The Q&A Archives: Yellowing Leaves on Orange Tree

Question: I have a Navel Orange tree that was planted approximately one year ago. The soil is heavy clay and does not appear that it was amended very well. It flowered quite well and there is new growth. But, the leaves appear to be yellowing and curling up on themselves. And the roots are starting to grow out of the ground. If it a nutrient issue, what fertilizer would you recommend? If it is a soil issue, how do you amend the soild while the tree is already in the ground? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Answer: A tree with yellow or cupped leaves, or leaves that don't look perky AFTER watering can indicate excessive watering and soggy roots. Water less frequently.

Citrus trees are famous for tolerating a wide variety of soils, including clay. However, good drainage is essential, as citrus trees can't survive standing water for long. To test your drainage, dig a hole 30" deep where you would like to place the tree. Fill with water to saturate the soil. The next day refill it with water. Your drainage is OK if the water level drops 2" in two hours. If the water does not drain, plant your tree in a raised bed or transplant to another spot; dig a deeper hole and then amend the soil as described in the following paragraph.

Soils rich in humus are best. For heavy or poor soils, we recommend digging a large hole and filling it back in, half with the best of the original soil, and half with a good-quality amendment mix. Plant the root ball high to allow it room to settle over time. (The upper roots can be slightly visible.)

Since citrus trees are heavy nitrogen feeders, make sure there is more nitrogen (N) than phosphorous (P) or potassium (K). Use at least a 2-1-1 ratio. Also important are trace minerals like iron, zinc, and manganese, so make sure those are included as well. Many all-purpose products will work, but specially formulated fertilizers for citrus are best. Apply in the amounts and with the frequency recommended on the ferilizer package.

Best wishes with your orange tree!

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