid - misting and a gravel tray will help.

Sounds like you have a scale problem I'm afraid. Pick the little things off with your fingers or scrape them off with a cotton bud. Make sure you get every single one! They can kill citrus pretty quick if they get out of control.

I have never used a spray on my citrus before, but another member here uses a natural one that people say works fantastic. Toni's spray is made up of cayenne pepper, citrus juice and garlic juice, all mixed into water and used as a spray. Using this or a tiny bit of dish soap (not Dawn) in water and spraying will hopefully help get rid of the little white things. Make sure you get every tiny bit of every stem and leaf. That is very important. Bugs are good at hiding! Can you post a pic of the little white ones? Or give a greater description, as a more experienced member may be able to give you alternative advice :)

Keep us posted, let us know how your tree fares!


    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 3:48AM
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I was just going to post about how my blood orange did the same thing (with no bugs except some aphids). Drives me crazy, it did that last year too. I guess I have to keep misting. Did your leaves turn yellow, or just fall off green? Mine fell off while still green. My key lime is shedding a lot of leaves, but they turn sort of yellow first. They need more light, I think.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 9:48PM
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Mines are doiing the same thing! Some of my trees are dropping green leaves, and some of them are dropping pellowing leaves. I have lots of lites on mine. I don't get it. Happens every year. Maybe they are just taking a fit because we made them come back from vacationing in the nice warm sun outdoors into our wonderful homes...

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 8:14AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The indoor environment can be considered 'hostile' to such plants as citrus. They can certainly get used to it, especially if we do all we can to provide the appropriate temperature, relative humidity, and light. Even then, the adjustment from outside to inside can be very stressful.

This would be a good time to slow down on the fertilizing a bit, since the light level has been reduced so much. I can't speak to your watering routine. Plants should be drenched thoroughly each time they are watered, which should be as often as they need it. Rather than a calender schedule, you might consider using your fingers to dig down a bit and feel the moisture level in the soil. You may find that you aren't watering often enough (or too often).

A quart of water might not be a sufficient amount to completely saturate the soil/root system before it begins to drain out. You'll have to be the judge of that.

I second Dan's suggestion that you try to get a picture of the 'white dots'. A good ID is very important in coming up with the smartest solution to a pest problem.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 12:29PM
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What if you have soil that drains well, and yet there might be a couple inches from the bottom of pot up damp soil, and yet from the top down, the soil is dry at least 3 to 4 inches down. Is it ok to water?
Are you overwatering your citrus trees if the pot is not completely dried out to the very bottom?
This would help me alot.
seems like the first few top inches inches dries out very quickly.
Thanks so much

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 12:34PM
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Maybe this is the water issue answer..If your room is hot and the lights are on long, then watering is required more often. If room is cool, and not to much light, then water less. But how dry the pot has to be still gets me....I guess we have to play around to get it right, while at the same time loose alot of leaves..lol
By the time we get it just right, maybe half our trees are bare!!!lol

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 1:03PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Mike, your containers don't need to completely dry out before watering. Remember, with the very coarse, fast draining medium you are using, over watering is much less likely. Meaning that you can water more often and get away with it, as opposed to someone who is using a peaty type potting mix.

Clay containers dry out faster than plastic or glazed pots, too.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 1:39PM
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Thanks so much....The only thing I can assume that is causing so much leaf drop then is enviromental changes and the transition period my trees are adjusting too. I think they have more of a hard time adjusting to indoors than outdoors.
I think now would be a bad time to fertilze too, not just because the growing season is over, even if they have plenty of light, but the shock of adjusting to indoors won't allow them to take up nutrients at this time anyways. This probably explains the yellowing also.
Poor trees!!!
Can't wait till I see no more leaves on the floor. I can't wait until the leaves on my gardenia stay green too.
I looked at the roots, and they look so healthy. But I did fail to tell you that just a week and a half ago, the wind did knock my gardenia over, and when I went to bring the plant indoors, it was completely out of the pot, roots exposed and all. Who knows how many days the poor thing was on the ground. I will bet this is the cause of yellowing leaves. I potted it back up again, and brought it right in. The leaves have been yellowing ever since.
I hope with lots of light, holding off on the fertilizer, well draining soil, in a room with lots of humidity and moving air, they will all start to adjust quickly.
Thanks for the watering explanation. I am glad I have a less chance of overwatering.
I will let you know how they are in 2 weeks.
One more thing!!!

