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Growing Meyer Lemons

Meyer lemon

(Citrus × meyeri)

This tree is believed to be a hybrid of a lemon and a mandarin orange

 

Meyer Lemon Overview:

  • Delicious fruit from a prolific tree.

 

Meyer Lemon Fruit:

 

Meyer lemon fruit appearance:   

  • The Meyer lemon is about the size of a typical lemon (2-3 inches long).  However, the fruit tends to be a bit rounder than a typical lemon and the skin is smoother.
  • I have noticed that the skin tends to be paler in color than the average lemon, especially if the fruit develops in direct sun light.
  • Interestingly, I have also read that the fruit varies greatly in appearance depending on where it is grown.
  • The flesh should be yellow when ripe.
Meyer lemon size and look

Meyer lemon size

Meyer lemon fruit taste: 

  • This is the gourmet of lemons.
  • The taste is distinct and somewhat floral but still close to a typical lemon in flavor.
  • I have found that the Meyer lemon has much less acid and is sweeter than typical lemons.
  • The fruit is rather seedy but very juicy.
  • Because of the tender peels, the fruit doesn’t transport well.  Therefore t is often difficult to find Meyer lemons in stores.  This is just another reason to grow a Meyer lemon tree at home.
  • This by the way ties into some of my fundamental philosophies of home gardening;
    • First:
      • grow what you like
      • grow what does well in your area
      • grow what is expensive
      • and grow what is hard to find elsewhere
Bowel of Meyer Lemons

Bowel of Meyer Lemons, yum!

Fruit season:  

  • I have four Meyer lemon trees in my back yard.
    • Two of them are on the same fruiting schedule and have ripe fruit now (February/March).
    • The other two trees seem to fruit whenever they want.
    • Interestingly, all of the trees are blooming now.
  • The tree will give fruit all year long (ever bearing).  However, most of the crop ripens in the winter.  
  • In my experience, I have also noticed that they tend toward alternate bearing (ie it produces a heavy crop every other year), which I have not read about elsewhere.
Ripe Meyer lemon and flower buds

Ripe Meyer lemon and flower buds

When to pick Meyer lemon?

  • Utilizing the fruit color alone can be deceiving when trying to figure out when to pick your ripe Meyer lemons.
  • Although the fruit is often yellow when ripe… this is not always the case and weather changes can impact the color.
  • Most importantly, the fruit shouldgive somewhat to pressure when squeezed.  This is especially important to keep in mind if the weather is unseasonably cool or warm which can cause citrus fruit to color-up prematurely and look ripe before they actually are ready.
  • As a side, I have also noticed that some Meyer lemons may get rounder when they are ripe.
  • Some have said that the skin will develop slight orange tint when the fruit is ripe, but this is not my experience.
  • If the Meyer lemon flesh looks green or green-tinged when you open up the fruit, then the fruit may have been picked too early.
  • For more information about the best signs of a ripe Meyer Lemon, check out my article titled, Why are my lemons not turning yellow?
Ripe and unripe Meyer lemons

Ripe and unripe Meyer lemons

Unripe Meyer lemon at top and ripe at the bottom

Unripe Meyer lemon at top and ripe at the bottom

 

Growing Meyer Lemon Tree:

 

Meyer lemon tree fertilization:

  • I try to fertilize all of my citrus from late winter to mid-summer.
    • The rational is that I don’t want to encourage young leaf growth in the winter because of the risk of cold damage to the susceptible young leaves.
    • On the other end, I don’t want to encourage too much young growth during leaf miner season which starts around July.
  • I generally use a balanced fertilizer such as 15-15-15 and apply it in 4 doses during the fertilization season described above.
  • I also give a single dose of micronutrients in the spring.
  • Lately I have been adding in all kinds of other goodies such as mushroom compost, grow mulch, worm castings, etc. I am getting the sense that citrus like the variety.

 

Ripening Meyer lemon fruit and flower buds

Ripening Meyer lemon fruit and flower buds

Meyer lemon growing temperature:

  • Meyer lemon trees tend to be much more cold hearty than other lemons or limes.
  • As it turns out, this tree also has greater heat tolerance than most citrus too.
  • For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”

 

Meyer lemon tree soil: 

  • All citrus need well draining soil.
  • Although many will say that citrus can be planted in sand, I have found they do a lot better if you give them a rich-organic growing environment.  See my planting article for my general planting recommendations for all my Southern California fruit trees.

 

Landscaping use:

  • Even standard sized Meyer lemon trees are on the small size and tend to be bushy.
  • The Meyer lemon tree is said to be very adaptable to growing in pots, more so than other citrus. However, my Meyer lemon trees were much happier after I planted them in the ground.
  • The tree has a few small-to-medium sized thorns.
  • Meyer lemons have fragrant purple tinted white flowers.
Meyer lemon flowers

Meyer lemon flowers

Very prolific Meyer lemon

Very prolific and bushy Meyer lemon

Water:

  • I tend to err on the side of over-watering my newly planted trees for the first few months. I then cut back on the water and watch the trees closely for the next year.
  • When established, my citrus trees get watered deeply in the hotter months about 2x a week.

 

Sun:

  • Full

 

Meyer lemon tree propagation:

  • I have read that you can actually grow Meyer lemons directly from cuttings.  However, I have not tried that yet.
  • However, like most citrus, Meyer lemons are typically grafted on to rootstock.
  • I have recently also read that a tree can be successfully grown from seed which usually begins fruiting in four years. However, I don’t know how true to seed the fruit would be and I have not tried this either.

 

Pollination:

  • Bees

 

Meyer lemon tree pests:

  • The Meyer lemon tree is susceptible to the usual suspects such as citrus leaf miner, and aphids.
  • See my earlier article for how to deal with citrus leaf miner.
  • Horticulture oil spray alone works very well on aphids.  However, the leaf miner spray mix that I have outlined seems to do a better job on those darn aphids.
  • Tangle foot is an awesome bonus prevention treatment for all kinds of plant bugs.  Those sap suckers rarely have a chance with the one-two combo of spray and tangle foot.  The major bonus with this method is no toxic systemic pesticides.
  • Despite what I have read elsewhere, gophers do eat citrus roots.  They can and will kill your tree. Here’s an easy way to make a protective gopher cage.
  • I have recently noticed dark little holes on the underside of some lemons that ripen while resting on the ground (see picture below).  Considering the bushy growth of the Meyer Lemon tree, fruit resting on the ground happens quite a bit. I am not sure what is burrowing into the fruit from below, but whatever it is doesn’t seem to go very far into the fruit.  This problem only happens to a few of the fruit touching the ground.  The fruit that hangs higher on the plant is not effected.  Therefore if you can keep the fruit from touching the ground, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.
Black hole in the Meyer Lemon

Black hole in the Meyer Lemon

UPDATE 2/27/14:

One of our concerned website readers is asking for help. He knows his Meyer Lemon tree is ill but he is not sure why. He has just sent me some pictures of his sick Meyer lemon tree (see pictures below).  

Objective look:

In the pictures, I see diffusely yellow leaves. In the closeup images the yellowing is more severe away from the veins.  There is browning of some of the ends of the leaves.  There are also several defoliated branches.

Assessment:

The pattern of leaf and branch disease brings up several possibilities.

Nitrogen deficiency: 

Nitrogen deficiency is the leading cause of pale foliage.  This may be the result of a true deficiency of nitrogen (not enough fertilizer), adverse soil conditions (too damp), or unhealthy roots (for various reasons).  This could be part of the problem.

Sodium toxicity:

(high overall salinity and/or  excess of either sodium or chlorine):

Yellowing of leaves in a pattern where there is more green along the veins is seen in several diseases including sodium toxicity.  However, brown or burnt leaf tips is fairly typical of Sodium toxicity. Premature foliage drop can also be due to excess sodium.

Boron toxicity: 

Boron toxicity can do all the things mentioned above for Sodium toxicity, but the pattern that I have seen is a bit different (the demarcation between green and yellow on the leaves is more pronounced).

Overall:

This may represent a mixed picture of soil related problems.

Plan:

I would suggest doing a soil test.

If anyone else has additional ideas please let us know in the comments section below. 

Thanks!

Sick Meyer Lemon picture from a website reader.

Sick Meyer Lemon picture from one of our website readers.

Sick Meyer Lemon picture from a website reader.

Sick Meyer Lemon picture from the same reader (closer image).

Sick Meyer Lemon

Sick Meyer Lemon picture from the same reader (close up image)

 

Meyer Lemon Use:

Meyer lemon food use:

  • The best lemonade I have ever had was made from Meyer Lemons.  3/12/14 update:  See my follow up post for the best Meyer lemon- lemonade recipe.
  • The Meyer lemon peel is lacking the rich oils of a typical lemon and therefore gives you a much more mild effect.
  • Meyer lemon-cardamom ice cream recipe from the LA Times… Ill have to try this.

 

Meyer Lemon Miscellaneous:

  • The Meyer lemon tree was introduced into the United States by agricultural explorer, Frank N. Meyer (thus the name of the tree).
  • Apparently, Mr. Meyer found the tree growing as an ornamental pot-plant near Peking, China, in 1908.
  • The original Meyer lemons were silent carriers of the tristeza virus.  This tristeza virus killed lots of other citrus in the vicinity.  The Improved Meyer lemon trees which were introduced around 1950 are free of that virus and are now the only ones you can buy.
Ripe Meyer lemons ready to pick

Ripe Meyer lemons ready to pick

AKA (Also Known As):

  • Improved Meyer lemon (see directly above)

 

 

 

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.

136 comments

  1. Thanks Tom for your excellent presentation of my sick Meyer Lemons. Your diagnosis is excellent but I also await suggestions from your other readers. BTW, I have fed the tree with an abundant supply of Triple Sixteen Fertilizer and Ammonia Sulphate to combat the yellowing/greening of the leaves. I have also given it lots of water, but the bottom line is that the fruit is bright yellow on the outside indicating ripeness but the flesh is green on the inside indicating raw/too early. Quite a puzzle. Thanks a million for your help in diagnosing the problem.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      No problem Sateesh.
      Perhaps the rain we had will also help.
      Please keep us posted.
      Best,
      Tom

      • Hi Tom, Thought I’d give you an update on my sick Meyer lemon tree. Maybe it was the downpour we had over the past month; maybe it was the huge amounts of Nitrogen in Triple Sixteen that I have been feeding it; maybe it was just Springtime. The Meyer lemon is putting out tons of healthy blooms which are being pollinated by bees and hummingbirds. At this rate, I think I will get several bushels of fruit. But the main problem is the green insides(raw) and bitter taste. So I will have to be patient and wait till June/July when they are fully ripe to taste whether they are healthy again. Keep you posted. Thanks again for all your help and advice. Best regards, Sateesh

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          That’s great news Sateesh!
          It sounds like you are bringing life back to your tree.

          Another consideration is to give a dose of citrus micronutrients (these important components are not usually found in your typical fertilizer).
          I do this every spring, and all of the citrus seem to really appreciate it.

          I am looking forward to hearing more about your success.
          Congrats!
          Tom

      • My lemon tree looks good but the lemons looks tan brown scaly and unhealthy, l fertelize them every year.

