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help me save my Meyer lemon

Posted by vaherbmom (My Page) on
Wed, Feb 2, 11 at 10:25

Hi all,

I posted a while back that my Meyer lemon was losing alot of leaves. Well, now it's lost almost ALL of its leaves! I am pretty sure it's not getting overwatered. It sits in front of a large glass French door that faces south, but we haven't had much sun the past few weeks.

This plant did great last winter and also outside during the whole summer. What can I do to save it? It currently has 7 big lemons it it--should I pull those off? They are almost ripe anyway.

Thanks for any help!!!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 2, 11 at 10:46

Were the leaves or the place the plant was sitting show ant sign of sticky residue? Did you check to see if the plant had mites?

If it's insect free, the odds favor a soil related issue. The usual suspects are over-watering and/or a build-up of salts in the soil. The later inhibits water uptake, thus the drought response - falling leaves. When did you last fertilize - with what - how often?

How do you determine when it's time to water? The best way I have found is to use a sharpened wood dowel, stuck deep into the soil. If it comes out damp or dirty looking - withhold water until it comes out clean & dry. When you water, do you add little sips, or do you flush the soil thoroughly each time you water?

When did you last repot? Was it a repot or did you just pot-up?

Removing the fruit would go a LONG way toward helping the plant channel energy toward making foliage. Places where the plant channels its energy are called 'energy sinks', and they are prioritized, or have sort of a pecking order. Flowers, fruits, leaves, stems, roots is the order the plant 'sees' as most important, in that order; so by removing the fruit, it frees up energy for recovery.

I'll wait to see what you have to say in reply. Maybe we can figure out what to do and get your plant turned around.

Al


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

Al, thanks so much. I lost my internet connection for a bit (rural).

yes, i did check for mites and see no signs of any. I usually water it and my other houseplants every Monday--I stick my finger down into the soil and if it doesn't feel moist then I water. I do pour alot of water in as the pot is quite large--probably about 3 feet or more diameter.

I got this tree in March 2009 and put it into this very large pot. It has done great up til now--inside last winter and then outside both summers.

I will take the fruit off today. Any other advice you have for me is so appreciated.

Oh, one more thing, I suspect one of the cats was sometimes using the pot as a litter box. In the fall I had placed trash bags and tinfoil over the soil so that she can't get into it. I am pretty sure she has not continued doing that since I covered it several months ago, however could there be residual effects?

thanks again


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

Al,

I went and looked it over very carefully and I DID find some of that fluffy white stuff stuck to a stem. So yes, there is some kind of pest.

I sprayed it with insecticidal soap but it is hard to coat all the stems. Please let me know what else I should do, thanks!!


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 4, 11 at 13:20

I'll assume there is no sticky residue either, so we can eliminate scale & mealybug as issues.

Lets focus on your watering habits and perhaps the soil. Cat urine is very high in urea and soluble salts, so a cat urinating in the soil is like applying a pretty concentrated dose of fertilizer, except some of the salts are bad. The higher the concentration of ALL solubles in the soil, the more difficult it is for the plant to take up water. If you think about how curing salt actually 'pulls' water from the cells of bacon, ham, salami ..... you start to get a picture of what can happen to plant cells. The concentration of solubles in the soil can get so high, that it's impossible for the plant to take up water, no matter how much water is in the soil.

If you're watering a little at a time, and by 'little' I mean what you think is enough to sustain the plant, but not enough that at least 10-15% of the water you applied exits the drain hole, you're contributing to the accumulation of solubles in the soil. Even w/o the cat and if you're not fertilizing, solubles would still be accumulating because everything dissolved in your tap water is being left behind unless you flush the soil regularly.

IF, you cannot flush the soil each time you water, either your soil is inappropriate for the plant, or you need to take the extra step of doing what it takes to regularly flush the soil of accumulating salts. If you don't, the result will be an eventual drought response because your plant cannot take up water, which I suspect we are seeing in your plant.

