Can somebody please help me with my grapefruit tree?

Discussion in 'Citrus' started by Sue Darton, Apr 14, 2004.

  1. Sue Darton

    Sue Darton Member

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    I have a twenty year old grapefruit tree which I grew from seed. Up until this fall it's been healthy - good foliage, wonderful fragrant blossoms, the occasional fruit. Around August I purchased a patio citrus plant from Home Depot thinking it would be nice to have another citrus tree. This plant didn't last two months before it died. Then my grapefruit tree started to lose it's leaves. At first I wasn't concerned because it always seems to go through a winter "shed". It's been trying desperately since Nov/Dec to produce new leaves and can't - the buds look stunted, they blacken and fall off, the smaller branches have died back. Around Christmas, my husband stumbled across a web article about a citrus blight that started in South America. Just last week, my local nursery said they haven't been allowed to import citrus plants for the past three years. Has my grapefruit tree caught something from the imported plant?

    Any help would be appreciated. Like I said, I've had this tree for 20 years and I'd hate to lose it.

    TIA

    Sue
     
  2. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Sue:

    When asking about a possible disease it is almost imperative to show us the
    damage in digital form if you can. There are a lot of diseases that affect Citrus
    but that number can be cut in half that affect Grapefruit from what I remember.

    What I need to see are the leaves as they are drying up now and the die back on
    the twigs. If there is any discoloration on the bark or gummosis (sap bleeding
    outwardly through the bark) I will need to see that also.

    The worst case scenario is that you have Tristeza and so far I think you are safe
    there but bringing in foreign plant material can accentuate the spread of Tristeza
    so only buy Citrus from reputable retailers, or from a retailer that has a wholesale
    tag on the plant signifying who grew it.

    Knowing Grapefruit I know that cold weather can kill juvenile buds during
    Winter and then a secondary invader such as black or a sooty mold can come
    in and give the impression that you have a fungus disease causing the problem
    of which that is not true. I see that on a lot of Grapefruit.

    Just give me something to work with and I can help you.

    Jim
     
  3. Sue Darton

    Sue Darton Member

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    Jim thank you so much for your response (m)

    Here are some pictures I've taken. Note how small the leaf formations are, especially for a grapefruit tree. They reach about the same size (2cm) then they start to curl and blacken and drop off (there's a picture of one on the trunk and one that has fallen off). The main trunk seems healthy enough - note how many buds there are along it. Two pictures of branches - one of the top ones that has totally died back (I've been pruning off all the dead branches) and one surviving central one.

    I live in Nova Scotia so this is a potted grapefruit tree - it's trunk base is about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. I would be thinking about putting it in a slightly larger pot at this time (it was repotted about two years ago) but am too worried about disturbing it in this fragile state. I have to admit though, I'm very curious to see what is happening with its root system. Watering is a problem too...I'm afraid to over water it...it certainly doesn't suck up the moisture like it used to...so I've kept the watering to a minimum. I've fertilized it in the past during the spring and then again in the fall...I wondered whether that was part of the problem but I didn't change the amts and used the same brand that it had responded so well to previously. It is now just under three feet in height as I've pruned back alot of the dead foliage (would have been closer to four feet or more when it was healthy). I keep thinking that if I could only get the new growth to survive it can fill out and be a good looking tree again.

    If nothing else, should I try repotting it after all?

    Thanks so much again for your help, I'm really hoping it can pull through.

    Sue
     

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  4. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Sue:

    Okay, I need to know these answers now. How cold has it been for you this winter
    and last winter and for how long was it cold? I would like to know the temps and
    the hours it was cold such as 22° for 6 hours. What are the temps for you right now
    and how warm or cold has it been for the last few weeks? After last winter did this
    tree take a long time to leaf out and did you have much die back on this tree then?
    When you repotted 2 years ago, were you able to give this tree a lot more Humus
    that it had previous to the repotting? You say the tree is not absorbing as much water,
    what kind of drainage have you been getting, slow or very slow? What fertilizer have
    you been using on this tree such as a 12-6-18 and I need to know the amount of
    fertilizer you have been using with each application? With container grown plants
    we have be extra careful to super saturate the plant when we fertilize to ward off the
    killing of even more root system as we tend to kill roots every time we fertilize using
    a granular or liquid form of Nitrogen.

