The Q&A Archives: Yellowing Of Leaves On Dwarf Fruit Trees, Orange, Grapefruit, Lime And Lemon

Question: I have four dwarf fruit trees, lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit. With the exception of yellowing of leaves the trees seem to be in good health.

Answer: Yellow leaves are common and can be caused by many things including lack of nitrogen, insufficient light, water-logged soil (plant roots need oxygen to thrive), dry soil, or iron deficiency. If the older bottom leaves are yellow, but new growth is green, it's usually a lack of nitrogen. If new leaves are yellow, with green veins, it's usually a lack of iron. (Lack of nitrogen is a more common problem than lack of iron.) Soil should be kept moderately moist (but not wet). Finally, transplant shock can contribute to yellowing. If new growth shows up as green, that might be the problem. Try to isolate each of these possibilities one at a time to determine the problem.

Citrus are heavy nitrogen feeders and it is recommended to feed them three times per year, with one-third of their total annual nitrogen requirement in each feeding. Iron chlorosis is a problem in the desert. Overwatering can promote root iron chlorosis. Chlorosis is recognized by new leaves that are yellow, while the veins remain green. If the condition is severe, the entire leaf may be yellow. Although iron may be present in the soil, it is not always in a form that plants can use. Overly wet soils are depleted of oxygen. (As water fills in the minute spaces between soil particles, air moves out.) Plant roots need oxygen to absorb iron in the soil. To help prevent chlorosis, always water slowly, deeply and infrequently. Soil with a high pH (alkalinity) also inhibits iron absorption. If you are using correct irrigation methods and symptoms are still present, apply iron chelates or ferrous sulphate to the soil. Both are readily absorbed by a plant?s roots. Finally, the book "Desert Landscaping for Beginners," 0-9651987-3-1, Arizona Master Gardener Press, has an excellent chapter on citurs care for the low desert, including fertilizer and watering charts for different aged trees. I hope this information helps!

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