The Q&A Archives: Indoor Citrus Trees

Question: I have several of Monrovia citrus trees in container pots.
Before I brought them into the house for the fall I sprayed them a couple of times with an insect soap I had purchased from a local Monrovia dealer ( Telly's in Troy, Mi.).
I do all that I can to keep them in good health.
On my orange tree I have a problem with this pest which I can only discribe as white/fuzzy.
It was suggested that I use part water/ part alcohol in a spray bottle if the problem continues.
So I did, Did I make a mistake?
Could this same pest be causing the leaves to suddenly drop?
I'm talking about green and healthy looking leaves.
On my Lime tree, the lime grew to about a pea size and all fell off.
On my lemon tree's, The leaves where turning yellow and falling.
It was suggested that I use epson salt a couple of times when I water them.
I need all the help I can get.
Also, I couldn't wait for a couple of the lemons to turn yellow, and they where great.

Answer: It sounds as though there are several things going on with your citrus trees but I think they can all be corrected. First of all, when you move a tree indoors after they've spent the summer outdoors, they will go through a stressful adjustment period. Light levels are lower indoors and temperatures and humidity are different, too. Leaf drop is normal during adjustment periods. What you can do to help is to provide as much bright light as possible, water often enough to keep the soil moist but not soggy wet, and mist the leaves daily to compensate for the dry indoor air. You'll also want to make sure your trees are not in a draft or near a heat register.

The fuzzy things you see are probably mealy bugs or cottony scales. Either can be controlled by dabbing with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. This will dry out their crusty outer shells and essentially kill them off. The Insecticidal Soap you used can be effective against these pests because the fatty acids will either coat them enough to suffocate them, or will break down their outer shells and they will die. I find that while dabbing each pest is labor intensive, it is also quite effective.

Citrus trees need a regular source of water while they are developing fruit - a wet period followed by a dry one will cause the fruit to drop. Plant immaturity and lack of pollination will also cause the fruit to abort.

Hope this information helps you understand what your trees are going through. Just keep them well watered and warm and they should replace the dropped leaves and may even flower and set fruit while indoors.

Best wishes with your trees!

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