I am a begining gardener who just moved to Sharjah,UAE. I purchased a lemon tree seven months ago. It was growing well and produced about fifty lemons wich have not yet matured, but I've noticed that the leaves started to turn yellow about a month ago. Since then, I have given it organic fertilizer, Which I used when I first transplanted it in a larger pot(about six months ago) also, I increased the water from two liters a day to three liters a day.
I changed back to two liters every day after reading that it is possible to overwater. Could that still be too much water? (it did well on that amount for six months) Or, if the roots were damaged from too much water, would the tree be able to recover?
I have included some pictures.( at least I think I did, I'm kind of new at this)
Angel: My second attempt. I had a long dissertation written and the 'system' somehow lost it. I'll start over.
1) The lack of brown tips on the leaves makes me feel that overwatering is not the problem.
2) The plant seems quite stressed. Cause can be any of several reasons. Although only in the pot 6 months, it could be rootbound. If not fertilized since potting, it could be food deprived.
3) Your faithful application of relatively small quantities of water daily may well be overwatering the surface roots with the lower roots bone dry. The UAE has to have a very low average humidity. The small quantity of water applied and the low humidity, coupled with the root growth in 6 months, possibly leaves only a fraction of the roots as functioning food suppliers. In addition to evaporation, the leaves are transpiring water, further drying the plant.
4) Citrus in the groves thrives on an inch of water per week, whether rain or irrigation. I would recommend that the plant be watered to saturation, then allowed to dry over several days, even to the point where the leaves begin to wilt. At that time , water it again, virtually to saturation. Making fruit and the current leaf load, with the evaporation and transporation, requires a lot of water. Keeping the top wet could be killing the surface roots and simultaneously depriving the roots of oxygen.
5) Find and buy some Epsom salts. (Commonly used for soaking sore feet and other things). Spread a small handful of this on the pot surface. E.s. is Magnesium sulphate, and will tend to green the leaves while the sulphate is used by bacteria to form sulphuric acid, which will acidify the soil. The roots can not readily assimilate nitrogen in an akaline environment. Further, a 6-6-6 fertilizer, with minor elements should be added at the same time.
6) Your watering methods are remniscent of typical European ways of watering. My opinion is that the Euros are a much more 'saving' group of folks, as a whole, and the thought of standing in the yard for an hour with the garden hose running full blast is abhorrent. Thus, even watering outdoor plants with a bottle or a pitcher is 'the way you do it'.
7) Should you elect to repot, and in the process, you elect to root prune, you should also prune the top. Fruit will only be borne on the new growth on your citrus. Any pruning should be done before the plant flowers, otherwise you will be cutting off the new crop. And the roots kind of 'match the foliage'. The smaller root ball can't feed the full foliage, so it is a good idea to prune.
I hope a little of what I have given is of some help. Good luck.
What size pot is your tree in ? 2 liters of water a day is way too much for potted tree. I would remove it from the pot & check the roots. I can almost assure you the lower roots are rotted. sitting in saturated soil.
You will probably need to trim the dead roots back & prune the top of the tree back to compensate for the root lose. Repot it in a free draining mix & water maybe 2 liters a week in the summer & half or less in the winter.
I think it may be prudent to backtrack and get a better idea
of the conditions this tree has to endure. Is this tree grown
outdoors or indoors? Is this tree outdoors for most of the
time and then brought indoors at any time or the reverse,
left indoors for most of the time and then placed outdoors
for a short period? How large is the pot that this Lemon is
growing in and what was potting soil medium used at the
time of the transplanting? By organic fertilizer what form
was used and the nutrient components of it and their
percentages? How much of this fertilizer was applied and
how often have you given this tree this fertilizer? Does this
Lemon have a tray underneath it to collect the water that
has passed through the pot, if yes, how long is the water
in the tray left prior to emptying the standing water? Do
you mist this tree at all during the hotter portions of the
day or do you wash or rinse the leaves off on occasion?
If yes, do you mist, rinse or wash the leaves indoors or
Once we better learn of your growing conditions then we
may have a better idea how to help you and your tree.
Thank you all for your replies!