    • Hi Sateesh L, how is this tree doing now? I have just stumbled on this website. Your case is intriguing. From the pics I would think it had the battle. You had reported that after a heavy rain it perked up. I hope it recovered, it looked large. Have you slowed down on the fertilizer infusion? You really should grow organic. My diagnosis would require more information about soil type and watering habits. I’m recently retired professional gardener/ Lndsp contractor. So,if you’d care to tell me. I’m curious. and go organic

  2. Hi Tom,

    I live in northern Arizona, and have purchased a Meyer Lemon tree which I planted in a huge pot. The first year it produced great looking lemons that had hardly any flavor. This year I have tons of flowering blooms all over my tree and am hoping there is something I can do to give the lemons more flavor or am I stuck with a beautiful lemon tree with no flavor Meyer Lemons? I have searched the web far and wide and have not been able to find any information on this.
    Thanks,
    Melissa

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Melissa
      Sorry to hear about your Meyer lemons.
      Do you happen to have some pictures of the tree and/or close up pictures of the leaves?
      Thanks,
      Tom

      • Tom,

        I just took these so hopefully this will help . . .

        http://www.pinterest.com/pin/530087818613405922/
        http://www.pinterest.com/pin/530087818613405958/

        Thanks for your help,
        Melissa

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Melissa
          Thanks for the photos, they are perfect.

          It looks like you have done an awesome job staking your tree.
          The amount of flowers on the branches is also a great sign.
          I dont see an obvious nutrient deficiency from the appearance of the leaves.

          However, the overall number of leaves is a bit sparse, and the tree looks a bit leggy.

          The sparse leaves could be from several things but the top 3 possibilities that I would consider would be:
          1. Not enough direct sunlight.
          2. Being root bound (the container is too small)
          3. Prior stress causing leaves to drop.

          When I say leggy, I am referring to the appearance of thin long branches.
          This is usually a plants response to low light.
          This happens because the trees branches are literally reaching out to get more light.

          Citrus love direct sunlight.
          As it turns out, low sunlight can also cause citrus fruit to be less tasty.
          Specifically, citrus often taste more sour when the tree does not get enough sunlight to produce the necessary sugars.
          This is usually less of a problem with lemons, but Meyer’s are not really true lemons… so this might be part of your dilemma.

          Therefore, if I were you, I would slowly give your Meyer Lemon more direct sunlight.
          However, if this plant only knows shade, you will need to acclimate it to the sun slowly… and not on the hottest days or time of day.
          If the plant hasent had a chance to adjust to the UV rays, it will literally burn the leaves.

          This concept is similar to us people.
          For example,
          If you go directly from a life working inside, to spring break on a boat at Lake Havasu, you will be in trouble.
          If you forget your sun screen, you will burn badly.

          No one wants that.

          Good luck and let us know how it goes.
          Best,
          T

          • Hey Tom,

            I appreciate all your helpful information! We will start acclimating our Meyer Lemon to more direct sunlight. I’m sure this is a cause, we had the tree inside for the cooler months and it’s been so windy we have sheltered it on the porch from the wind, so it has probably been limited on “direct” sunlight.
            We’ll let you know how it goes,

            Thanks again,
            Melissa

          • Your site is great!!

            I have one question. I live in the panhandle area of Florida (USA) . I have a Meyer lemon tree. Is it a deciduous tree? And, should it drop all of it’s leaves during the harshest part of the winter season?

            Thanks,

            Earl

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Hey Earl
            Thanks for the note
            Lemon trees (all citrus) are not deciduous.
            They should not loose their leaves like you would see with a peach tree for example.
            If it has lost all of its leaves, then something concerning is going on.
            Best,
            Tom

  3. My Meyer lemon tree is on it’s second season and is loaded with beautiful lemons. It’s do loaded the branches are hanging with the weight of the lemons. How should I stake up the branches?

    Is it possible to send a picture. Would appreciate your help. Thsnk you

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Wyi
      Congrats! that’s awesome news.

      I have not found staking to work for me, but it is an option that some people like.

      However, if the branches with the fruit are close to the ground, they might just bend enough until they come to a landing.
      Unfortunately, when the fruit touch the ground, you run the risk of the fruit getting bad because they are resting on the soil where bugs can get in. Having them rest on some dry mulch might help.

      On the other hand, if the branches bend too much they can break.
      There is some misinformation out there stating that citrus branches don’t break from the wight of their fruit… but this is def wrong.
      It has has happened to me with many different citrus.

      So another option is thinning-out the fruit.
      I know that sounds like sacrilege, but plucking off some of the developing fruit is helpful for several reasons.
      – It will protect your trees branches from breaking b/c of the weight of the fruit.
      – The remaining fruit may be larger and taste better.
      – It will also be less taxing on your tree: lots of fruit mean that the tree puts a lot of its energy into the fruit.
      This can be a stress on your tree which can then lead to other problems later on (nutrient deficiency, disease and alternate bearing).
      (Alternate bearing is when a tree only produces fruit every other year).

      Keep us posted.

      Best,
      Tom

  4. I always have used your page as a guide to my newly planted Meyers tree. Thank you so much for all the beautiful information. My Meyers tree is growing fast, one question I have been searching for is a Meyers tree looks so much more like a bush. Is this where you need to cut off branches so it grows upward? I have 11 beautiful lemons growing right now, so excited. They all hang on the ground near the root system. How does one cut a Meyers tree to make it look like a tree? Or are they a beautiful bush tree? Thanks again for this site. I tried to add a few pictures to share, but it wouldn’t let me attach them. If there’s an email, I’d love to share to get help. Lisa

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Lisa
      Thank you for the great comments!

      Meyer lemons growth pattern:
      I agree, Meyers are really more of a bush.

      Low fruit options:
      So with this in mind there is the problem of fruit spoiling b/c they touch the ground.
      However, there are a few options.
      -Pluck out/thin the young fruit that hang low… so the plant can put its energy into better positioned fruit.
      -Prop up low hanging branches that have fruit on them to keep them off the ground.
      -Grow in tall pots.
      …and prune.

      Pruning Meyers:
      There is some controversy about pruning citrus trees in general.
      For the most part, I tend to let my citrus grow their own way…
      However, when you do that with Meyer lemons, you will likely have at least some fruit that touches the ground… and those lemons can go bad as a result.

      If you do prune, it is important to keep in mind that the bark of all citrus is sensitive to sunlight and can burn in high UV index situations.
      This is esp true if the UV exposure is sudden and intense as might happen just after heavy pruning.

      Therefore, try to prune in a way that keeps some shade on the trunk.

      You might try a strategy that goes something like this:
      Sterilize your clippers first (you dont want to transfer any disease/infection and citrus are particularly prone to this).
      -Cut out all of the dead or diseased branches.
      -Then out the lowest branches that touch the ground.
      -Then cut out the downward pointing branches in the mid part of the plant.
      -Leave the rest alone.
      -If the trunk is not really exposed to a lot of sunlight, consider painting the trunk with diluted white latex house pant to protect from UV.
      As reference, I describe this method in my Mission fig article.

      Good luck,
      T

      • Thomas, wow, thanks so much for the awesome reply. I have to say my Meyers is so beautiful, big, bushy already, looks so healthy. My 11 lemons do sit on the ground, however they are not small, looks like I’ll be picking them real soon. All the lemons look delightful, nice, big, no holes, nothing bothering them at all. I’ve done a lot of research, it seems when you first plant them they do start off producing close to the ground. I see they do start producing further up next offspring, but tend to hang close to the ground. I’m so scared to cut it. It truly is so healthy. I’ve been giving the sub roots your compose, they love it! I’ve only seen such great results to your compose.

        I wasn’t successful in potting in large pots. The roots want more room, the position I have mine loves the sunshine. I’m gonna take your advice since my big lemons are on the ground and see if I can’t tie them up, giving more complexed comfort instead of on the ground.

        I just posted pics on my Facebook if you’d like to see. Lisa Whiteaker

        PS yes I have a monkey. Lol. I think you’d agree, I shouldn’t do anything, as my lemons are almost ready to pick.

        Thanks again, great informative site. Lisa

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Thanks Lisa, you are very welcome.
          And a Monkey!
          That’s awesome, I am sure you have some stories to tell about your adventures together.

  5. Regarding the yellow tips of leaves in the photos above, they are nearly always caused by either a lack of calcium or magnesium in the soil – I would try adding 1 cup of lime per square meter of earth and if that doesn’t change things after 3 – 4 weeks then dissolve 1/4 cup of Epson Salts in hot water pour into a watering can full of cold water and sprinkle the soil under the tree… (If the veins were yellow also it would most likely mean it to be a nitrogen deficiency)

    If a tree is “leggy” it often pays to remove most of the flowers for that season so it puts all it’s efforts into growing the tree stronger rather than creating lemons…

    Not often you see someone who has real world knowledge and is willing to share so freely – thank you for sharing with us all

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Arthur

      Thanks for the helpful insight and thoughtful comments!
      I have not tried Epson Salt yet but I have heard a lot of great testimonials about its use.

      Best,
      Tom

  6. Epsom salts or magnesium sulfate is combination of magnesium and sulfur. I see from various sites that many soils in the US are lacking magnesium (I live in New Zealand). It also boosts production of growth especially if you use it just before the spring growth starts and the end of Summer. As many people know, lemons are extremely heavy feeders so they require some careful and gentle nurturing…

    http://www.ehow.com/info_8652631_epsom-salts-lemon-tree-bloom.html
    http://homeguides.sfgate.com/epsom-salts-lemon-tree-bloom-57754.html

    With lemon trees requiring such a wide variety of nutrients these help in areas where the soil is deficient or has been over irrigated – I grow two Meyer Lemon Trees in pots and took 162 lemons off both trees about a month ago…

    Due to a medical issue I cannot use non organic fertilizers so have had to rely on a worm farm to supplement them. So underneath the lemons I plant garlic and daffodils because they deter aphids and interplant them with thyme. By having a big pot of lavender nearby which attracts the bees I get a much higher rate of fruit… Which pleases my neighbors 🙂

    Keep up the great work Tom

    Cheers
    Art

  7. I live in Missouri and grow my Meyer Lemon Tree in a pot. I put it outside in the summer and bring it in during the winter months. This year it produced 3 lemons that are almost completely yellow and about ready to pick. The tree is about 4 feet tall. Will it survive if I cut it back some it hopes it will send out more branches?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks for the question Debbie

      When you say “cut it back” do you mean cut all of the branches off or trim the plant?

      In general, meyer lemons will tolerate a trim… which will stimulate new growth.
      However, new growth/young leaves are the most sensitive to cold damage-or any damage for that matter.

      Cutting back a meyer lemon wont help it survive the cold darker months of the winter.

      I would suggest that you only remove the branches that you have to remove in order to allow you to get the plant in your house.
      Less is more.
      Keep the lemon is the brightest/sunniest and warmest part of your your house for the winter.
      (of course you dont want to cook it either-make sure that the temp in the new location is not excessive.
      Note, having a plant close to a heater-fireplace can quickly dry out and cook a plant.
      Soil also drys out faster in the dry winter, so be sure to watch the soil moisture often.

      Happy to clarify any questions you have.

      Best of luck.

      Tom

  8. Hi Debbie

    Like Tom said Meyer Lemons don’t normally need trimming unless you need to get it through a doorway.

    Based on the few lemons I would like to ask how old is it and the size of pot it is in (I use 3ft wide by 3ft high pots for lemons and 2ft x 2ft for less than two years)? Is the pot made of porous material (if so it will need watering more often)?

    You have said it is 4ft high how wide are the branches approx?

    Normally I remove the the flowers off young citrus plants (>2 years) so they put all their efforts into growing branches and a strong root base.

