Indoor Meyer Lemon Tree with Severe Leaf Drop

Discussion in 'Citrus' started by Leslie Snoqualmie, Feb 2, 2020.

  1. Leslie Snoqualmie

    Leslie Snoqualmie New Member

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    Hello! I've looked through this forum and tried to figure out what is going on with my indoor Meyer Lemon tree, but I am still not sure. Starting in November, it began losing its leaves, and now we're down to just two left (as well as two unripened lemons that have been there for about 8 months).

    I thought maybe it had gone dormant due to cold soil (and we were on vacation for 10 days in November, so the house would have been quite cold - mid 50s), but the soil temperature is around 60 degrees F. We do let our house go down to 56 degrees during the day. Home is east of Seattle, so it's cold and not very sunny.

    During the fall, the plant was originally located near a window that gave it decent sun (given I'm in Seattle area, so not a LOT of sun). I moved it to a less light-filled area once I read about the dormant root possiblity, but leaves have continued to fall.

    I don't water it very frequently, and the moisture meter says it's moist (at the lower end of the scale, towards dry).

    Soil is a citrus mix, with gravel/rocks at the bottom. I've never watered it to the point water has come out of the bottom of the pot.

    I use citrus fertilizer every few months, a few table spoons at most.

    I've owned the tree overwinter last year and it did NOT have this problem. It had a lot of leaves, flowers and small fruits (dropped). The two current lemons are the only ones I've ever gotten to even partially mature.

    Tree has never been outside.

    Thoughts?! I don't want to pull it out of the pot to look at the roots as I fear that may be the end of it. Photos:
    IMG_3804.JPG IMG_3805.JPG IMG_3806.JPG IMG_3807.JPG IMG_3808.JPG
     
  2. Michigander

    Michigander Active Member

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    It's unclear why you would move the tree from sun to less sun at just the time of year when sunlight is diminishing anyway at a latitude that has too little sun. That was exactly the wrong thing to do. For all intents and purposes you rushed the tree into dormancy earlier than it would in the far north all by itself. Put it back by the window and leave it there. Remove the fruit. Water it when dry, maybe once a week, 15 to 20% of the volume of the pot. Don't feed it until you see some growth returning in March or April, then feed about every forth watering from April through August. Feed according to label directions, I have never heard of "2 or 3 tablespoons" being appropriate. Next time you repot, forget the rocks, that's old conventional wisdom no longer wise.
     
  3. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Contributor 10 Years

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    I think your suspicion on dormancy being the cause is justified. Root activity slows at lower temperatures and ceases once in drops to 13C/55F. Leaf drop occurs when the tree is exposed to light when the roots are dormant or nearly so. Did the leaf drop start before you went on holiday or did it occur during, when the temperature would have been at its lowest? Root rot is unlikely if you didn't notice any wilting in the growth.

    There's still plenty of life in the stems. I would remove the fruit and move the tree back to a bright spot. Increase the root temperature by wrapping a few turns of a string of small incandescent lights around the container. Reduce watering to a bare minimum, only enough to keep the soil a bit moist. Discontinue feeding the plant until it shows signs of new growth.
     
  4. Leslie Snoqualmie

    Leslie Snoqualmie New Member

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    Thank you for taking the time to respond, Michigander. I moved it away from light due to the suggestions on this forum, which said that if the roots are dormant, it should not be exposed to very much light (and due to low soil temp, that seemed likely).

     
  5. Leslie Snoqualmie

    Leslie Snoqualmie New Member

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    Thanks Junglekeeper for your reponse and suggestions. The leaf drop did begin during our trip in November - when the home would have been mid-50s for 24 hours/day (when we're in the home, we keep it at 67 degrees). So I do wonder if that was the 'inciting incident' that started all of this. That might also explain why it didn't have this issue the prior year - we did not go on a long vacation during the cold season.

    I will try as you suggest, removing the fruits (I'd been holding out hope they would ripen so I was trying to leave them on), wrapping some incandescent lights and minimizing the water/feed. And moving it back to more light.

    Thank you for the suggestions!


     
  6. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Contributor 10 Years

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    Be careful to not over do it though, so keep an eye on the thermometer. You may want to aim for something slightly warmer, perhaps 70F. Note that optimal root growth occurs with temperatures in the range of 85-95F.
     
  7. Leslie Snoqualmie

    Leslie Snoqualmie New Member

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    Thanks! I will keep a close eye on the temperature. Our home is cold in the winter - max 67 degrees and that's only for about... 8 hours per day. The soil temperature has not gotten above 60 degrees since I started monitoring it (i.e. even when we're not traveling) so I think the lights will help - but I will keep an eye out to make sure I do not shock it by over heating it, either!
     
  8. Leslie Snoqualmie

    Leslie Snoqualmie New Member

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    @Junglekeeper - Hi, I hope you are well in these challenging times; I wanted to touch base if you have a moment, about my Meyer Lemon tree, as you were very helpful a few months ago. I did put lights around it, and got the root temp up to btw 60 degrees and 70 degrees F, depending on if the lights are on. I trimmed the two lemons off. I moved it back to be near a window with light. Unfortunately, the tree has now started to turn brown at the ends of some of the branches (this has been happening now over the last 3-4 weeks at least). Do you think this means it's now just essentially non-recoverable? I have three photos, the first and second show the brown ended branches. It's hard to see the discoloration, but on the largest branch, about 5 inches have turned brown (the part that is in front of the white paper). The third photo shows the two branches that are still green (smaller, these two had the lemons). Anyway, if you think it still might have some life left to live, I'll keep it going. Otherwise maybe this experiment is over! Thank you!
    tree_2.JPG tree_3.JPG tree_1.JPG
     
  9. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Contributor 10 Years

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    It certainly looks worse than before but it appears to still have life in it. You may want to move it outdoors now that temperatures are warmer, at least during the day. Give it as much sun as possible and hope for the best.
     
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  10. Leslie Snoqualmie

    Leslie Snoqualmie New Member

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    Great, thank you for the feedback and help!
     
  11. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Contributor 10 Years

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    Please keep us posted no matter what happens.
     
  12. Leslie Snoqualmie

    Leslie Snoqualmie New Member

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    @Junglekeeper I forgot to ask you - should I clip the brown portions off, or just leave them on? I did clip some of the lower, shorter brown branches (that were brown all the way to the 'trunk').
     
  13. Will B

    Will B Active Member

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    If the branch is truly dead then yes, you should definitely remove all dead branches as they can harbour fungus which can continue to infect a citrus plant.
     
  14. Leslie Snoqualmie

    Leslie Snoqualmie New Member

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    Great, thank you for the reply @Will B !
     

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