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Help for traumatised citrus trees?

Posted by fiddlerchick 10 Los Angeles (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 28, 13 at 20:18


My landlord insisted that I remove the three beautiful, productive little citrus trees I planted in an architectural feature between the house and yard that functioned as a large-ish container. To make a long story short, I planted the little trees (5-gallon size: one dwarf Owari Satsuma, one dwarf Mexican cocktail lime and one moro blood orange -- I had meant to get a dwarf, but I believe that one may actually be a standard) using the “3 in one hole” method, and they grew quite well despite the massively heavy, sticky clay soil and cramped conditions, and the fruit they produced was exquisite, so I was gutted at having to take them out.

Anyway, the lime tree was the smallest, so it fared the best when I dug it out and transplanted it into a half-cut wine barrel out back in organic potting soil that was left in the barrel from when I’d had summer squash planted in it last summer. The other two trees didn’t do so well since they were much bigger -- they’d grown a lot during the four years they lived here! Their roots were so big and deep that I’d had to do tremendous damage to the root system to get them out, and I immediately transplanted them into wine barrels also and topped up with Kellogg’s Gro-Mulch, but all the leaves dried up and fell off and the growth flush that had already started for spring withered.

I dug the trees out toward the end of February, so it’s been about a month now. The lime tree lost many of its leaves, but the buds are still on, and it looks viable. It just hasn’t yet re-established itself, or is it that the potting soil is totally depleted and I should fertilize it? I am concerned about how to fertilize it while it’s trying to re-grow its roots, but since Spring is now well underway, I expect that it will need food to be able to grow. I use organic stuff. Should I give it some fertilizer now? All three barrels are about 25 gallons.

What about the other two trees? They still do not show any visible signs of growth, but there is still a lot of green in the main branches and even in some of the fine branches at the ends. Is it likely that these two will be able to survive, and what can I do to help them? I know I’ll need to put up some sort of shade to protect their bark from getting sun scald when it gets hotter, or maybe even now.

The trees are in a warm spot that gets full sun all day, and I live in metro Los Angeles. I will be so happy if these trees can be saved and will thrive as container plants and produce more delicious fruit!

Thanks so much!!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Help for traumatised citrus trees?

Photos please.

Patty S.

RE: Help for traumatised citrus trees?

Without leaves, the plant cannot make much use of fertilizer. I suggest that you wait until you get a solid 3-4" of new stem growth before feeding.

The new growth drop/die-back is of concern. However, you say the stems are still green so therefore it is not dead.
Have patience. I stared at my 1 foot tall, single stalk and leafless, transplanted Lisbon for 9 months before it restarted its growth. 2 years later it is nearly 5 ft. tall and producing. Last year, I transplanted another Lisbon that was in the ground 5 years. It dropped 90% of its leaves right away and has been stagnant - until this past February when it began a growth flush. It is nearly re-leafed - - - - I did not add any fertilizer along the way and will not until i get a good 4" of new stem growth. It looks like i will be feeding it in March. :-)

RE: Help for traumatised citrus trees?

This is good to hear! I'm in a similar situation - someone helped me move a grapefruit tree that had been in the ground about 4 years, and in exchange I gave him a kumquat that had been in the ground about the same time. Both trees are terribly stressed now. It's good to hear that there is hope!

My grapefruit has bloomed, it was about to when the move came, and of course, I'm picking them off and won't let it produce anything this year. Doesn't need that stress on top of being moved and losing a lot of roots and leaves.

RE: Help for traumatised citrus trees?

I meant to say feeding in May in the earlier post, - ha!
But indeed, patience and less "love" has proven to work for me.
I moved about a dozen citrus to new locations the past year, some more than 3x. Those that were fed regularly clearly did worse than the ones that i ignored. I stopped the fertilizer application (9 months ago) and just about all are starting to grow again. Good luck!
If folks are interested i can post some "before" and in recovery pics. Hopefully, I will have some decent "after" pics by May.

RE: Help for traumatised citrus trees?

Many thanks to everyone for your helpful replies, and sorry for the delay in coming back with more information!

I am EXTREMELY excited to report that the moro blood orange tree is showing signs of revival! I noticed it for the first time the day after I made my original post. You can see the tiny new leaves sprouting out of the trunk of the tree in this close-up photo here:

Also, what can I do about that big “owie” in the same photo where I accidentally whacked the tree with the bar I was using to dig the tree out of the ground? Surely I shouldn’t leave it like that?

RE: Help for traumatised citrus trees?

Here is a photo of all three trees I dug out and transplanted into barrels in their very sorry state (photos taken a week ago). They were beautiful before with a nice new spring growth flush and lots of buds :(

That little one in the black 5-gal pot at the far left is a yuzu tree we bought last spring that I never put in the ground, but have been meaning to get a bigger "smart pot" for it. Would 15 gallons be a good size to up-pot it to?

RE: Help for traumatised citrus trees?

This photo shows the green in the branches still present in the two larger trees. The one on the left is the moro blood orange that just began showing signs of revival described in my update above.

On the right is the owari satsuma that hasn't yet shown any new growth, but doesn't look any worse, and in fact has more green than the moro. It was dug out a week later, so perhaps it will begin sprouting new leaves soon? I sure hope so!

Should I cut off the withered brown stuff so the trees will concentrate on renewing instead of trying to revive dead bits??

RE: Help for traumatised citrus trees?

This is the little lime tree. Still very green and although it dropped most of its "old" leaves and the growth flush shrank a bit, it still kept some old leaves and the buds are still on, but not opened. What should I do? Should I feed this one or wait until it looks like it is growing again? I will wait on the other two until there is a good four inches of new growth before feeding them.

Thanks so much again, everyone, for your helpful input!

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