    Be warned that if you chop branches off a Meyer Lemon tree without taking extreme care it will get in a tizzy with you and not fruit next year (unfortunately I have learnt by doing it and had to face the consequences)!!! I have found that any new growth will not show signs of fruit until next year and I tend to remove flowers off new growth so the branches are strong enough to support the weight…

    I do, on occasion, trim the center branches to allow more light in and prevent various diseases like funguses but bear in mind my trees are each over seven years old….

    Being in a different part of the world I trim towards the very end of autumn (Fall?) beginning of winter so growth has slowed down with less impact on the tree, plus there are less nasties around like borer to chomp into the plant and cause lots of grief.

    I have also found by cutting lemons off with clippers rather than simply pulling them off the tree I have had a much greater flower population next year as they use the same stalks again and again. The other thing I have found works wonders is remove all the fruit in end of winter / early spring so all the energy goes into growing lots of stems and lots of flowers….. If I don’t do this I will have a large crop only every second year – similar to what Tom says he has at the top of this page.

    Meyer Lemons aren’t like a vine or say rosemary or similar plants which will sprout many new shoots off from cut back branches. They bred to be a miniature lemon tree.

    And I concur with Tom when he says lemons are sunlight lovers but two things they hate with a passion “wet feet” and “dry feet” If you put your finger in the soil and it feels damp don’t water, only if feels dry or almost dry water for many plants are killed by over watering (or over-loving if you prefer)

    Treat your Meyer Lemon gently, gently and with the same care you would like to treated (not underfed nor overfed (many don’t even fertilize their pots))……… 🙂

    Please ask because often we don’t what we need to know – I learn from everyone – like many parents have learnt in the past, my children have taught me far more than I could ever teach them…. Tom has shown me things too which is why I am giving back also….

    Enjoy
    Art

  9. For those of you packing citrus trees inside because of the weather try this for a simple organic recipe over the winter months:

    Simply fill a glass or bowl with packed leaves off the comfrey plant (herb)
    Fill to the top with water and leave in the sun for a day to ferment.

    Strain the water into a watering vessel and then fertilize them every three to four weeks.

    Provides Phosphorous, Magnesium and Potassium which I have found works wonders on peaches, limes, lemons and apricots that are less than 2 years old (these are only what I have tried it on)

    As comfrey is easy to grow and maintain in a pot plus is a very cheap organic citrus booster….

    NB: It isn’t a complete fertilizer so doesn’t supply minor nutrients only the major ones (but I do have other recipes in my collection)

    Also for those of you growing in pots why not plant some daffodil bulbs or garlic bulbs under your lemon tree – aphids hate the smell of them so you can win in many ways…

    Thyme will also keep the weeds from under the tree and won’t compete with a lemon or lime tree (these what I have tried it with)

    Although it is turning into winter in the US I suggest you go to your local garden shop and see if they have any citrus trees they want to get rid of nine times out of ten they don’t want to have to look after them, but you might – I got 75% off each plant at the beginning of last winter….

    Always look underneath to see if it is root bound – and make sure you have a large enough pot…

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      More awesome advice from Arthur Daley.
      Thanks!

      Very interesting about the comfrey. It sounds great.

      Wondering what your thoughts were about the mechanism of the preparation.
      It sounds like the process draws the minerals out of the plant fibers and into solution.
      When you say ferment… is there a biological reaction going on with yeast and bubbling?
      Or is it more of a long soak – similar to the process of making “sun tea”?

      Also:
      Do you use the same comfrey batch to fertilize for the 3-4 weeks, or do you make a new batch each time you fertilize?

      Great other suggestions as well.

      Thanks again!

      • Thanks Tom

        It is more of a tea brew than a homebrew ferment, but the nutrients last for 3 – 4 weeks in the soil.

        I have always made a new batch (also gives the comfrey a chance to recover) each time I fertilize…. so I can’t say how well it would work – guess that is something else to put on the testing list 🙂

        I notice I omitted to mention you can use the stalks etc as well in the brew…

        You can either plant dill or Yarrow underneath a Meyer Lemon or simply place a pot of it near your tree and it will attract Ladybirds (Ladybugs) which happily munch through many nasties like aphids…

        Parsley attracts the tiny wasps which plant eggs in caterpillars

        Thyme, Lemon Balm, Mint, Borage and Lavender all attract the bees which means you have a much greater crop of Lemons that season….

        Bear in mind to plant mint in it’s own pot as it’s roots always try to take over the world…

        For the Spring, don’t plant strawberries underneath your Lemon & Lime trees as they are all fruits and everyone’s roots complete for sustenance – both plants will produce less and much smaller fruit if you do…

        And those of you who like peas why not grow them around your tree as they provide a super growth supplement in the form of extra nitrogen in the soil. When you have eaten all the peas simply use them as mulch for further nutrients – your Lemon tree will love you for it….

  10. Hi Doctor Osborne, planted an improved Meyer Lemon tree in March of 2014 in my backyard. Have been successfully growing backyard citrus for many years. Everything was going along fine until I fed the tree in June. Pretty sure that I overfed it because all of the leaves soon thereafter turned yellow and then proceeded to fall off. The small fruit is still on the tree and has grown in the last couple months. The tree has no leaves at all now. Is their anything I can do to help it grow new leaves?
    Paul K. Gustin

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Paul
      Thanks for the question.
      Sorry to hear about your Meyer lemon tree.

      There are many reasons why a tree could loose all of its leaves, and over fertilization is definitely on the list.
      However, considering that you have multiple other citrus… I would assume that you fertilize them all in a similar way.
      Therefore, I would think that if over fertilization was the cause, then your other trees would also be looking sick.

      Fertilization burn:
      Fertilization burn typically results in the tips of the leaves turning brown.
      If the leaf tips are not brown, then I would explore other causes.

      Over watering:
      Over watering is a common cause of massive leaf drop.
      Root rot or other disease associated with chronic damp conditions will damage the root system.
      This basically results in massive vascular collapse.
      -Do a good eval of your irrigation system, adjacent runoff and soil conditions.

      Root damage:
      Any other cause of root damage (gophers) can cause similar symptoms.

      Infection:
      A systemic infection is also on the list of possibilities.
      -Check out the bark/branches and try to see if there is anything oozing or if there are clusters of sap sucking bugs such as scale.

      Chill:
      Cold weather can cause massive leaf drop too.
      However, temps usually have to go below freezing for that to be a consideration.

      Organic:
      It is much more difficult to over fertilize with organic fertilizers.
      -So if you are not confident moving forward that is a nice option.

      What else can you do:
      Anytime a plant of mine is significantly sick (regardless of the cause) I remove all the remaining fruit.
      Basically, growing fruit takes a lot out of a tree. You want to divert all of your plants energy to be focused on recovery.

      Hope this helps.
      Best,
      Tom

      • Hi Tom, probably a little more explanation will help. Planted the young Meyer in early March and the leaves turned quickly yellow within a week of when it was fertilized in early June. Fertilized it deep and wet with a mixture of organic and what turns out to be non-organic fertilizer. Watered the tree deep at this time also.
        Tree was properly planted in a hole twice the depth and twice the diameter of the container it was purchased in.
        Soil is a 50-50 mix of soil from the hole and cactus mix. Mixed thoroughly via pouring in buckets over and over again. A dash of organic fertilizer was used in each bucket also.
        Cold weather was not an issue as we are so blessed here in So. Cali. No gophers nor soil problems that I know of.
        Leaf miners were very heavy on my other trees this year. However, on the Meyer the leaves turned yellow, very quickly and then fell off the tree.
        Will pull the fruit off the tree and let mother nature take it’s course.
        Thanks for insight and advice.
        Paul

    • Couple of questions to help come up with a solution:

      1. How big is the tree?
      2. What exactly did you feed it with and how much (often happens with non organic mixes)?
      3. Is the soil free draining and have you tried a moisture meter to check for wet feet?
      4. Have you done a soil test(that way we know exactly what is causing the problems)?
      5. When you put the fertilizer in did you “wash it in” or simply place it on top or dig it in?
      6. Where in the US are you located (thinking of the current climate)?

      Often when a tree gets upset, it drops all it’s fruit in trying to keep itself alive…

      Although there are things to promote new growth I am reluctant to try them without knowing
      what specifically caused the issue and potentially causing even greater damage especially as it is almost Winter in the US.

      A general rule that I follow is to feed only in Spring unless you live in very temperate areas as you don’t want the Winter cold to freeze the new growth (unless you have it a pot inside the house).
      Always feed around the drip line of the tree or if in pots watered down.

  11. Did you use a specialized citrus complete fertilizer or was it a general purpose garden fertilizer (Citrus trees have very specific needs)?

    Organic Leafminer solutions can be found here:

    http://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/houseplant-pests/leafminer-control/

    https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120606144019AA5YM0B

    http://heartgarden.com.au/Pests.asp

    If the leaves turn yellowed within such a short time it means there is is soil deficiency – the three most common reasons:

    1. Lack of Iron
    2. Lack of manganese
    3. Lack of Calcium

    Which is also why I’m wondering what the real soil ph is as plants are more often attacked by pests when the plant’s preferred soil ph is ignored.

    Assume you didn’t plant the tree lower than the existing earth line (causes bark to rot and invite nasties)

    After winter is over (early spring) I would dissolve 1/2 cup of epson salts in 4 cups of water and feed it to the tree to promote new growth (often works wonders). Also don’t let it fruit too heavily as you want the actual plant to be substantially strengthened for future fruit.

    Good luck

    Art

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Great advice as usual Art.

      Quick question on the epsom salt dose.
      Do you give the same amount to every tree, or do larger trees get a larger dose based on size/age?
      Do you feed once a year with epsom salt or several times during the growing season?

      Thanks!
      Tom

      • With trees approx 2m wide use the above when they are fairly young I just use a couple of tablespoons in a couple of cups of warm water (let it dissolve and cool).

        I tend to use epson salts only in the spring or summer if the tree is showing signs of needing it. If I did so just before winter the new growth would be hit by hail, cold, snow, wind etc when the rest of the tree is fairly dormant (even if it does have lemons on it) not sprouting frost tender branches and leaves to protect itself.

        These are just the methods I use and I certainly don’t know everything…. 🙂

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Awesome insights Art
          Thanks for the info.
          I look forward to trying it out when the weather warms up.
          Best,
          Tom

          • What I should have mentioned is Citrus trees (not just lemons) ***always*** do badly with a ph below 5.0.

            I always try to get between 6.5 – 7.5 but a bit little bit over or under doesn’t hurt them… This is the range that seems to work best for the ones I grow…

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Thanks Art.

            Fortunately (or unfortunately) acidic soil is not a problem for most of us in Southern California.
            Southern California soils are typically Alkaline (in the 7.1 to 7.9 range).
            Higher/Alkaline pH, as you know, increases the chance for many other deficiencies (including but not limited to zinc, iron, boron, copper and manganese deficiencies).

            Thanks,
            Tom

  12. You guys really got me thinking about that Meyer. Went out in the rain this morning and determined that we might have planted it just a little bit higher than the existing ground line. Dug it out a little bit to get it even the ground. Noticed lots of small roots under the canopy near the base of the tree. Really strange that this tree looks healthy other than it has no leaves. Will try to post a pic.

    • Good on you for going out in rain – any keen gardener will tell you “don’t you have a shower every day – so what’s a bit of rain?” LOL

      Do remember you are entering into the Winter period when many fruit trees go into a semi-dormant stage (especially Meyer Lemons) they normally have leaves during mild winters, but do not provide new growth unless the weather goes crazy. Buds that have been fertilized by bees in the late summer will continue to grow through a mild season but no new flowers until early spring.

