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Author Topic: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(  (Read 418 times)

kvetch lambkin

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Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« on: July 21, 2017, 06:45:43 PM »
Hi, I've joined the forum to look for help identifying the problem to my Meyer lemon tree. The older leaves have turned yellow very quickly and don't match any of the usual patterns I've seen online for nutrient deficiencies. :(

If anyone has experienced a similar problem or can give some advice as to what may be the problem as well as possible steps I can take next, I'll be so thankful! There's a few things I want to do to try to help it but as a complete container gardening newbie, I don't want to worsen the problem since I don't know the cause of it yet. This is my first time owning a fruit tree or any plant that's not a cactus and I'd like to grow old with it.



The day before only 4 leaves turned yellow, yesterday I counted a total of 6 and today it has increased to 10! I'm willing to write the entire 1 month history of the tree but it would make the post very long so I'll just give details on the more major events my tree has went through.

It's currently in its nursery pot 8inch diameter in its original nursery soil which pretty sandy and seems to drain well. I couldn't find a graft/bud Union so I dig away soil until I found a flaring root, emailed the nursery it came from (Record Buck Farms) and they requested photos to help me but never replied when I sent the photos. The top gangly roots on the trunk I left exposed because it seemed like the nursery planted the tree too deep, even burying the trunk down to an old prune cut. I had planned to prune those roots so the root flare could be planted at the right surface level (when I decide to report it). Then July 7, a big thunder/rainstorm hit and I forgot to move it to a safer location and found the tree blown over to the side, almost laying sideways but not quite! It felt like a lot of the deeper roots might've broken off because it wouldn't stand upright very long, it would lean heavily to the side so I staked it. The stake was too puny though and didn't offer much support so I replaced it last weekend with 2 thicker stakes loosely attached to the trunk with elastic fabric. Within the 2 weeks since the storm, I haven't seen any drastic changes to the plant until those yellow leaves a couple days ago. I fertilized it half the recommended amount of Dr. Earths 5-5-5 when I first got the tree a month ago and it should be due for another fertilization.. however, the nursery soil has those tiny green fertilizer balls so I'm not sure if I should continue a fertilization schedule or not.

So right now I can't tell if it's a root injury, a disease, or nutrient deficiency or all of the above? I'd be extremely thankful if anyone is willing to read this terribly long post or even give advice or tips on how I should proceed. Sorry for such a long post :(

Citradia

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2017, 08:14:22 PM »
So many possible factors. How big is the tree? Is it root-bound? Is it growing inside or outside? How often are you watering it?  I've found that plants do better if grown outside in an environment that closely resembles their native environment as much as possible. Good that it has good drainage since citrus roots don't like to be wet all the time. They also like to dry out for a few days before the next rain/ watering. I'm sure Millet and others can give better diagnosis than me, but I'm guessing you have a wet root problem or some kind of root die back problem. If roots are black instead of white when you pull it out of pot, your roots are dead and would need to repot after removing the dead parts of roots.

Millet

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2017, 09:22:30 PM »
As Citradia  wrote it could be many things.   I'm not surprised that you are unable to find a graft union, because I doubt that your tree is a grafted tree.  Meyer lemons root extremely easy from cuttings, therefore a huge number are raised and sold as rooted cuttings instead of a grafted tree.  Trees grown from rooted cutting do not produce long tap roots, that strongly anchor the  tree to the soil.  In areas like Florida, even in ground growing younger rooted cutting propagated trees are commonly blown over from strong winds.   This is what happened to your tree, and it more than likely has some root damage from torn roots.  Do you know exactly how old your tree is, and how long it was at Record Buck before you purchased it?  Citrus leaves have a life span of approximately 16 to 24 months.  When a citrus leaf can no longer pull its weight, the tree removes the nutrients from the old leaves, and disperses them to the rest of the tree, then discards the leaf, doing so the leaf turns a yellowish color.  These older  leaves are of course the bottom leaves on the branch.. The  pattern shown by your photo has such a look.  I have quite a few citrus trees, both in the ground and container trees.  At this time of year many of my trees have leaves showing the exact leaf pattern.   Lastly it is your tree, and you can certainly grow it as you wish.  However, citrus are HEAVY feeders and do much better where fertilizer with conventional fertilizers, than organic types.  Keep an eye on your tree, and if thing get worse we'll need a follow up.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2017, 09:35:50 PM by Millet »

kvetch lambkin

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2017, 09:43:03 PM »
Thank you so much for commenting! Any information from someone more experienced is still valuable. I've tried posting on another forum yesterday and it still doesn't have comments on it yet, so thank you so much Citradia! I'll put more time into looking at the deeper roots when I check the tree tomorrow since it's already dark where I live.