I did bring one of my citrus trees to work, set in in a window that gets about 5 hours of direct sun, there is no humidity there, and that thing has not dropped more than a couple of leaves. It looks great! Go figure ha.lol
Take care and thanks so much for helping!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 3:50PM
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What citrus was it that didn't drop leaves? I have only found my meyer lemon to be a pain. I potted it up the same time as my tahiti lime and a calamondin, and the lemon went absolutely berserk! Dropped over half of its leaves, while the calamondin and the lime decided to start instantly growing lol. The meyer has not grown a single leaf since I potted it in August. All of my other citrus have put out new growth, but the meyer lemon seems content to drink as much water as the rest of the citrus and dry out regularly, but not actually grow foliage. I wonder if it is spending its time growing its roots...

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 4:10PM
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Gues what...My calamondin has not lost one leaf either!!!
My Lemon Meyer is the one dropping leaves left and right, while at the same time in full bloom!
Also it is my navel orange tree that is dropping GREEN leaves, not yellow, even though that to is in bloom with 2 oranges still growing on it... Strange ha.
They have lots of flowers and fruit, but the leaves are falling like crazy... Especially my Lemon Meyer...
Want to laugh!!! I have had a Lemon Podorosa tree that I got, get this LAST WINTER and dropped all its leaves then. I have had it outside all summer and it still never grew a ONE, I mean a ONE leaf. All it did was keep growing flowers then fruit, flowers then fruit, and even now it is still bald.......What's up with that?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 5:04PM
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Lol how peculiar! What fertilizer do you use? Citrus bloom and fruit in response to stress...it isn't stressed is it?

Meyer's are the picky citrus in my opinion. They go ballistic at the smallest thing and drop leaves, just gotta persevere through it I think! If the leaves are still green when they fall and healthy looking it's a good sign - they are just pouting in a new environment for the most part. I haven't had any leaf drop as yet, and have had heating on indoors loads because its cold here in north England. Frosty mornings! I also have some 2month old seedlings that are thriving despite the shorter days...most odd lol but can't complain!

My only concern in the navel orange I have just gotten that seems to be wilting a bit and curling. I am wondering if it needs a new pot!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 5:47PM
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My Meyer Lemon lost its leaves at the beginning of fall too but is still blooming like crazy. I applied a bone meal mix and they have started coming back a little. I also had the scaly cotton bugs towards the end of the summer that I was treating with mild organic insecticidal soap. Which is my guess for why the leaves fell off. The soap worked well (combined with washing the pests off with mild soap water) to subdue the pests and I have seen no return. Despite your leave loss these trees are hardy and can bounce back no matter how bad it may look.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 3:41PM
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Kumquats dropping leaves like there will be no tomorrow! At the same time the fool thing is holding summer fruit and blooming profusely while making new little fruit. This little surprise follows moving from an outside to inside for winter location. The Meyer Lemon never put on one of these acts. This is new action for me to observe. Sure hope I am not going to lose my "orange tea" tree.

Light, water and fertilizer is fine. This is my first such experience. Mercy!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 3:38PM
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Kumquats like the roots a bit warmer, they are far more sensitive to cold roots and lack of humidity than most other citrus, especialy if they are on there own roots

If you cant control the heat of the compost, just dont give it so much heat and light and let it go dormant till the spring, but its better to make the roots (not air temperature) close to between 25C and 30C

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 4:38PM
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My kumquat seems to be okay for the moment. It lost a few leaves when I first brought it inside but since then hasn't lost any. Spraying once or twice a day seems to help out. Also I have a small Bearss Lime tree. It lost quite a few leaves prior to my bringing it inside and also has stopped dropping leaves.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2008 at 9:16PM
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Awsome..I hope it keeps doing well for you!!!!
Maybe the root temperature is happy, which in turns makes for a happy plant!!
Take care

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 10:35PM
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We have a 55 year old potted orange tree that I grew from a seed when 7 years old. We are in Buffalo N.Y. area. All through the years it has done well ( repotted, trimmed etc. ), used to go outside during summers and inside winters. The last 10 years it has been inside near a window as it is 10-11 feet and too large to move much. As usual lots of new small leaves last year, BUT THIS WINTER IT IS NOW DROPPING LEAVES FAST, we pick up 10 + daily. It never has lost leaves like this. Soil was remaining damp and didn`t appear to be using water. We checked the roots for rot and they were white and appear fine. Repotted in larger pot in Dec. Usually water when top is dry, like once a week or so. We read roots need to be warm to work properly, and have increased our nightime house temp to 65-66, instead of 62-63. Leaves and stems are green, not much brown. N evidence of insects etc. I`d hate to lose it after all these years, it`s fun to tell friends I planted a seed 55 years ago. Anybody have any ideas?? We`d really appreciate help ! Thanks.


