The Q&A Archives: Falling Leaves

Question: I was given a Monrovia Meyer Improved Lemon Tree in a pot for Christmas. The leaves are falling off. I have been watering about every 3 days using about 2 cups of water. I live in Zone 5 and have kept the tree in the warm house - 65-75 degrees. What can I do to stop the leaves from falling?

Answer: In your gardening region, citrus trees usually spend the summer outdoors and the winter indoors. When a tree is moved, or when you change location (such as from a greenhouse into your home), citrus trees 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 will also want to make sure your trees are not in a draft or near a heat register. It's hard to make an absolute suggestion as to how much water to apply. Two cups of water every three days may or may not be enough. Instead of applying an specific amount of water on a specific schedule, try testing the soil moisture content by digging your finger into the soil. If the soil is moist two inches below the surface, you won't need to water. If the soil seems dry, apply enough water to thoroughly saturate the soil and freely flow out of the drainage holes. Then wait 5-7 days and check the soil moisture again by sticking your finger into the soil. After a while you'll be able to judge when your tree needs water by simply looking at the top of the soil.

Don't give up on your tree; it will eventually adjust and begin growing new leaves!

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