    At the moment I think we have a few environmental forces at work that we may
    be able to deal with and perhaps correct but I need to know the history of this
    plant better. A slow or very slow drainage rate would concern me a lot but I
    think we have some cold damage to deal with until I know otherwise. In the
    past when I've had Grapefruit and Lemons get hit hard by a lengthy cold spell,
    I would dramatically prune the plant and then give them a healthy shot of fertilizer
    and some Vitamin B1 for the roots. Container grown fertilizing does change the
    rules of the game quite a bit though as we may have to work on the roots before
    we give your tree a healthy dose of Nitrogen. You may want to have a larger
    sized container for this tree considering the age of it.

    There are no quick fixes here, I believe that a disease per say is not the prevailing
    problem right now. Yes, it would be nice to see what the roots look like but I've
    seen enough to know that damage due to cold is your primary element of concern
    for now.

    Jim
     
  5. Sue Darton

    Sue Darton Member

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    Hi Jim (m)

    I don't think cold is a factor - being in a pot, the tree goes outside in the summer but winters inside where it never goes below 60 degrees. When it winters inside as it gets used to the change it always dropped it's leaves but quickly adjusted and put out new growth. At the end of this last season it did not do that, the leaves turned brown, fell off and there was no evidence of new growth for quite some time - then these little buds like I showed you that try so hard to grow. After a couple of weeks they turn black.

    I've fertilized it twice a year, spring and fall with a 16 8 18 combination about two table spoons worth sprinkled on top of the soil. When I changed the pot a couple of years ago I did add humus - but I'm also noticing a gritty quality to the soil that's on top of the pot now, making me think this pot is in desperate need of new soil...I have been wondering if I over fertilized - like you said. I did not think of the extra waterings.

    Should I try repotting then? And if I do..should I score the roots? Should I also prune it right back?

    And I forgot to add re: the drainage - when I water it...the water goes right through and drains out the bottom - it doesn't appear to be retained (as it did when it was healthy) but at the same time...the soil doesn't seem to be drying out...does that make sense?

    Sue
     
  6. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Sue:

    Am I correct to now assume this tree is inside your house right now? Now, I would
    like to see a pic of the entire tree. Now that cold damage has been ruled out we might
    get somewhere but I must tell you Citrus have to endure some cold weather, not freezing
    weather but cold weather during the year as part of their normal seasonal growth cycle.
    Are the newly formed buds turning a black color and dying while the plant is inside your
    house? What does this tree have for green growth on it? Is there any way you can get
    this tree outside and give it some sunlight?

    Yes, I think you need to change the soil as a lot of the time that gritty stuff on the
    surface of the soil is salt build up. Citrus can handle alkaline soil conditions but
    not so well without deep watering to leach the salts down beyond the root zone
    when the plant is in the ground. Indoors is another matter as there you want to have
    a soil mix with some acidity that will hold and retain water and will not drain through
    the hole of the pot nearly so fast but you still need to super saturate your plant about
    once every 4 weeks. If you can get your tree outside for any length of time I want
    you to take a garden hose and I want you to pour the water to this plant, flush it
    big time with water until water stays on the top of the soil for at least 10 minutes.
    You've got to leach out the salts right now. If it is too cold to take this tree outside
    for any length of time yet, then move this plant to your shower or bath tub and
    do it. Then we can worry about changing the soil medium should you still want to
    bring this tree into the house for the winter but then you will need to buy a fungicide
    such as a Benomyl type product and/or perhaps a Copper (Cupric) hydroxide product
    (I can give you names of products through a UBC private message) and soon spray
    this tree before you repot it. You can put it back into the same pot if you want but you
    will need a layer of Forest Humus, not a potting soil, on the bottom below the roots
    and on top of the soil but only after you have leached out the probable salts and other
    water soluble material from the soil this tree is currently using.

    Jim
     
  7. Sue Darton

    Sue Darton Member

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    Hi again, Jim (m)

    Here are before and after pics of the tree. The first one was taken a year ago Christmas and it was just covered in blossoms. The second one is the sad state of affairs now. Most of those smaller branches are dead...I'd say the only healthy part of the tree left is the main trunk and perhaps about a foot of that may be dead at the top.

    I've given it a good flush this morning.

    I'm HOPING to be able to put it outside within the next four weeks if the weather will only cooperate. It is interesting what you said about them needing that bit of a cold snap - because last summer it didn't get that. In the past I have left it out as long as possible pending any threat of frost - this year because we were doing renovations it was brought in early so it would be out of the way.

    Yes the buds turn black like that while inside...but in it's twenty years it's never happened before.

    Seems like there's more than one factor to take into consideration here.

    Sue
     

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  8. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Sue:

    I believe there is more than one factor at work here but one of the
    factors is not the prevailing problem, thus do not go out and buy a
    fungicide just yet.