      The new roots forming tells me the following:

      1. The tree is obviously alive and is looking for specific foods which is great so I wouldn’t be too concerned about the leaves yet… just make sure it gets the food it desires so come Spring it is the happiest Meyer in the US :P.

      2. If you are willing to protect it with frost cloth over winter you could try some of the suggestions although initially I would give it one of those complete citrus fertilizers… If not just throw some lime underneath it and water it in thoroughly – this normally does help.

      • Thomas Osborne, MD

        Finally some Rain:
        Agree; being out in the garden during the rain can be a great thing.
        Esp for us in So Cal… we have been very low on rain over here.

        Winter growth:
        Good points about winter growth. If it was me I would hold tight and not try to force growth during the winter. However, as Art mentions, if you do get some young winter growth, it might be a good idea to protect those sensitive little leaves with some frost cloth.

        No lime:
        I would also hold off on the lime option too. If you are growing your trees in Southern California, then the soil is likely already on the alkaline side. If you add lime, then your soils pH will go up even more (more alkaline).

        Citrus trees often suffer from iron deficiencies, as well as deficiencies of other micronutrients such as copper, zinc and manganese at ph levels over 7.0 (neutral). Citrus seem to do best growing in soil that is a bit on the acid side (Citrus prefer a soil pH of 6.0–7.0). I would at least do a soil pH test before adding anything to significantly change your soil pH.

        Another cause of leaf drop:
        It sounds like your tree dropped its leaves shortly after it was planted. This makes me think that there might be another cause to consider. Transplantation shock is a common cause of leaf drop for just about any plant.

        In my opinion, the main cause of transplantation shock is root damage. Root damage can be subtle though. Even a bumpy car ride home from the store/nursery can shear the little-microscopic hairs off of the roots. These little hairs do the lions share of absorption for the roots. When those sensitive little guys are damaged, then the plant can’t get the amount of water or nutrients it needs. The first things to go in this case are often the leaves. The roots just cant take up enough water to support the evaporation from the leaves and the plant drops them to save itself from dehydrating.

        So, if this has happened…. your tree is likely in repair mode as we speak. Your meyer is now diverting its energy to fixing and growing its roots. When the root system is ready, your tree will then put out some leaves.

        For future reference, I wrote about the safest way to avoid this problem in the following article.
        Best planting tips.

        • Here is what the tree looked like on June 30. Yes, it was 3.75 months after I planted the tree. Read your Planting Guide and really appreciate the insight. I did not take the fruit or blooms off after planting, though. Never have.
          https://www.dropbox.com/s/g07jhytpod6aw2q/Meyer%20Lemon%20Yellow%20June%2030%202014.jpg?dl=0

          • Thanks for the photo Paul it certainly helps,

            1. 99% of the time yellow veins in the leaves mean the tree has been “over-sprayed” too strongly with a toxic herbicide or there are residual toxic herbicides within the ground. Could be weed killer or wind drift from someone else spraying things (yes it does happen more often than you think)

            2. I would strongly recommend getting a soil testing kit to check the PH or paying someone to do it for you now that I have seen the actual symptoms on the tree. That way you can find out what caused the damage and resolve the issues.

            3. The two easiest ways of dealing with these are feed with a complete citrus fertilizer plus dosing with 1/4 cup epson salts dissolved in 2 cups of warm water in early spring (***not now***).

            As the ground looks cracked in places (I assume from lack of water) I would add some compost to improve the soil and make sure is soil is damp but not wet (lemons hate wet feet but need dampness to fruit)

            Personally, I wouldn’t let it flower this spring to give the tree a chance to rebuild branches and new leaves so it strengthens itself for the years to come… But this is just what I would do in my garden.

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Hey Paul

            Thanks for the picture. There is a lot you can learn from the color pattern of a leaf.

            Specifically, what I see here is that the veins are turning yellow before the rest of the leaf. Some people call this “vein clearing”. When this happens to a citrus it is usually (in my experience) associated with root injury. Some people say that girdling can do the same thing, but I have never seen this. Overall, however, it seems that problem is from the acute loss of nitrogen flow to the leaves. Since your tree was recently transplanted, this further supports transplantation shock as a probable cause.

            However, Arthur brings up a very good point about herbicides. Specifically exposure to a class known of simazine herbicides seems to be a major cause of this pattern. If this was the cause, I would expect that your other citrus would have a similar look. If they dont, then refer to my first suggestion.

            Thanks!
            Tom

  13. Tom and Arthur, thanks for the great advice. The roots could have been damaged shortly after planting now that I think of it. Actually, about the same time I over fertilized it. Will definitely get a PH Test on the soil also. It’s in a spot where pesticide drift would be highly unlikely as walls and fences surround my neighbors yards.
    Now, it appears that the tree is starting or trying to gain some new leaves on the bottom branches. The leaves appear very weak and small. Do you think I should spray the new leaves with spinosad so the miners don’t get them? Afraid to do this as they are so weak looking.
    Recently trimmed some surrounding (non-fruiting trees) to give it more sun also. Will keep you posted. Thanks again.
    Paul

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Paul
      Great to hear that the little guy is picking back up.
      As you mentioned, young leaves are a big target for citrus leaf miners.
      However, if you are living in the northern hemisphere, then leafminers should not be a problem after November.
      I spray with my spinosad mix from June to November.
      I wrote a complete article on this topic a while back. Check out the link to my leafminer article for more info.

      Thanks,
      Tom

  14. Hi Paul

    Thanks for the complements – others have helped us over the years and we are just returning the favors…

    May I suggest spraying with either Spinosad or Neem Oil (rather than chemicals) as they both are organic sprays that stop Leaf Miner, thrips and Aphids plus does no harm to the tree. Just remember it will wash off if it rains and needs to be reapplied every three days or so…

    Leafminers normally appear in the spring, so I would wait until the last month of winter at least unless they are showing on other plants.

    Also have look at the comments on the following page and let me know what you think:

    http://organicgardeningnewsandinfo.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/organic-control-of-leafminers/

    My only concern about the root damage is 3.5 months after planting is a long time for the tree to still show symptoms in the soil – I am not saying it isn’t caused by root damage, just that the recovery time seems over-long.

    Paul, I do hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas tomorrow

    Take care

    Art

  15. Tom we planted a dwarf meyer lemon tree about 1 year ago. We live in N Scottsdale AZ and the tree was planted on the south facing side of the yard and therefore gets many hours of sun light per day. We have not had any fruit as of yet from the tree and it seems pretty sparse with leaves. I noticed in one of the blog responses that the tree should not drop its leaves however in January of this year I noticed many leaves off of the tree in fact the center truck/stem is quite bare… Looking for some help in what to do to get my tree to produce lemons

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Good question Anne
      When a citrus drops a lot of leaves at once, it usually means that it is stressed in some way.
      However, there are many potential causes of stress (heat, water, fertilizer, bugs, gophers, etc).
      So knowing the exact reason for you is hard to tell without additional information.
      Do you happen to have pictures posted somewhere that I could take a look at?
      Best,
      Tom

      • Tom thank you for your quick response. I do have pictures what is the best way for me to send them to you.
        Also do you think we need to give the tree some nitrogen?

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Thanks Anne
          Regarding your pictures; Do you happen to have a flicker, twitter or pinterest account?
          If you do, that might be a way to get me the pics. If not, no big deal, (I likely wouldnt have those if it was not for this website). Let me know and we will figure something out either way.

          Not sure about the nitrogen question yet… (Too much nitrogen can also cause leaf drop). Hopefully the pics will clarify.

          Best,
          Tom

  16. Hi Tom, I bought a Meyer Lemon tree about 3 – 4 weeks ago from Home Depot. It has 3 lemons on it (still green). Do I have to cut them off for the tree to grow strong roots and trunk? The trunk looks nice and the leaves are green. I hate to cut off my first three fruit! I live in Miami, Florida. Thanks.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Ginny
      Lol.. I know where you are coming from with this question.
      The idea of cutting off the first fruits is painful.

      So, you dont have to cut off the fruit.
      However, your tree will have a better chance at getting established if you do.

      Basically, by doing this you are helping the tree manage its resources.
      …and making fruit is expensive for a plant (takes energy and nutrients).
      So if you get rid of the fruit, the plant can put those goods to other things like roots and leaves.

      If it was me, I would cut off the fruit and pluck the flowers.
      Then buy some lemons at the farmers market…. for now.

      But this is just to optimize things.

      Thanks,
      T

  17. I have a new meyer lemon tree. About 6 feet. It bloomed nice in the spring and has green lemons now..about 20. But the tree being small, the limbs are all the way bent over touching the floor…..should I tie them up with some rope so they are off the floor?

    Thank you

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Fran.
      Thank you for the question.
      The short answer is that it depends.
      Or at least it would for me.

      I have 4 meyer lemon trees (they are more like bushes).
      They are prolific.
      In many years of having them, I have not tied them up to support the weight of the fruit.
      This can be a concern from the standpoint of breaking a branch. However, at least in my experience, the fruit weighted branches slowly sag and adapt.
      However, if I lived in a particularly windy area or saw signs of branch fatigue, I might take action to save the branch.
      On that note, I do have other citrus trees that have broken branches from the weight of the fruit (kumquat for example).

      Regardless of the branch issue, it is a good idea to keep the fruit off the dirt.
      I have noticed that a black hole will develop on the lemons where fruit sits on the soil… and I suspect that is from a worm or something.
      So putting a pile of dry mulch under the fruit to sit on might help with that issue.

      As a side:
      In general, I tend to pluck off the fruit from a newly planted tree.
      I do this so the tree can divert its energy into getting established with a good root system.

      Best,
      Tom

  18. Thank you – I understand your points. We live in Jacksonville, Fl so wind/weather is mild. I will keep an eye out for the fruit that touch grass.
    On your other point to pull of the lemons at this point, being a young tree….not sure I can do that….I am so eager to see them grow to full, yellow lemons. I think I would be too let down to pull them off now. I purchased tree in May of 2014. It is planted in the ground and seems strong. I keep black cow on it and last month I sprinkled some fertilizer beads around the far parts of the base.

    Hoping for the best, exciting to see the tree growing!! I may prune some of the long branches without fruit.

    Thank you

  19. Hi Tom,
    I need your help with a few things!!
    Thank you so much for this amazing website and sharing all of your knowledge! I have looked on many websites for advice and this is by far the best! 🙂
    This year in April I bought a young Meier Lemon Tree and it is my pride and joy! I keep my lemon tree in a pot in the conservatory as I am renting and want to take it with me. I live in New Zealand so we have just been through winter but my tree gets all day sun and I consider it in pretty good health…However I have a few questions and would greatly appreciate any help.

    Q1: My tree is about 1.1m tall (3.7 ft) and has lots of new flower buds as well as about 15 little green lemons which have all produced since I have had it. I am wondering if I should pull the fruit AND buds off to allow it to establish OR just the fruit?

    Q2: On some of the flower buds there are many aphids/bugs in clusters. Through winter there has been quite a lot however I have managed to stay on top of it by gently going around the tree and squishing the bugs (I have literally spend hours doing this) but recently it has gotten worse. I used an organic super spraying oil at one point which killed the bugs but attracted ants as I think they may have liked the sweetness or the dead aphids (I can’t win!) I was wondering if you have any advice on this? Should I continue to try and hand pick them off, maybe removing the buds they are on at the same time to answer Q1? Or continue with the spray and somehow manage the ants? I have also been thinking about putting the tree outside during the summer months but am worried this will attract more aphids?