The drought response can come from either a build-up of salts, OR from impaired root function due to any/all of several issues associated with anaerobic (airless - soggy) soil conditions.

In a large container, it's difficult to actually KNOW what's going on as far as moisture levels at the container bottom. The top might feel dry, but you might have a soggy mess at the bottom of the container. As leaves fall, the plant has less surface area to carry on transpiration, so it uses much less water - which makes it very easy to over-water.

It sounds like you have large tree, so what I'm going to suggest won't be easy, but trees in decline don't normally reverse their direction w/o intervention. Before I go further, I should ask if you're willing to move the tree to somewhere you can thoroughly flush the soil multiple times and then either use a wick and a few tricks to remove excess water from the soil (more on that later if you decide to try to save the tree), or (better) lift the tree from the container and let it dry down before putting it back in the pot.

The instructions are easy to follow, but it'll be some work. What say you?

Al


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Oh - something else ...

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 4, 11 at 13:25

I forget to mention too, that I think it would be wise for you to invest a $ in a 1/4" dowel rod and sharpen it in a pencil sharpener. Stuck deep into the pot, it's a much more reliable indicator of soil moisture levels than a finger or an inexpensive 'moisture' meter.

Your pot does have a drain hole & you don't have an ion exchange water softening system - right?

Al


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

Hello, if I may?

I suspect you are oeverwatering your plants since you said that the sun hasn't been out to much lately, and it is planted in such a big pot, that teh foliage is just about gone, and that you use your finger method that will never reach to the bottom root zone of your tree.

As Al suggested, the dowel method is a much safer way to check for moisture than the finger for this reason.

If it is being weakend by poor cultural habits, then the next worst thing is how attractive it looks and tastes in such a weaken state to several pests.

I would use a magnfying glass and check for mites for sure, since not only over watering can cause severe leaf loss, but so too those buggers and possibly mealy at the same time.

Is there any way you can take a picture of that plant and teh white fuzzy pest?

What kind of mix are you using that allows you to water that much almost every week, especially this time of the year?
Also because your tree is defoliating, I can't even see how it can take up water that quick in such a short amount of time. If it is planted in a bagged mix, in a container that size, I would think more than a week to dry out, no?

It sounds like a circle of issues all tied together and one needs to be adressed asap with the other root problems to follow.

As for insectical sops, well those never worked for me.
Also you should be able to get all surfaces, now that you said that your tree is practically defoliated.

Maybe a good horticultural oil or kneem?

I hope all works well for you. "Al" is certainly the one to work with along with a few others when it comes to trees. He has saved me a many trees and I have learned so much from him.;-)

Mike


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RE: hhelp me save my Meyer lemon

Al, you posted while I was. For a change, our minds were on the same track at the same time..lol

Gotta love them wooden dowels, my LIFE SAVERS, even now


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 4, 11 at 14:21

I was typing while you were Herb Mom from VA (that right?).

It sounds like you might have mealybug, which needs immediate attention. You can get some immediate relief from alcohol/water or alcohol/water/neem sprays and insecticidal soaps. All season (light/summer/perfect) horticultural oils are also effective. There are other chemicals you can use that are more effective, but you can research those and decide on your own what is appropriate. Be sure that whatever you use, it's appropriate for table crops if you plan on eating the fruit.

If you need a recipe for the water/alcohol/neem, just ask. Rubbing alcohol & water mixed 50/50 is also a good remedy.

If you're NOT going to eat the fruit, you can contact me off forum & I'll offer a suggestion.

Al


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

Thanks all

I took all the lemons off, so whatever I do won't bother the fruit.

Yes, I think it is mealybugs or something like that. I will wipe down all stems with the alcohol solution. The reason I couldn't spray the insecticidal spray everywhere is that most of it squirts on the walls, window and floor as I try to spray the bare stems.