    We have a lot of work to do in order to save this tree. You did a
    marvelous job of keeping this plant alive for so long like you did
    and in my mind you are worthy of a commendation. In a very
    succinct way you performed a miracle. Now, this trees biological
    clock is on its end so we have to work on the soil and hope we can
    get this plant to start setting out new growth. I must tell you that
    there will be people in these Forums that will not like what I have
    for recommendations and to be honest I am not sure those ideas of
    mine will solve your problem but we can at least try to save your tree.
    I will not propose any recommendation that I would not personally
    do myself if this tree was mine. I will send you my E-Mail address
    as a personal message through the UBC. In case I decide to leave
    these Forums in the near future you can always send me an E-Mail
    as I will see this matter until its conclusion either way with you.

    The two biggest drawbacks are the lack of sunlight and the soil. If
    we can ever get this tree out in the sun we have a much better shot
    at performing our own miracle. I'll decide later if we may want
    to use a florescent Grow Light as a supplemental light source.

    I am glad you saturated this plant as we have to wash out all of the
    salt buildup that was present (and it was there) and we will have to
    do it again soon. Let's work on the root system as that is all we
    really have to work with. In about 3 days if you can lift this plant
    out of the pot I would like you to take this plant somewhere where you
    can scrape off the soil around the roots, around the sides of the root
    ball and on top of the soil line as best as you can. I'd hate to have
    you buy a new and larger pot and then still lose this tree but I will
    leave that decision up to you as it may help but it might not help
    also. We have to change the soil of your tree right now. If you can,
    go out to a nursery or nursery related store and buy a minimum of a
    1 cubic foot sack of Forest Humus. Make sure there are no nutrient
    amendments such as Nitrogen as one brand is notorious for using
    Milorganite with their Forest Humus. I would like you to have either
    a ground Fir and/or a ground Pine bark Forest Humus mix. What you will
    want to do then is, after you have done your work on the root system,
    place some Forest Humus as much as you can on the bottom of the pot to
    and still be able to place the tree back in the pot, yet still be able
    to have enough space to water this tree. I want you to fill in the
    outside of the pot with Forest Humus also as best as you can. Then if
    there is room sprinkle some Forest Humus on the top of the pot and then
    water this tree in, a heavy water application, preferably twice if you
    can. If there is any where in your house that gets more filtered or
    better yet direct sunlight than the rest of your house place this tree
    there. Once the soil dries and I want you to let it dry out enough in
    that if you were to pick up some of the Forest Humus in your hands that
    it seems moist to you, not wet, then I would like you to use a Vitamin B1
    at a rate of 1 fluid ounce per gallon of water and give this plant perhaps
    several applications to saturate this plant well, do this outside if you have
    to. I think it will take at least 3 gallons worth of mix to do the trick.

    After you have done all that I want you to keep me monitored as to when
    you can place this tree outdoors. I am not going to go into detail as
    to what the fungus is that is attacking the new growth but I feel the
    organism is living in your current soil of your tree (I know it is).

    When you lift this tree out of its container take a quick pic of your
    root ball for me, one overview of the entire root network and a couple
    of close ups of the base of the root ball and one of the sides of the
    root ball. Go ahead and send the pics to my E-Mail address as I know
    I've asked you to show this plant to everyone and I know it cannot be
    easy for you to do. Don't worry about what anyone else may think as
    this dilemma does not pertain to them. Our goal is to save your tree
    if we can and I'll be quite candid, no person I know in Citrus would
    touch this issue. There are others that may be full of ideas as well
    as people with good intentions but I doubt that they have encountered
    a similar problem of such magnitude before. I have and our work is
    cut out for us.

    Best regards,

    Jim
     
  9. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Sue:

    Just a quick note:

    When you bought the other Citrus tree that perished soon after you
    had it, what kind of Citrus tree was it and can you describe what all
    went on with that tree before you lost it? I am curious to know what
    color the leaves turned before they wilted and later dried up. Do you
    have your Grapefruit tree placed underneath or very near a heating
    vent in your house? Are there any other plants close by to the
    Grapefruit and if so tell me how they are doing?

    A good part of me wants to know what caused your tree to become
    in a state like it currently is and there are at least 3 factors that could
    have caused the decline but my knowing what did what is really not
    all that important at the moment.

