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Author Topic: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves  (Read 398 times)

gardennewbe

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A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« on: March 16, 2017, 04:31:32 PM »
I hope someone can help.
Both of these trees were originally planted  5 years ago in wine barrels. 2 years ago they produced fruit. Last  year there was only a few fruit.
Two months ago I replanted both in  55 gallon drums (pictured) with a self-watering basin at the bottom. There is an air gap so the roots are not in the water.
Four weeks after replanting the lemon produced a lot of blooms, then a week later started dropping all its leaves. Two weeks later the orange started blossoming and also dropping its leaves.
I look at other mature citrus trees in my area that are planted in the ground and they have blossoms and all their leaves.
What am I doing wrong? What can I do to fix it?


 

Citradia

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2017, 08:38:05 PM »
I've noticed apple trees that were damaged by bears or stressed in some way bloom beautifully in spring and then quickly die. I learned somewhere that sometimes when a tree is stressed too much it will try one last attempt to reproduce before it croaks by blooming hard. Maybe citrus do the same way. Maybe root rot set in with the self watering pot; citrus need very good drainage. I've had citrus in large pots do well for a few years and then just up and die for no reason. I figured it was the big terra-cotta looking foam pots I had them planted in. Figured the roots didn't like it when they grew into contact with the weird foam sides of pot. I'm sure Millet can tell you about his special pots and potting soil preferences. I just grow my seedlings in plain old black 5 gallon tree buckets with holes in bottom and miracle grow potting soil until they get big, then plant them in the ground.

Millet

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2017, 09:38:28 PM »
gardennewbe a couple questions;

!. How long has the trees been growing in the 55-gal. containers
2. What is the watering schedule for these trees.
3. What is the formula of the fertilizer you use.

From looking at the pictures the leaves show very little if any green coloration.  They  look to be greatly under nourished and deficient in nitrogen, magnesium and more than likely other nutrients also.   Growing in very large containers, especially for undersized trees, can be really quite difficult, and requires much knowledge on nutrition and watering.  Looking at your pictures, those containers are much to large for such small trees, It can be done, but most people (and trees) run into to trouble.   I'll await the answers to the above questions  .





« Last Edit: March 16, 2017, 09:44:10 PM by Millet »

gardennewbe

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2017, 02:53:22 AM »
Millet,

The containers are 55 gallon cut 8" off the top. The 8" is put inside to create a shelf and reservoir below it. There are 1/4" holes drilled through the shelf so water can drain into the reservoir. The wicking portion that draws reservoir water into the soil is 6" diameter and sits through the shelf and into the reservoir. So actually the area that holds soil is a 55 gal drum in diameter but 16" shorter. The design is so when the reservoir is full the bottom of the shelf is not in the water, there is always a 1/2 inch air gap or greater.

They have been transplanted for 2 months. During the transplant I winched the trees out of the wine barrels and worked the outer root ball to release the attached soil clumps. The 55 gal drums added about 3" more room on all sides and 6" below the root ball compared to the wine barrels.

After the move I filled the reservoir then several days later I added Vigoro Citrus & Avocado plant food 6-4-6 sprinkled over the top soil. The following 2 weeks we had a lot of rain. The planters are in an area outside, no roof, where they can get sun all day. After the rain the blooms came out, a lot, a few weeks later the leaves started dropping.

What I have been told now is the roots are not getting oxygen because of the self watering. What I have done today is experimental, on the orange tree I emptied the reservoir and will only water from the top. On the lemon tree I kept the reservoir full and added a fish aquarium aerator to the water reservoir hoping the aerated water will make its way to the lower roots.

You helped me out several years ago with these same 2 trees, thank you, search my name on the old forum.

I spent a lot of time on these planters for portability and appearance so I would like to try all options that do not require now planters first.

Please tell me what to try.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2017, 02:55:28 AM by gardennewbe »

gardennewbe

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2017, 11:29:43 PM »
Geez, so much advice, I don't know where to start. ;D

Tom

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2017, 09:50:31 AM »
gardennewbe,

I think your soil is staying wet all the time from your description above. That and your soil mix seem to be the problem. I think you need to forget the self watering stuff for citrus. They don't like to stay wet all the time. I think your fruit don't have a chance this year and I'm afraid the citrus trees are about to die. More citrus in pots are watered to death than not watered enough. I've read stuff about using hydrogen perioxide for oxygen but I've never done it and yes I've had citrus die sometimes.