    Q3: I am unsure if this is an issue but some of the leaves seem to be “dissolving” in part (for lack of a better word) and I am unsure if this is normal or is another issue I have?

    I have uploaded some photos to Pintrest which may help. Any information would be greatly appreciated as I love this little tree!
    https://www.pinterest.com/emroselind/lemon-tree/

    Many thanks!!!!
    Emma

    • Hey Emma
      Thanks for your kind comments

      On to your questions:

      A1: Plucking flowers/Fruit:
      Producing flowers and fruit is always costly for a plant. The plant invests energy and resources to the development of the flowers and fruit but the plant does not get energy back the way it would from a leaf.

      Therefore, if your plant is looking a bit sickly, it is not a bad idea to help it out by plucking some of those things that are costly. Taking the fruit away from a sick plant may help it to redirect its limited resources to fighting the infection or by producing leaves that will give back energy.

      I know… no one likes to hear that answer.

      A2: Aphids!
      Fighting parasitic insects an issue for all gardeners / farmers; and aphids are one of the biggest challenges. I will try to give some background first and then some organic solutions.

      I admire your tenacity for trying to remove all of the aphids by hand. However, unfortunately, you will never win that battle that way (There are other methods though that will do the trick and I will mention those in a moment. But first…)

      Aphids produce little eggs that you may never see. Once hatched, they can continuously give birth to little nymphs (baby aphids) without ever needing to mate. So you just need one aphid to quickly have an infestation.

      In nature, you have two competing players that control the aphid population. On one hand you have the ants which farm the aphids for the sticky sweet goo they secrete. The ants tend to and defend their herd. On the other side, you have predatory insects (like lady bugs, lacewings, etc) that want to eat the aphids. So the ants are kindof like a shepherd tending their flock of sheep and defending them from wolves. Just a few days ago, I put a lady bug on a branch infected with aphids. In about 3 seconds the ants were swarming the ladybug and it flew away. This ant-aphid relationship is ancient dating back millions of years.

      In an enclosed greenhouse environment, there many be no battle with ants and ladybugs… Just an uncontrolled aphid population. This is one of the major challenges of growing in a greenhouse. Sometimes, just the ants get in the greenhouse so then their are protectors, and no predators at all… That is even worse.

      So what can you do?

      My organic method of controlling aphids is a step-wise approach of increasing measures. I try to start simple and then escalate to more powerful methods as needed.

      First step:
      I blast off the little suckers with a spray of water. Try to get in to the little crevasse that they like to hide in. Careful not to spray the aphids onto another beloved plant in the process. This process will knock down the population but it is not expected to remove all of them. However, if you are growing outside, this may restore the balance and allow the plant to recover while the predators find their prey. Therefore, you really need to have your plant outside for this to have a chance of working by itself. This simple water method will take multiple attempts and is only marginally effective. But hey it is simple water – so it is an easy organic first step.

      Second:
      I apply tanglefoot to the trunk of the tree. This keeps the ants out of the tree and the combo of spray and tanglefoot is pretty darn good. (just dont apply directly to the bark, apply on some masking tape or their suggested wrapping paper).

      Third:
      Spraying simple horticulture soap will kill the little suckers. You can buy this stuff, or just make it yourself by adding pure liquid soap to water. Some precautions when mixing your own soapy brew. Impurities in commercial hand soap such as detergents, whiteners, antibiotics and perfumes may damage a plant. Best to use simple pure soap. Popular options include pure “Ivory Soap” and “Shaklee’s basic H” Since any spray can damage a plant, start with a low concentration and test on a few leaves first… working up to a higher concentration. 1 tablespoon of soap (to several tablespoons of soap) 1 gallon of water is the range your looking at. Some people will add vegetable-cooking oils to the mix that work in a different way for an added bug killing effect. Although some people would recommend using more oil, I would start with several tablespoons of oil per gallon of water to be safe.

      Fourth:
      Neem oil spray is an awesome tool for any gardener. It is an extract from a seed and it is super safe.

      Fifth:
      The spray I use for citrus leaf-miner will knock them out very effectively. If you are growing your citrus outside, then you will likely want to spray for these leaf-miner bugs anyways. See my article on the subject here. Citrus Leafminer: Diagnosis and Treatment

      A3: Deformed leaves:
      Parasitic infections of all kinds will mess up the look of the leaves. This is usually permanent for a particular leaf but once you remove the infection, future leaves should be ok.

      Additional thoughts:
      Looks like your tree is getting a bit big for the size of the container.
      Might be time to transplant to a larger container.

      Some of the leaves are a bit yellow: That could be a sign of not enough fertilizer, too much water, too small of a container or the plant becoming exhausted from fighting the aphid infection. I would first pick and/or go through the aphid control methods we discussed, then carefully transplant to a larger container. A few weeks after transplantation, add some organic citrus fertilizer of your choosing.

      Good luck and keep us posted!
      Tom

      • Hi Tom,

        Thank you so much for all of your great advice!! I found your information about the aphid/ants very interesting!
        I have just removed all of the little lemons, would you recommend also removing some of the flowers?
        I transplanted the tree a few weeks ago into this current pot… I used this potting mix: http://www.daltons.co.nz/home-gardening/retail-products/potting-mixes/big-value-potting-mix, do you think this is ok or could the new potting mix be causing the leaves to go yellow? They seem to now be getting worse day by day.
        I will attack the aphids as you have suggested this weekend and will keep you posted.
        Many thanks,
        Emma.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Emma
          You are very welcome.

          Flowers:
          Considering how sick your tree is, I would also remove the flowers and flower buds.

          Soil:
          The best I can say about citrus soil is they like it rich and well draining.
          If the soil is contaminated, then bugs could be causing problems.. However , that is really uncommon in the setting of store bought soil.
          Over watering and severe infection (such as aphids) can cause leaves to turn yellow regardless of the soil.
          A recent container transplant (esp if not done very carefully) could result in root damage and shock that can cause leaf drop and/or leaf yellowing.

          Good luck!
          Tom

  20. As others have said, what an excellent resource!
    Being in upstate NY where we routinely get 12ft of snow a year, growing lemons is “challenging” but it can be done.

    We were given a Meyer lemon as a very young tree, 12″ tall, just over 2 years ago. Put it in an 18″ diameter pot and it did well in the summer, then dropped every leaf apart from 3 over the winter (big issue here is dry indoor winter air – the coldness freezes the moisture out of the air).

    The following summer (2014) we put it outside May-October and it went into the winter much stronger. Had a few flowers late summer but many of the lemons hat developed simply fell off when olive-sized – they seemed to be very fragile and fell with the slightest touch. It flowered again indoors in Feb’ this year (2015) and we were able to pollinate it with a Q-tip, resulting in 3 golf-ball sized lemons, all of which were promptly chewed up by squirrels when we put it outside this spring!

    Thankfully it flowered again over the summer, we now have a dozen hens-egg sized lemons, on a tree that occupies about a cubic yard. Just bought it inside before the first frost, and hopefully over the winter we’ll get some ripening. I’ve been lifting the tree and adding more potting soil below the roots each time we bring it in/out. Only treatments have been some aphid soap when outdoors, and a bit of fertilizer over the winter.

    Given the near death of the plant in its first winter, and the nearly 6 months of zero humidity it has to endure each year, I’m remarkably surprised at its resilience. The only long term issue is how to prune it? As it gets bigger and bigger, the annual task of lugging a now 24″ pot in and out of the house is not a pleasing idea! It won’t survive outside, but at some point it will e too big to haul inside. Any suggestions for pruning or how well a Meyer would survive Ina. Sub-zero unheated garage?

    Thanks!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Paul
      Thank you for your kind words and comment and for sharing the details of your lemon growing experience.
      Sorry took me a bit to get back to you, I just got back from a business trip.

      I grew up in Rochester NY, So I know exactly what you are dealing with in the winter.

      Pruning Lemons:
      Pruning citrus is a bit controversial in some circles.
      Some people say never prune and others say prune in various ways.
      Even others will say trim some varieties and not other varieties.
      Some people are pretty passionate about it too…
      However, many commercial growers will train/trim citrus in tall hedge like rows for ease of mechanical picking.
      There is not a clear consensus. Not that you should follow consensus anyways… I try to follow science and citrus just dont seem to “need” trimming.

      For me, I dont trim citrus unless it is growing in the way (of a path, etc) or if there are dead/diseased branches.

      Now if you are growing in a container, that is a slightly different story.
      For an extreme example, growing plants (like bonsai) requires constant trimming of branches and roots.

      So what would I do?
      If it was me, I would start with a dwarf variety that doesn’t get that big to begin with
      You can get a dwarf variety of just about any citrus.
      Kumquas also do rather well in containers, dont get that big and are one of the most cold tolerant citrus.

      Ok, so what do you do now?
      If it was me, I would trim the tree to a manageable size.

      The key for success here is to keep trimming throughout the season. This will promote the tree to grow dense in that small size. This will also prevent the need for you to cut big branches at a single pruning time.

      I would also make sure the tree doenst get root bound… which means potting up regularly to a larger container size.
      If containers are getting too big, cutting back the roots (in the spring) is risky but may help.
      Keeping the top part of the tree (branches) small will also help to keep the roots at a smaller volume.

      Put the container on a strong trolley/catty for ease of transport.
      Fertilize in the spring and summer with organic citrus fertilizer (which seems to be easier on potted citrus).
      Put in the sunniest part of the house in the winter (south facing window).

      Wintering citrus in the garage:
      The garage wont work. Your tree will die there in the winter.
      You need maximum sun, minimal drafts and lots of watering to keep up with the dry winter air.

      Good luck!
      T

  21. Francine Marabell

    APHIDS – I live in Jacksonville Florida. I have posted before. My meyer lemon tree was purchased 2 1/2 years ago. I have about 20 lemons growing. I thought I could send you some photos. Today when I laid the black cow, I looked up and noticed on one stalk up high what looks like a colony of tiny black aphids…If this is the case, how do I treat? Is there a way I can send you a photo.

    I know you have told me to pick the first batch this year and throw them out….but they are growing nice and just starting to turn yellow.

    Thank you

    ~Francine

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Dam Aphids!
      They are the bane of all gardeners/farmers. It is likely nothing you did wrong… it just happens.

      What else?
      I am sure you will also see lots of ants crawling around with the aphids.. they tend to hang out together because they have a symbiotic relationship.
      Basically the ants farm and protect the aphids. Therefore, get rid of the ants and the aphids have a hard time getting by on their own.

      Effective organic treatment:
      1.
      My method for dealing with things like this is to start by blasting the bugs off the branches and leaves with a spray of water from the garden hose.
      Really spray the whole plant good getting into all the crevices and under the leaves… And try not to spray the bugs onto another innocent plant in the process.

      2.
      Then use your favorite organic bug spray to get the eggs, or cling-on’s left behind.
      The option that I find very effective is to apply the same spray that I use to treat for citrus leafminer (see article below).
      Citrus Leafminer: Diagnosis and Treatment
      Spraying more than once is sometimes indicated.
      Just keep an eye on things so you can catch it before it gets out of control.

      3.
      Finally, apply tanglefoot to the trunk of the tree as a barrier to keep the conspiring ants out.
      To protect the bark from the tanglefoot goop, apply the tanglefoot to a band of wide masking tape (turned stickyside out), or use their more expensive tanglefoot guard paper.
      Normally, I would provide a link to Amazon.com here because the convenience and prices are often good… However, the few tanglefoot options on Amazon at the moment are way too expensive and I am annoyed. Try calling your local garden store to see what the prices are like. (a 6 oz tube of tanglefoot should be around $6 – $10).