The tree is kept outside on the balcony. When I transplanted it six months ago. I put it in an eight gallon(I think) ceramic pot. I used potting soil and I mixed It with 5-3-0 SoilRich Natural Organic fertilizer. The tree was thriving for months producing a lot of blossoms and lemons. I keep the pot on an elevated wooden stand, so it never sits in any water that drains from the bottom. The temperatures are curently in the 40's(celsius) The winters are also very hot, the temperature rarely goes below 20 degrees. I had been watering it every day because the soil seems to dry very quickly. To test the over watering theory, I didn't water it for two days. On the first day, it was still moist about an inch under the top soil. On the second day it was definitely dry,so I have been watering it every other day(two liters) which never drains at the bottom. I think the three liter watering is what may have caused the damage.
The tips of the leaves are brown, so I was planning to look at the roots this evening to see if they need to be trimmed.Would the tree have a better chance of survival if I removed all of the immature lemons?
Again, thanks to everyone for all of your help.
I love it. Thank goodness for rational people like mr.shep who, once in a while, bring us back to reality by being able to see a bigger picture than what is seemingly obvious. "Now just hold on a minute here" seems the better response he gave than that which I did. Suppositions can get you in trouble. WAY TO GO, mr.shep. Beautiful and learned response.
Well, I took a look at the roots last night and though I didn't quite know what I was looking for it was clear that there was not much room for them. I was expecting to see dark, thinned out ends on the roots(is that what happens from overwatering?) but I did not.
Anyway, I went out and purchased a larger pot and gave the roots a minor trim(Is that an ok thing to do?) I mixed the soil with the fertilizer as I had done the first time I transplanted. I removed all of the leaves with brown tips and washed the remaining ones. So far I think it looks better, but I am sure it will take awhile to see how well it recovers.
I can't believe how attached I am to that tree! Is that normal?(heh heh)
I think fertilizing your tree with a complete fertilizer with the addition
of Epsom salts was a good idea but mixing in fertilizer with the
potting soil is not how we do it. The reason I posted my let's
get more information about your tree is that your area has a higher
degree of evapo-transpiration than most of us are used to. We get
warm here but we cool off a little late at night, I am not so sure you
do there. Also, I was perhaps thinking too much about humidity in
that I see water spots on the fruit that made me think you are giving
this tree an overhead rinse or you are misting it and it seems like
you evaded that question.
You were going to have to change your watering habits and now with
the mixing in fertilizer in with the potting soil it is imperative now that
you current watering scheme has come to an end. The tips of the
leaves turning brown is an indication of salt burn, not a root rot. If
your tree had a root rot the leaves will droop, wilt and turn allover
yellow in your heat. The leaves on your tree are pretty well held
erect like they should be. Yes, you do have a Magnesium deficiency
in the leaves but you also have the beginnings of a Manganese and
Calcium deficiency also. All Nitrogen does is mask the effects of
these deficiencies but they will be back later and will seem worse
for you when you see the yellow veining in the leaves along with
the more noticeable puffy and rippled texture to the surface of the
You need to deep water this tree. What you want is to no longer
use a flash watering, even if it was every day, you want to super
saturate this tree and water less often. Give the tree so much
water at each watering that you get lots of water to be leached
through the drainage hole or drainage holes and more than one
drainage hole is better for this Lemon. You have to leach out
the salt buildup you already had before the transplanting to a
larger pot with new soil. Now you have to water heavily to
activate and leach out the fertilizer you used in your potting
mix as well as the old salt buildup you had before. If this
tree was mine in your location I'd super saturate with a hose
watering this way. Fill up the pot all the way with water, let
the water drain out and do it again but I have no idea as to
the volume of water this pot can handle as with most people
doing a transplanting they tend to place the top of the base
of the roots as close to the top of the container thinking they
have more area for the roots to grow in, so in effect that not
much water can be applied all at one time because of it until
the plant has had some settling in. You may have to water
the tree three or more times depending on how much water
you can apply at one time. Since you are using measurements
in liters find out how many liters it takes to fill the pot up with
water one time and get back to us. Wait until the soil appears
to be dry and then do it. Then tell us how long it takes for that
amount of water to drain out the drainage hole or holes. If no
water drains out then do it again and tell us how long does it
takes for the water to drain out. You have to know your water
holding capacity and the rate at which the water drains out to
better know how much water you should apply and how often
you should water this tree.
As a side note: there was no need to prune the roots. You
get a natural air pruning of the roots by placing the pot on
a solid surface anyway. Since you did cut back on the roots
you should also cut back a little from the top of the tree.
If the decision was mine I’d keep the much of the larger fruit and
pluck off all of the smaller fruit until this tree has had some time
to adapt to the new soil and larger sized pot. Some people may
choose to pick off the older fruit and keep the juvenile fruit but
I wouldn’t do it.
