Ask a Question forum: Meyer Lemons in the Last Frontier

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Name: Rob
(Zone 4b)
Rugosa
Sep 7, 2016 12:37 PM CST
Last year (in late summer, which at this latitude is the end of August) I picked up a vigorous Meyer Lemon tree. Armed with the page-long care instructions from the nursery, I kept it in its original pot, watering as the soil dried out but never letting it become waterlogged, and gave it plenty of light from a high-output light on a 10-hour timer. It flowered and fruited but never added any new foliage; I put this down to its greenhouse upbringing and the change in temps and light. It was vigorous enough to actually survive being knocked off its stand and out of the pot without losing any leaves or blossoms; I put it back in place, and things kept going normally.

But then...In about late March/early April, it just up and "died." (More on the quotes in a minute.) Leaves dropped, branches became deadwood, and it looked dead--except for the "trunk" and a few short stalks, and one lone flower that never fruited, but held on.

In Mid-May I pruned off all the dead material, and placed it outside where it got our typical 24-hour light (most of it direct sunshine) and a *lot* of rain--as in the soil being soaked to the point of being wet peat. I lightly fertilized it with watered-down citrus fertilizer (Jobe's) about every 3 weeks. The tree took off: It grew a round dozen new branches, with huge dark green leaves. It never bloomed or fruited, but I put that down to its reestablishing itself. So it never really died, but it sure isn't what it used to be in size.

Now that winter is approaching, I need advice on how to keep it alive and healthy all through the winter, without having to start over again. Thanks!
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Sep 7, 2016 12:55 PM CST
Hi Rob, Welcome! to NGA

My thoughts:

Re-pot it into something larger. My daughter grows dwarf citrus in pots; I think her smallest pots are 15 gallons. Use a potting medium that drains quickly. There are some specially formulated for citrus and if you read the packaging, its the same formula as is used for cactus and palms.

Remember to water in the wintertime.

Meyer Lemons are hardy to about 20 degrees. If you put it out too early, the new growth will freeze back and you may lose the whole tree.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Sep 7, 2016 1:23 PM CST
Meyer lemons love compost so if you can add some to your potting mix, that would be great. They do require fertilizer even in the winter and sometimes a yearly dose of iron chelate if the leaves start yellowing. While they can take some lower temps, they won't like it for a prolonged period of time.
Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Sep 7, 2016 2:03 PM CST
I agree with Daisyl. A couple things to add. It sounds like your growing it in the house. It needs to go through a dormancy of cold temps.to blossom and fruit well. A little frost is ok ! really better for fruit riping ! Yep ! They bloom in spring ! The grow lite in august messed up its cycle. When it was just about time for him to take a rest (dormancy). So put him outside for winter and protect him from long prolonged freezing with blanket or something. If its gonna be below 20 f.
Citrus are shallow rooted which means shallow more often watterings.
Seams like there was ????
Whats this 24 hr lite ? Do you live at the north pole ? I know everybody is just dieing to know . Welcome! Hurray! I tip my hat to you.


Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
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porkpal
Sep 7, 2016 2:23 PM CST
I don't think the Meyer Lemon can survive winters outside in zone 4.
Porkpal
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Sep 7, 2016 3:36 PM CST
Rob lives in Alaska: The Last Frontier.

In Alaska, the short days of winter are really short; Rob needs grow lights for his tree to survive. Citrus do need some chill to time ripen but I suspect -20* is a little too low unless he's making lemonsicles. Smiling
Name: Rob
(Zone 4b)
Rugosa
Sep 7, 2016 4:58 PM CST
Hi All-

Thanks for the suggestions so far, this is more feedback than the greenhouse gave me ;)

To Daisyl: You're right, it's really darn dark at my latitude (just above 62 North) in the winter, and while the zone may be listed as 4b it can and has been as cold as -55F for consecutive days in my location (at the foot of the mountains in a very windy glacial valley).

Also, I wasn't entirely accurate in how I set the tree up at first...Being August I still had 17+ hours of light each day, and the tree was inside in a south facing window. I had to rotate it about every 4-5 days or it would plaster itself to the glass Smiling The artificial light came into play in mid-October, when things are more dark than light. I also had the instructions from the greenhouse which advised me to keep it "moist" (what's that???) which is part of my confusion with the summer behavior--it's been almost buried in a peat bog-consistency soil for some time and seems to be thriving(?!). I was also told to not fertilize it except for maybe a light touch once or twice all winter, and with an almost religious fervor, to not, under *any* circumstances, re-pot it, because it needed to be rootbound and should be left in it's original pot for at a minimum the first 5 years I had it.