    I know it will hard to explain what went wrong in one year when this
    tree did very well for such a long period of time for you but I also
    know enough about plants that at times it does not take much for a
    quick decline to come about. I do know one thing that Citrus do not
    like high humidity without a lot of circulating air movement. The
    fungus hitting the new growth tells me you have a lot of humidity
    in your house but that alone did not cause your trees demise. It
    still could very well be that the other Citrus carried an insect such
    as Red Scale that could have led to all of this damage which brings
    to mind, have you used an insecticide spray in your house right at
    Nov/Dec when your Grapefruit tree started to show its ill effects?
    Also, can you tell me what the leaves did such as, they showed some
    black colored spots on the leaves, then turned a yellow color and
    they shriveled up or the leaves started to curl inward from the outer
    edges of the leaves, turned yellow and crinkly rather fast.

    I do not mean to be overly gruff or demanding of you. You do
    what you think you can do at your speed, not mine. I've always
    been a forget the past, we have a problem to deal with right now
    kind of guy with plants.

    Jim
     
  10. Sue Darton

    Sue Darton Member

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    Hi Jim

    No it's not near a heater...if I remember correctly...the leaves curled and turned brown - they did not get spotty.

    I can't remember the official name of the other plant - only that it was a patio lemon tree - it was quite small and shortly before it's demise I attempted to repot it as it was pot bound when I bought it....It's quite possible I did something wrong - maybe the wrong soil as I just threw it out - I noticed it did NOT have a good soil mix - way too much peat moss, I'm not sure what I was thinking. It just died...the leaves turned brown and almost instantly the branches,, trunk etc. died as well. It didn't linger like my grapefruit tree is now.

    There's a weeping fig near the tree but it's fine.

    I managed to put the tree out for a whole day yesterday - so it's getting more light even if just a little bit - it's in a bright spot as is - I should be able to get in out more and more as the warm weather stays more predictable. I will attempt to repot it later on this afternoon or tomorrow. So my next question is..what if I can't find forest humus (I'm in a bit of a remote spot)? What would be the next best thing? Also re spraying it...shouldn't I do that ASAP so that the little buds it has now have a chance to survive? And if so...what should I use?
     
  11. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Hi Sue:

    If you have a Home Depot or something similar near you they will have a
    Forest Humus on hand that you can purchase. If you cannot find a Forest
    Humus then a Supersoil type potting soil with out any nutrient additives
    will work. I am not fond of using a Peat Moss in a soil mix but I have
    used a Peat Moss mixed in with a potting soil mix as a top dressing on
    plants in containers that I wanted to retain moisture.

    The words you used "re spraying" need to be clarified to me, did you already
    use a spray on this tree and what spray was it that you used, when and how
    often did you use a spray? I will send you a personal E-Mail through the
    UBC to tell you what fungicide to get if you want to spray for the fungus
    now. I've already sensed a real displeasure with any chemical control or
    chemical suppressant mentioned by me or anyone else perhaps, so it is best
    for me to not be too specific in an open forum..

    Best regards,

    Jim
     
  12. Sue Darton

    Sue Darton Member

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    Update on the Grapefruit Tree Saga

    I just recently received an email from Chris Weller kindly inquiring as to how my grapefruit tree fared in the long run.

    Well I have to say, after emailing back and forth with Jim and following his good advice there is a happy ending. I'm posting here so that you can do before and after pictures. Here is the tree now...a somewhat wonky shape but very much alive! I'm not sure how to go about pruning it as it is quite thick in parts with what I believe to be suckers. Right now I'm just happy that it's alive.

    It slowly came back through the summer months - I emailed Jim some updates with pictures of it's progress and it was quite full again by July/August. We had such wonderful weather through the fall I was able to leave it out until the first week in November. Not one leaf fell off of it after I moved it inside despite it not having the full sun it was used to. It is now putting out new growth once again.

    Now I wonder if I can get it to bloom again? ;)
     

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  13. Paula G

    Paula G Member

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    HI I just happened on this thread, and read the saga of the grapefruit tree with bated breath. I was so happy to find the happy ending at the bottom of the thread. So was it the fungicide that saved it do you think? Is the mystery entirely solved? (and has it bloomed again yet?)
    Paula
     
  14. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    After rereading this rather old thread I realized Sue has succeeded in growing a containerized grapefruit seedling to maturity. This is apparently not an easy task particularly with a tree that spends part of its time indoors. Well done, Sue! Maybe you would share your secret with us.
     
  15. gwenn

    gwenn Active Member

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    It's true that could be really helpfull.

    Like how did you fix the dryness problem of growing trees inside? What kind of fertilizer did you use? How did you bring botom heat...?

    There's a lot of thing you could help us with.
     

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