Chuck, thank you for your comments. You and Laaz did just
fine as we try to help much of the time without really knowing
what is going on with these trees and how they are cared for.
We seldom are told what all we need to know unlike us going
out and seeing a tree in person and then can see most of what
we need to see to make a solid recommendation. I would not
worry at all about trying to be helpful. There aren’t enough
people around that will give solid advice based on actual
experience with these plants. Even some of us will clash on
occasion in what we interpret from the photos and read from
the written content and what should be done about it. We
have to fly by the seat of our pants many times when giving
an analysis and sometimes we have it right and times we may
not but we tried when many others did not bother to lend a
helping hand. Never feel bad about trying to help someone
else, even if we might have it wrong. We don’t learn anything
by being right all of the time.
Hi Mr Shep,
I super saturated my tree. It took eight liters before it started to drain. I gave it an additional five liters and let it drain. I will monitor the soil and see how long it takes to dry.
I have not used any epsom salts in the soil as I have not been able to find any yet.(sometimes the most basic things are hard to find here)
Another detail that might be significant is that our water supply is desalinated water from the gulf. I have heard that there is still a high amount of salt remaining after the process.
I do use mist(plain water) to rinse the leaves occaisionally. There is a lot of fine dust that collects on the tree. I used to wipe them with a damp cloth individually, but decided to save time and use mist.
What should I use to remedy the Manganese and calcium deficiency?Also, what causes salt burn?
Thank you so much for your help. I have included two more pictures after the transplant.
I like the size of the pot you have. When we have
salt buildup the best way to lessen the damage it
can cause to the tree is to super saturate, flush
the salts right out of the soil and container. I'd
rather deal with desalinated water than chlorinated
water any day for Citrus. I am glad to hear you are
misting your tree as this will help keep insects away
for you plus will let the leaves of your tree breathe
a lot easier. Sorry about wanting you to water so
heavily as you will have a mess afterwards but we
have to let the water drain out as much as we can
let it. Citrus in warm climates do much better with
a deep watering, even if we have to water the tree in
a container more than someone in a cooler climate
will have to. Then again with our soils drying out
quicker than most cool climates will we have less
worry about root rots as well.
With your Lemons this close to being ripe I would
hold off on the Magnesium and the Calcium. You
should see an improvement in leaf color just with
the new potting soil. Now, we have to monitor what
the leaves will show us for color but at this point my
only concern will be how this tree gets watered. I'd
wait until you know the top two to three inches of the
top soil is dry before watering again and yes, you will
want to super saturate this tree from now on, especially
with your heat there. Now you will apply more water
at one time but you will apply less water overall less
often. We can flash water Citrus in a warm climate
meaning we can give a few liters each day providing
we have fast drainage but we want to see water drain
out of the drainage holes, not just apply 3 liters of
water every day and see no drainage as that is a
remedy for disaster later and could very easily
cause a root rot. Not all root rots are wet rots,
we have a dry root rot in Citrus that can be worse
than the wet root rots are if we are not careful
in how we water our trees.
You do have a heavy crop of Lemons on this tree.
You can leave them for now and wait for them to
get ripe and then after they are off the tree you
can use a Citrus fertilizer that has some Calcium
in it but let's see how the tree reacts to the new
soil and deep watering first.
If it is not a huge hernia, you might try getting a water analysis from your water company. They have one, usually on a daily basis( or even more frequently). Soluable salts and Ph would be of greater interest, if they will cooperate. Then you would have a better idea of what you are looking at.
I am really worried about my lemon tree now. After I transplanted it, I removed most of the leaves with brown tips. The pictures posted yesterday were just taken, but today at least 50% of the leaves have developed brown tips as well. (I will post a picture)
I am especially worried about the "dry root rot" That Mr. Shep described in his last post because I failed to mention that some of the roots looked like 'straw' or 'hay' when I transplanted.(I wish that I had taken a picture) I was only looking for "wet rot" I had no idea that dry rot existed.
Chuck, I dont think that I could get a clear answer from the water company because, like everywhere I go here, I rarely get past the language barrier. I did test the PH though and it is between 6.4 and 6.6. Is there a way to test for soluable salts myself?
Angel; If you can find a website for Fischer Scientific, you might well find a low cost EC meter. EC, for electrical conductance, enables one to determine soluable salts due to the greater or lesser conductance of electricity of the water. For example, distilled water is almost a non-conductor of electricity. Conversely, the greater the salt content, the higher the conductance. The EC meter measures the conductance and converts the conductivity into actual numbers that you can read and that are meaningful. The EC numbers are directly proportional to the quantity of salts in solution in the water. The higher the number, the greater the salt level.