Wet soggy potting soil is terrible for citrus. You have done a good job of copying the popular 'grow boxes' but that's not good for citrus. Your citrus look big enough for the large pots to me. You need to do something immediately or they will almost surely die. I'd prune off the dead roots and prune off at least half the top to balance out the top and bottom. I think you should remove all the fruit if the plants look as bad as the picture. I'm afraid you, like me and others, have almost 'loved your plants to death'. I'm sorry but good luck ! Tom

gardennewbe

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2017, 02:22:45 PM »
Tom,

Thanks for the feedback,
When you said "prune off the dead root", should I pull it out of the pot or is there another way?

gardennewbe

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2017, 08:44:01 PM »
I am new at this making plants grow, check my name!

It sounds so simple, get a plant, put it in soil, add water, add fertilizer, get fruit......NOT.
I can do all the labor part fine but I obviously have missed it big on some important points, like the soil type, fertilizer, and now the water.

I don't know if you guys have a "lingo" or if you are being literal about saying "prune the roots". I'm my mind I am thinking you are saying to pull the tree out and cut off roots. Wouldn't this pulling the tree out add more shock an already sick tree?

I'm not experience like you guys, that is why I come here for answers, If I am in the wrong place point me in the right direction

Tom

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2017, 09:21:29 PM »
gardennewbe, you are at the right place but sometimes without seeing it we have an inexact science at best. Sometimes maybe more art than science but there are some guidelines for citrus that are different than many other things. I know nothing about the desert and its soils.

Citrus does not like continuous wet feet. That throws out clay soils and alkaline soils too. Well drained soils with slightly acidic pH soil are best. Little pots dry out faster than big pots but a really big pot would usually stay too wet for long periods of time making the roots rot.

I think you must gently pull out your citrus plants to see what the roots look like. They could be root bound and or dead and rotting. The dead or rotting roots need to be removed and any circling roots need to be unwound and or torn apart. If you have a shortage of roots I'd think being as careful as possible to save all you can would be a good idea.

I believe you have set up what my mother called a 'perched' water pot. I think she used that for ferns and other wet loving plants....not citrus.

Fertility is very important. Again too much is as bad as too little. Many have that down to an exact science. I try to follow the directions and I use a lot of controlled release fertilizer like Osmocote and stuff like water soluble Miracle Grow or Dynamite. Epsom salts helps replenish lost magnesium that leaches out of potted citrus. You could read for days on this blog. I have and enjoyed it a lot !

There are people here more knowledgeable than I but we are all learning. If it was easy everybody would be doing it and it probably would not be as much fun ! I hope some others will jump in here too. Good luck..

Millet is the moderator and he is fantastic. You could go back and read lots of things he has written here helping people all over the world.

Tom

gardennewbe

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2017, 01:06:37 AM »
I live about 10 miles from Redlands and Riverside, there is a lot of Citrus here, not really desert.
The soil I used, (pictured), is Miracle Grow planter mix. During the replant 2 months ago I used the original soil, (same stuff) and added more to fill. These pictures are from the move 2 months ago. Yesterday I got some pearlite and was thinking of mixing that into the soil to help with aeration, is that the right direction?

Today I trimmed all the brown pieces, and noticed there are new leaves, is this normal for a plant in distress?

This is what I am planning on doing. (1) Pull the plants out and look at the roots.
(2) trim roots?
(3) redesign pot to eliminate self-watering.
(4) add perlite to the soil

Questions;
(A) what am I looking for on the roots and what is the proper root trimming, I mean how to tell rotten, dead, etc, and is there a proper way to trim, cut straight, angle, pinch?
(B) how much perlite should I add, I read somewhere 50%, and should I add anything else?






Tom

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2017, 08:54:34 AM »
The pictures really help. In the last pictures posted I think your roots look fantastic. I think your new pots are sized fine for what you grew in 1/2 wine barrels for 5 years. I hope you did not leave your roots out in the air naked for a long time because they dry out and die quickly.

