Very Sad Key Lime Needs Help, Please!

organic_flutterby(5 MO)October 7, 2013

My key lime has been dropping leaves like crazy and the ones that haven't dropped yet are curling and drooping.

Please help!

A little information about this tree. I bought it in Aug. It was potted in a small container with an unknown medium.

I transplanted it in a bigger pot using Al's gritty mix almost 5 weeks ago. It showed signs of stress at that time with some wilting on the very top, but it always perked up with watering. It never lost any leaves though.

About 3 weeks ago I started bringing it in at night and back out during the day. The sun it was exposed too was lacking because we had such overcast skies for days. I decided to bring it in and put it under lights about 10 days ago. It started this decline since it was brought in.

As you can see it has lost numerous leaves and looks like it's going to lose the rest of them too. I have been very careful about the watering. I have used a dowel rod to test the mix. What I am discovering is that the mix seems dry in the top half and get wetter in the lower half. Is it possible to over water in the gritty mix? Water runs right through it.

As for other stuff, it is under 4 bulb 54w T5HO 6500k for 16 hours every day. Temp has been 60s-70s, humidity about 60-70%.

I have only watered twice since it has been inside all day. What I was going on was how the mix felt in the upper part of the pot. I'm afraid to water more as the bottom is still wet. I don't know what to do. Thank you for your help.

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garret_87(Zone 6)

Lemon roots are closer to the top of the soil so they can dry up while the bottom of the pot will stay moist. Check the roots around the base. Is it dry a few inches under the base? Or pretty moist to the touch?

Also, what kind of soil did you use? If you are worried that the bottom will stay wet then you should replant into a better mix. A good soil will drain well and not lock in too much moister at the bottom.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 12:18AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Primary issue I have to say is water. It looks very thirsty to me.
Secondary issue is the change in environment. In and out confuses the trees. Pick a spot where it will overwinter and leave it there till spring.

You may want to incorporate a wick in the bottom of the pot. Basically it is a piece of string that you will put some of it in the very bottom and let some of it hang outside the pot. this will wick the excess moisture down and out of the container.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 9:23AM
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That can't be a key lime....

It looks nothing like the leaves on mine...First I think you should really know what tree you are dealing with and then listen to the folks above....I wish you luck


    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 10:04AM
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organic_flutterby(5 MO)

Thank you Garret and mksmth. I think you must be right about it being thirsty. I guess the roots are more shallow than I thought.

I must have misread or misinterpreted someone's suggestion about putting the wooden dowel all the way to the bottom to measure level of moisture. That depends on how deep your roots reach, makes sense.

meyermike- I came here for help. I'm not an expert on citrus trees, no one is until they learn. That's what I'm trying to do. The label says my tree is a key lime, but then in parentheses, it says limequat. Not sure why both names are on the label. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 10:54AM
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garret_87(Zone 6)

organic_flutterby, where did you get the tree? What part of the country do you live in? Is it dropping below 50 degrees at night?

When checking the moisture level I would not go by how moist the bottom of the pot is. Although if the bottom is consistently over wet it will cause you problems later on. Root rot could eventually develop. I would recommend buying a moisture meter. I got mine on amazon for cheap - it is the same one that For Winds Nursery sells. This will save your tree from over or under watering. (Repotting into a better mix may be required, but we can advise you about that later if you decide to go down that rd)

I would also try to contact the nursery you got the tree from to clarify if it is indeed a Key Lime or a Limequat. This would be helpful to know.

I'm glad to see that you are using a grow light as supplemental lighting. For my first two winters with my tree I also used a T5HO. I put mine on a timer to make the process automated. How far are the lights from the tree canopy?

And again I would give the tree a good drink to perk up the leaves - if the roots under the base are dry. Did you check that? Early last winter I had a similar problem. The bottom of my pot stayed wet so I watered much less than I should have. When i replanted I found that the main root crown was bone dry! The roots never reached the bottom of the container. No wonder my tree was drooping and loosing leaves.

Hope this helps. Never be afraid to ask questions. I knew nothing about citrus when I originally joined this forum. We are here to help and learn.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 12:41PM
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organic_flutterby(5 MO)

Garret, thank you again for your help.

I bought this tree on a whim from WalMart. I don't think they will know anything about what it is for sure. I will try to track down the grower it came from and see if I can find out anything.

I brought the tree inside close to 2 weeks ago. It is under the light for 16 hours on a timer. The light is about a foot above the tree.

I do have a moisture meter but it does not work with the gritty mix. I gave the tree some water yesterday and it has responded, so I think that has been the issue and I feel really stupid. But know I know a little more.

I think the top priority was recognizing the problem with this tree, not with identifying what kind of tree it is. Thank you for doing that.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 9:11AM
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Hi Organic...

