The Q&A Archives: Dwarf Lemon Tree

Question: Last summer, I bought a miniature lemon tree. Outside in full sun, it thrived even in the hottest of temperatures. When the weather became cool, I brought it inside and set it right in front of a south-facing window, where it receives the most sun possible indoors. After a few weeks, it began to drop a few leaves, yet continued to put on new growth. The leaves showed no change in color, and I could find no evidence of parisites or insects. Now, the leaves have stopped dropping, but the tree looks very disproportioned and has very few leaves near the base and center areas of the main branches. What might have caused the leaves to drop? Will the tree put on new leaves to replace the leaves it lost (in the same place), or will it contine to put all of it's new growth to the ends of branches? If so, how do I encourage a bushier, more full look to the main portion of the tree? Also, when can I expect it to flower and bear fruit? I have a miniature orange tree under the same conditions, and it is thriving (except for no flowers and fruit until it's outside again this summer...)

Answer: Your tree is probably just reacting to the drier climate and lower light conditions indoors. I suspect it will recover and eventually produce new leaves. Since your orange tree is healthy, you obviously know how to care for citrus trees and are providing the best conditions possible. Just for drill, let's go through the basic requirements: Indoors, citrus trees need average warmth, freedom from drafts, ample water, and well draining soil. You may need to supplement natural light with fluorescent or gro-lites especially made for plants. Turn the light on for 12-14 hours each day and turn it off at night. Citrus trees need ample moisture, so water often enough to keep the soil moist but not soggy, and feed in the spring and summer months with a diluted liquid fertilizer, especially if the leaves are yellowish instead of glossy deep green. Watch out for scale, aphids and mites, and use insecticidal soap or light horticultural oil according to label instructions if they do show up.

Be sure to give your trees a gradual transition from indoors to outdoors, and vice versa, so they have time to adjust to the changes in the environment.

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