Has anyone here ever forced their trees into dormancy?

meyermike_1micha(5)October 2, 2012

I was wondering if anyone here makes a practice of this for those that grow container citrus in colder climates.

I was also wondering if your trees ever loose all their leaves and then come back in the spring?

For instance, I just met a guy today who sticks his tree in his closet, total darkness mind you, and waters only when the mix dries out. He says his tree looses all its leaves and comes back once he puts it out in the spring.

Last year he left it in a room with continual growth and only got 1 tangerine.

Years prior, every time he would use the closet method, he would get over 25 at a time.

I am tempted to test one of mine and stick it in the darkest spot of my cellar.


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Andrew Scott

Hey Mike,

So to answer this thread for ya, I sort of have done this. My keylime that I bought from Roberta's(QVC), has grown into a monster but hardly ever flowers, so barely ever fruits. I know it isn't that graft that has taken over, I just don't get this tree. My other citrus, Oro Blanco, and Star Ruby grapefruit, Meyer, Ponderosa, and Variegated lemon, Kishu tangerine, Page mandarin, all have done pretty well but the keylime NADA!

I really think this is partly from the neglect I put this tree thru over the fall, winter, and spring, on top of the fact, I just think I got keylime that doesn't want to produce flowers.

If I were you Mike, I would pick a citrus that you wouldn't mind parting with. I am not saying that it isn't possible to have a citrus survive this treatment your desribing, but I am skeptical to say the very least.

For me citrus seem to be more demanding in regards to potted culture. In fact, it's only been these past couple years where I feel more confident in keeping them happy.

I need to get a decent camera so I can post pics for you so you can see for yourself, how well your citrus "student" has done...LOL!

Oh a couple of O/T things I wanted to mention before I go. It looks like my BOP is going to bloom for me! So far, all I see is one stem developing, and it is developing ever so slowly. I think it has grown an eigth of an inch in the past 2 weeks. In total, the stem is maybe 2 in tall. Not even tall enough to see the whole entire flower bud...lol!

Take care buddy!


    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 8:19AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Mike, if citrus plants were deciduous, I'd say, "Go for it" . But they are broadleaf evergreens. All of the leaves aren't supposed to come off all at once. A 'naked ' evergreen is a plant in trouble.

That being said, most plants can tolerate an unnatural defoliation as long as everything else is ideal. You see, it takes an ENORMOUS amount of energy for a defoliated plant to manufacture thousands of leaves. Enormous. A deciduous plant is genetically programmed to do just that. The process begins the previous summer as the plant begins storing manufactured carbohydrates, most of it in the root system. Come spring, those stored energy reserves are remetabolized and our plants are able to dress themselves in a brand new spring wardrobe.

Evergreen plants just don't work that way. It's very hard on them, physiologically.

Make sense?

Hi, Andrew!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 12:21PM
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I've seen this done in the 'dungeon' of an old castle in France. They had several very large citrus trees in barrels. Very low light for five months.
The secret is that the plants must be kept very cool - below 50F but never falling below freezing. The plants then go into suspended animation, lose only a few leaves, and resume growth when brought back into warmth and light in the spring.
Probably not very easy to arrange in the average house.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 4:15PM
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Well, let me make two post! One for My friend Rhizo, and then my friend Andrew since I will respond to all of Andrew's and yet do not want my main points to be lost.

Rhizo: Thank you so very much for that wise information.
I think I am going to have to talk with him again. He actually runs a nursery and goes to colledge.
he was telling for the winters he put them down like that, he was rewarded with tons of fruit, but the trees would take a month or two to full come back.

Maybe from stress? It sounds like his tree was forced into fruiting mode with this treatment.

He told me that last year he kept it in a window for the first time and regrest it. It has only given him one fruit and feels he should of gave it a rest as always.
He is going to stick it into his closet again this winter.

I just find this kind of treatment hard to be true, while at the same time what you say makes perfect sense.

Please stay tuned. I will fill you in again. I really appreciate what you have to enlighten me on here.

Have a great night. By the way, my Mom sends you a big hug and hopes you are ok.

Citrange...This is the exact treatment I give my Fig trees. My shed dips into teh 40's and below all winter, but never below the freezing mark and that is where my figs stay competely dormant.
As for citrus, based on what Rhizo has shared, I am kind of hesitant to do this also. Thank you.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 7:03PM
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Andrew, what's up buddy?! How have you been? It's so good to see you stopped by!
I know you have been in much pain and I am so sorry for that. I am glad though you still found a moment to check in on me and my trees.

Yeah, I am now heistating on this treatment, but would love to try it on one I don't like.lol

My bird of paradise is bloooming every three months! It has bloomed 4 times since Christmass, and just as two or three die off, another two or three replace that flower!
I posted a picture of it just a few weeks back and let me see if I can find it.

How is that HUGE citrus Meyer doing for you these days? The one you first bought? I have been thinking of that one. Don't you just love the Oro?

All my oranges and grapefruits are ripening now. Let me snap a few pics for you.
You should see the amount of lemons on my Meyer cutting!