If the roots dried out and died or if the roots then stayed wet all the time in your new containers then now  they will not look anything like before. I'm guessing your roots look bad and probably smell rotten. They may be just a few left. If I'm correct your top growth and root growth are badly out of balance. Looks like a terrible case of winter leaf drop. In this scenario I think your only hope is to severely cut back your branches and stop keeping your roots soggy.

I think your soil is fine. Sounds like 50% perlite is too much perlite. First big mistake was when everything looked great but you were about to out grow your 1/2 wine barrel. You could have cut out and removed up to 1/2 of your roots and also removed 1/2 of the top anyway you wished and replanted in the same container with more soil just like you had been doing. Working quickly and keeping your roots damp and covered with wet burlap sacks or even newspaper in a shady place out of the sun would have kept everything happy.

From the pictures I can't tell but maybe your roots barely fit in the new container. If they barely fit they needed trimming a little and the top would need trimming too for balance. New pots need to be about 4" bigger all around or the root pruning and top pruning are needed.

As evidenced by the newest pictures you were doing a really nice job but about to out grow your current situation. I'm afraid your grow pot with constantly wet soil was a drastic change for the worse. If I'm wrong and your soil didn't stay too wet all the time maybe you will find that your roots are badly rootbound. That would probably be a best case scenario !

Either way you need surgery on the top and it may be too late. I'm sorry. You had it growing really good. What were you doing about fertilizer in the 1/2 barrel ? To me it looked great when you replanted.

Tom

« Last Edit: March 21, 2017, 08:58:19 AM by Tom »

mrtexas

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2017, 09:36:21 AM »
50% perlite solved the problem I was having with poorly draining soil for my potted citrus.
I can't recommend it too much. Makes the pot much lighter as well.

Tom

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2017, 09:50:56 AM »
Your soil says something like helps prevent under or over watering. To me that means it stays wet too long and need to drain faster. It looks like maybe all the soil particles are about the same size ? Different size pieces of wood chips don't get mushy as quickly. In most potting soils the ground up pine bark stays wet to much and get mushy which is a big problem.

I still say your roots look great in the last pictures taken earlier before the problem. I also read the new pots were almost 4 " bigger all the way around. I'm afraid your roots drowned and your tree is dying. Pull it out and I'm guessing all the roots have rotted and turned to mush. The only way possible to save the tree, in my opinion, is drastic surgery on the limbs. When you transplanted the leaves do look undernourished.

I worry about using too much fertilizer and burning so for a long time I didn't fertilize enough. Now I use controlled release and water soluble. I also use special fertilizers from around here made by fertilome for nut and fruit trees with minor elements. Follow the directions to prevent burn of excessive growth. I'd dilute a water soluble fertilizer after surgery to prevent burn. Usually organic fertilizers are more expensive and weaker strength and thus much safer. The organic name means very little to me.

Again what ever you were doing was great with the possible exception that you probably needed more fertilizer in the 1/2 barrel.The transplant, if done quick enough to prevent roots drying out, was not bad. Constantly wet roots is a killer.

Tom

gardennewbe

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2017, 11:58:28 AM »
Tom, During the transplant the plants were out of the pot for about 30 minutes, the day was cool, 60f and cloudy. I expect tomorrow to be similar. I will pull the lemon, it looks worse, and take pictures, trim roots, modify the pot and post back, stay tuned.

On the subject of trimming the top is there specific rules? Cut the green wood, cut brown wood, cut at "Y", angle cut, or ???

