Indoor Lemon Plant Losing Leaves

EAPellowOctober 11, 2012

I have two indoor lemon trees, both about 3 feet tall and 3 years old that I germinated from the same lemon (store bought). The one that grew the fastest is thorny and the leaves usually wrinkle, but it usually does fine other than a salt problem early on.

The other lemon tree is practically thornless but has attractive, glossy leaves, some about 4-5 inches long. However, it has begun to lose leaves in the last couple of days. I just shook it a little and 4 more dropped. They're breaking clean off where the stem meets the leaf, and the remaining stems readily pop off the trunk. All the leaves that have dropped are on the lower section of the trunk, not on any upper branches. Some of the leaves are yellowed a little, primarily the central vein.

I can't see any sign of insects or mites, and they've always been indoors. Fungus gnats have been my only issue.

My girlfriend's moving in and we've been doing a lot of rearranging and painting in the adjacent room, so I don't remember when I last watered them or fed them. I know that I've forgotten to use acidic water the last couple of times I watered them (I have rusted stakes in the soil for iron).

The soil is slightly moist. They're planted in a mix of compost soil, shredded sphagnum, sand, and Espoma Plant Tone. Bottoms of the pots are very well draining.

The only thing that's really changed in the last two weeks is that I moved it 3 feet back from the window where it's always been. They're west facing windows so right now it's not getting great light, and it's been overcast nearly every day. Heat hasn't gone on yet, so it's gone from being warm and sunny at that window to chilly and dim.

Do you think it's just time for those to drop or stress or a deficiency? I'm surprised I've gotten these things to grow this long in lower NY with western exposure. I'm probably overdue to add some Plant Tone to it, as these were repotted towards the beginning of the year, and got a slight supplemental feeding a few months ago. I also have a little myers and a kumquat growing next to it that seem fine. If a parasite was to blame, I'm sure they'd have them too.

Thanks for any input, I'm new here.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Your watering practices and soil mix concern me.

Have you for just once lately forget to water them until they were very dry?

Why did you repot at the beginning of the year? Were the roots very healthy looking then? You also said you had salt issues which can devastate fine feeder roots. Your mix should not allow such salt issues.

It's hard to tell what is going on because I am not sure if you ever forgot to water, which can damage the roots severely and cause leaf drop like that.
Too, if you are getting fungus gnats, then something tells me your mix is do moist for your plants too long.

Can you post a pic and describe how you water, when, and how long it is taking for your mix to dry out in more detail? Can you post a pic if possible?
Less light will just mean greener and bigger leaves, and possibly no blooms at all. That leaf drop sounds related to root issues if you are certain you have no pest.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 7:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

potting mix seems questionable.

the low light is definitely a problem, gnats are a problem.

yellow central vein could mean N deficiency.

temps won't be a problem indoors, unless you have the windows and doors opened and its below 30'F inside.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 8:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The rusted stakes are worthless as a source of soluble iron. Iron oxide (rust) is not taken up by the plant. Perhaps once you begin to take of these plants on a routine basis, they will respond happily. Not remembering when you last watered or fertilized them is not a good sign, lol.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 9:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'll try and post some photos by the end of the week/beginning of the weekend.

I do try and water them properly while monitoring soil moisture at depth. I had repotted them early this year because they were too large for their pots and would dry out every 2-3 days. Their growth was also stunted and they shot up afterwards with more branching growth. If I remember the time correctly, I think I accidentally let them get too dry for close to a week's duration a month ago.

The salt issue occurred within the first year of growth, and was an accumulation of salt deposits from municipal tap water. As the scraggly one without the leaf drop issue sprouted 2 weeks before the with the issue, it suffered from leaf burn at the tips of the lower leaves, and now has the bottom foot of the trunk bare, as I removed those leaves. I now try and flush the soil regularly to avoid salt accumulation.

I read in a couple of places that rusting metal combined with acidic water would increase bio-availability of iron. I had put the stakes in a few months before repotting them, and a lot of feeder roots were surrounding the stakes. When I cleaned and inspected the root balls, the roots were actually holding the stakes in place. The roots did look very healthy.

Are fungus gnats really that much of an issue? They only thrive for 2-3 months during the summer, when I have windows open and fans running. These get them more than my other plants because they're right by the window. I know that fungus gnats thrive on decomposing soil, so my soil mix is kind of a playground for them. On top of that, they are also lightly mulched.

What type of soil mixtures would you recommend? When I unearth my box of plant supplies, I'll try and list the soil that I used.

I'm wondering if this is actually just a nitrogen issue. My supplemental liquid feed is too low in nitrogen and too high in phosphorous. It's just what I've had on hand for my other plants, and never bothered to check that the NPK levels were out of balance for citrus.

Thanks for your input, and pics to come soon.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 10:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Just remembered the type of soil I've been using: Coast of Maine Bar Harbor Blend (lobster and aspen bark compost, long staple horticultural grade sphagnum peat moss and perlite) mixed with sphagnum and sand as I had said, with a drainage layer at the bottom.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 12:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Iron, as an element, becomes more available in the lower pH ranges. You are right about that. Iron OXIDE does not. Fertilizers which include the minor elements, also called the micro nutrients, will provide iron and other soluble minerals in a usable form.