      Anyhow, following theses steps usually does the trick.

      Please keep us updated on your progress.

      Best,
      Tom

      P.S.
      Feel free to post a pic to your favorite social media site (pinterest, instagram, twitter, etc)

  22. Hello Dr. Osborne:
    I found your website because I was seeking information on Google as to why my Meyer lemon tree’s fruit does NOT turn yellow. I have lots of lemons this year, but they are still green. Same as last year — they never turned yellow. Fruit last year was really tart! Have not seen any posts for anyone else with this problem. My tree is planted in the ground and looks healthy so far. I have picked up some pointers reading all the posts — so thank you all for that.
    Any ideas why my lemons look like large limes???

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Marge
      This is a great question… and as you say, it is an issue that is very difficult to find information about.

      Color for ripeness:
      Fruit color can be a great indicator for ripeness for most fruit.
      …And it is also usually a great indicator for ripeness for citrus as well.
      However, not always.

      Warm weather green:
      For example, when the weather is extra warm, your citrus may never turn yellow or orange as you would expect.
      In fact, in the tropics some citrus fruit may never loose their green color… and that is actually expected down there.
      Surprisingly… Sometimes, citrus will turn their expected yellow/orange, and then turn back to green if the weather conditions are warm/right for it.
      I know, crazy right.

      So now what do you do?
      When we have abnormally warm conditions and my citrus fruit don’t turn the yellow or orange I utilize other indicators. I have 3 basic markers or signs that I pay attention to when my citrus dont loose their green color.

      One of the best indicators:
      One of the best indicators for me this involves feeling the firmness of the citrus fruit.
      Citrus tend to soften a bit to the touch when they ripen.
      Different citrus soften to different degrees depending on the variety. So this takes some experience, trial and error.
      If the fruit feel like they are the softness of ripeness, like you remember from experience, pick one and try it out.

      Another indicator-drops:
      Another indicator is that the citrus fruit will drop off the tree on their own.
      (or the fruit fall with a gentle tug).
      Now sure, sometimes fruit will drop when the plant is stressed or the fruit is diseased, so this indicator is not perfect.
      In addition, when you allow the fruit to ripen to the point of dropping on their own you run the very big risk of waiting too long.
      None the less, if everything else looks good and healthy, when your tree starts to drop the fruit you need to pay attention because you might be missing the boat.

      Moving on indicator-Flowers:
      Another indicator I have noticed is that many citrus start a massive flower bloom when the fruit is ready.
      This indicator is not perfect, but it is another one of those things to pay attention to.
      If your citrus is flowering massively then it might be cycling through to the next round of fruit.

      Overall I would say that in these warm weather conditions, I tend to use all of these markers and then sample a fruit that feels the appropriate softness.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes.

      Best,
      Tom

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Margie
      Thought you would like to know that your great question inspired me to write an article on the topic. It is the latest one on the site.
      Thanks,
      Tom

  23. Dear Dr. Tom, I have a Meer Lemon tree I planted last spring. It was a gift. We are in El Dorado Hills, 25 miles east of Sacrament. We do have seasons. But no snow. I also have a regular lemon tree. The Meyer is bearing fruit. It’s a baby. But has 8 lemons on it. 4 almost ready to pick and look healthy. My concern is the new leaves appear to be curly. What is causing these weird curly leaves?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Silvia
      Thank you for the question.
      Leaves can curl for a variety of reasons and oftentimes it has something to do with bad bugs.
      The most dramatic and bug infection that can cause curling/deformation of all of the leaves is citrus leafminer.
      I wrote an article about the diagnosis & treatment options for this scourge (see link below).
      Citrus Leafminer: Diagnosis and Treatment
      Let me know if you think it might be something else and we will figure it out.
      Best,
      Tom

  24. I have a Lemon plant in a large pot, just a couple of inches larger than the pot it came left it on the deck from june until end of october then I took it inside. While on the deck it flowered and I found a couple fo marble size lemons. I have it in the south east window, all the leaves have come off and I do not see any new leaves comming out. Does this mean that it is at the end of its rope, or it is the winter blues? What do you think I should do. It is not a bushy, any way I can make it so? I need some good advice.
    Tnak You,
    Tom Masturzo
    Akron, Ohio

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Tom
      I admire your ambition growing citrus in Ohio.

      Some additional things I would be wondering:
      What type of lemon do you have?
      Dwarf variety?
      Your typical care/growing environment?

      In the absence of that info, here are some general thoughts.

      Regarding your question:
      There are a lot of potential things to consider here.
      Plants loose their leaves for a lot of reasons, but it usually boils down to stress.
      Too much water, not enough water, root bound, root rot, bug infection… etc.
      So I would do a deep dive inspection to see if any of those options stand out as possibilities.

      Can it be saved?
      For a plant, loosing all of your leaves definitely sucks.
      However, it is not necessary a death sentence.

      If the smaller branches are still green then they are still viable.
      If they are brown, black or brittle then game over.

      Best of luck,
      Tom

  25. Thank you for your responce. It is a meyer lemon, approx. 2.5 ft high. I presently have it in the dineing room for the winter. One long stem is or looks brown, the other is still green. I have been watering it only when it feels dry. This is my first experiance with this plant. Should I toss and wait until spring and get a new one.
    I don’t think that it is rootbound since it still moves around the original pot mark when I replanted it. I will take it out and look and see if anthing sticks out. When you say bugs are speaking of the ones above the dirt, on the plant or will there be bugs in the dirt?
    I was wondering if it is not getting enough light, I have given somethought to getting a grow light.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Tom

      Unfortunately, that brown stem is dead. I would just cleanly cut off that branch.
      The green stem is a sign of hope. There is a chance of recovery, and therefore it wouldnt hurt to give it a chance to push through it.

      Bugs:
      Yea, bugs can mean a lot of things… but I am mainly referring to parasitic bugs such as aphids and scale.

      Sunlight:
      As you mentioned, the decreased sunlight may be a factor.
      A grow light might be a big help, but they tend to pull a lot of energy and can be expensive over time.

      Leaf drop cont:
      Another thing I didnt mention is cold air.
      Since cold air is heavy, it tends to collect in lower areas… such as the floor.
      Therefore, if the plant is on the floor, under a window with a draft, your lemon could be surrounded by cold air.
      And as you know, citrus do not like cold.
      Putting the plant up on a stand and/or addressing drafts etc may help.

      Best,
      T

  26. Hi Tom,

    Love your website. I plan to implement things I’ve seen here, but here’s a question.

    I have a new Meyer lemon tree. I’m not sure about the exact age but it is about 6 feet tall and a main trunk about an inch in diameter. It has 3 golf ball sized limes and about 20 or so baby limes that I would really love to keep. I live in west Texas and lately the wind has been pretty ferocious. Since I will have to bring it in for the winter, I have it in a good sized pot and I move it around from the covered porch or right next to the house in what seems to be a futile effort to protect it from the wind. The wind has stripped off some leaves and damaged others. It has stripped one branch of all leaves.

    Would I be better off bringing it inside on windy days? I have been told that the it won’t like sudden and regular environment changes so I’ve been trying to ride out the wind, but I’m just afraid by the time summer gets here and the wind dies out, I won’t have a good healthy tree left. At this moment, I’m watching it being brutalized by 20-25 mph gusts and the weather shows I have more of the same all day and several days coming up.

    I appreciate any insight you may offer.

    Thanks
    Josh

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Josh
      Thanks for the great feedback.

      I have heard from other readers that the wind is pretty crazy in Texas these days.

      So you have hit on the major issues… You try not to change the environment of these plants too much, but you also want to protect them. When I had citrus in containers, they did not seem to show much impact when moved to other parts of the yard. However, I think the main issue is sometimes the actual movement that can damage roots if not done carefully. Moving inside is a bit more dramatic environmental change.. mostly because of the decreased light.

      So do you move?
      I guess it depends on how bad the damage is from the wind.
      If it was me, and I saw significant damage, I would want to move them to a protected area.
      My first choice would be somewhere else in the yard before going inside.
      If a lot of leaves were damaged, might also want to remove some fruit so the energy could be diverted into growing replacement leaves.

      Is there a major direction for the wind?
      If so, is there a part of your yard that is more protected?
      For example, in my area, we to get our strong winds from the South-West and therefore the North-East side of the house tends to be more protected. Behind a strong bush or other structure might also work.

      Good luck!
      Tom

  27. Hi Tom,

    Perhaps you have already addressed this question. Is it better or necessary to pick all the lemons from a season’s growth to allow for new production i.e. the next season’s bounty of lemons?

    Thank you,
    Shelley

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Shelley
      I suspect that it would help because the plant will able to divert energy from the old-existing fruit to the new-developing fruit.

      I have not seen this written anywhere but…
      In general, I have also noticed that citrus tend to start flowing when the existing fruit is ready to be picked.

      Best,
      Tom

  28. I’ve taken many, many lemons from a prolific tree and many are still on it. But not a single new blossom or
    small green fruit. Leaves appear healthy. Is it taking a gap year?

    Thank you,
    Jack Miles

  29. I get a message “‘no comment” so I post a second comment saying the same thing and I get the message that I’ve posted the same comment twice. Not sure how to overcome what appears to be a website glitch.

  30. I have daffodils growing at the base of my potted Meyers Lemmon I’m told this is not good the the tree?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Christine
      That is interesting.
      I have not heard that before.
      Did you hear how that was suposto work or what the advantage to the lemons were?
      Thanks,
      Tom

      • The daffodils were just to add some spring color and they looked very pretty. Then my sister commented saying they might be toxic for the Lemmon tree so i googled it to ask and there you come in!
        The Meyers Lemmon tree is only a baby @ 30″ high.
        I am not sure if I should leave them in or take the daffodil bulbs out. Will the daffodils make the lemons toxic?

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hi Christine

          Interesting thought about the toxic chemicals in a daffodil (lycorine) being transferred to an adjacent lemon tree.
          However, I have not heard of that happening.
          Did your sister happen to have any references (journal articles, USDA, CDC)?

          Thanks,
          Tom

          • Thanks for your response no we don’t have any information she just thought it was odd I put the daffodils around the base of the Lemmon tree and commented it may cause toxicity in the lemons! All the same I will remove the bulbs just to be safe!
            Thanks so much for your input🌿👍🏻

  31. I have 2 Meyer Lemon Trees in pots on my back covered patio. Trouble is that I am in zone 7 in Oklahoma, and our wind and weather is insane as you may already know! I am a recent graduate in Horticulture but citrus is the one thing I have never tried. My trees are about 2ft – 3ft tall, and my soil mix is a 50/50 blend of Metro Mix and Acidified Cotton Burr Compost. My biggest concern is the wind and the possibility of wind burn because it is very common in this area; however, I have them receiving sun all day and because they’re at the edge of the South porch the fence is about 4 maybe 5ft away from them. I have an open lot on the other side of that fence due to our Tornado’s and I receive a lot of wind from the South and North. I’m not sure if these tree’s should get more protection from wind or if I should reattach them to the bamboo for more stability??? Any advice at all would be of help to me! Thanks

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Allie from tornado alley

      Congrats on your recent Horticulture degree.

      Yea, you have a challenging growing situation.
      Zone 7 (annual low of 10F to 0F) is a too chilly for citrus (as you know). I am sure you are wintering them inside to protect against freezing.