    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 9:37AM
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On my Lemon Meyer, the leaves are all turning a dep yellow up the central vein, then all veins then just drop off...Strange. I have no idea why?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 5:34PM
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My little grapefruit tree that I've brought to good health over the last 5 years has suddenly started dropping loads of green leaves! They sort of curl up before they drop. I take the potted tree in for the winter, and it has never done this before. From a search on this site, I learned that the roots at the bottom may not be drained enough. The temperature is between 60 to 65F. Should I try repotting to a larger pot? The tree is 3.5 ft. tall.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 6:15PM
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Al, is it possible the window is leaking cold air?
When green leaves curl and drop, it usually means the plant is cold. Morso since the soil is staying wet.
Ah, I reread your post, noticed you repotted last Dec. Potting is best done in spring. Does the pot have drainage holes? What about soil? What type did you use? And, how much larger is the new pot compared to the old?
Are you watering by a schedule or when soil dries?
60-70F temps is fine. When a room is too hot, it causes all types of problems..especially w/o proper air circulation, and/or lack of humidity.
55 years is a long time keeping a tree, especially indoors. Congrats..

Mike, what do you mean, veins drop off???

Bill, do not repot..Repotting can cause shock, which means, in all probability more leaves will fall.
It's true citrus need good drainage..if a plant is sitting in water, the water that drains out is sucked up from the saucer..roots never dry.
But that doesn't sound like your problem..usually leaves yellow before falling when sitting in, or over-watered. The soil sometimes emits a foul odor, too. Stagnant.
Have you done anything different the last few months? Changed pots, soil? Any other symptoms?
Leaves aren't discoloring? Toni

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 3:03AM
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Toni -- hopefulauthor---THANKS for your post. The tree has been near same windows for 10 years,and not drafty. The new pot is plastic 22" across top,the old pot was clay 18" across top. It has 3- 5/8" holes at bottom. We repotted after sliding tree out to look for root rot. Roots were white and firm. I thought I could transplant between fall and early spring when tree was dormant?? The soil I used was not correct for long term---potting soil---, but Buffalo area ground was frozen, and I was afraid it was pot bound. I let potting soil warm to room temperature overnight first, and I put rocks at bottom to help drainage. If I can "fix" the tree,when can I repot again with garden loam (?) ,before potting soil compresses ?? Leaves that are dropping off are GREEN AND NOT CURLED. They look green and fine, Just falling off. Water when soil feels dry. We are going to spritz leaves with water in case house is dry. Any more ideas and/or suggestions what to do ? Thanks Again--Al

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 9:40AM
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HA- Thank you for your response!
The only thing different this winter is that my house is colder (60-65F). I'm thinking of moving the plant next to a heat register in another room. And I did discover another symtom: tiny insects in the soil come into view after watering. After I discovered them, I watered with some diluted white vinegar, and a light solution of Murphy's Oil Soap. I haven't watered since, so I don't know if that got rid of the bugs. Any other suggestions or comments will be appreciated.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 11:16AM
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Lol!!! Toni, I meant all the leaves are falling off!!

I didn't have this problem last year. The only difference is that I have kept the room a little cooler especially at night this winter than last, but just as much light and sun. Of course when my plant room was warmer last year, I had more bugs...Go figure. Now I have to choose.
Could it be that it should be warmer in this room so the soil is warm enough to take up nitrogyn and other nutrients with all the lights on? Is yellow veining followed by leaf drop a symptom of not enough light or warmth?
That lemon meyer tree has even lost a few branches now.
I stuck it right under a grow light and put the thermostat higher yesterday and now lets see what happens. I am going to keep the nights higher than 65 at night, and pay a higher heating bill for that poor plant.
I hope it makes it.
It is a toss up between a cooler room and lack of pests along with poor growth and higher humidity, or more warmer room temps, more possible pests and more work at humidity and keeping pests away, but better growth...
Boy do I wish I could leave them out all year instead this.
I can't wait to stick them outside already, especially this problamic tree, my lemon meyer.....:-(

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 11:31PM
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I think it would be advisable that, if your tree has a problem, a new post is created. There are about half a dozen and more queries on this one post lol. They may get missed if people aren't following the thread. I haven't looked at it for a while and I have missed a few questions lol.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 5:39AM
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