Ask a Question forum: Caring for lemon tree during winter

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Peterborough
Callumbo20
Dec 21, 2017 12:42 PM CST
Hello all. I'm new here. I have a lemon tree around 70cm tall, at the moment, I'm having to keep it inside because we're going through the start of a cold winter. At the moment, I have some small lemons growing, but I'm loosing lots of leaves. I feed it once a month with citrus food, but I'm unsure how to look after it properly. Being winter, we don't get much sun, so it's basically in my bedroom with my desk lamp pointing towards it. The bulbs don't really give off heat, I'm just using it for the light. I've ordered a few oven bulbs for the heat, but I have a feeling I'll need some different stuff. I'm from the UK. Any infomation would be great. Thanks. :)
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Dec 21, 2017 1:44 PM CST
Welcome!

Stop fertilizing and find a cool place for your lemon to spend the winter. The heat of your indoor living space is too much for a tree that thinks its winter. Lots of light and cool temps.
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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Peterborough
Callumbo20
Dec 21, 2017 2:03 PM CST
DaisyI said: Welcome!

Stop fertilizing and find a cool place for your lemon to spend the winter. The heat of your indoor living space is too much for a tree that thinks its winter. Lots of light and cool temps.


A cool place? A little more pacific?
Name: Carol
Santa Ana, ca
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ctcarol
Dec 21, 2017 2:19 PM CST
Most lemons will take temps down to (but not) freezing, but they do need lots of light.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Dec 21, 2017 3:30 PM CST
Even really good artificial plant light will not be enough to prevent further leaf loss and to help your lemon tree thrive. In general, Citruses are not great indoor plants and when indoors they really need to be close to a very sunny window.

Fertilizer is for plants that are healthy, growing vigorously and using lots or nutrients. You are at risk of damaging the roots of yours by over fertilizing.
Will Creed
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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
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Shadegardener
Dec 21, 2017 4:51 PM CST
Callum - sadly, my lemons always lose leaves when I bring them indoors for the winter. All I can do is keep them somewhat warm and maximize light the best I can. I have tiny lemons on my tree as well so I do water it but maybe not as much.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Peterborough
Callumbo20
Dec 21, 2017 4:56 PM CST
WillC said:Even really good artificial plant light will not be enough to prevent further leaf loss and to help your lemon tree thrive. In general, Citruses are not great indoor plants and when indoors they really need to be close to a very sunny window.

Fertilizer is for plants that are healthy, growing vigorously and using lots or nutrients. You are at risk of damaging the roots of yours by over fertilizing.


What do you mean by 'fertilizing'?
Name: Will Creed
NYC
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WillC
Dec 21, 2017 5:59 PM CST
You wrote, " I feed it once a month with citrus food," Feeding and fertilizing are the same thing. It does not need "citrus food" at this time.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Dec 21, 2017 7:10 PM CST
By cool place, I mean not over (or under) a heat vent. As the tree acclimates to its new indoor conditions, it will stop losing leaves. The fruit probably will continue to drop, though.

To recap: Bright sunny window away from heat vents. Evenly moist (but not wet) potting soil. No plant food until about April or May. If/when it starts growing new leaves, then you can feed it some 1/2 strength Citrus food.
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

Webmaster: osnnv.org
Peterborough
Callumbo20
Dec 22, 2017 4:14 AM CST
DaisyI said:By cool place, I mean not over (or under) a heat vent. As the tree acclimates to its new indoor conditions, it will stop losing leaves. The fruit probably will continue to drop, though.

To recap: Bright sunny window away from heat vents. Evenly moist (but not wet) potting soil. No plant food until about April or May. If/when it starts growing new leaves, then you can feed it some 1/2 strength Citrus food.



I was given some winter food, do I just stop using it? I don't have a sunny spot because it's not very sunny during the winter!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Dec 22, 2017 1:19 PM CST
Don't use it.
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: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
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dyzzypyxxy
Dec 22, 2017 1:55 PM CST
Better light, less water and cooler temperatures are what that plant needs now. To give your lemon tree better light, see if you can buy a Grow-light bulb to put into your desk lamp. Then you will need to have it quite close to the plant, and leave it on for at least 10 hours per day through the winter. (that's about how long the daylight lasts down here in Florida where lemons grow outside)

Cool temperatures would be mostly in the 60's indoors at night and not too much warmer in the daytime. These plants still do like to have a "winter" season and go somewhat dormant.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Peterborough
Callumbo20
Dec 22, 2017 1:57 PM CST
I've moved it to a place which gets the most sunlight... although we don't get much sun during winter.... I'll have to see how it goes
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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porkpal
Dec 22, 2017 9:59 PM CST
Good luck!
Porkpal
Name: Sue
SF Bay Area, CA (Zone 9b)
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Zuni
Dec 22, 2017 11:39 PM CST
I live in citrus land. It's December, and they all have ripe fruit on them. Outside. Citrus produce fruit in winter.

So, the idea that citrus can't take cold (within reason) or need to be coddled in winter, is incorrect - as long as we're talking about being in the same hemisphere.

