Meyer Lemon leaf size as indicator of ???

westgirl(8 WA)December 11, 2012

Hi All,
I have a dwarf IML that is about 11 years old. It's always lived in pots, and suffered a mysterious near-demise last year (I've posted about it before)from which it is finally recovering.It is currently inside, and producing a lot of new leaves (which it desparately needed). I noticed in looking at photographs of it's history, that the leaf size started to diminish before the other symptoms of it's decline a year ago. Now that it's happily growing new leaves, they also seem smaller than it used to have. Granted, they aren't full size yet, but I'm wondering if this is indicative of a nutrient issue, or general health of the tree? Something that Patty wrote elsewhere left me wondering if the rootstock could be a type that has diminished returns after some years. Any ideas? I'm fertilizing weekly weakly with Hi N Pro - which I just happened to have on hand. This tree is still a bit of a mystery to me, but I'm looking forward to it someday regaining it's glory. Thanks in advance for any wisdom on this issue! Westgirl.

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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Well, that is in relation to Cubban Shaddock rootstock. Meyer lemons are often grown on own roots. Do you remember if you bought the tree from Four Winds? They are the only grower I know of that uses Cuban Shaddock as a rootstock, so that narrows it down significantly. Citrus can live for many, many years in containers. I would say watch the leafing out. If you get a nice canopy, don't worry about the leaf size. And, I would try to not overdo the N. You need to make sure this tree has some decent root development to support a new canopy. I don't know what Hi N Pro is, or the NPK ratio, but I'd stick with something balanced, so you can get some new root growth to support new leaves.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 4:15PM
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johnmerr(11)

Smaller than normal leaves on Meyers usually indicates problems in the root area... root rot, overfertilization, soil borne insects attacking the root, etc. If it has always been in a container, it would be a good idea to re-pot it with all new "soil".

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 6:25PM
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westgirl(8 WA)

Hmm. The root issue makes sense. I think the initial problem was potting media collapse. I re-potted it in July 2011, but after it kept getting worse, decided that the mix wasn't draining well enough, and repotted it again this past March - that's when it went downhill fast. Held all it's leaves, but they went chartreuse then absolute yellow, then fell off. I think it's stabilized now. It's in a big heavy terra cotta pot - a situation I will rectify once it gets strong enough to withstand yet another repotting. It's in 511, and the pot is wicked. It's still mostly bare branches, a lot of blooms (I won't let it fruit, though), and now finally, the past month started flushing with leaves. The fert I'm using is made by Dyna Gro and it's 10-5-5 and according to the bottle has micronutrients. I can go back to Foliage Pro, I just happened to have this on hand, and since it seemed to be lacking enough nitrogen in the past, I thought it would help. Any thoughts on using a weak hydrogen peroxide solution for watering? I'm trying that with another plant.
Here's a link to the Dyna Gro website which has some good pdf files with info on all their products.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dyna Gro

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 9:13PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

I agree, if you start to see catastrophic collapse, where a tree just overall starts to decline, and decline quickly, it is almost always due to a root issue. When that happens here in my area to in-ground citrus, especially if it happens swiftly and severely, you can guarantee it is due to gophers eating the roots. If if it slower, it can be due to overly wet roots (planted in clay and suffocating) or due to a soil pathogen (like Phytophthora).

If you have this issue (in ground or container), you have to address the root issue if possible (like re-potting, moving to a new location, or treating the pathogen). Then, you really want to use a "starter" fertilizer formulation that is not so high in Nitrogen, in order to stimulate root recovery. This is what your tree will naturally try to do - recover its roots, first, but dropping all the leaves, and focusing it's energies on new root development, then, once root recovery has begun and is going, send out a flush. So, I would use a lower nitrogen fertilizer at first, if you're trying to get root recovery. You can even use a rooting hormone product as well, like Dip n'Grow in conjunction with a starter fertilizer. Once you see flush, then you can switch to a more traditional citrus fertilizer NPK ratio (plus micros), like Dyna-Gro Foliage Pro. When I transplant new citrus into pots, I use a product by Miracle Gro called "Quick Start", which has a 4-12-4 (no micros). I use this for about 2 to 3 weeks, then switch to Foliage Pro and Osmocote Plus. This has helped with transplant shock, and seems to give my citrus a good start.

When I run out of Quick Start, I think I am going to switch to Dyna-Gro's "Grow" product because it has the micronutrients included. And, frankly for citrus, since they do flush pretty fast, the higher N to PK ratio in comparison to Miracle Gro's product is not a bad thing. I really like Dyna-Gro's products.

Here's a before and after photo of a variegated orange start so you can see the difference. Nothing wrong with this start, just small, and not really doing much as far as getting established. This is about 4 weeks difference. Two weeks with Quick Start, then switching to Foliage Pro and Osmocote Plus. Before:

After (notice also a tiny bloom forming):

Patty S.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 3:21PM
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westgirl(8 WA)

