Help ... Orange tree is dying off

Discussion in 'Citrus' started by jjm, Jan 20, 2006.

  1. jjm


    I purchased an orange tree [and a lemon, both about 5ft tall] from Lowes in the fall and repotted both in a 14 in clay pots [with local soil somewhat sandy i had avaialable] ... I watered and fertilized it with an 'all purpose' 15-30-15 fert. They both looked ok

    Then the orange bloomed then dropped its flowers and leaves and the lemon dropped it leaves ... I found a cheap moisture meter {rapidtest .. are these things accurate ??} that indicated that I had overwatered ... so I quit watering and after we returned from holiday travels the orange, that had died back about 1ft, was developing leaves and some buds while the lemon was beginning to make buds/flowers with a few leaves ...

    I watered [a little] again and the orange started dying back [about 2 ft now] and dropping leaves and the lemon started 'drying up' and dropped a few leaf sprouts

    so I assume that:
    - I water too much
    - the fert was wrong
    - the soil is wrong

    - or some combination of these

    The soil 'seems' dry to me the meter reads 1-3 on a scale of 10
    the little sheet that came with the meter indicated 1 for citrus.

    They get quite a bit of light and I have grow lights on both.

    So the first question is;

    Should I cut back the orange tree parts that are dead? dying?

    Should I repot the trees into something else? ...

    I want to eventual move these outside and then into a green house I am going to build
    but it seems like the soil needs to be _really_ really_ dry compared to what it can be here [in mississippi] we have pretty good sandy, slightly acid soil at this location..

    The pots are raised up on blocks so they can drain really well and like I said the soil looks really dry but the meter does read 3 or so in the middle of the pot near the roots .. I tested it with some new dry peat moss and it read 0 so I guess it is accurate

    also there are some roots exposed on the top of the soil.

    sorry for the long post, just trying to get needed info in.

    best regards and thanks

    - john jay
  2. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Your trees may be experiencing some root rot. Citrus should be grown in a quick-draining medium. Possibilities include coconut husk chips (CHC), or regular potting soil supplemented with various combinations of coarse sand, perlite, wood bark, and wood shavings. Work with what is available to come up with something you like as long as it's quick to drain. Beware of having too much peat in the mix as that may be too moisture retentive. Citrus prefers a slightly acid medium.

    For fertilizer, choose a high nitrogen formulation such as 30-10-10 that contains trace elements. When growing citrus indoors watch out for low humidity and cold drafts. Humidity in the 40-60% range is good. If your grow lights are incandescent make sure they're not too close to the foliage because of their drying effect.

    As for your trees, cut back only those stems that are obviously dry and dead. Allow the trees to grow back; you can always remove the dead parts later once you know they are dead for sure. The decision to repot is up to you now that you know what type of medium they like. You may want to consider easing the tree and soil out of the pot to inspect for root rot; the soil may well be dry on top yet wet below if the soil is not the right mix. Also make sure any new growth is above the graft.

    I don't have in-ground experience but if you think drainage may be a problem, consider raising the planting above ground level. I suggest you look through other threads in the citrus forum for more information. Also have a look at the Citrus Growers Forum; you'll find a number of knowledgeable greenhouse growers there.
  3. Thanks very much, that's exactly what I wanted to know.


    John Jay
  4. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Please report back if root rot is confirmed along with a description of the dropped leaves. The information would be useful to other readers in diagnosing their tree problems.

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