Ask a Question forum: Citrus tree losing leaves

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BethCrane
Jan 6, 2018 11:38 AM CST
Hello! I have a potted citrus, now more than 40 years old, that has traveled all over with me. It's survived scale, moves, and annual pruning, but this fall before I brought it back in it started dropping leaves and hasn't stopped, and it will soon be bare. It's always dropped a few leaves in the fall, but this is different, and new growth has ceased. I do have other plants growing in the pot (tradescantia pallida and marigold). I also haven't repotted it in several years; I really can't up-size it anymore. Any ideas are welcome!
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Jan 6, 2018 11:59 AM CST
Hi Beth -

Can you post a photo that shows the entire tree, including its pot? How far is it from the nearest window? What is your watering routine? Did you get it moved inside before temps dropped below freezing?
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)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Jan 6, 2018 7:56 PM CST
Hi Beth, Welcome!

Two thoughts:

1. You have to repot. The pot need not be bigger but you will have to prune the roots. This should be done annually: new soil, root pruning combined with top pruning to keep the tree small and healthy.

OR

2. The tree is nearing the end of its life. The average life expectancy for a citrus is about 50 years (although some live much longer). Trees in pots don't live as long as trees in the ground.

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
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
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dyzzypyxxy
Jan 6, 2018 10:36 PM CST
I agree with all of the above, especially if you could please show us a picture. One way to tell if the limbs are still alive is to scrape a tiny section of bark off a branch with your fingernail. If there is green tissue under the bark, the branch is still alive.

One more thing I'd like to add is that I think it's a really bad idea to grow any other plants in the pot with your citrus tree. Citrus have very fine feeder roots near the soil surface. Other plants growing around the tree will certainly be robbing it of nutrients and water. Here in FL where everybody seems to have a citrus tree, the most common mistake is to let weeds, flowers or lawn grass grow in the root zone of a citrus tree. They simply aren't built to compete with other surface plants.

As Daisy said, it really is necessary to re-pot even if you just pull it out of its present pot, prune the roots, refresh the soil, clean the pot and then put it back in the same pot. You will need to prune the top growth of the tree proportionately to how much root you remove, as well. The professional gardeners at Versailles keep orange trees growing in their famous Orangerie by doing this at least every second year.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Jan 7, 2018 9:54 AM CST
Growing potted Citrus (and most other plants) in warm climates, greenhouses, nurseries or orangeries is very different from growing them in pots in northern climates.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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