I have never had an indoor citrus plant. But, I walk my dog every day, and have been pilfering fresh oranges and lemons that are ripe on the trees of my neighbors, this week.

So, I think some more research is in order on how to grow citrus indoors.

I absolutely agree about providing better light. Citrus like sunshine and thrive in full sun. So, that's a no-brainer. It needs good light, and that can be provided easily with a full-spectrum LED lightbulb, or a daylight fluorescent bulb.

And, since the plant is in the season where it is creating fruit, then I absolutely believe it does need fertilizer. Whenever a plant is flowering or fruiting, it usually needs extra fertilizer. So, I suggest you look at the fertilizer instructions and see what it says. My guess is it will tell you when to fertilize - as in, when it's in fruit, or not when it's in fruit, etc. Trust the directions.

Make sure it has enough water. Plants generally need more water when they are producing fruit or blooming, etc. Not soggy, but moist.

Kinda like pregnant ladies need more vitamins, etc. Plants that are not only trying to survive, but to produce fruit, need more energy, light, food, etc.

At least, that's what I have learned through researching how plants work.

I can't link to outside sources, since I'm new here, but I suggest you do an internet search for "citrus growing indoors" or something like that.

But, I think sometimes we forget to use simple logic. I like to think - where does this plant grow naturally? What is the weather like? What kind of soil does it probably have? How much sun does it have? Would it's roots normally be stunted because it grows in rocky soil, or would it normally have free reign to spread it's roots like crazy, etc.

Sometimes we overthink things, is my point.

So, from someone who is walking around in December, where citrus fruits are literally falling ripe off of the trees outside, I can tell you that our daytime temps are running in the 60's (F) and we're down into the 30's (F) at night right now. Most days are sunny, but cool. Not much rain right now. Enough to keep the soil from completely getting parched, and it's staying cool enough that the soil doesn't dry out completely. So, there are your natural conditions.

My advice is - up the lighting, trust your citrus fertilizer instructions on the bag. Water enough to keep it moist, but not more than that. Don't keep the room too warm.

Since you have fruits on the tree, though, you can't be doing things horribly wrong. Sounds like you just need to do some minor tweaking - mainly light, me thinks.
[Last edited by Zuni - Dec 22, 2017 11:43 PM (+)]
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
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WillC
Dec 23, 2017 7:17 AM CST
Zuni - No one has suggested that Citrus cannot manage cool/cold temps. However, Citrus will not survive outdoors in winter in many parts of the northern hemisphere. Indeed, most parts of the US have sub freezing temps in winter. That is why they are moved indoors. Lots of folks here are experienced with and have successfully grown citrus indoors and have shared their advice here. Perhaps you will have some helpful advice for those folks who live in warmer climates where they can grow their citrus trees outdoors all year long.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
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Name: Christine
Saugerties, NY zone 5a
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Christine
Dec 23, 2017 7:58 AM CST
I've been growing a grapefruit tree from pits for 5 years now, I know I will never see fruit but what I can tell you is this, she spends the Spring & Summer out in full sun, and at the first sign of a hard frost she comes into my living, she's kept by a north facing window away from the heat vents, I water her once a week. I use a chop stick to check for dryness/wetness before I water. I feed her 2x a month in the Spring & Summer months, I hope this helps you a little. Here's a picture from the summer of 2016
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Name: Anna Z.
Monroe, WI
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AnnaZ
Dec 23, 2017 8:04 AM CST
My lemon tree is not very big, but it has several ginormous lemons on it. Yes, I have a greenhouse, so that changes the rules for me. I'll have to try and get a picture of it. The lemons are half thick rind, 3/8ths seeds, and 1/8th juice. LOL
Name: Sue
SF Bay Area, CA (Zone 9b)
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Zuni
Dec 23, 2017 10:49 PM CST
WillC said:Zuni - No one has suggested that Citrus cannot manage cool/cold temps. However, Citrus will not survive outdoors in winter in many parts of the northern hemisphere. Indeed, most parts of the US have sub freezing temps in winter. That is why they are moved indoors. Lots of folks here are experienced with and have successfully grown citrus indoors and have shared their advice here. Perhaps you will have some helpful advice for those folks who live in warmer climates where they can grow their citrus trees outdoors all year long.


I must not have been clear. I do tend to be long-winded, so my point may have been lost.

I was attempting to describe the natural outdoor environment that citrus thrive in - so that someone can attempt to replicate that indoors. Perhaps I misread the post where I thought it said the citrus tree should be kept warm.

Since they naturally bear fruit in winter, then keeping it too warm probably wouldn't work too well.

Of course, that does not mean to freeze it to death. I'm sorry if you read that in my post. I must be getting worse at explaining myself in my old age.

But, isn't it imperative for someone to understand what a plant needs, in order to successfully grow it indoors? And wouldn't that include understanding it's natural habitat?

That's my approach to gardening or growing houseplants, anyway, from what I've been taught. Understand the natural habitat, and then determine how - or even if - you can provide that so the plant can thrive somewhere else.
[Last edited by Zuni - Dec 23, 2017 10:59 PM (+)]
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