      As far as the wind…
      Citrus can take some occasional strong wind… but I dont think the leaves would do well being unprotected against the severe winds you can get in Oklahoma. The bamboo staking you mentioned may help the branches from breaking… but there are other wind related concerns.

      For example, most plants growing in containers dont like getting knocked over. I believe the main issue is that the deceleration of the impact shears off the little root hairs which is where most of the root absorption happens. Those strong winds are very likely to knock your containers over. Using a big container may help/

      In addition to the wind burn you mentioned, I would think the leaves would get torn up by that intensity of severe wind.

      So I dont think that the bamboo stakes will solve your challenge.

      If it was me, I would create/find a wind break for them (a fence or strong hedge or something). This is going to be tricky if the wind comes from many different directions.

      Good luck.
      T

      • Thank you for taking time to answer my questions. I intend on pulling them in come the end of our considerably long summers. Both of my Lemon trees have at least 18 or more lemons growing and my Persian Lime is doing the same. I have all of them in large heavy pots with a few wheels underneath so they can be moved easily. I just don’t have a whole lot of knowledge about them and so I am like a sponge when it comes to learning about plants. I am a “PLANT NERD”, if I can get bells of Ireland to grow here that I have done pretty well. I can get just about anything to root even a curly willow. So can you think of anything that I can craft and use as a wind break ???
        I WILL BE THINKING ON THAT ONE TOO!

        On another note, are there any tips on growing these citrus trees that might help them take off other than my soil mixture and fertilizer… I would like them to get a little taller just because they look so little as is.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Allie
          Good questions

          Windbreak:
          A lot of different things can be used as a windbreak. The best structure would be strong… and one you did not need to build (such as a house or existing fence or strong-tall shrubbery). If building from scratch, I would think a fence would be easiest, but it really depends on your specific situation.

          Size:
          One of the major factor determining the size of your tree is the root stock. The root stock is what makes trees dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard size. If your growing in containers, dwarf is the best. Meyer lemons tend to be small and bushy by nature… even when grown in the ground. So I understand where you are coming from but its best to have smaller trees if your growing in containers. Other than that, I would suggest you do the things to keep/make them healthy (refer to tips in the article article).

          Best,
          T

          • Hey Doc,

            Well, we have been getting a lot of rain here in the state and now my lemon trees are paying for it. I pulled them up further under the patio because they were getting too much rain. Therefore, I haven’t been watering them in the past 4-5 days. Now there are a few leaves that are starting to get a lite yellow spotting on them and several are becoming cupped.? So, I think that they are due for more water but I don’t want to over do it. I use a popsicle stick to check the moisture but still am unsure. I have been waiting to spray for pests until they were more established and it has been 2 months. I use a product called hi-yield because it is an all around pesticide and safe for edible crops. Fertilome for citrus trees is what I use for a fertilizer.

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Hey Allie
            Please send some of that rain this way.


            To your point about too much rain.

            Yea, citrus can definitely get too much rain/watering. The main way this shows up is that the leaves get pale green or yellow having a look of nitrogen deficiency. There is some discussion about this in the literature and it seems that the constantly waterlogged roots are not able to pull basic nutrients from the constantly damp soil. Not clear if this is moisture-root damage or chemical alterations to the damp-soil that binds up nitrogen… perhaps both.

            Bottom line: yea too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

            There is not a “gold standard” for exact soil moisture (that I know of). However, I have lots of different citrus varieties and some seem to prefer a bit more moisture than others. Example: the Tahitian Pummello seems to like a bit more moisture… and the Australian finger lime likes less moisture.

            When trying to determine soil-moisture conditions I use some pretty sophisticated tools. My main go-to tool is my finger/hand. lol. I also keep a look out (eyes) to see if leaves are drooping from not enough water.

            Ideally, I like to have the soil to be cool/slightly moist a few inched deep before the next watering. Citrus seem to like a bit of time to breathe bt waterings.

            However, our winters are sometimes very wet and the rain just doesnt stop for weeks. Even in these conditions, they seem to do fine, perhaps because the soil they are growing in is well draining and doesnt waterlog. BTW: waterlogged roots (say bc you have the pot sitting in a water filled saucer or something) can be deadly.

            As far as insecticides:
            There are a lot of approaches. My personal approach is to only use insecticides when you need to. And when I do use an insecticide, I pick the safest/lowest impact chemicals to do the job first, then ratchet it up from there.

            The company you mentioned “Hi-yield” has a huge line of insecticide products, each with different chemicals and applications. In general, I try to stay away from “all around pesticides” because they tend to kill a lot more than I need them to. I dont want to harm beneficial bugs (lady bugs, spiders, bees) or the complex microbiome in the soil that helps plants stay healthy.

            Around here we have a chronic problem called “Citrus Leaf Miner” which is a real pain. You may not have this infestation in your area because you are likely pretty far from other citrus. This may may be like an island of protection from these bugs that dont fly long distances and only attack citrus. None the less, the organic formula that I use to treat this infestation takes care of all the other major citrus bugs that I can realistically treat. Check out the article below for more details.

            Citrus Leafminer: Diagnosis and Treatment

            Best,
            Tom

          • My other question is should I care for my Persian Limes in the same way as my Meyer Lemons?

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Hey Allie
            Good question.
            Yep, I treat them about the same.
            However, they have very different growth habits (Meyer lemons tend to be short and bushy while Persian limes tend to have a more typical tree shape). This impacts where I plant them… perhaps not a big deal for you growing in containers.

            Best,
            Tom

  32. Hello Tom,

    I am back once again with more problems! I am losing fruit… The Meyer Lemon and Persian Lime trees are both dropping fruit after they turn yellow and they don’t really get much of a chance to grow. Now, we have been getting some heavy storms, so I pulled them under the patio where they are protected and they were there for about 2 weeks. Due to them being so saturated before I let them dry out but not “bone dry” so I just moved them back into the sun. I have this theory because of where they were located but are not anymore as of yesterday of a possible reason they may be struggling. They have had a lot a smoke from the propane grill that would just barrel out of the grill when in use… what do you think??? From the yellowing in the leaves, leave cupping, droopy leaves, leaf dropping, yellowing fruit and fruit dropping I am rather Stumped on all this. I want to succeed at this for the plants sake more than anything but I am at a loss as what I can do! Please Help!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Allie
      Plants will often drop fruit when they are young or stressed.
      Your plants may fit both of these categories.

      Constantly waterlogged soil is a problem for citrus and may be a factor for you.
      This can cause root rot and yellowing of leaves.

      However, there are many other factors to consider…
      Such as a plant root-bound in a container.
      Sunlight, fertilizer, heat, etc.
      All of which are more difficult to manage when a plant is in a container.
      Infections such as sap sucking bugs like aphids or scale can contribute to symptoms.
      Moving a plant around a lot can also be stressful for them.

      Considering your situation,
      I might consider re-planting in a larger container with loose well-draining potting soil.
      That will also give you an opportunity to inspect the health of the roots.
      Then I would slowly migrate to a protected sunny location that doesn’t fry from reflected sunlight.

      Good luck!

  33. This theory comes from the transportation of plants and/or flowers by trucks that ethanol poisoning. For, instance a long stemmed rose with ethanol poisoning when received off the delivery truck and you are processing them for the cooler. The head of the flower will just snap off with the slightest touch or the petals will drop off all together with or without touch.

  34. what do you know about Asian fruit flies because I havw found several on the underside of my citrus trees leaves? sorry for the typing but I crushed a digit and broke it out on a landscape job of mine.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Allie
      It would be unusual to have Asian/Oriental fruit flies in your area. My understanding is that these invasive pests are now only found in 3 US states (Hawaii, Florida and California). If you do indeed have Oriental fruit flies in your plants, that would be a big deal and warrant a call to the USDA. There are federal quarantines set up because of these destructive buggers.

      They causes damage when their larva grow and feed on fruit, vegetables and nuts… Which basically destroys the crop.

      Perhaps you have another type of fruit fly or other flying bug problem.

      Knowing the specific insect may make a difference in the treatment.

      T

      • The fly looks just like a regular fly but it is clear in color with a red head I took a picture of it on my phone then looked it up by characteristics… good news is that although the lime tree dropped most of it’s fruit it does have ne foliage growth.
        My lemon tree I am just unsure about because I have made several changes.
        I changed location, watering less often because the humidity is so high
        (80-100% daily), only moving them when heavy storms and rain come in, I fertilized them once more, added mulch, the soil is already great in terms of drainage (50%metro mix/50% acidified cotton burr compost.).
        Now, it has dropped more fruit but not leaves and the leaves are looking better than they were so hopefully that is some kind of improvement. I want to see new growth but only time will tell. they are no longer in the path of all the smoke from the grill. I want to treat them again for pests so what was it that you use because I don’t want to use Malathion 55%.

  35. Hi Doc!

    I’m happy to report that my lemon tree has survived the barrage of west Texas winds so far, and is doing great. Recently my tree (named Jack) has sprung to life with a LOT of new growth and tons of new flower buds. The tree is about 6 ft tall, potted, with a bare trunk and a beach ball sized canopy. My question is this. 80% of the new growth is at the bottom of the trunk, and I don’t know if I should prune back all of the new growth on the bottom to encourage more growth up top with the rest of the leaves. If so, when do I do it? Now?

    Thanks again for this page! I love reading it. Best resource on the Internet by far.

    Josh

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Josh
      Thanks for your question and your awesome endorsement.
      It is great to hear how valuable this site is.
      Its motivating for me to keep writing articles.

      Anyhow… to your question:
      If you are getting a lot of growth at the bottom of the tree then it could be sucker growth from below the graft union.
      All of that lower stuff below the graft union should be removed.
      Sucker growth and dead/diseased branches are bout the only things you need to prune off citrus.

      I touched on this sucker growth topic a bit in an earlier article (see below link).
      In that article, skip down to section G.
      Let me know if that helps answer your question.
      Tree Pruning Techniques

      (I would also consider plucking off the flowers so the plant can divert energy to growing leaves and not fruit while it recovers).

      Great job bringing your plant back to health.
      T

  36. Hi Tom,
    Firstly – Thank you so much for all of your amazing advice! I have found this website most helpful!
    I have a small meyer lemon tree which I have had for about a year and a half. A few months ago it had a major growth spurt with new branches and leaves at the top and bottom of the tree, which I was very excited about. I have recently discovered that “sucker” branches are such a thing and I am unsure if these new branches are them. I am having trouble identifying the graft union as there is no obvious change to the trunk and was wondering if you would please be able to help me out or give me any advice? Please see uploaded images at the link below:
    https://nz.pinterest.com/emroselind/little-lemon-tree/
    All of these branches and leaves look the same as the ones at the top of the tree and there isn’t an obvious increase in thorns on the bottom branches.
    Thank you so much.
    Kind regards,
    Emma

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Emma
      Thanks for the note.
      Your very welcome.

      I agree with you, its hard to see where there is a graft union on that tree.
      It could be well healed or perhaps buried under the soil.
      I like to see the tops of my citrus roots anyhow (to prevent crown rot) so it might be a good idea to move some doil aside by the trunk.

      Overall, from the leaves it looks like you are getting it the right amount of fertilizer. Great job.
      However, the number of leaves is a bit sparse and the leaves are a bit curled.
      Based on what I can tell, the curling does not seem to be from leafminer, although closer up pics may help.
      Curling can also be because of previous water stress (not enough) and that is a really hard thing to balance/keep up with when growing in containers. Curling from water stress event cal also be permanent; not resolving after normal watering. The sparse leaves and curling may also be the result of the plant being root bound. This is a major issue for growing in containers. Both of these issues may be solved with graduating up to a larger container or planting in the ground.

