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What is wrong with my citrus plants? pics included

Posted by clones2 (My Page) on
Sun, Jan 20, 08 at 9:33

Also posted these in the citrus forum...

First picture...plant is dropping leaves. But the leaves get brown spots first, then dry out and fall off.

Pic 2, plant has very green leaves...but does get brown spots and drops leaves from time to time.

Pic 3, leaves curl alot...but don't fall off as much as the others.

Do these need a fertilizer? Soil is lightly moist, but definitely not wet in the winter. Can someone tell from these pics what is wrong?

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RE: What is wrong with my citrus plants? pics included

i would say it is cold damage butt im not totally shure

RE: What is wrong with my citrus plants? pics included

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 21, 08 at 2:17

The leaves show the plant is water stressed -- that is, too little water.

That said, look at it in a broader sense than that the plant isn't getting water because the potting soil is dry. (Yes, I know you said it's moist.)

The underlying problem is that it has a root problem of some kind. You get to be the detective.

Common scenarios include these:
1. Potting mix remained too wet for too long, thus damaging roots.
2. Potting mix dried out too much, thus damaging roots.
3. Potting mix was adequately moist, then dried out too much, thus damaging roots.

RE: What is wrong with my citrus plants? pics included

I don't think we can blame the problem on water, but on what the plants are being fed. Container plants are completely dependent on what is being given them. These citrus look very unhappy with their diet and I would suggest you review the potting soil and the fertilizer you are using. I see no indication of cold temperature stress. Al

RE: What is wrong with my citrus plants? pics included


Your photos tend to look like mainly nutritional factors rather than pests or diseases. But I cannot say that with certainty because I'm not an expert. It is likely that there is a combination of factors. For example, the light tan spots maybe pest or mechanical damage (splashing of a chemical or grazing of a pest) in addition to the leaf-curling and the leaf-discoloring which could be nutritionally related. The detective work is further complicated by the possiblities that the nutritional problems can be a secondary result of other problems such as root damage of some nature as jean001 pointed out.

You may have to resign yourself to a good deal of research on the web. Look for university and government sites in citrus growing areas like California, Florida and Australia.

Don't forget to consider toxicity (too much of a nutrient) as well as deficiency (too little of a nutrient).

Citrus doctoring is complex and time consuming. Even after finally coming to a reasonable deduction and applying the "cure" don't expect results in weeks. Citrus are slow reacting. It may be more like months. And then if what you've done isn't working you have to try something else.

It looks to me from your photos that you're using 100% potting soil. This makes citrus nutrition even dicier. Yes, there's lots of good organic matter in potting soil, but it is a man-made construct with the result that there's not the myriad of minerals, trace elements, microrganisms, etc. that natural soil has. And there's probably stuff in natural soil that citrus needs that we haven't discovered yet. I'm tempted to say "repot with natural soil and potting mix" but I know that citrus is very sensitive to having its roots messed with. I had a Valencia orange pout for over a year simply because I transplanted it from the nursery pot.

Here's a few sites to start you off. Study the pictures - they're worth more than thousand words each. deficiencies.htm (Checkout Figure 37. Zinc deficiency at the bottom of the page)


RE: What is wrong with my citrus plants? pics included

Any suggestions for a fertilizer for future use if I can't find a "Citrus Fertilizer". What mix works best for potting soil as well. I'm going to go ahead and repot these plants and give them a good water tonight.

RE: What is wrong with my citrus plants? pics included


You sure are not one to dilly-dally around. But be careful and consider your moves.

One of the best uses of potting soil is to germinate seeds. Seeds don't need the complex nutrition that plants and trees do. Seeds have all they need for life contained within the seed -- up to a certain point in their growth. Then the new roots are looking for nutrition to take over the life support function. Potting soils are sometimes sterilized so that there are no bogey-men microrganisms and pests to thwart germination and early seedling growth. Potting soils can be formulated so that they hold just the right amount of moisture for germination and early seedling growth.

Once a seedling reaches a certain size, these benefits gradually become less important to the growing plant and other factors gradually become more important -- factors like nutrition and pH. So, potting soils are not really intended as a permanent growing medium for plants. This is why I use potting soil mainly to add organic material to natural soil. And potting soils are not usually thoroughly composted which means that they will demand nitrogen from the soil to complete the break down of the organic matter. You can usually see this in the light brown color of potting soils when they are dry. More thoroughly broken down (composted) organic matter is a much darker brown approaching black.

That being said, the best mix IMO is good garden soil and homemade compost with a little bit of worm castings (worm manure) added. Roughly about 20% to 30% compost by volume and 3% to 5% worm castings by weight if the moisture of the castings is apporoximately the same as the moisture of the soil. Mix thoroughly. Commercial bagged compost is OK but not as good as homemade compost because it is mostly derived from "forest products" which is logging and lumber mill chips and sawdust. These "forest products" are OK but are limited in the plant nutrients they are composed of to begin with. And it is usually not thoroughly composted. If you see bits of wood, it is not thoroughly composted. Eventually, you will have your own earthworms living in your soil. They appear, seemingly out of nowhere, like weeds and flies, if the environmental conditions are to their needs. They like a certain moisture, temperature and organic matter to dine on.

It's a good idea to give your citrus time to acclimate to their new diet and their new root environment in their new home before you start adding fertilizers. It's a major shock to the plant to repot it. It is as though YOU were suddenly transported to live in the Himalayas at a 10,000 foot elevation with an entirely new diet -- all accomplished in 15 minutes. And no one told you bring warm clothes.

You didn't mention what part of the US you live in so I don't know what packaged fertilizers are available in your area. I use Whitney Farms Citrus and Avocado food. It's organic, generally slow releasing and lasts in the soil a while. It gives good results for me. It supplies "the big three" NPK nutrients plus some other things. Be sure to read the label of whatever you buy. And you may not even have to buy anything -- at least at first. It is possible that an organic mulch with some good homemade compost and/or composted manure in it can supply everything needed.

The best way to know right away what's going on with your soil is to have a lab soil test. This will also tell you the pH. Home kits can get you by for a fifteenth of the cost. Home kits usually require two test kits, one for NPK and one for pH. But home kits won't tell you about the other nutrients like calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, etc. Look to the website pictures of leaves for clues about these minor and trace elements.

Give support to your citrus after its trauma of repotting with attention given to temperature, moisture, wind, sun etc.


RE: What is wrong with my citrus plants? pics included

Disagree about the use of garden soil in potted plants - it compacts too readily. I've been growing a Meyer lemon for 48 years now and it's done fine in a soil-less mix - Miracle-Gro, Schultz or Fafard. Some of the foliage damage looks like it might be scorching from water pooling on leaves in the sun. Curling is generally caused by too little water and, with potting mixes, it's important to make sure that the entire root ball is moist - my plant sits in a large saucer and gets watered until water pools in the saucer. I let the pot sit in the water for upwards of an hour or two and then empty any still left but there is generally none or vry little.

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