Tom

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2017, 12:22:19 PM »
You can cut your tree like you want but there are guidelines. I haven't googled it in a while but yes at a v is a good place not in the middle of a limb. Anywhere two limbs are rubbing is bad so one can go. I would not want the remaining limbs to be pointing down. An angle like a 90* L is stronger than a a sharp angle less than 45* like a v. I think you need to remove a lot of limbs if your roots have disappeared. I'd think the dead rotten roots with just fall apart and smell bad. The soil will probably smell bad too. I'm sure there are lots of info found by googling and looking at you tube. I hope it's just a root bound problem. There are articles on that too. The roots go around and around. You can unwrap many of them but some will get broken. All the missing roots and damaged roots mean your top and bottom are way out of balance. I don't remember seeing that in many articles on line but I've read it here or the old citrus forum several times. The old forum seems to be back up and running but nothing added lately. The pots mentioned earlier that Millet likes are called 'rootmaker'. There are other air pruning containers that use the same principle. Good luck. Tom

Millet

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #15 on: March 21, 2017, 03:29:39 PM »
The roots looked very healthy when you transplanted from the 1/2 wine barrels into the 55 gallon drums.  We have not seen a pictures of what the roots look like after being in the 55-gallon drums for two months.  One comment -- There is always an increase of leaf drop when a citrus tree blooms.  I did notice in the first set of pictures, that the leaves showed a deficiency of magnesium, and probably also nitrogen. Have you already moved the trees out of the 55-gallon drums?  If so what did what was the condition of the rot systems.

gardennewbe

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2017, 04:33:05 PM »
I was planning pulling the trees out of the 55 gallon planters tomorrow when it is cooler. I am anxious to see the roots so I may do it later today.

I will take lots of pictures and post.

I was not going to move into another planter. My plan is to add a perforated floor into the existing planter so any water will drain into a lower reservoir. the water in the reservoir will be collected and used on the lawn or elsewhere. The tree will not be able to suck water from the bottom after this mod.

LaCasaVerde

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2017, 09:56:44 PM »
Ive gone through a similar situation with a persian lime. Transplanted into 5 1 1 mix and saw a rather rapid decline in the health of the pant.  I repotted again after finding a fast draining soil,  referenced by Millet some time back - miracle grow - after reading about it on an earlier thread here. The result was immediate. Within a month the plant -which had no leaves at all- flushed out and now itis  in better health than ever. When I retransplanted it was obvious the soil was soggy about 3-4 inches below the surface.

Transplant shock can also cause this as it has for me with a dekopon that is now finally growing.

Finally there is a possibility that transplanting in the winter threw the plant off as all its energy went into preflower development  as its root system was established and now is trying to abort due to shock and is experiencing nutrient deficiency/ leaf loss as a result.



gardennewbe

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #18 on: March 22, 2017, 02:42:45 PM »
Recap;
Nine weeks ago I repotted a lemon and orange, 2 weeks later they bloomed a lot, then they dropped leaves, a lot. Expert advice from this forum said root rot was the problem. The pots were self-watering 55gal, self-watering = bad.

I tried two approaches, the lemon I left the water in the bottom reservoir and aerated it with a fish aquarium pump. The orange tree I emptied the water and 3 days later watered with a hydrogen peroxide mix.

Today I re potted the lemon.

The top 4” of soil were damp but not excessive, about the same wetness of bagged soil. As I got deeper the soil got wetter, at the bottom it was not dripping but very wet. The root ball bottom was 8” off the bottom of the pot. Upon pulling it up I realized the root ball was about 60% of the size it was 2 months ago. The roots on the ball looked good to me, (what do I know). I pulled out all of the soil and put it on a tarp separating driest to wettest. As I got to the wetter soil there was quite an odor it smelled like an open sewer. I also saw a lot of fine roots in the soil obviously from my once larger root ball. I did not see any rotten roots on the root ball.

I reworked the pot so it can’t draw water from below = no self-watering. Now the soil area drains into the lower reservoir and out to the ground.

I thoroughly mixed perlite into the soil about 30 - 40% perlite to soil. The driest went in the pot first on the bottom then the root ball and finally worked the rest of the mix around the sides and top. The wettest of the mix is on top.

When comparing the photos below to the ones in the post above, the ones above of the root ball are the orange tree, the one pictured here is the lemon,  the root balls were about the same appearance 9 weeks ago

 

     
« Last Edit: March 22, 2017, 02:56:18 PM by gardennewbe »

Tom

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #19 on: March 22, 2017, 03:25:21 PM »
gardennewbe,

All that sounds and looks good to me. If your rootball is almost 1/2 of what is was 2 months ago I still think you need to cut some of the top branches off. I just looked at your pictures especially the last or bottom picture. Maybe you pruned enough already. It might be better to thin out the middle sometime so more light can get inside. Probably that's just an individual preference. I think more light inside would make more fruit inside but fruit all around the outside might look great.

