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Cara Cara not doing well

Posted by agility_mom z9 AZ (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 11, 11 at 1:54

I bought a Cara Cara orange tree from a citrus nursery about this time last year. It really has never thrived. The leaves have been sparse ever since I got it.
It is planted in native soil at the proper planting depth, that I made sure drains properly and has not been fertilized. I have followed the nursery directions.
The watering schedule has been 1X for a deep soaking every 3 or 4 weeks depending on the rain. I just bumped it up temporarily to once every 10 days after our temps spiked to 90's and 100.
This tree had lots of flowers earlier but has not added hardly any leaves and now lots of the smaller branches are dying.
The nursery says to back off on the water and don't fertilize it but, it seems to be having more dying branches and doesn't look very good.
There are 4 other citrus trees on the same watering schedule planted in the same area as this tree and they are all very healthy looking.
Does anybody have any ideas as to what is ailing this tree?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Cara Cara not doing well

Have you checked to see if you have any gopher damage to the roots? Were the roots root-bound and circling in the pot when you planted it? And not sure why you wouldn't fertilize this poor little tree. It needs fertilizer for sure. If you could post some photos, that would be very helpful for the forum to be able to see exactly what's going on.

Patty S.

RE: Cara Cara not doing well

No gophers. This was a field grown tree from a citrus nursery that was dug up and the root ball wrapped so it wasn't root bound.
Actually, I was following the nursery recommendation on the fertilizing. It is common to not fertilize citrus the first year or they can burn easily. It is hard to not fertilize it but I called the nursery and explained the problem and was told under no circumstances to fertilize it right now.
I'll try to post a picture.

RE: Cara Cara not doing well

The first thing you need to do is find another nursery to give you proper advice. The advice that your nursery has given you is completely wrong. A new young citrus tree that is planted in the ground should be fertilized 6 time during its first year, using a 6-6-6 fertilizer at the rate of .4-lbs pounds with each application. The second year the tree should be fertilized 5 times at the rate of 1-lb.per application with a 6-6-6 fertilizer. The third year a citrus tree is fertilized 4 times at the rate of 2-lbs. per application using a 6-6-6 fertilizer. The fourth year the tree needs to be fertilized 3 times at the rate of 5-lbs. per application using a 6-6-6 fertilizer. The fifth year and all succeeding years feed your tree 6-lbs. 6-6-6 fertilizer with each application. You can also use a 8-8-8 fertilizer by adjusting the rate of application accordingly. The amount of fertilizer to be applied with each application will of course decrease when a stronger fertilizer formulation (percent nitrogen increases) is used. Only lower analysis fertilizers should be used during years 1-3 to avoid damaging the young citrus trees roots with fertilizer burn. Starting with year 4 higher analysis fertilizers such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 can be used (be sure to adjust application rates). If controlled release fertilizers (slow release) are used, they can be applied once every 6-9 months, according to recommendations on the fertilizer bag. For young trees, apply fertilizer uniformly in a 3-ft diameter circle around the tree. As the tree becomes older, the area fertilized should be enlarged as the root system expands. Care should be taken to avoid root or trunk damage by uneven placement or placing the fertilizer against the trunk. To summarize these fertilizer recommendations : apply up to 0.15, 0.3, 0.5 lbs. actual nitrogen per tree during years 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Thereafter, increase the amount of actual nitrogen applied according to tree growth, up to but not more than 1.5 lbs. actual nitrogen per tree per year. A citrus tree cannot possibly grow, nor bloom, if the the proper nutrition is withheld.

RE: Cara Cara not doing well

This sounds exactly like my Oro Blanco grapefruit (RIP) of a few years back and also it's successor (this time in a container).

Both had the symptoms you describe. The only variable they also shared in common was an infestation of ants in the rootball. Even though I watched both trees carefully for aphids, scale, etc., and didn't find any, they continued to decline until I dealt with the ants.

Why the ants went for these trees and left my other citrus alone, I have no idea. When I cleaned out the newer tree recently and repotted in a new mix I was horrified at the sheer number of ants--and I had never seen them crawling around on the tree.

Maybe not your issue, but maybe worth a look.

RE: Cara Cara not doing well

The nursery was probably recommending, or confused their own advice, with "do not place fertilizer directly in the planting hole, or do not fertilize at planting time". Then when you went back, they probably though "well the tree is water stressed, so don't apply fert now". It's easy to confuse and miscommunicate these directions.

Unless the existing soil already has plenty of nutrients, you will need to apply some fert the first year.

If the tree was unhealthy at purchase, many nursery's have refunds up to 1 year. Though some will try the "it WAS healthy, why would you buy it if it wasn't healthy?" pressure.

Do you have any Miracle Grow or Miracid soluble fert (the green granules you put it a sprayer or water pail). If so, just use that at your next watering.

You should also know the approx. pH of your soil and have a moisture meter handy.

When you plant a young tree by removing it from the existing container and placing the entire rootball directly in the ground, you can have issues with UNDER watering. I've done this many times -- in trying not to over-water, I didn't realize the potting soil was drying out much too quickly compared to the surrounding clay soil. If you stick a moisture probe in surrounding soil, it can show maximum moisture, but stick it directly in the rootball next to the trunk and it was bone dry. The "heavier" soil will not easily give up moisture to the more porous lighter potting mix. This is one reason to bare-root plant the tree or at least mix in some existing soil in between roots, which also happens when you "fan out" the roots when you plant it.

RE: Cara Cara not doing well

this is great advice, but one question (i'm sure others ave it also).

what exactly is meant by the term "young citrus tree"????

for example, i never buy trees that are less than 10 gallon in pot size (about 3-4 feet tall). is that a tree that is in year 2, 3, 4 or 5????? is that a tree that should be given the 6-6-6 method, or 12-12-12 method?????

RE: Cara Cara not doing well

A containerised nursery tree, even a 10-gallon tree, has a root system that is rather small due to being restricting by the size of the container. Further, if you slip the tree from the container, you will probably find that the tree is probably root bound, or close to being root bound, and that the roots are already circling around the inside of the container. A standard rule for container grown trees, that is followed by quality nurseries, is to either sell the tree in the first year, or transplant it into a larger container, or throw the tree away. However some nurseries in order to make as much profit as possible refrain from doing so. Your 10 gallon tree will have a limited sized root system, thus would still be considered a "new" tree being planted into the ground. If it was my tree I would treat it as a two year tree.

RE: Cara Cara not doing well

  • Posted by newgen 9 Central California (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 17, 11 at 2:38

steve in los osos: how did you deal with the ants? I have the same problems with some of my trees, in ground and in containers, not all are citrus.


RE: Cara Cara not doing well

Try using the liquid outdoor Terra ant bait stations. They contain boric acid (not a problem if you spill it on the soil) and probably something sweet to attract the ants. This takes time, but is the least objectionable approach.

If you have a young tree and you take the long view (especially for a container tree) you could always use something like Sevin as a drench, but you need to be comfortable with that and read all the instructions carefully.

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