John here had suggested plastic as a better choice for my area, and area where the pots can get very cold, and since then, they are all exploding in growth. I am so grateful to know this. I grow all of them in plastic now. It could be just in my mind.lol

Please, get a new camera so I can see your trees. Please buddy! By the way..Off Topic again..lol

You should see my jades! I'll e-mail you:-)

Here is my link to my Bird of Paradise blooming in July. It is doing it all over again this month too.


Here is a link that might be useful: My bird of paradise blooming

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 7:20PM
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krismast(6 S.E. PA)

Mike, off topic here, but your Strelitzia Reginae is BEAUTIFUL!!! How long have you had it? I have one that I just bought this year potted in gritty mix. Hopefully it doesn't take forever to bloom like some have said. I also have a small seedling of Strelitzia Reginae 'Mandela's Gold'. What is yours potted in?


    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 8:20PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I say you find out why his plants did so poorly inside in the first place. YOU are the perfect example of how possible it is to keep your citrus healthy....all year round. Plants can go through defoliations and recover, but it takes a toll. Don't forget that while a plant is struggling to create a new canopy....it cannot defend itself properly against pests, diseases, and other stresses.

I'd be happy for you to give this man my email address so that we can discuss thus in person. I doubt very much that he can convince me that stuffing citrus into a closet for the winter is a good idea....but I will keep an open mind.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 10:30PM
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bonechickchris(7A/6B NJ 08731)

HI Mike,
Like you, I live in the north (NJ). I do not know what you mean by growing in plastic. Could you elaborate, or show my the thread about this?

I have had to bring my citrus inside every year. And, where I can put them, does not get ideal light, even though i have lights to help them along.
So I have always had some of my citrus lose many, most or even all of their leaves at one time.
But they always seemed to come back once they go outside in the spring. I bring them out, fertilize, and they grow a huge flush of leaves within 1-2 weeks! I am always amazed how quickly the leaves from the leafless citrus grow compared to the citrus that kept all their leaves during the winter.

I am no pro, and in no way am I saying it is healthy for citrus to lose all of their leaves, I am just saying that for me, with my citrus that do lose all of their leaves in the winter, are always the ones that seem to jump back and grow faster than the ones that kept their leaves. I know, should not make sense.
I do in a way wish that the closet method is do-able, because that would solve a lot of issues here during the winter.
But, I am trying to get a greenhouse up for the first time by November, and may actually be able to greenhouse them this year!!! I was thinking of making a new post to ask about greenhouses in the North East, and how long anyone keeps their citrus in the greenhouse, all winter, or just part, etc.

If I remember correctly, you have a greenhouse. But I do not want to ask questions here and get your thread off topic. So I will start a new thread soon.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 9:42AM
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Andrew, limes are more cold-sensitive than other citrus. You can lose them in a freeze that won't harm other citrus. That may have something to do with why yours doesn't bloom, the cold temps may be stressing it too much. It's one citrus I don't grow because of that, and there are a lot of citrus in the ground where I am.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 5:18PM
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Christy, funny you say that!

This guy who works at the nursery says his trees perform better for him when he treats it that way. Now Rhizo brought up a great point. Mine do just as well because I know how to care for them properly as I do.

The thing is, not so much for my sake since I have the room for all my trees and I don't really have to treat them this way. Is it a good system for those who have no room all winter and can stick them in dark cold places to hold out for spring, or is this abuse of his tree and would it be stress that causes him to get plentiful fruit. Not sure.

Thanks again Rhizo. I alwyas appreciate your guidence and factual truth:-)


    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 6:43PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Mike, what Rhizo said :-) What your friend is seeing, is the reaction of a tree that thinks it's dying. The last effort a dying citrus tree will make is to set fruit. As much as it can, in order to create a new generation, since it is in death throes. But, your friend then "revives" the tree. As Rhizo said, this will ultimately shorten the lifespan of the tree. What Citrange is describing, is what happens to in-ground citrus, normally. My trees are going to see less light, as winter approaches, and temps dropping significantly. Easily into the 40's at night for prolonged periods when we are in the middle of winter. So, my trees stop producing leaves (and I don't fertilize them from November until end of February or so), and focus on root growth, and bud formation. What citrus do is a modified version of what you see in a deciduous tree. Just not as dramatic. This cannot possibly be good for a citrus tree in the long run. What you are doing is the right thing. But certainly, nothing wrong with "cooling off" your citrus like you do your figs. They should burst forth in the spring with blossoms and new flush.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 9:57PM
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Patty, thank you for that and I hope all is well as well as your plants.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 8:34AM
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Two trees..
One with old ragged leaves and one with young fresh leaves.

Which one is doing better?

I think it could be deceptive. I would guess either depending on the circumstances. The one with young leaves may have just robbed all of its energy reserves.

Maybe I'm old ragged leaves, beautiful on the inside.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 9:13AM
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Are you trying to say that you are old, but just as spunky and a yougin who tires out after playing?

Not bad:-)

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:33PM
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