Thank you for all the info Patty! I used a VitaB starting potion (?) (I think made by Lilly Miller - it's in the garage right now) when I re-potted it in March for the first few waterings. It's been putting out new leaf flushes for maybe a month or so. It noticeably started growing when I added twinkle lights to the pot exterior. I think the terra cotta is just too cold for the roots, so my next re-pot will be to get it in a different type of pot. I'm satisfied that it's in a good draining mix now. Do you think I should go back to some kind of fertilizer that is more directed towards root growth/health? I'm attaching a photo here. Most all the growth you see except for the largest leaves in the center is new -everything from medium-sized to tiny, and most branches are flushing. I thought it was returning to health? I'm still wondering about the rootstock as well, just because it had done so well for so long - despite whatever mix it was in, and despite moving to Seattle and getting less sun/warmth and more rain that it did in the bay area. I bought it at a Longs (!) in the bay area. It's definitely a grafted tree, it's just a mystery to me that it could thrive for so long and so well no matter the pot, no matter the media, and then it seemed to hit a wall of diminishing returns. It of course could all be me, but the history of this tree makes it's present form puzzling. I wish it could just tell me!(I just realized you can't really see all the new tiny growth in the photo, but hope it gives an idea)

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 10:56PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

I think at this point you want to stick with Foliage Pro. It can't hurt to continue with some Vit B, but you've got a nice start on the flush. And, potting soil can do that - just start to suffocate the roots. A loose mix will last 2 to 3 years, maybe 4 if you have a low decomposing bark (like cedar). And, I'm not a fan of terra cotta. Just too porous. I don't use them at all here in California, and I thought it was very interesting that MeyerMike also found a significant difference between terra cotta and plastic, and he's switched to all plastic. I think most of the serious container folks are avoiding terra cotta.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 12:40AM
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johnmerr(11)

Terra cotta is fine and sometimes better than plastic; but NOT in cool climates. Evaporation from the terra cotta cools the soil and roots don't grow well in cool soil. The preponderance of container growers dumping TC is because most container growers are in cool or cold climates.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 11:52AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

And in hot, dry climates, terra cotta is way too drying for citrus. Can't grow citrus where I live successfully in terra cotta.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 1:02PM
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johnmerr(11)

But, Patty, you have the luxury of putting your trees in the ground where they are meant to be; and where they are soooo much easier to grow.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 8:51PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Well of course! I have about 70 in the ground, but you've got to have a few in pots on the patio. After all, I'm of Italian extraction, and you're simply not a good Italian girl if you don't have at least one lemon in a pot by the door :-) I have about 10 container citrus scattered across my various patio areas. They're all in ceramic (mostly Talavera, my favorite ceramic pots), and a couple of resin/fiberglass pots left from the previous homeowner. Can't let a good pot go to waste, and the best thing to put in a pot? Well, a citrus tree!

Patty S.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 9:03PM
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johnmerr(11)

The BEST thing to put in a pot is a Meyer; when Mr Meyer, Agricultural Explorer for the USDA ... boy do I not want to have THAT job...discovered the Meyer in China in 1908, it was growing in pots, dooryard, ornamental.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 9:48PM
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tillygrower

John,

I've read arguments for and against using plastic vs terra cotta pots for Meyer lemons. What do you think would be best for North Carolina (zone 7b), where it gets hot in the summer, but I have to bring my tree indoors in the winter?

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 8:27AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey Westgirl!

Have you ever root-pruned your Meyer?

Josh

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 11:55AM
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westgirl(8 WA)

Hey Josh,
I did lightly root-prune this tree (with much tredipation!) when I re-potted last March. I also pruned the canopy a bit and then was told that balancing out the pruning is outdated thinking, and I shouldn't have done that, so I gues I wasn't doing it any favors. It just seemed that it had so many bare branches that it would try to send energy to, that I would be helping reduce the "workload". I just looked at my old post about this tree "running out of hope/ideas for my Meyer" and it is so painful to look at the visual history of it's decline. I hope I'm back on the right track now...

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 3:36PM
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johnmerr(11)

Okay... for a Meyer the root volume to tree volume is ideally 1 to 4; but that is in an ideal world. Because I don't reside in the container world, I don't DO root pruning; but I sometimes do things to stimulate root growth, if there is an imbalance in my field trees.

Tillygrower,

I would opt for plastic or glazed ceramic; in the hottest times you have to compensate by more frequent watering or a little shade cloth. Inside in Winter, the relatively dry air will cause more evaporation; so TC is not the best choice.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 7:47PM
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westgirl(8 WA)

That is so interesting about root volume, new info for me - thanks John. Just out of curiosity, how do you know when you have a root/canopy imbalance with your field trees?? And while I've got your attention, another one of my Meyers inside has two large green lemons (which is why I was asking you about de-greening in another post)- will they ever turn yellow indoors? Room temp varies between 55-65 depending on amount of sun. How do I know when to pick them?

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 11:10PM
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johnmerr(11)

I've never grown a Meyer indoors; so I don't have an answer about coloration. In general the primary factor in coloration is maturity and the difference between day and night temperatures that causes the color; too little difference equals minimal coloring. Maturity for a Meyer is 8 to 8.5 brix; at that point the full yellow color is developed; but may be hidden by chlorophyl. There is a lot of technical jibberish; but essentially there is an enzyme called chlorphylase which breaks down the chlorophyll and reveals the underlying color. For oranges and grapefruits commercial growers sometimes use ethylene gas or ethephon bath to promote degreening; but that doesn't seem to work very well with Meyers. Anyway, you ask an interesting question; let us know what happens.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 10:43AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Well, if the root-pruning was sufficient, and if there is room for expansion in the container,
then I would assume that the tree will re-leaf this Spring and Summer when sunlight is more abundant.

What fertilizer dose are you supplying weekly?

Josh

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 11:51AM
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