Eureka lemon tree help: did I overwater?

Discussion in 'Citrus' started by abloomingbotanist, Apr 2, 2020.

  1. abloomingbotanist

    abloomingbotanist New Member

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    Hello, this is my very first post and very first time using a forum so I am sorry if I posted this in an incorrect location. I purchased a Eureka lemon tree at the Philadelphia flower Show. The tree came in awful media which retained water and was very light. I watered the tree once I got home and it did not dry out by any means a week later. I assumed it was overwatered as the previous media it was in did not dry out whatsoever. The tree was also planted above the crown. I brushed off soil particles around the crown.

    I have taken the tree and I had transferred it to a bigger pot with a roughly 1/2 coarse bark 1/4 peat moss, and 1/4 cacti/succulent mix. Before I put the plant in the new pot I checked for root rot. It did not show signs of rot, but the root sheath was easy to pull off which helped to confirm my overwatering. I did not water the plant after transplanting but will do so tomorrow. I wanted to let the root region to dry out before. Now, 3 days after transplanting I feel it is looking worse than before. Is this tree able to be recovered?

    I attached a few pictures:

    The things to note are the drooping leaves of the tree, of which the actual branches are starting to droop as well- could I have gone too far in the underwatering direction now? There are also a weird set of brown spots on the twig. I used my hand lens to show it.

    Thanks in advance for the advice. This is my first time on a forum, or even caring for a citrus tree. I hope I can save my plant and let it grow happy
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  2. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Welcome to the forums.

    Sounds like there has been some damage to the roots from over-watering but I wonder if you allowed the medium to go dry too much; it looks that way from the first photo. Give it a good watering after verifying that to be the case. Allow water to drain from the container then discard the excess. Get a feel for the weight of the container and use that to decide when to water again.
     
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  3. Will B

    Will B Active Member

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    Here is what I would suggest:
    1. Remove any dead branches and trim the tree back heavily, removing many of the leaves. When the roots are disturbed (or rot) and it can no longer absorb the amounts of water it is used to, then having too many leaves can lead to death in most plants. The leaves continue to transpire and demand water, the roots can no longer supply it so they wilt and can kill the tree.
    2. A transplanted tree must always be watered. The watering settles the soil, otherwise the pockets of air on the roots can actually kill the roots over time. Give it a good soak, just make sure the excess water can drain.
    3. A citrus under stress can easily become infected with fungus or bacteria. Fungal spores are everywhere, when the tree is weakened the fungus can more easily infect the tree. Once inside the tree fungus is extremely difficult to cure, best option is usually cutting the infected part off. The lesions and brown spots on one of the leaves in the photos look like fungus infections to me. I would cut off the infected parts off and dispose of in the trash or burn it. Putting fungus infected material in compost can lead to more fungus.
    Good luck! Hopefully not too late to save it.
     
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  4. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    I'd go easy on the removal of leaves, perhaps just the ones that appear to be on the way to being shed anyway. The tree needs to be able to photosynthesize to recover and the ability of a variegated plant to do so is impaired to begin with. Give the tree bright light but perhaps not strong, direct light due to its limited ability to uptake moisture.
     
  5. Will B

    Will B Active Member

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    I understand what you are saying, but I would personally go the other way. Possibly removing all leaves and cutting back severely. Citrus are much better at tolerating severe pruning than many other types of plants I have dealt with, and for citrus that seem near death I have pruned them back to within 8" of the soil (above the graft line if they have one, and making sure there is at least one active node, no leaves) and they have bounced back beautifully. When the roots are severely disrupted even a few leaves may be enough to kill it since they will keep sucking moisture and nutrients from the trunk if the plant does not drop the leaves fast enough. The nutrients from the trunk would be better served regenerating roots and new shoots that match the new conditions.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2020
  6. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Yes, I have stumped trees before with similar results. However the trees were much older than the OP's. Younger trees would have less energy stores to draw from so I'm less certain about their ability to bounce back.
     
  7. Will B

    Will B Active Member

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    Certainly it is a judgement call. From the photos it looks to me like the trunk is about 1/2" thick, which should be plenty for bouncing back. However, it might not be, particularly if it has been dehydrating a while with the excess leaves. I think at this point it is 50/50 whether it will survive,. In my judgement it has a better chance if pruned back, but I can certainly understand if the OP (and others ;-) choose otherwise...
     
  8. abloomingbotanist

    abloomingbotanist New Member

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    I did cut back the tree (as some of the tree exhibited what I believed to be fungus as the brown spots expanded.) The heart wood seemed white and healthy, but I only cut off the herbaceous twigs. I then transferred the tree to a smaller pot which I scrubbed down and cleaned thoroughly. I know I shouldn't be constantly disturbing the roots, but I think this was the best move. I soaked the tree roots in 10% bleach for 10-15 minutes to kill any possible fungus, and then washed the roots off thoroughly. The roots honestly did not look that bad after the bleach solution. After that, I put the plant in the new small pot, and watered it.

    There are only a couple leaves left and only 2 herbaceous twigs left. I think this tree will survive, it just shows decent vigor but if I see fungus in the herbaceous stems they will be cut off.

    Thank you all for the help and patience with a newbie!
     

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