The tree measures 21" tall from soil surface to tallest leaves. During the first or second week of purchasing the tree, I pulled the tree out to look at the roots and it didn't look root bound. In fact, I lost a lot of soil when I did that lol. It's currently growing outdoors where temperatures have not dropped below 65F yet but it has been going into the 80-90F range lately. It was so sensitive to the heat the first couple weeks that the new light green leaves kept standing upright and cupped inwards which I researched and determined to be the trees attempt at conserving water. So I moved it out of full sun to my front porch steps on the north side of the house where it gets direct sunlight part of the day without getting burned, hopefully.

I water it once every 4-5 days or when the top 2-3 inches of soil looks very dry and the leaves stopped standing upright/cupped inwards. However, there's always some kind of rain shower or rainstorm within 1-2 days of manual watering which I assumed would be ok bc I don't normally employ the 5-10 min deep watering... but maybe it's not okay? I usually stop watering immediately after I see it leak out the drainage holes and sometimes I come back hours later to water again to make sure the water is leaks out a second time due to soil saturation and not surface runoff.

I haven't checked the roots since a month ago so I'll take a gander down there on my next visit. One problem I was having before the old leaves started yellowing was stippling and raised bumps on my new leaves. I've seen a leafhopper on the tree before but only got to see it one time. The tree doesn't have an aphid infestation. There could be spider mites bc I can just barely see some almost invisible threads spun between leaves but not many. I've also seen a single strand of a lacewing egg under a leaf occasionally. But there has been some signs of small shiny stuff spots (honeydew?) and more stippling and scritch-scratching blemishes on some leaves which are still very light green but starting to show small splotches of very light green-yellow after I found those intense yellow markings.

Another note about my tree that might play into this is that I haven't pruned it since I bought it. It seems like the store owner also didn't prune the tree once receiving it from the nursery so it is very leafy right now and most of the new growth point upwards. I planned to prune it for an "open vase" shape but I've been researching to figure out if late summer or fall is a safe time to prune. Most of the drastic yellow marked leaves are in the bottom canopy where the leaves are a bit crowded and I noticed that they are growing next to another leaf! I don't know the terminology but it looks as if 2 leaves are sprouting from the same.. sprout location? I will post the photos I have so far. The most recent full tree shot I took was 10 days ago


kvetch lambkin

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2017, 10:10:20 PM »
Thank you so much Millet for sharing with me your experience with citrus trees. Since it's my first citrus tree, I'm unaware of its natural patterns and cycles while healthy but there's a wealth of information online about the signs of an unhealthy tree. It reassures me to know the marking on my the leaves could be part of a transitioning state.

Unfortunately I don't know the actual age of the tree. I purchased it from a local store selling fruit trees from various nurseries. One weekend the store didn't have anymore young Meyer lemons so I would occasionally stop by to check. Then the next weekend (or the one after?), they had young Meyer trees again. So the most I know is that the store had the tree for at least 1-2 weeks before I purchased it.

Sorry for the long post before this one, I posted before knowing you had made a reply. I will attach some photos of my trees branching structure and shape which could be attributing to the dying leaves. The strange stippling and constantly light green top leaves as well as the roots that I suspected to be unnaturally high on the trunk.

Thank you two for listening to my trees story when there are better things you could be doing with your time. I really appreciate being able to learn about things from people that would normally be difficult to locate from books and articles.

Found a root flaring under many gangly lateral roots


Remnants of pruned green shoot which I think was buried :(









Also, a strangle beetle that I constantly saw on my tree.. kept sticking one leg up in the air and not moving. Wasn't able to find out if it was a beneficial or harmful insect

Susanne42

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2017, 09:09:21 AM »
You need a different fertilizer, much more nitrogen as citrus is a heavy feeder.  It is normal that leaves fall off from time to time. Your tree is stressed from digging around too. Just give it a rest, fertilize, water like your cacti ( maybe a tad more ;). ) And enjoy.

Millet

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2017, 10:00:20 AM »
Thanks for posting additional pictures of your tree.  Your tree looks healthy.  New leaves start out lighter green and will naturally darken up in several months . I don't see much wrong with the tree.  The few leaves that your concerned about that yellowed is normal.  They were just old leaves that have lived their life.   If I understand correctly, you have been digging some medium off of the top.  Your tree now seems to be showing quite a lot of root structure now exposed.    All in all your tree looks fine and healthy.  I agree with Susanne, it would be best to change your fertilizer.   Find one higher in nitrogen and potassium, and lower in phosphorous and containing trace minerals.  I use 25-5-15 W/TM.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2017, 01:32:40 PM by Millet »

kvetch lambkin

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2017, 12:27:40 PM »
Lemon trees are so pretty but I don't know anyone else that has a serious interest in growing fruit trees so I'm glad to be able to post my trees' photos :) Thank you Susanne as well for your advice. It's a huge relief to hear that it's probably not signs of disease like I feared but, ironically, just too much poking around from not knowing what a healthy lemon tree looks like.

