Growing citrus in plastic pot in patio on East side

BruntumbSeptember 2, 2012

I only have a tiny patio with a 2x3 feet garden where underneath it is tree roots from 20 years ago when the land was oak and pine tree farm. Those roots are still turning up clay soil. Most of my plants are in containers. I bought 20-24 gal plastic pots for my citrus plants a few months ago because the citrus have been in grower's pots for too many years. 1 or 2 of the citrus didn't have much roots, so I put them in a guesswork mix of compost + handful of Miracle Grow potting soil + gravels, and line 2" of the pot bottom with gravels and pebbles. I have 2 Kumquats (new this April), 1 grapefruit, 1 Meyer lemon, 1 mandarin, and 1 Satsuma. Since my potted plants are on concrete in a patio that has sunlight all day, I need my plants to be in moist growing medium so they won't die like my beautiful ficus did many years ago. The TX heat actually dried up the roots of my ficus.

Right now my Kumquats are having patchy yellow leaves. One of them has yellow patches with brown squiggly lines inside some of those yellow patches, or pale spots inside yellow. The other one has yellow leaves too, but more leaves turned yellow in a different way after I sprinkled Peters 20-20-20 on the mulch that is above the mixture of soil/compost/gravels. I did that because my plants are very weak looking and I guess the rain water that we've been having has washed away all nutrients in the soil mix. The application of fertilizer helped turn the leaves on my Meyer lemon green from yellowish light green. However, my Kumquats looked even worst. They had red mites on them before, but don't see them any more. May be the swamps of ants ate them? How can I bring my Kumquats back to health? What is wrong with them? Should I add sand to my soil mix? The 2 plants that have new leaves are on plant trollies, so I'm guessing it could be the heat. That heat we're having almost dried up my tomato plant in 1 day. Thanks for any input.

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

You have listed several problems, but all of them have been addressed in this forum, most of them many times. What you are attempting is perfectly possible. Al

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 8:46AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Maybe the link below will be helpful.


Here is a link that might be useful: This should provide a good starting point for you ....

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 9:42AM
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Definitely read Al's primer on container trees. Where exactly in Texas are you (I'm in Houston).

What do you mean by "the roots are still turning up clay soil"? Do you have 2 feet X 3 feet of open ground space? If the trees are dead and these are just roots left behind, this would make a *perfect* space for a raised bed. Seriously, perfect.

If you can afford large clay pots, you really should spring for them. The big black plastic pots absorb all the solar radiation and bake the roots in the south. If you can't do that, making plywood boxes to or even using some opaque cloth to shade the plastic from the sun would help a lot. A lot of the excessive moisture loss has nothing to do with the temperature of the air, but rather the temperature of the roots.

Be more detailed about the yellowing leaves, because I couldn't get a good sense of what you mean. Pictures would be really helpful. The most common yellowing problems for citrus are due to secondary and micronutrient deficiencies (magnesium, iron, manganese, zinc are the most common).

Is the yellowing in between the veins, with the veins remaining green. This is called interveinal chlorosis, or christmas tree chlorosis. Does it start on the oldest leaves and progress up the tree? This is usually magnesium deficiency.

Is the yellowing on the newest growth, and interveinal? This is usually iron deficiency.

The brown squiggly lines sounds like leafminers. Most experts agree that this is almost entirely an aesthetic problem on otherwise healthy trees - the leaves still work, they're just ugly. But on trees that are already highly stressed, this is a major problem.

Ants do not prey on red spidermites (oh how I wish..). Heavy rain usually results in major spidermite mortality though, especially if all the leaves are exposed to it. If you have spidermites on any of your plants, you need to get rid of them.. they can't handle the stress on top of everything else. All you need to do is give your plants a serious bath, focusing on the underside of the leaves, as often as you can. A forceful stream of water is all that's need to kill or remove spidermites. Insecticidal soap or horticultural oils are very effective, but you have to apply them at night because citrus is very susceptible to phytotoxicity.

I don't want to overwhelm you, but there's quite a bit you can learn about an ideal container soil. I've linked another of Al's (Tapla) epic posts that has transformed that way a lot of us container garden. If it's too much for you to absorb at once, just take away this - the 2" layer of pebbles and gravel does not improve drainage... it actually makes conditions worse for your plants.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 11:55AM
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And I forgot the link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 11:56AM
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Greentiger, I was asking the same questions to myself:-0)

The information given is wonderful since I have been growing dozens of citrus in the 5.1.1 mixes for years!

Hello Al:-0)


    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 1:07PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hey, Mike. Take good care - & hello to sissy for me!


    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 12:30PM
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Its been a long time since i have been on here....last time i was living in Auckland NZ....Now i am in WA Australia.
I learned a lot from Al on here about mixes....In nz it rained a lot and summers were not that i grew 8 citrus trees in terracotta(breathe) and used container mix with perlite mixed in......Now i am in wa aussie where it will be very hot...i have used the same mix but in plastic to help conserve the moisture.....we will see how it goes.
I have found that yellowing leaves can be caused by overly wet soils as well...the citrus in the ground grow really well here but in summertime there is virtually no rain and 30-40 degree heat.
The enemy of pot grown citrus is over watering and a heavily based organic mix...overtime this will compact and rob the roots of the air spaces they need to breathe...esp in you must blend inorganic particles into your mix....sand is not ideal as they are small....i find with perlite it stops the mix compressing which allows the roots to move in easily and take water/nutrients.......the other thing is to upsize pots stale water doesnt develop in areas where the roots havent found yet......I killed a lot of trees by putting then in pots way too big.....put plenty of drain holes at the bottom and put some onion bag mesh to keep insects out and avoid loss of mix......aim to dry out the top half of mix before watering....let the roots search for their drink......fert with npk 5/1/3 ratio plus trace elements(as close as poss).....only feed when growing...I like liquid organic feeds like seaweed and fish emulsion.
I have 6 more trees on the go now and they are putting out heaps of new growth but there is a lot of rain through august....which concerns me.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 12:06PM
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