It is a wild presumption on my part, but I feel strongly that the head of the water pervayer speaks English. In another life, when making a cold call on a corporation that I felt needed my company's electronic equipment, I would ask to speak to the CEO, (and of course he wouldn't have a clue what I was talking about) and he would shuffle me off to the person I really needed to speak to in the first place. Works great!
Call or see the head of the water works, tell him you want the Ph and soluable salt readings for the water they are pumping into the waterlines and you will be shuffled right off to the knowledgable technician who can answer any question you might have regarding your water supply.
Try it, it works. Regards, Chuck
P.S. Ideal Ph for citrus is 5.5 to 6.5, just a little on the acid side of neutral.
Last edited by Chuck White; June 25th, 2006 at 12:46 PM.
Reason: Add a P.S.
The spindly roots were more likely due to not enough water
getting to them for a long while. The dry rot form comes
about due to infrequent watering, the lack of deep watering
and rootstocks that are susceptible to it. I am not surprised
by the color and upwards curl of the leaf to the right in the
photos. I anticipated seeing that and will not be overly
concerned if we see more of them just like that. What
we do not want is the whole tree to look like that leaf.
Whenever we mix in fertilizer at the same time we give
a tree new soil we can expect a response that may not
be to our liking sometimes. Especially when we have
not been deep watering the tree in a warm climate. I
can guarantee you that I'll see leaf problems with my
container grown Citrus here if I give them any additional
Nitrogen other than what comes from the new soil now
that our daily high temperatures are in the 100's. An
upward curl to the leaves is due to lack of sufficient
water and stress to the tree. A dry root rot will produce
a downward curl to the limp leaves this time of year.
Last edited by mr.shep; June 26th, 2006 at 09:28 PM.
Good news and bad news; The good news is that I have noticed new growth. The bad news is that some of it doesn't look like it will survive.
It is now day two since the deep watering and the soil is still moist. Would it be better for the tree to use bottled water or distilled? The bottled water has a PH of 5.5 and it is quite cheap here. Or, I could distill a large batch.(I often do for soapmaking) Which would be best?
Chuck, I have not yet checked in to the salt content of the tap water, but I plan to for the sake of curiosity.
I cannot thank you all enough for your help!
I will keep posting the progress.
I would presume that, other than being sterile, distilled water should be fine. If your 'still' is capable , remember that you want to have a large enough quantity to do the watering as described by mr.shep. I haven't seen a 'still' since the early 50's, and that was in the backwoods of Mississippi. Come to think of it, they weren't making water.
From the looks of the trees leaves I believe that the growing medium could well have a very high level of soluble salts, caused by the watering method that the tree has had to endure. Everytime you water a containerized citrus tree enough water should be poured onto the growing medium so that at least 20 percent of the water leaches out of the bottom of the container. Actually the purchase of a EC meter is not needed. Just flush the container with clean clear water in the amount of four times the volume of the container. Container grown citrus should be flushed at least three or four times a year, to prevent the soluble salts in the medium from reaching toxic levels. The ideal pH for citrus is 6.5, but nitrogen would be available whether the growing medium is acidic or basic. I belive the tree has suffered for some time from poor watering habits which in turn has raised the soluble salt in the root zone to toxic levels. A proper growing medium for containerized citrus trees should completely drain with in one minute. - Millet
I am sitting out here on the balcony with my tree. I have just removed most of the brown tipped leaves. There is still new growth starting in different places, but some of the new growth has turned brown. There are only about 30% of the leaves left and I'm sure they will turn brown like the others because they are yellow.
I flushed the container again the day before yesterday.
I was considering removing all of the lemons to hopefully help the tree. Would that be a good idea?
We are kind of at a crossroads in a way in that the
tree may be suffering somewhat from adequate
watering. It happens when the tree has had limited
amounts of water and now we start to flush water
and the tree does not know how to respond for us
in intense heat. This temporary condition is rather
common for some of our Japanese Maples grown
in containers around here.
I'd feel better seeing what the tree looks like today
before I could recommend plucking off the leaves.