I do put alot of water into the pot--a puddle runs out over the tile floor and I wipe it up. I think though I must be overwatering since I do water weekly. I will get the dowel and make a meter just as you suggest. The pot is very large--looking at it I would guess it holds as much as my trashcan . . . maybe 15 gallons?

If it's mealybug will I be able to save my plant? There are a couple young stems coming from the bottom that have leaves still. Almost all the rest have fallen off.

I forgot to answer your question about fertilizer--I have never fertilized it. What should I use to fertilize it?

thanks so much, really appreciate the help!


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

I have a question about over/under watering and leaf drop.

I've heard if the leaf is yellow and alot are falling off, it was over watered.

Brown and dry is under watered.

Any truth or fast hard rule to this, or does it vary plant to plant.?

JoJo


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 4, 11 at 23:23

JJ - there is no way to determine whether or not the leaf loss is from over or under-watering because the drought response is the same ..... unless you happen to know that you let the plant go dry or the soil is mucky. In some plants, you can make a guess because of the severity of necrotic (dead) leaf tips and margins if leaf loss was from a high salt level in the soil, but that varies by plant. The more succulent the leaf is (think of plants with leaves like Impatiens or Begonias) the more likely it will be severely affected by fertilizer burn; while plants like Ficus and Citrus with high amounts of wax in the leaf cuticle might not show any symptoms other than just falling off (abscission).

Herb Mom - The right way to go about this is to identify the pest & get it under control ASAP. You can start with an alcohol/water spritz that saturates the entire upper plant. You might want to follow that with an application of all-season horticultural oil. The people that make the commercial products know what they're doing and offer the best chance to get your problem under control.

You still have the (possible/probable) over-watering issue and the probability that there are a high level of solubles in the soil to deal with. Are we going to follow through on those issues, or treat the mealybug and hope? I don't want you to feel pressured, but at the same time I have to say it's unlikely that addressing only the bug problem and relying on chance that everything else is ok is probably not going to be enough to save the tree, if it can be saved. Is there any chance of posting (or emailing me) a picture? I'm happy to help with whatever you'd like to do. ;o)

Take good care.

Al


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Brown spots turning into holes in my unripened lemons

I have a problem with brown spots which turn into holes in my unripened Meyers lemons. Otherwise they look very healthy. They just never get to turn yellow.
Thanks!


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

What is causing this?
Soft white, scorched areas appearing on Meyer Lemons
Meyer lemon tree, 6 years old, dwarf, in a massive pot - think 4 ft high and wide
Soil nutrients levels monitored - good things added
Leaves turning bright yellow at tip, lemons with large soft white areas, and dropping
After a summer that started hot in mid April and stayed that way through October. We now have had a ton of rain here in Northern CA, add to that freezing nighttime temps for the entire month of Jan - makes for interesting gardening micro climates
The tree is covered at night - looks like Halloween in my backyard at night!
What is causing this?


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

What is causing this?
Soft white, scorched areas appearing on Meyer Lemons
Meyer lemon tree, 6 years old, dwarf, in a massive pot - think 4 ft high and wide
Soil nutrients levels monitored - good things added
Leaves turning bright yellow at tip, lemons with large soft white areas, and dropping
After a summer that started hot in mid April and stayed that way through October. We now have had a ton of rain here in Northern CA, add to that freezing nighttime temps for the entire month of Jan - makes for interesting gardening micro climates
The tree is covered at night - looks like Halloween in my backyard at night!
What is causing this?


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RE: help me save my Meyer lemon

Curious about my dwarf Meyer lemon tree- it has suddenly started to bloom like crazy, potentially too much according to things I have read. I am worried that the tree is stressed. I just moved the tree back inside after spending the summer outside. What typically causes excessive blooming? I have checked for pests and did notice some very tiny red bugs- maybe mites? There weren't many but I went ahead and wiped down all the leaves with a soapy water solution. Help!


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