I've read information that new leaves will darken over time but never found any time reference for how long it takes. So thank you again Millet! I'll definitely be watching for signs of darkening after several months. I think I will prune those exposed lateral roots as it is approx. 1/2" below an old prune cut. When it gets repotted, the soil might be too close to that cut :( Judging from all the other cuts on the tree, whoever did the pruning didn't do a very good job with the angle and distance of the cuts. I don't want to risk exposing the tree to fungal or bacterial invasion through a badly healed cut.

It's my wishful thinking to grow the lemon tree organically because I had majored in environmental science and that old background makes it hard to not want to grow sustainably using the soil food web. Since they're heavy feeders though I know it might not be possible. If I see that it begins to be detrimental to the tree and not possible to continue with an organic method, then I will switch over to the higher synthetic NPK values. :)

Has anyone had good results with growing their citrus trees using air root pruning? My trees' roots are likely damaged and I'm thinking air pruning might to be the best way to encourage deeper/vertical root growth rather than the vegetative growth that citrus seem to enjoy prioritizing.

Thank you all for the tips and advice! It really means a lot to me to see people willing help when I had no one else to turn to for advice or opinions. I will definitely be frequenting this forum more often.. probably through lurking :)

Here is the most recent full profile of the tree taken 11 days ago. Getting very crowded and chronically worried about powdery mildew lol

« Last Edit: July 22, 2017, 12:36:06 PM by kvetch lambkin »

Millet

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2017, 01:51:06 PM »
100% of my container grown trees are growing in Air Root Pruning Containers.  I personally believe that they are the finest containers to grow a plant in. Kvetch , its your tree, and you certainly can grow the tree anyway you wish.  One comment on the fertilizer.  If you wish to grow a container tree using organic type fertilization, its your choice.  A good conventional fertilizer with high nitrogen and potassium will be much better for your tree, but it your choice. Lastly, I would strongly recommend that you do not prune any of the tree's roots.  A citrus tree is a balance of the top foliage portion and the below ground root structure.  During the first years, there is no need to cut/prune all, or any part of the tree since research has shown that any cut to a young tree reduces root growth.  This is due to the equilibrium between foliage and root system.   A citrus tree is a biological unit.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2017, 02:02:22 PM by Millet »

kvetch lambkin

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2017, 04:11:57 PM »
That's amazing Millet! I'd like to grow mine using the air root pruning method but with just one tree, I can't bring myself to risk it's survival when I'm not experienced enough with lemon health in general. I've read about the top foliage and below ground root balance and its importance on maintaining the balance. But would my trees top gangly exposed roots still count as a "below ground root structure"? Since they're actually above the true root flare which I'm assuming is the real root crown that is supposed to be slightly above the soil line. I've read a paper about an experiment done to observe root adaptation based on environmental differences in soils and it mentioned that cutting a portion of one of the thicker lateral fibrous roots induced growth of a new one. The study wasn't specifically tested on citrus but trees in general. As it is a very young tree, I'm invested in having my tree grow a stronger root system and I'm willing to hold out on bearing fruit until the roots are as tough as superman's fist.

Millet

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2017, 10:11:18 PM »
Roots belong to the bottom portion, and not to the top portion, whether they are showing a little or not.  As far as cutting the roots, its up to you, its your tree, I wouldn't.

kvetch lambkin

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2017, 02:11:59 PM »
Thank you Millet for your take on the root issue! I'll continue observing its condition for now before making any big decisions or changes to the tree. I'll definitely take a look at the roots towards the bottom of the container though. Everyone's opinions and advice have been extremely helpful and I feel more confident about caring for the tree than I ever did this past month :)

Susanne42

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2017, 05:16:21 PM »
Sometimes I tend to love my trees to death ;(

kvetch lambkin

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2017, 09:58:25 PM »
My method of not drowning it is to withhold my love and neglect it often lol ..until I saw how badly the wind damaged it :'( no love for Mr. Meyer unless winds reach 15+ mph

Susanne42

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Re: Need dire help with Meyer lemon tree :(
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2017, 10:13:08 PM »
As a cacti lover you must have lots of practice ;)
I just revived one of mine after it was sitting iddle and dry for almost a year. ( citrus would not survive I'm sure)
Totally shriveled and now big and plump :) I had a big collection when I was younger but really got tiered of the injuries from them. 

 

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