I'd prefer that they fell off on their own rather than
force their removal. As far as the fruit still on the
tree, that is an issue that I felt would come into play
as I think you can thin your fruit by half and still have
a few Lemons for later usage and can aid the trees
recovery from the possibility that with the repotting,
flushing of water, adding fertilizer, cutting the roots
and not cutting the top of the tree back a little that
the tree may have gone into a little bit of shock. The
problem with salt buildup is that it can make a tree go
into shock as the soil medium around the roots has
become toxic. Combine that with heat and the tree
wanting to pump water faster than the amount we are
applying, then we have a flow problem that may take
a while to get the clog that is already in the plant out
of the plants system.
Soluble salt levels in the soil are important, because high soluble salts can reduce water uptake by plants, restrict root growth, cause burning of the foliage, inhibit flowering, and limit fruit yields. - Millet
If the tree was mine I'd want it to better adapt to your
climate and growing conditions. If the tree does not
adapt over time you risk losing it later on. Whether
to give this tree afternoon shade will depend on how
much light it is getting now, how many hours of sun
it gets and is it direct sun or is it filtered sun? Could
the tree get 2-3 hours of direct sun and then from then
on get filtered sunlight? Based on the color of the tree,
the amount of sunlight really is not the issue here. Your
tree has more green to it than mine in containers have
but mine with the exception of one are not losing many
to any leaves either. We have to make a decision
sometimes with Citrus in that we have to decide what
do we really want from these trees. Do we want a lush,
green looking plant that can provide us with some fruit
or do we want a tree that adapts for us showing some
discoloration and/or yellowing to the leaves but adapts
to our harsh growing conditions that later produces lots
of flowers and can have lots of fruit for us in time.
Herein is where I have to make a stipulation in that
it is important for us to know is the tree a standard,
semi-dwarf or is it a dwarfed form. For plants in the
ground I prefer standards but for collection plants
that are to be container plants, depending on what I
want from them I'll choose semi-dwarf and dwarfs.
Not all dwarf forms will be a bona fide dwarf as
some of them can get up close to what a semi-dwarf
will get for size. Some semi-dwarfs can get almost
as large as a standard will get.
Your tree does not look like a dwarf to me and is
either a standard or a semi-dwarf and in a warm
climate growing these trees in containers we may
not always grow them the same. It is one thing
to have a standard and have the size of the pot
force the plant to grow smaller than it would
want to grow out in the ground, whereas with
a semi-dwarf the tree it is already on dwarfing
rootstock to some degree, thus it will not likely
balk as much being in a container for most of
its life like a standard can that has been forced
to grow smaller than it really wants to.
I would thin about half of the fruit you have
on this tree right now. Wherever you see a
cluster of three Lemons thin back to two or
one of them. The color of the Lemons look
good but the top of the tree is bowed over
from the weight of the Lemons. I suggest
you take all of those Lemons off where the
top is and stake this tree so that the top of
the tree is upright again. Your tree will not
perform for you well as long as the your
apical dominant point for this tree is
pointing downwards. Then when this tree
adapts to the improved watering practice
the denuded areas should fill back in as
there are what appears to be some vegetative
buds that are already present that should
leaf out as soon as this tree is upright again.
I think that this tree is a standard size. We are in the process of getting a villa with a yard and I was planning on planting it in the ground. I'm not sure how long it will take though.(maybe months)
The tree seems to be pulling through. The new growth looks really good now and I thinned out the fruit.
Should I continue to super saturate every time I water? I have been pouring 71/2 gallons of bottled and distilled water in the container and I mop up about five gallons of drainage.
Some people that have not dealt with salt or
perceived salt related issues may not agree
with me on this but for your tree I would
continue to deep water it all through the
warmer months where you are. When we
can see some change to the leaves a little
later, not right now though but you will
want to have some Epsom salts on hand to
sprinkle over the top of the soil and then
water in. The sulfur can help break down
the salts along with a good flushing of water.
If you can look for some liquid Vitamin B1
plus tonic, the tonic has some additional
nutrients in it and look for some liquid
0-10-10 that is not derived from a fish
emulsion. In time we can work on the
root system to make it healthier for you,
if people object we will do it away from
the forum through private messages or
perhaps e-mails, but we cannot do it right
now as we have to leach the salts from your
plant and from the old soil first. Do not
apply any Nitrogen to this plant in your
kind of heat for a long spell until you get
some daytime and evening cooling and
then apply only small amounts such as 2
ounces of a complete (having N-P-K in it)
fertilizer. Try to find a granular Citrus
fertilizer that has about 2-10% Calcium
in it if you can.
Keep us appraised of this tree and any turn
for the worse that it takes.