Ask a Question forum: [SOS] My lemon tree is a bit miserable (pic)

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Mar 20, 2017 6:54 PM CST
Hello all! Newbie here.

So I have this lemon tree in a pot at my work place since autumn 2015. I placed it on the window sill so I could get plenty of sunlight. It began quite healthy, and started flowering, and was eventually bearing fruit. The soil it was not ideal as it didn't hold water well at all. I used to water it once a day and used all purpose plant food as directed by the manufacturer.

Some time in May in 2016, it began to stop growing, and leaves started falling off. it was peculiar as the leaves weren't dry, but had lighter patches on them. They also appeared to curl. As I am very inexperienced (and impatient), I started to increase the water and plant food I added. There was no positive feedback, and i was told that i could damage the plant by 'drowning' it. I returned to the old routine, and slowly the plant continued to degrade: no new leaves grew to replace the fallen; the lemons yellowed very prematurely and shrivelled up; and now the leaves are going dry despite my daily watering. I layered some soil from the flower garden in our court yard on top of the existing soil in my lemon tree pot. But it didn't seem to have done much to the health of the tree...

Can this tree be saved? Please advice me on what to do!
Thumb of 2017-03-21/jeffery7466/be65cb

Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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Mar 20, 2017 7:08 PM CST
I think there is still hope for it. Remove for now the more dried out leaves, and the leftover fruit, so the plant can concentrate on its roots and possible new growth. The branches still looks green, and it seems the stem is still looking okay too, so there is hope for that.

I would not apply fertilizer for now, just give it watering to gently revive it. And be patient. Don't know where you are located, ideally they are happiest being grown outdoors in full sun.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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Mar 20, 2017 7:21 PM CST
It could be that the soil is no longer capable of holding moisture. When you water, does the pot get noticably heavier? If not, its time to repot. Use something like Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm and Citrus soil.

Tarev is right about the fertilizer. Never fertilize a plant that is in distress. And when you do start feeding your lemon tree again, use a fertilizer especially formulated for citrus trees.
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Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
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Mar 21, 2017 5:41 AM CST
It can recover; I have had one lose all leaves over winter and recover fine when it went back outside for summer.
If you repot, take note of the root zone- do you find it wetter or drier than you expect? You can sometimes be fooled and not know what is going on down there. I can't imagine watering every day- either you were giving tiny amounts, or it might have run right around the rootball and leaked out the bottom, making you think the soil was already wet when actually it's dry in the center.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)

Mar 21, 2017 4:04 PM CST
Thank you so much for all your quick replies! Thank You!

So I've taken all the droopy and dry leaves off, and also all the 'lemons'. I've never really weighed the pot after watering, I just observe how much water leaks through the bottom. Unfortunately there isn't a gardening centre nearby, so I will use the soil from the garden I think (Its more clumpy, darker, and seems to hold moisture better).

I'll take note of the root ball :)

Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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Mar 21, 2017 4:31 PM CST
Nope, Jeffery, you can't use garden soil for a plant in a pot. It will compact and dry out and not allow the roots to have either enough air or water. You must use some kind of potting soil, with perlite and other organic components that are wettable, but don't get too compacted.

The important thing to me, as others have said above, is that you need to slip the plant out of the pot and have a look at the root ball. Take some pictures and post here if you want lots of opinions, but it does seem to me that your plant wasn't getting enough water, so the dried out root ball is what I think you will find. The old potting soil gets to a point that it doesn't absorb water, becomes like a brick and then you pour water in, and it goes straight through the pot.

Short term, until you can get some real potting soil, you can gently crush up the existing root ball,to loosen the packed soil, and then put it back into the pot, and soak the whole root ball in the sink in lukewarm water for an hour or two. I'll bet you notice that the plant is a lot heavier after doing this, and that the leaves will perk up fairly quickly too.

If there isn't a garden center close enough (Lowes? Home Depot? or even somewhere like Tractor Supply, Ace Hardware or a feed store will have potting soil) you can mail order it. You might want to order a new pot at the same time.

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
Mar 21, 2017 8:12 PM CST
Even some grocery stores (here) sell potting mix for a while in spring
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)

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