Brown Leaves on Meyer Lemon

HaroldMeyerDecember 11, 2012


Our Meyer Lemon tree is having problems. It has been relatively healthy and just flowered recently and had three fruits growing. We recently brought it inside for the winter. We have owned it about 6 months, I forget how old it was when we got it (but it came with its first fruits just starting).

We are careful not to over water it. Once or twice a week. The medium is about 60% pine bark, 30% soil and 10% pearlite. (Not ideal, we should use less soil). PH is a bit high at around 7, but we are using vinegar to try and lower it to at least 6. We fertilize it with a 5-2-1 fertilizer about once a month. It currently gets as much light as we can give it, which is probably less than ideal.

The tree has been putting out new growth, leaves and flowers. The problem is some of the leaves are turning brown at the tips. Why is this? Could it be salt buildup? Soggy soil? I have included some pictures.

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Here is another photo of it.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 10:24PM
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And a final one of the tree. Yes, it is a little wild. This photo is from about 2 months ago, the lemons are still green.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 10:26PM
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To add, no leaves have fallen off, they seem perky, but more leaves are continuing the brown leaf tip trend.

Also with the water meter readings, a section of the pot is reading "Wet" even though we last watered a week ago.

Please help!! Should we repot to new potting medium asap?

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 2:33PM
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Sorry I can't give you advice about re-potting or "soil" for your container tree; but it certainly looks like salt burn... as in poor drainage, fertilizer build up... although your tree does not appear to be over fertilized.

Maybe the wrong kind of food, wrong kind of "soil", wrong kind of water???

By any chance are you watering your tree with water from a water softener??? you would be surprised how many people make that mistake. Water softeners replace damaging minerals with table salt (Sodium Chloride), which burns plants.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 7:40PM
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Thanks for responding!

We are just watering with regular tap water, so that rules out the water softener possibility. It seems like it may be the potting soil we used, as it seems like our fertilizer is not the problem either.

Looking at Mike's questions to Gro-nut in another post, here are some answers to those questions which may be helpful:
- House temp is around 68 degrees
- Fertilizer is Growers Secret 5-2-1
- We let the water drain freely, but less than a gallon of water
- Since moving indoors, watering is once a week

Any recommendations if we decide to repot? (We would have to repot indoors as winter has finally hit New England...)

This post was edited by HaroldMeyer on Sat, Dec 15, 12 at 17:35

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 4:58PM
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Most important for a Meyer, change your fertilizer to a 3-1-2 ratio; Meyers are big feeders and the 3-1-2 ratio (I use 18-6-12 for my field trees) is the best for this variety.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 7:51PM
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If you decide to repot, I would use 60% bark, 10& soil or peat, and 30% perlite.
You understand why, right?

I would also agree with John in that it could be some sort of salt burn. Tap water can be a culprit in which it does not easily drain out of the pot rapidly.
There is plenty of salts, metals, chlorine in tap water not to mention salts in fertilizer alone in my area.

I'll bet that if you started using rain water and flushing that mix out, the problem would be reversed.

Spring is best to do a repot, but if you feel it's a must now, use a much more porous mix and you and your plants will be very happy.

Welcome to growing in Mass!


    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 8:57AM
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Hi Mike,

Sadly, most of the leaves have developed brown tips. I'm going to gather some rain water right now. (At least there is something good coming out of these cold, rainy days!) When you say flush, how much water is a good flush? How would I know how much is too much -- especially if this soil mix seems to be retaining so much water already?

So would you recommend flushing and repotting? Or just flushing and waiting to see what happens? If we are to repot, Walmart is selling the Timberline Pine Mulch (looks like the only Pine Bark in stock around Boston this time of year). Is that a good product?

Thanks for helping out! We have been avid readers of this forum since getting the tree (whom we've named Harold). Too bad we're writing our first post when our tree is in its worst shape! :(

This post was edited by HaroldMeyer on Tue, Dec 18, 12 at 1:48

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 10:57PM
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Hey Harold..

It should get better as you use rain water and or once you change the mix to a very porous one.
Once the mix dries, run rain water or distilled water until it runs through the bottom for at least a couple of minutes. You can use tap too, if you allow it to drain for a while. It will still help with any deposits in your mix.
Do you have a shower head?
Sit your plant in the tub and let it get showered for at least 5 minutes. This is good too.

Hold back on fertilizing until the spring, until you are able to water throughly, or until you change your mix.

I would use a wick or two and push it into the bottom of your pot so that any perched water is encouraged to drain out and away from the roots. Let the wick dangle by elevating your pot. This will encourage your mix to dry out faster until you change your plant into a better mix come spring.

Do you have an Agway anywhere close to where you live? I do. They are all over my area. Let me know.

Nice to meet you and please pray for a sunny day soon.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 11:21AM
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Sounds good, we'll try the shower head!

This post was edited by HaroldMeyer on Fri, Dec 21, 12 at 18:54

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 11:13PM
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We repotted Harold into the 5-1-1 mix last Friday. Mike, we went over to Agway and picked up 3 cu ft of pine bark mulch... more than we know what to do with! :) But glad there was some in stock.

