Meyer Improved Lemon

Discussion in 'Citrus' started by punkrockviolet5, Jun 28, 2006.

  1. punkrockviolet5

    punkrockviolet5 Member

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    Orange County, USA
    Hi Folks,

    I'm new to the forum and am really happy I've found it as I've recently found my ever-sought-after Meyer Lemon Tree. I've actually been looking for a small sized plant for almost 6 yrs. now, so I'm really happy. It's just perfect.

    Here's my question:
    What is the best soil for it so it will flourish? When I went to the garden store yesterday, the salesman sold me Cactus soil and citrus tree fertilizer stakes. The soil drains *really* well but I'm afraid it will not hold enough moisture and the sun is really hot here is Southern California. Any suggestions/ advise? Thank you, thank you!

    Amethyst in Orange County, CA
  2. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    As far as which soil is best that is a tough question to
    answer. I have my personal preference for container
    plants and also have plants that have been in the ground
    for years, the latter being in a heavy clay soil and the
    others here in a silt loam.

    Some people seem to like the Black Gold Cactus mix
    for Japanese Maples in a warm climate but for Citrus
    I like mixing in some native soil for my container
    mixes. The reason I like having some soil, not straight
    sand mind you but a sandy loam would be fine, is that
    with some soil I feel the Citrus can retain their leaf
    color and brilliance better than in straight potting soil.
    I have to fertilize less and do not worry so much about
    leaching the fertilizer right out of the container each
    time I water the tree. Water holding capacity to me
    is rather important for our Citrus grown in a warm
    climate. Some people like having super fast drainage
    but as long as I get adequate drainage with a little soil
    in my mixes I am happy. The other nice thing about
    having some soil in the potting mix is that the soil
    will retain enough moisture that my plants will tell
    me when they need a watering. When we use a
    straight potting soil and when the plant starts to wilt,
    begging us for water, we waited too long to water it
    and we can see some ill effects show up later at times
    in our leaves because of it. With soil in the mix I will
    see the leaves droop a little then give them some water
    and about and hour to two hours later the leaves are back
    to normal turgidity with no burn to the leaves or loss of
    leaf color and leaf luster.

    For our container plants that we have in two locations
    I figure my mixes are 3/4 potting soil and 1/4 soil,
    hand mixed together and then used as my potting soil
    medium. This mix works great for me for two of the
    leading dwarf Citrus growers plants as their potting
    soil mixes have a lot of ground humus in them but
    there is also another Citrus grower, two of them
    actually but one in particular in Arvin in which their
    potting soil has a lot of soil in their mix already. My
    3/4 to 1/4 mix is too rich for their plants and my
    drainage is scary being way too slow to suit me. I
    learned I had to go 7/8 to 1/8 soil just to get adequate
    drainage from their plants after I got them in as 5
    gallon sized plants in April and now they are all in
    15 gallons as I purposely sought their semi-dwarfs
    rather than their standards and their dwarf Citrus.
    I have had good success with Earthgro® brand
    potting soil that I get from Home Depot. I use that
    as my base potting soil mix for everything from
    bulbs to Maples to Conifers to Magnolias to Citrus
    and yes, I add in some native soil for the other
    plants and mix it by hand.

    The use of Citrus fertilizer stakes is something I
    would not recommend for container grown plants.
    I'd feel better about using them for inground Citrus.
    You can use them and see how well they perform
    for you but unless you track how quickly they
    dissolve, how fast the tree can utilize the
    nutrients given off by the stakes and how long
    the stakes will last in a container then I'd suggest
    you use a commercial granulated Citrus fertilizer

  3. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Denver,Colorado USA
    Jim (Mr. Shep) and I agree and disagree. First I agree with Mr. Shep about the fertilizer stakes. I would never use them for container grown trees. In my opinion the person at the nursery that advised you to use them doesn't have a clue. Mr. Shep is a very knowledgeable member of this citrus forum, and his advice is of first rate. Almost everyone has their own special recipe for a growing medium that their trees are planted in. I, myself, would not use actual soil in my medium. Currently I am growing 75 different citrus varieties in contaners and two citrus trees planted in the ground. The best medium that I have found is a mixture of 4 parts Coconut Husks Chips (CHC) and 1 to 1-1/2 parts peat moss or coir. The reason for the use of CHC's are some the same reasons given by Jim for his use of soil. CHC's hold up to seven times their weight in water, while at the same time allows for fast drainage and excellent root level aeriation. Coconut chips also hold moisture longer than many other types of potting soils, but at the same time promotes high soil aeriation. This allows for an extended period of response when leaf wilt is noticed. The gererally accepted life span of CHC in container culture is 4 to 5 years before repotting is required, because the chips stay porous and resists compacting and degradation. The natural pH of CHC is 6.5 which is the exact pH required by citrus. Due to the amount of moisture that Coconut Chips are able to contain ,they are especially valuble in hot dry areas of the country. Lastly, what ever growing medium you eventually decide to use, and there is certainly more than just one correct type, be ABSOLUTELY SURE it is fast draining and that it gives the root system GOOD aeration. Every type of growing medium works well at first, however, with repeated watering of the container, compaction of most potting mixs increases, and eventually 90 percent of them will cause problems or even death for to tree. Take care. - Millet
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2006
  4. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Vancouver BC Canada
    Look for a high-nitrogen fertilizer that contains micro-nutrients. Millet has often suggested ones which approximate a 5-1-3 NPK ratio. I use a 30-10-10 which is fairly close to that. BTW, I'm surprised it was so difficult for you to find your tree - the U.S. (unlike Canada) has a smorgasbord of citrus varieties.