I misted it constantly--sprayed it twice a day until it was dripping wet, as our indoor humidities can drop as low as 5% in winter; it seemed happy with this Smiling I watered it on a more or less regular schedule, keeping it uniformly damp, not soaked but not letting it dry out between waterings either. Temperatures diffed between about 62 at night and 70 during the day.

Like I said before, everything was just humming along until it almost literally just up and fell over (mostly) dead. After it went back outside this spring I heavily watered it and fed it well, and in about a week I noticed a few tiny shiny green patches on the remaining living wood, which within a couple weeks began to sprout. There was still the remaining blossom, which by now had an embryonic pea-sized lemon on it, which I pinched off to let the tree direct all its energy to leafing out; soon that growth became a couple branches at least 6" long and a few shorter ones, all covered in huge and very dark green leaves (like the mature color of my username's foliage). Interestingly it reached this size and stopped growing for a couple months; it's only in the last few weeks I've seen a couple very tiny new leaves starting to form at the branch tips.

So there you have it...I'm probably leaving more details out, but that's the gist of how I got this far.

Thanks for all the help thus far, I really appreciate it!

Rob
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Sep 7, 2016 6:01 PM CST
What size pot did the nursery put it in? How big is the tree? Can you possibly attach a photo of the tree?

I'm not sure why it would suddenly decide to die back after managing to survive all winter. Citrus need citrus food a couple times a year - you can tell if they aren't getting enough because the leaves will turn yellowish. Citrus (usually) like to be moist but not soggy. I would worry about root rot if the soil stayed consistently soggy.

I found this article - maybe it will help.

http://garden.org/learn/articles/view/1294/
Name: Rob
(Zone 4b)
Rugosa
Sep 7, 2016 9:36 PM CST
Daisy-

I tried attaching a pic of the tree as of a few minutes ago, in our still over-12-hour daylight...Unfortunately the site blocked me as trying to post a link and spam-trapped me...

Regardless: In the photo you'll see that it's pretty wet; the leaves are heavily beaded with water and the soil is saturated, thanks to it being outside 24/7 still. I'll bring it in in another week or so depending on the weather, which this time of year varies between full-on Arizona sunshine and Calcutta monsoons, often cycling multiple times a day....Daytime temps are in the mid-60s, at night right at 50 unless it's *really* clear, when it might get down to 45 at the bottom.

As to your pot question, it's in a more-or-less standard fake terracotta plastic pot with an attached drip tray, 12" in diameter. It came that way from the vendor the greenhouse bought it from, which IIRC was in Florida. I have the tag that came with it somewhere, just not handy.

The earlier comment about citrus having shallow but broad roots makes me wonder if I should look for a larger diameter but shallower pot (like an azalea pot) and see if that helps in the winter. The biggest thing is I just truly have no clue how it went from the top of its health to nearly dead in about 2 weeks, only to rebound this far...It's weird, I'm used to plants here that are hardy beyond belief (please, do *not* get me started on the ultra-invasive "Giant Hogweed, the only plant I've ever considered subjecting to glyphosate...) so this is still all a bit of a mystery to me.

If you look closely you can see where the dead wood was pruned back, the tree is about 1/2 of its original size. I tried to be judicious in my cutting, not too much but not leaving too much dead wood, either. It looks healthy right now, but...Well, that's why I'm here :)

If I can figure out how to get the image uploaded I'll add it in my next post.

Thanks again for all your help!

Rob
[Last edited by Rugosa - Sep 7, 2016 9:37 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Sep 7, 2016 10:45 PM CST
I don't think citrus are shallow rooted. They do have surface feeder roots that can be damaged by hoeing weeds. Too much water will cause tree roots to spread out on the surface and not grow deep but that is when planted in the ground, not in a pot.

Even if you don't repot, get rid of the saucer. Put the pot on a solid surface with something under the pot edge to keep it from sitting directly on the ground. That will help the pot drain faster and also keep creepy crawlies from moving in.

Cut all the dead wood out of the tree.

All that new growth will be tender and very sensitive to cold damage. It sounds like your temperatures are good right now but I wouldn't leave your plant outdoors when the night time temps starting getting into the 30's.
Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
Sunset Zone 15
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Calif_Sue
Sep 7, 2016 10:49 PM CST

Plants Admin

You need to upload the photo from your computer using the upload an image button beneath each post, no links for new users, we've had too many spammers of late.
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Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Sep 8, 2016 11:18 AM CST
Citrus are shallow rooted. Requiring shallow more frequent waterings than a regular fruit tree. I'm gonna guess that it got water logged from rain ? If so. You need to figure out some way of keeping rain water out. Yes to re-potting ! To a pot that it could live in for several yrs.
Name: Rob
(Zone 4b)
Rugosa
Sep 8, 2016 12:18 PM CST
Calif_Sue said:You need to upload the photo from your computer using the upload an image button beneath each post, no links for new users, we've had too many spammers of late.