Maybe your lobsta mix contains iron. I am very interested in the texture of this mix....the term 'compost ' means a substance that has been greatly reduced in particle my experience. Does the lobster shell add lots of coarse texture?

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 4:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think he should focus on what has changed since the event happened, first. I don't think the texture of the mix would be relevant, if the plant thrived in it in the past. The contents of the mix is another story. Focus on the basics first, how much light is it getting a day, and the water issue.
I don't know what it is about morning sun (have theories), but I have seen this many times before in other plants. Two plants getting the same sun, one morning and one evening, the morning plant always does better.
Certainly sounds like you need to do something sooner than later, just don't overdo whatever it is.

I've put lemons on lobster, but never the other way around.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 6:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The bar harbor soil has a very mixed texture, from fine to a little coarse. I know it has some iron in it based on the constituents, but the Plant Tone also has iron. If I choose to supplement iron, how precise do I have to be? Or is extra ok?

The odd thing is that this lemon is also sprouting from the trunk lower down, where old leaves had been removed. The other lemon tree is doing the same, but began this first and has more new shoots lower down.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 8:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Iron is a minor element, required by plants but in very small amounts. I'd be much more concerned with the Plant Tone. I'm not at all convinced that that particular product is ideal for container grown plants. The label I saw on line indicates no iron, so perhaps I'm missing the actual fertilizer you've been using.

Citrus are pretty heavy feeders. Nitrogen plays an important role, more so than many other container grown plants. Are you sure that your fertilizer is delivering what the plants need?

I'm familiar with some of the Espoma products, but have never considered using them in containers. May I ask what led you to making this choice? My question is purely out of curiosity and in no way meant to be critical.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 10:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You're right, the Plant Tone doesn't have any iron. I just realized that today at a garden center. Don't worry about sounding critical, I'm happy to get the input. I started using the Plant Tone after using a number of Espoma products on someone's yard. They all seemed to work better, last longer, and have less chance of burning than other fertilizers. What I really like is that it's an inoculated soil full of healthy bacteria, and I don't want the soil in potted plants to just be dead soil. It ought to live a little. A lot of the nutrients in Espoma products have to actually break down to become available for the plant, which is good because it helps to feed it steadily over time. I know a number of small garden centers that swear by their products, especially in NY where phosphorous fertilizers are legally controlled, and a lot of the Scott's line of products which are more popular have it and just aren't sold by many places.

I picked up an iron and nitrogen rich liquid fertilizer today. It's due for a feed anyway, and i should do it before winter. It's not by any means ideal for citrus, but it's hard to find anything suited for citrus up here. I've heard of a lot of people using Miracid on lemons planted outdoors. All I can find is a powdered container that's meant to plug into a sprayer. Has anyone ever diluted these for container plants? I'm not sure what ratio of powder to water I should use for that.

I'm convinced though that this might just be because I've had it pulled 3 feet back from the window for the last 2-3 weeks. It's getting light, but maybe because of how the light comes in at an angle (it's in the SW corner of the window) the reduction in light was enough to hurt it.

Here are some photos. The six leaves are mostly all ones that fell off when I shook it to check for loose leaves. The last and second to last one on the right had fallen on their own accord several days earlier, which is why they're more yellowed and drier. Also, notice the little myers and kumquat next to the tree. Sorry about some of the bad lighting and glare, I took these in a bit of a rush this morning.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 8:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Bah! third times a charm. I didn't know which of those would work.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 8:57PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Looking for a good LED grow light
Can anyone suggest a good LED grow light to be the...
Citrus maxima flower buds?
When should I start fertilizing pomelos?
KinnowLS, XieShan, Dekopan in CA.
Anyone know where these can be purchased or ship to...
Meyer leaves issue
Hello, My container meyer is having issues. Leaves...
Is my tree a goner???
I came home from work to find our miniature sour orange...
Sponsored Products
Quoizel Sophia SPH5005 Chandelier - SPH5005BN
$289.99 | Hayneedle
Nourison Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Nourison Rugs Firouz Ivory 3 ft. 6 in. x 5
Home Depot
Safavieh Poolside Beige/ Dark Beige Polypropylene Indoor/ Outdoor Rug (5'3 x 7'7
Area Rug: Home & Porch Juliette Paprika 7' 9" Round
Home Depot
Cherie Indoor/Outdoor Rug 3'3" x 5' - GREEN
$79.00 | Horchow
Hand-hooked Lynndyl Indoor/Outdoor Medallion Rug (5' x 8')
Prater Mills Indoor/ Outdoor Reversible Regatta Blue/ White Rug
Justice Design Group POR-8703 - Aero 3 Light Bath Bar - Cone Shade - Dark Bronze
$320.00 | Hayneedle
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™