    Jim, why the preference for granulated as opposed to water-soluble?
  5. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Well, I know how to compensate for the use of
    soil and I am not using a high salt content soil
    in my mixes. A Honcutt silt loam with a Storey
    index rating of 100 is about as good a soil as one
    can find anywhere.

    After having a plant come in with the CHC I am not
    convinced we can use that soil medium here with
    our much warmer weather. The Lemon used as an
    example is a pretty young cutting and looked good
    until the temperatures got into the mid 80's and
    higher. As soon as the tree got exposed to medium,
    for us, temperatures I started losing growth on this
    plant, so much so I was back to 4 sets of leaves pretty
    fast, too fast until I put the tree in a larger sized
    container and used my potting soil mix with the silt
    loam and what I had left over from the old potting
    soil I had on hand, which it seems after a company
    buy out or takeover is not the same composition
    that the newly purchased sacks have been for us.
    I just went through 5 hours of hand mixing the old
    same brand potting soil with the new formula as I
    felt a mix of them would work best for me and
    then mixed that mix by hand with the silt.

    I think we have to separate out or at least qualify
    what conditions our container Citrus are to be
    grown in as the soil mix we may want to have in
    a greenhouse growing situation with high moisture
    and high humidity may require a potting soil that
    holds moisture but does not hold so much as to give
    a root rotting organism much of a chance to get a
    foot hold, your worst fear growing Citrus indoors.
    What an indoor grower will want for a potting soil
    mix may have to differ greatly from the mixes we
    might and probably will have to have, depending on
    how we grow our container Citrus outdoors.

    We have ours out in full sun and they get full sun
    until about 7-8 o: clock in the evening. These things
    get blasted more so by the midday to late afternoon
    heat and sun unlike so many others that grow their
    Citrus in an afternoon shade protected patio or
    in an Eastern exposure in an entryway but no, not
    me I want to see heat and sun caused yellow colored
    leaves on these plants for the first few years I have
    them and not give them any additional Nitrogen other
    that what is in the potting soil. One thing we have
    to learn and we've seen it in other UBC BG forums
    is that we do not leave these plants in the same pot
    or the same soil for many years. We know for forms
    of Japanese Maples this is a death sentence. The same
    can also be true for Citrus, so with that in mind even
    when I pot up a semi-dwarf into a traditional 15 gallon
    container I'll be adding in new soil periodically all
    through that plants lifetime while in that container.

    The difference is that some people want to grow their
    Citrus indoors under a more controlled environment
    and that is fine for them. I am an outdoor grower in
    more ways that one both from the production end with
    permanently planted trees as well as the collection end
    with both planted trees and container plants. I think
    what may convince me that the CHC would be a good
    soil medium for us out here is let me place the Citrus
    on our concrete RV pad like our others and let me see
    which ones are more likely to be begging me for water
    a lot and which ones have adapted to our heat and get by
    just fine with one watering a week, even in 100 degree
    weather. If the Ichang Lemon is any indication I cannot
    go CHC for outdoor growing here. The plant almost
    perished on me until I gave it my soil mix and now it
    will live when it almost didn't. That is a chance the
    novice to Citrus cannot afford to risk.

    I am not saying a mix of CHC in my potting mixes might
    not work real well for me, I am saying that using it as a
    standalone soil medium worries me that it can hold up
    to some of our traditional potting soils, not withstanding
    the addition of native soil into the mixes. Essentially,
    we want almost the same thing from our potting mediums
    but there is a difference in that you have to add in much
    more supplemental nutrients either in a liquid form or
    a granular than I have to, even when our trees are facing
    more brutal growing conditions than indoor trees will.
    We have warm to hot winds that can desiccate leaves
    pretty fast.

    We have a difference in philosophy based on how we
    are growing these plants but what may work for an
    indoor grower may not work too well for me and
    agreed, my potting soil mixes are not what you are
    going to want for growing Citrus indoors. Fast
    drainage for an outdoor grower does not have the
    same importance it will have to an indoor container
    grower. If fast drainage to an outdoor container
    grower was so important then W&N surely would
    change the soil composition of their potting mix
    as their soil drains super slow but the root systems
    are amazingly healthy as I learned when I popped
    them out of their cans and bumped them up to
    larger sized containers. Even the yellowing leaves
    greened up in a weeks time of being in the new

    Granular releases over time, not all at once.
    Whereas when the liquid is applied we get
    little to any residual effect from it.

    Last edited: Jun 30, 2006
  6. punkrockviolet5

    punkrockviolet5 Member

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    Orange County, USA
    Thank you for your very helpful insight! I know more now and am pretty content with the soild I have it in. I believe it has coconut husks in it and although it drains RAPIDLY, I can push back the top layer of soil and feel wet underneath after the sun has been on it all day.

    It has taken me quite a while to find a smaller lemon tree:
    #1 - I lived in Wisconsin for the first 3 yrs, I was looking.
    #2 - Now that I live in Southern California, I'm only finding HUGE $100 plants and goodness knows, my poor little porch cannot accomodate such large trees.

    The one I bought is tiny compaired to the others I have seen. I finally found it at a health food store and actually did a second glance because I'd been looking for so long and couldn't believe my eyes! It was only $17!

    Here's a picture: (I named him Sunshine) (Do you have any idea how old he is? The care guide that came with said it won't produce friut for ~4yrs.)

    Attached Files:

  7. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Vancouver BC Canada
    Interesting thoughts, Jim. Good job pointing out the nuances between indoor and outdoor cultivation. It's not something that's obvious. Thanks.

    That makes me wonder if yours is a seed-grown tree. A rooted cutting from a mature tree would fruit much sooner. The young tree that I have is already doing so.

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