Sue- I did use the upload button, tried several times in fact...Every time I hit the 'preview' button I got the spam message...

Just FYI

Rob
Name: Rob
(Zone 4b)
Rugosa
Sep 8, 2016 12:25 PM CST
DaisyI said:I don't think citrus are shallow rooted. They do have surface feeder roots that can be damaged by hoeing weeds. Too much water will cause tree roots to spread out on the surface and not grow deep but that is when planted in the ground, not in a pot.

Even if you don't repot, get rid of the saucer. Put the pot on a solid surface with something under the pot edge to keep it from sitting directly on the ground. That will help the pot drain faster and also keep creepy crawlies from moving in.

Cut all the dead wood out of the tree.

All that new growth will be tender and very sensitive to cold damage. It sounds like your temperatures are good right now but I wouldn't leave your plant outdoors when the night time temps starting getting into the 30's.


Daisy- Thanks for all this, I really appreciate the help from you and everyone else!

All the deadwood is gone, cut as closely as I felt comfortable. Most of it went in the spring, but a few sticks remained and so they're gone.

I have a larger pot, about 16" that's glazed terracotta and has a huge drain hole. I'm intending to repot in that, with a good drainage underneath. I've heard suggestions of saucers filled with marbles/glass beads/marble chips/etc. to elevate the pot and let things breathe better; I may go that route as once it's indoors I'll have to keep the drips off the hardwood Smiling

I'm intending to bring it in for the season in another couple weeks, as right around the equinox is when temps usually begin their serious downhill slide.

Once I get the hang of the image upload I'll post what I've got thus far...

Thanks!

Rob
Name: Rob
(Zone 4b)
Rugosa
Sep 8, 2016 12:27 PM CST
Philipwonel said:Citrus are shallow rooted. Requiring shallow more frequent waterings than a regular fruit tree. I'm gonna guess that it got water logged from rain ? If so. You need to figure out some way of keeping rain water out. Yes to re-potting ! To a pot that it could live in for several yrs.


Oh yeah, rain we've got. I think another inch and a half came down yesterday...You can imagine what that translates into in terms of snow :)

R
Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
Sunset Zone 15
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Calif_Sue
Sep 8, 2016 8:24 PM CST

Plants Admin

We get a ton of daily new posts right here in this Ask A Forum and many attach images so not sure what is preventing ou to upload one. Try it without using the Preview, it that works there may be a glitch that needs fixing with the preview button.
The spam prevention is only blocking links to other sites, not blocking photos from your Photo folder on your computer.
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Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Sep 8, 2016 8:31 PM CST
Philipwonel said:Citrus are shallow rooted. Requiring shallow more frequent waterings than a regular fruit tree. I'm gonna guess that it got water logged from rain ? If so. You need to figure out some way of keeping rain water out. Yes to re-potting ! To a pot that it could live in for several yrs.


As I stated earlier, shallow roots and surface roots are only an issue when a tree is planted in the ground. This tree is in a pot.
Name: Rob
(Zone 4b)
Rugosa
Sep 8, 2016 11:13 PM CST
Trying a photo post again...If all goes well, here's the Meyer as of last night:


Thumb of 2016-09-09/Rugosa/9c20dd

Name: Rob
(Zone 4b)
Rugosa
Sep 8, 2016 11:18 PM CST
AHA! There we go...It's the preview that was giving me fits.

As mentioned before, after yesterday's rain the soil was yet again totally soaked, and you can see the large beads of water on the leaves. Looking closer the uppermost leaves have a few minor yellow mottled spots--I assume from the excess water--but the tree is otherwise quite vigorous, if a little small ;)

The new growth (which is too small to see) occurred after a dry spell that lasted about a week, so I'm guessing that while it's soaking wet it's not in dire straits--yet--but the drier conditions are letting it sprout further.

Please do note I don't normally keep my trees on the grill Smiling That was just a convenient spot for the pic :)

Rob
Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
Sunset Zone 15
Region: California Plant Database Moderator Roses Irises Clematis Garden Photography
Cottage Gardener Keeper of Poultry Hummingbirder Bee Lover Butterflies Birds
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Calif_Sue
Sep 8, 2016 11:26 PM CST

Plants Admin

Hurray! I'll let Dave know there may be a problem with that preview button.
My gardening Blog!
Hand sewn wares and vintage finds in my Etsy store. Summer Song Cottage

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