A former extension citrus expert told me if everything was perfect for a Meyer lemon in a 1/2 barrel someone could expect 50 fruit per year. There can be 4 flushes so the 50 fruit could be spread out to some degree but most of the fruit is usually from the first flush. By picking carefully you could have Meyer lemons about 12 month each year.

Maybe with the reduced roots and low fertility you can get by with what you have already cut off of your branches. Others here might be better able to answer that question. I think you need more fertilizer , magnesium and other minor elements. I might have thrown the stinky soil away but putting it on top might be ok. From the pictures it looks like you have plenty of roots left. I think you firgured out the problem rather quickly and you will probably have a very good year !! Good luck.

Tom
« Last Edit: March 22, 2017, 03:54:37 PM by Tom »

gardennewbe

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #20 on: March 22, 2017, 03:43:27 PM »
I forgot to mention I did trim the top, last photo, probably took off about 25% +.

A lot of the stinky soil did not get used because the perlite took up space and the stinky was last in.

I have compost worms, would it be any benefit to add some to the pot?

I am going to Home Depot today, what fertilizer should I get? What should it say on it?

Tom

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #21 on: March 22, 2017, 04:08:13 PM »
I'm glad some stinky soil got left out. I've done exactly the same. I think your worms will die from the increased fertility program. You might be so fired up that it would be safer to use organic fertilizer. Your compost worms would appreciate it. Fertilome makes an organic in an orange bag around here. There regular is in a blue bag and cost less. I think both are marked as citrus and nut tree fertilizer with magnesium and minor elements. Millet says citrus uses fertilizer in a ratio of 25-5-15 or anything in a multiple of 5-1-3. I use water soluble fertilizer sometimes and I like controlled release like the small BBs you see in recently purchased potted plants. I'm afraid to use too much for fear of burn but I do like green plants !

gardennewbe

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #22 on: March 22, 2017, 04:57:13 PM »
I do have on hand Alaska fish fertilizer 5-1-1, it is a liquid, stinky. Will it work?

I also have Miracle Grow all purpose plant food. It says it is 24-8-16, that reduces to 5-1.6-3.3. Will it work?

How much, how often and where? do I spray it on the leaves, pour it on the soil all over or outside the trunk area. I had read somewhere to avoid an area the size of a plate near the trunk.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2017, 05:08:44 PM by gardennewbe »

Millet

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #23 on: March 22, 2017, 05:11:40 PM »
Alaska fist oil is used as a foliar spray.  Use whatever fertilizer program you wish, but know that citrus are heavy feeders requiring more nutrition than most plants.  Citrus preform much better with conventional fertilizers than with organic fertilizers.   When watering large /deep containers know that when the top couple inches feel dry, deep down in the root system it could still be very wet.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2017, 06:09:57 PM by Millet »

Tom

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Re: A lot of blooms, then dropping leaves
« Reply #24 on: March 22, 2017, 05:36:52 PM »
The Miracle Grow all purpose will be fine. I'm sure lots of citrus gets 8-8-8 or 13-13-13. You can use the Miracle Grow every two weeks and follow the directions. I don't think you need to do it every two weeks because it get expensive. All fertilizers seem to be salts except maybe organics. Most of those are blood meal or fish meal based for the nitrogen and they smell strong. I used some organic fertilome for fear of burn but not lately. Your pot is very large. If it's wet way down and dry on top you can water less that usual but salts could build up in the soil. The best thing for salt build up is a thorough flush. The more porous your soil the less wet way down. Your perlite should help a lot there. The plate sized zone is very good to stay out of right around the tree trunk. A famous football coach told a crowd of people that he put a small Dixie cup of 8-8-8 in the tubes of all his recently planted oaks. He said every one of them died. You can kill tomato plants the same way. I would think Home Depot or a local retail nursery would have appropriate citrus fertilizer with directions on the bag. I'm glad your roots weren't destroyed yet. I'm afraid they were on the way the wrong way !!

Tom

 

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