I wanted to show you what a Key Lime leaf looks like...That bothers me when a store sells a person a tree in the hope you are getting what you desire and totally sell you something else...
My Father came home all excited the other day thinking he bought an Orange tree just to find out it was a Calamondin Tree, one he hates..
The container said Orange but there was a tag buried in it that said Calamondin that he never saw..The store took their money back and let him exchange it for an Orange Tree.

I hope it is a tree you like...Key lime can take a lot of abuse and so I thought it important that you know know what you are up against... So can Orange and Ponderosa trees..

Some citrus can make a good comeback and others do horrible at it
Key lime is an exception for endurance..

The info you are getting is wonderful and everyone is so kind to direct you...You never stop learning here..

I would politely disagree with the moisture meter...You can get inaccurate readings with it depending on what minerals are stacked up in your mix and whether you are hitting air pockets or wet pockets with in the pot.

The wooden dowel is a very reliable method since you need to know what the soil is doing deep near the bottom...I stick mine within the center of the root ball and to the bottom since the roots to your trees will never to be able to occupy the layer at which perched water is stacked up, that being usually lower in your container....

Also it is always a good idea to get an accurate reading within the root zone so you will know when its proper to water, especially this time of the year.
I have never killed a plant using the wooden dowel or finger method but have lost many relying on a moisture meter..

Good luck and let us know how it goes, please...

Here is what Key Lime leaves look like..Notice there a two segments per whole leaf area from the stem..


This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Wed, Oct 9, 13 at 9:43

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 9:37AM
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Sorry, Mike, that is a Kaffir lime. Very distinctive. A key lime is also called Jamaican lime, or here in Guatemala Criollo (native) lime. It was for many years the secret ingredient of Pepsi Cola... obviously not a secret any more.
The Kaffir lime, sometimes called Makrout, is mostly used for cooking (leaves).

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 12:18PM
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Lol..Thanks John!

I have no idea why I thought we were talking about a Kaffir Lime...

Been too much going on here I guess...Gracious...


    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 12:23PM
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organic_flutterby(5 MO)

That can't be a key

Thanks for your advice Mike. As I said, I do have a moisture meter, but it doesn't seem to work with the gritty mix. I use the wooden dowel. The only thing about it is that it sounds like I'm ripping through roots when I put it in the pot. I'm afraid of doing that.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 1:48PM
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garret_87(Zone 6)

I have wondered if checking the water level with a moisture meter or stick would harm the roots, but there has been no noticeable damage from doing this once or twice a week. More damage would happen if the roots dry out.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 3:08PM
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No worries..:_)

Just so you know..Even if you tear a root, it will create new ones to take it;'s place..Not a bad thing..I wouldn't worry about it...Besides, the wooden dowel method is only a training tool to get you to the point where you know your trees and pots and when to water....

The wooden dowel is going to save a many trees for you whereas also your finger will never be able to reach deep into that pot for you.
I wish you all the best..Glad you got a good laugh out of I needed that too..

Garrett made a wonderful point too...More damage would happen if the roots dried out to much or were too wet not using a reliable method.....


This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Wed, Oct 9, 13 at 17:20

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 4:52PM
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garret_87(Zone 6)

organic_flutterby, I am glad that the tree responded to the watering. Remember to check its water level once a week. Let us know if any more problems happen in the future. Always a pleasure to offer advice.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 6:46PM
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organic_flutterby(5 MO)

Thanks Garret!

Yes, my tree is coming along and I'm happy to report that I do believe there are tiny little leaves starting to sprout. :)

I spray my trees every week with FE and I use neem oil periodically as well. I also have sticky traps. I've caught some gnats, not a ton of them though. I am awaiting the onslaught that everyone seems to get when wintering plants inside during the winter. Just can't figure where these things come from, how do they just show up one day? Curious!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 8:06PM
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garret_87(Zone 6) says, "More often they [fungus gnats] come in as eggs, either in the soil of plants that have been outside for the summer or in damp bags of potting soil."

Here is the link to their article for further reading:

I think you on the path to success with your tree. Basic winter needs are temperatures above 55 degrees, enough light, humidity, watering when dry, fertilizing (but less than during summer) and pest control when needed. Btw by no means am I a professional, but this is what has been working for me. I have 10 meyer lemons that will be ripe in the next 2 months and I can't wait to eat my first homegrown lemon. I can almost never find these in local grocery stores.

I have to give thanks to the many citrus nerds here on the forums for my success.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 9:16PM
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tcamp30144(7B N.ATLANTA)

My keylime seams to be doing the best and lowest maintenance of all my trees.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 6:42PM
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tcamp30144(7B N.ATLANTA)

My keylime seams to be doing the best and lowest maintenance of all my trees.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 6:45PM
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