So far it's looking alright, leaves are still intact and the browning seems to have come to a halt. We showered it for 5 minutes in the tub two times this week. Should the amount of water always be that much or is that just to flush out the salts? The soil seems dry already, after 3 days.

Also, can we start applying fertilizer now?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 4:00PM
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You know, there is always more plants to be planted in that stuff, once you get

I hope you got the same stuff I was thinking..:-)

Harold, did you use perlite and the infamous peat and lime?

Did you bareroot it or pot up?

I am keeping my fingers crossed that you did:-)
We can talk about that, fertilizing and the watering once I know:-)


    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 4:22PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Hi Harold,
The 5-1-1 will seem dry in the upper portion after a few days. It's the root zone you need to keep a check on. The easiest way is a wooden skewer. I got a pack real cheap at Wal Mart in the grilling utensils area for shish kabobs. (sp?)
You get the idea right, I know my spelling stinks! lol.. Josh, are you here to help me. ? ;-)

Insert one into the root zone and leave for awhile then check it. Best way is to press it against your cheek to judge the moisture.

Mike is right, there's no end to what you can grow in it! Almost dangerous stuff to have around, you will always be looking for a way to use it. lol..


    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 5:16PM
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So we did most things according to instructions, 5 parts pine bark mulch, 1 part peat, and a little more than 1 part perlite, but in our hastiness, we left out the lime... (big uh-oh?)

When re-potting it, we used the same pot, and massaged out as much old soil as we could before planting it in the 5-1-1 mix. I think we did that part right! :)

It's been really easy to lift the plant to and from the bathroom with how lightweight the mix is! Also, when watering, we're adding a teaspoon of white vinegar to the water.

Looking forward to hearing the watering & fertilizing instructions... Many thanks again!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 10:34PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Yes, brown leaf-tips usually indicate brown root-tips.

Given the amount of soil in your previous mix, I would say overwatering/saturated mix.
Fertilizer burn is a possibility, I suppose, but it wouldn't be my first guess.

With recently re-potted plants, it is important to keep the mix uniformly moist -
so don't let the upper layers dry out the way you would with an established Citrus plant.
If you let the upper roots dry out and die, especially this time of year, your plant is
in for a sloooooow recovery....or a hasty decline.

Fertilization should resume 1 - 2 weeks after re-potting. If heavy root-pruning occured,
give the plant the full 2 weeks to get some new roots under it for water/nutrient uptake.

Also, stabilize the tree in the pot - this will help the roots establish faster in the mix.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 2:21PM
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Josh is another citrus container success and I am glad he has joined in Harold. In fact, we discuss what is best for our potted trees all the time.

Hey Josh!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 3:21PM
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We're back and sadly have more concerns to share. While on vacation, a friend was asked to water the tree, but something came up, so the tree was left unwatered for a full week. A good fifth of the leaves had dried up and fallen off.

Harold received an emergency soaking and has not had much leaf drop since, however, most of the leaves remain wilted.

How should we proceed from here? Should we continue on the same water schedule or should we give less water since we've lost some leaves? I usually run the shower for 4-5 minutes and let it drain for half an hour. Watering has been roughly every 4 days since putting in the 5-1-1 mix.

Thanks!! I hope it's not too late for recovery.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 3:58PM
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Shoot! That stinks Harold.

Typically after a harsh period like that, extreme drought, there is always lot's of root death and die off if the roots which do the bullwork of feeding and drinking.

What you usually experience is leaf droopiness, pest invasion, especially mites, and branch dieback.
Watch for the pests since they can be handled.

The best you can do for it is to treat it as usual. Make sure it's getting good light and don't over or under water.
I would not feed until you notice a difference in leaf health and or growth.

There is always hope it will pull through, and they usually do on themselves, but it may take time. It might even show off during the warmer months especially after being outside. So don't give up.

I have saved a many that have been through this just to end up with a healthy specimen within a year or two with patience. I have bought many from stores that have been through this for a buck or two and glad I did.

I wish your tree well.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 12:40PM
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Thanks for the encouragement! We'll keep at it with some TLC. I'm sure we'll give updates over the year!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 1:27PM
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Back with an update and good news to share!

Summer has been really good for Harold: about two dozen new bright green leaves, a couple flowers (small but with some purple, as opposed to the purely white flowers in the winter), and no browning/yellowing of the new leaves. I'm not sure this bunch of flowers will give us fruit, but we'll know soon.

This photo shows the new leaves above the older ones with the problems. Guess what it needed the most was more sunshine!

This post was edited by HaroldMeyer on Sun, Jul 7, 13 at 14:35

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 2:02PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Wonderful news, Harold!
Are you still fertilizing regularly?


    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 11:47AM
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Yes but probably not often enough or not enough quantity each time. New leaves are starting to yellow, so that could be it. Does it need fertilizer each watering in the summer?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 7:23AM
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Could you post an update?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2014 at 11:46PM
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