Ask a Question forum: Meyer Lemon Tree - Mass Leaf/Bloom Drop

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District of Columbia
theurbanlemon
Dec 24, 2018 10:30 AM CST
I've read through many of the previously posted questions, and I feel like I've been doing everything I can but I'm still having problems with my Meyer Lemon tree!

I bought a Meyer Lemon tree online three months ago, after what felt like extensive online research I decided to get a 3 yr old tree. She came looking very healthy and I planted her in a pot inside using citrus soil and citrus fertilizer from my local hardware store. Everything was going great, or so I thought! I found her a great sunny spot in my living room and she was full of leaves and seemed to be thriving! About a month ago she started showing DOZENS of blooms - probably nearly a hundred blooms, and again I thought things must be going well! I learned in my online research, I needed to pollinate the flowers with a brush, which I did every day. Soon after the blooms started opening up and I was pollinating them, the blooms started falling but so did the leaves!! Now it's been about a month of constant blooming and there are nearly no leaves or blooms left! I tried to be consistent with her watering making sure not to over water her, but there's a lot of conflicting information on the web about how much to water/fertilize during blooming - or if blooming is actually a sign of distress... I'm just looking for some help here to see if she's really in distress, or what else could be going on. I'd love some advice on how to revive her!

Also - when taking these photos I noticed a few small centipede looking bugs in the top 1/2" or so of the soil.... (she's always been an indoor tree so I find this alarming on a few levels.) This could obviously have something to do with the leaf/bloom drop but I did only see a few... so who knows.

Photo when she was looking good:
Thumb of 2018-12-24/theurbanlemon/8cecba

Photo now:
Thumb of 2018-12-24/theurbanlemon/397b1e

Mystery Bugs:
Thumb of 2018-12-24/theurbanlemon/8f77cf

Name: Sally
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sallyg
Dec 24, 2018 1:11 PM CST
directly planted in the blue pot? Makes it hard to know what is going on down in the root zone, and surely it must have drain holes or all bets are off.

All purchased soil? I would get the critters out, too skeevy for me but I don't think they are causing problems.

You have not seen yellowing before the leaf drop, and have not found spider webbing in the leaves? How about anything crusty on the branches. Mites and scale can be bad.

I would be very cautious with fertilizer on a small newly potted plant.

I think the bloom buds were forming at the nursery and not indicative of whether the plant was reacting to your care.

With all leaves gone, it will barely consume any water, so the soil will stay moist a long time.
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Name: Will Creed
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WillC
Dec 24, 2018 3:15 PM CST
It is very difficult to get Citrus trees to produce fruit when grown as indoor plants in northern climates. It is very hard to provide enough light unless you have a large south-facing window that is uncovered throughout the day and the tree is right in front of it.

Proper watering is always a key to success and hard to manage based on online advice. When plants are repotted, it makes proper watering much more difficult. The pot size, drain holes, soil used and the way it was repotted can all affect how it needs to be watered.

The critters were introduced with the soil that you used when you repotted. They are not the cause of the leaf drop problem, but they are indicative of a non-sterile soil that may have other issues, especially inadequate porosity that can easily cause overwatering.

The leaf loss is a sign of distress and that needs to be addressed if you want the tree to survive, let alone produce fruit.

Does the pot have drain holes? Describe what you did when you repotted it.

What has been your watering routine?
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Dec 24, 2018 6:53 PM CST
Fertilizing was a mistake but alone didn't cause the leaf drop. Citrus trees need fertilizer 3 time a year: early spring, late spring or early summer and mid-summer. As your little tree is in a pot, cut the fertilizer down to 1/3 to 1/2 the recommended strength.

Did the tree come bareroot? Or was it in a pot? The critters are centipedes; they won't harm the plant, they're just creepy. If the tree came planted, I suspect the centipedes came with the plant.

When you purchase trees through the mail, unless they come bareroot, immediate transplanting is not recommended. Riding around in a box for a week is stressful. Being taken out of the box and discovering you no longer live in the comfort of a nursery is stressful Transplanting is stressful. For a tree that isn't feeling real chipper, fertilizer is stressful. Citrus trees show their discomfort by shedding all their leaves.

But, with good care, proper light and proper watering, it will grow new leaves (as long as the stems are green and pliable). But I would take all the flowers off. Trying to produce fruit is also stressful, especially when the tree should be using that little reserve to grow new leaves.

The easy way to pollinate your lemon is to give it a shake. Or turn on a fan. You can successfully grow citrus indoors but they require 8 hrs of sun, heat and proper water. If it isn't getting enough sun or its not warm enough, cut back on the water. Don't let the soil dry out but don't keep it waterlogged either. If you put your finger an inch into the soil, and its still damp, don't water.

I hope you bought a dwarf variety as trying to keep a standard citrus indoors would be very difficult. Right now (along with removing all the flowers), I would cut all those long stems off to give your tree a better shape.
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Name: Carol
Santa Ana, ca
Sunset zone 22, USDA zone 10 A.
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ctcarol
Dec 24, 2018 7:21 PM CST
I could be wrong, but I think all Meyers are dwarfs.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Dec 25, 2018 2:45 PM CST
I will just try to keep that tree warm and with as much light access for now. I would stop the fertilizers at this time. It is visibly in distress, and fertilizers applied at the wrong time will just worsen the condition of the plant.

Patiently wait for Spring. The plant likes water, but do not overwater, your soil looks too dense for me, and with glazed containers, it holds moisture longer. I hope your container has drain holes to allow proper drainage of excess water and accumulated salts.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Dec 25, 2018 3:58 PM CST
Can you tell us where you bought your tree?

The thread "Tiny Centipede-like Worms in Houseplant Soil?" in Ask a Question forum
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Paula
NYC suburbs (Zone 6b)
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Turbosaurus
Dec 25, 2018 6:36 PM CST
Location location location,
One other thing to think about in DC - did your leaf drop correspond with your heat kicking on?

My father kept beautiful grape fruit trees in huge pots in a sun room- they always dropped their leaves when they came in for the winter. There is a lot to adjust to- hot days cool nights outdoors is now constant 70 degrees, humidity changes are drastic, as is watering - when it was outside you hit it with the hose until tons of water poured out the bottom- the leaves and stems got regular moisture through rain and hose watering - indoor watering is entirely different.

You got good advice. I would also stop the fertilizer.

Cut it back so it can invest its energies in fewer new branches (it will try at every node and that can't be successful this time of year in normal indoor conditions. Reduce the number of nodes, you reduce the effort, you reduce the surface area of leaves that respire water) and the advice I think is most important is pinch flowers. Winter in your region is not lemon season. Fruit trees have a season for fruiting. Force the plant to rest by withholding fertilizers and pinching off flowers before they bud. In the spring, let it go bananas.

Even in lemon country they're not getting lemons this time of year. Checking prices at the supermarket is a great way to gauge whether you should be worried
[Last edited by Turbosaurus - Dec 25, 2018 6:39 PM (+)]
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Name: Carol
Santa Ana, ca
Sunset zone 22, USDA zone 10 A.
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Orchids Region: California Plant Identifier
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ctcarol
Dec 25, 2018 7:06 PM CST
Paula, that last statement is not correct. I have lemon and lime, and both are blooming/setting fruit now. My lemon is not a Meyer, however. Citrus do bloom all winter in frost free zones.

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