Citrus Trees in containers HELP

tervnut(4)June 2, 2014

Ok, so for two years I've struggled to get my citrus trees to thrive. THey're holding on by a thread. I get them looking good, then they crash. I keep them under lights indoors during the winter and in a protected location that gets plenty of sun and natural water in the summer. I fight yellowing leaves, leaf drop, and mishapen fruit. I bought them as certified disease/insect free. I do treat with an organic insecticidal soap and neem regularly for spider mites and scale. I've tried several different soil blends; different pots. Different fertilizer/amending mixes ... all to my frustration. I love citrus - I have a lime, a meyer lemon, a navel orange, and a ponderosa lemon. the lime is the healthiest, but yet as flowered/fruited - so is the youngest of the lot. the Meyer Lemon is in a DWC hydroponic set up and seems to do well, but still struggles despite regular nutrient/water changes... The other two just seem to hang by a thread - and I am tired of them not thriving. I am considering Al's gritty mix and repotting them into cloth/nursery bags next time I move them to give them a little more aeration/drainage. Help! I'm open to suggestions, ideas, criticisms ... I must be able to move them indoors in the winter so pot size is somewhat limited. All the trees are on dwarfing rootstock. I know citrus tend to have more shallow root systems than other trees so wide pots are preferred to deep. I await the knowledge and awesomeness of this group to help me get these babies happy!! So thankful for everyones input!! THANKS!

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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Where do you live? City and state?

Have you tried 5-1-1?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 7:57PM
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I'm in Cleveland, OH (44123)

I haven't tried 5-1-1 yet, and only started reading through (3-4hours today since I'm sick) all of Al's posts and have learned a ton.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 9:00PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Citrus can be tricky. A lot of trial and error in my experience unless you live in Florida or Calif. Growing up in L.A., we had an ugly looking ghetto lemon tree in the ground that we didn't care for at all, yet it cranked out so many awesome ripe lemons that they would fall, rot and become a nuisance. Now I live in Vegas 200 miles away and struggle with citrus. Granted, the climate's much harsher here, but conventional wisdom has everybody thinking you can easily grow citrus anyplace with warm summers. Not so.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 10:13PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Man, I'd get them into some good 5-1-1 pronto, and onto a consistent nutrient regimen. A well-draining mix will make your Citrus so much easier to maintain.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 11:32AM
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Josh that is a beautiful citrus! I came down with the flu two days ago and am just starting to recover ... I'll be on a mission later this week to find the ingredients for some gritty mix. I'd love to find someone local that did mixes and have them build me a few bags - I have quite a few plants that would benefit from a good repotting into something lighter. I'll post when things get done!!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 11:53AM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

I would recommend 5-1-1 over gritty. You won't have to water quite as much and it will be easier to lift/move.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 1:27PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Thanks, that's my Moro blood orange in full bloom. The smell dominates the back deck where it is now located. Now that you're on the hunt, you're looking for suitable pine or fir bark, 1/2 or less, bark nuggets, bark chunks - not shredded.

Yes, the 5-1-1 is really my "work horse" around the yard. It is lighter, more economical, and I think easier to maintain citrus - plenty of aeration, but you also have that moisture retention for the few days when you might forget to water. Even moisture is very important for the quality of the fruit. After a few years of working with soil-less mixes, then you can consider the Gritty Mix.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 8:51PM
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Tervnut, I am in Columbus. I have grown a calamondin for a few years without problem, and added a rangpur lime and lemon 2 years ago. Last year I added a key lime. I was growing them in a mix of compost, sand and peat. In winter they sit in front of my large south facing window. and get watered about weekly. They all did fine for the first 2 years (the calamondin has done pretty well for 4 years) but last summer they all started with leaf yellowing/green veins. Thought it was due to the excessive rainfall we had and gave them extra fertilizer. They recovered a bit, all set fruit, but as winter went on there was a lot of leaf dropping, yellowing and branch die-back, despite regular feeding. Sound familiar? The rangpur lime just didn't quite ripen its crop and dropped nearly all its leaves. The key lime did drop all its leaves, and lost the green in its trunk, to the point that I was sure it was a lost cause.

So I decided to try the gritty mix, with osmocote plus mixed in. I also found a soluble fertilizer that has the trace minerals as well - something the fertilizer I had been using lacked - for foliar application. I sprayed the foliar, gave them all a little epsom salts and chelated iron, then repotted the lime and within 5 days it was putting out all kinds of new leaves! I have not repotted the others yet, because I had only gotten enough calcined clay (turface) for one pot, but they are also putting out new growth including the little key lime that I thought was surely dead.

So it seems that I was not only starving the plants for trace elements but perhaps also smothering them with my soil -- even though the soil seemed nice and loose when I repotted.

Hope my tale helps!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 10:39PM
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