      Good luck!
      Tom

      • Hi Tom,
        Great, I will pull some soil away this evening and see if I can find anything and will let you know how I go. Thank you for that feedback, it’s good to know that I’m fertilizing well! There were a lot more leaves though the middle however through winter we had strong winds which sadly stripped a lot of leaves away (I’m in the Southern hemisphere so we have just come out of winter).
        I will look at planting it into a larger container and hopefully that will help! I have been trying to avoid transplanting because I did that about a year ago and it really didn’t like it and lost a lot of leaves then as well – I’ll be a lot more careful this time though so fingers crossed.
        Thank you very much for your advice!

        • Hi Tom,
          The top of the roots are just under the soil so no luck identifying the graft. In your advice would it be better to remove a branch that wasn’t a sucker or keep a branch that was? I’ve read thathat suckers should be removed stright away and that they are bad for the tree so I’m a bit unsure what to do. There are a lot of new flowers and quite a bit of new leaf growth so he tree seems to be doing fine.
          I’ve also looked into leafminer and my tree doesnt look like the images but i have uploaded new photos of the leaf if you are interested.
          Thank you so much,
          Emma

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Hi Emma
            Great to hear.
            That lowest branch does not look like a sucker to me, but if you wanted to be sure you could snip it off and I dont think it would be a problem either way.
            Yea, doesnt look like leafminer.
            Still recc a larger container sometime soon.
            Tom

  37. Thank you so much for this guide. I have a little potted meyer named Steve that I bought from a local nursery, and he is one of those that fruits whenever he wants. I’m not much of a green thumb, but he’s lasted for a year, and will finish production on his first lemon any day now (the back side of the lemon is still a touch green). He has two others that started in Sept and two more that only just started.

    My problem with him is that when I bring him in for the winter, he loses about a third of his leaves. He’s well watered and gets what sun I can give him from the one window where he lives. I have daylight bulbs in my kitchen overhead, but I’m starting to think they don’t have the ultraviolet that I need to keep Steve and his friends (the other potted plants) happy. I have never fertilized him–I have seen conflicting information and am terrible nervous of burning him. I live in East TN, hardiness zone 7ish) and he’s an indoor/outdoor plant.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Wodentoad
      Thanks for the note and the information about your meyer lemon buddy Steve.

      Regarding the leaf loss, there could be a few different things going on.
      Even in subtropical climates, citrus tend to loose some leaves in the winter.
      They can loos a lot if it gets around freezing temps… a cold air draft may be upsetting your tree.
      Cold air is also heavy, so a plant on the floor will be colder than one that is on a stand.
      Moving any plant around can be stressful, esp if there is a lot of bumping around.
      Citrus need fertilizer… more so than most plants. However, as you noted, feeding a potted plant can be difficult. It can be easy to overdo it. Therefore, I tend to recommend low dose organic fertilizer for potted plants that is more forgiving.
      Potted plants get root bound and they will look very sick even when you are doing everything else right.

      Best,
      Tom

      • Thanks! I have never kept a plant alive for so long. My next project is growing temperate carnivores.

        He is in a window that stays 60+ through the winter. We potted him up into a 5 gallon faux terracotta pot from a 1.5(?)gal with organic potting soil in late summer and on the recommendation of the grower, brought him in when temps fell to the 40s overnight. During the summer he is on the morning sun side of the house and goes into shade between 1-3pm. That being said, when should I fertilize him next?

        Also, his blooms are snow white from the beginning, but I noticed that yours are purple. Is it because of variety?

        • Forgot to add, he is a *dwarf meyer.

          • Living in Northeast Ohio, I had to bring my Meyer in the house. I put it in the basement under grow lights. It has several green lemons and a few new flowers. The leaf situation is something else. I have a few but they are falling off. I check water and only add when I think it is dry enough. I do not know if the plant is in shock due to the move, I moved it to the basement at the end of Oct. I also have the plant up out of the water so that the humidity will help. Should I be doing something else to get through the winter? Help.

          • Thomas Osborne, MD

            Hey Tom
            That’s a bummer. Sorry to hear that.

            So… every home and room is a bit different. However, if your basement is anything like the basements I have known from our old homes… then it is not a great place for plants. Not much light, often cold and dank. Good for mold but not plants, least not tropical or subtropical plants. Unless of course you have a special basement with lots (and lots) of light and warmth and nice airflow. Those grow lights can be expensive if you got a lot of them on for 8+ hours a day.

            So whats your basement growing conditions like?

            That would be the first thing I would be thinking about and then of course all of the other challenges of growing in containers would be next on my list of things to explore.

            Best,
            Tom

          • the basement is cool all the time, when the heat comes on, there is an open vent about 8 feet away. Other than that it is mot moldy or anything like that. My grow light is on approximatle 14 hours a day.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Congrats on keeping it going and fruiting. That can be a challenge for anyone growing citrus in cooler climates.

          I would consider a larger container in the spring.

          When to fertilize depends on a few factors. I tend to fertilize in the major growing season (Spring and Summer). However, if a plant is really deficient then you might want to get them some food sooner than later. The appearance of the leaves may help direct what is needed.

          I am not sure what to make of the difference in the appearance of the flowers. Different flowers often indicate a different variety or type of plant but it might just be a variant.

      • My Meyer lemon is doing fine, but I have a small Japanese Maple and a small Ghinko Biloba that are leafing out here in December. Seems weird to me, especially when the Maples didn’t do well during most of the summer here in south-central California coastal climates. Lost one fine J.Maple that a gardener blamed on over-watering though didn’t water all that much. And if we had a really early or late rainy year those trees would get far, far more water than my twice a week sprinkler drip system provides–and the soil is sandy
        not heavy clay. OK. Mostly dumping about weird growing season.

        Thanks for listening,
        Jack Miles

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Jack.
          I would like to vent too. lol
          I have been noticing the same the last few years.. with different trees responding differently. For example, my figs are both loosing leaves and budding at the same time. I blame it on the erratic weather confusing them.. though its not good for them to invest in new tender leaves that will get beat up in the colder months to come.

          • Erratic weather makes sense. Some very warm days here several times this past fall, as well as some rain, not lots, but slightly above the normal for the period (which is very minimal). Yes, erratic weather.
            Thanks,
            jm

  38. We have a dwarf Meyer lemon that is producing many lemons this year. A week ago we were noticing how the lemons were ripening well and we picked a few. Today, I noted several on the ground. When we picked them up, the lemons have tan spots on them that are soft to the touch. We also noted some (lemons) on the tree that had similar tan spots. We picked those also, and I juiced most to freeze in ice cube trays. We have had rain, both unseasonably warm and now cold weather. Weather changes have never been a problem before. Wonder if you have any ideas about this issue? Of course, we are well aware of the psylliad we have here in Calif. and I do not think we have that problem.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Shirley
      Thanks for the question and happy new year.
      I have also noticed that fruit frequently turns brown in areas where it touches the ground for prolonged amounts of time. I suspect that this in large part because the fruit is closer to microbes and insects in the soil that have more efficient access to the fruit that they can now easy get to. For this reason, some people will prop up branches to prevent fruit from touching the ground.

      As far as similar things happening to fruit not touching the ground… I guess it depends; there are a lot of potential reasons. Of course, as you mentioned, different types of infection may also play a role. Sometimes fruit can get sunburned. Some fruit are more susceptible to this than others but one common issue is when fruit develop in shaded areas and then are suddenly exposed to direct sunlight. However, I would expect that this would be a less likely cause this time of year. Other environmental factors , such as frost can damage fruit and if the frost is light than it may only effect specific areas of the fruit that are more exposed. The wrong (increased) concentrations of insecticide spray can damage fruit and leaves too. Looking for patterns in the areas of problems may help to narrow down the possibilities.

      Best,
      Tom

  39. I no longer remember what brought me to your site. Whatever it was, I was very impressed with the clarity and completeness of your writings. I went to your home page and started reading articles of interest. It turned out almost every article you have published was of personal interest to me and I have spent many days now reading article after article. Bookmarking a lot of them.

    After several days, I have gotten this far and I am looking forward to your earlier articles.

    I know it has taken a lot of work and time to provide all of this information. Thank you very much.

    When do you apply the tanglefoot and do you leave it on all year?

    After reading this article on the Meyer lemon, I am interested in grafting a Meyer lemon scion to my Lisbon lemon tree. Do you think that is possible?

    Finally, I watched the short video of your friend tasting the Mission fig and I was fascinated with the glimpse of your orchard. I think it would be very interesting if you could make a video with a tour of your orchard.

    Thanks again for your wonderful site.

    David T.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Awesome!
      So awesome to hear that the site has been so on target and useful for you.
      That is exactly the type of thing that I had hoped for when I started putting it together.
      I have so much more content to share, just trying to find the time to create the articles.

      Your questions:

      Tanglefoot:
      Yes, I leave the tangle foot on all year. However, it only lasts a month or so before it gets covered with dust and no longer works. At that point, you can take a stick and manipulate the goo to expose some fresh stuff which might extend the life another month before it gets dehydrated. At that point, time to reapply. When I reapply, I will start with now paper/tape.

      You can apply tanglefoot anytime of year. However, since you are mainly trying to keep out the crawling vermin that play a part in sucking sap… the spring is the most important time of year to use it (most of these insects really get into it with young vulnerable leaves).

      I also will use tangle foot as part of the treatment if a plant is hit with an infestation anytime of year.

      Grafting:
      I have not tried grafting meyer onto Lisbon, but I would think it should work.

      Video suggestion:
      Great suggestion. Ill put it on my list.

      Thanks!
      Tom

  40. Tom
    We live a couple blocks from the ocean here in Southern California and have an incredibly prolific Meyer Lemon tree. We’ve done literally nothing to fertilize it except tossing a couple gallons of water mixed with Miracle Gro for acid loving plants now and again.
    The fruiting/flowering season never seems to stop and the neighbors as well as those on the walk street LOVE it.
    My observation lately is that some of the low-hanging fruit, when ripe, may have small, white pits in the skin. I’ve cut into the skin and found that none of the pits are into the fruit.
    Do you think this is a problem or just some opportunistic pest?
    It only seems to be on fruit within maybe 6 inches of the ground.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Reggie
      Congrats on your prolific Meyer lemon and for living so close to the ocean.

      Interesting citrus problem.
      I have not seen that before but have some thoughts. There are some fungal diseases that cause spots on citrus… and those spots tend to be on lower fruit because of splash from the ground. As an example, one of those fungal issues is “Septoria spot” which causes brown spots (not white ones that I know of). Another fungal disease melanose causes brown spots as well, but I read rarely that they cause white spots. Heres a pectoral list of some citrus fruit problems, but I dont see any white spots on this page.

      Thanks,
      Tom

  41. Tom, thanks for the great articles on this website.This my my first tree and I have had it one year now. Since we are in Upstate NY (Rochester) it is still in a pot and is now indoors until spring. The tree did very well thru the summer and I have 6 lemons on it as I brought it indoors before the temperature dropped .I read not to fertilize during the cold months as the tree goes dormant. Will the fruit continue to mature and ripped indoors through the winter. Any tips?
    Thanks

    Dennis

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Dennis
      Thanks for the question and small world; I grew up in Rochester NY!
      So I totally understand what a real winter means (lake effect and all).

      I really admire you pushing the growing boundaries.

      So… as you know Rochester winters are cold and can be rather dark.
      Which is exactly the opposite of what citrus want.
      To optimize chances of survival, you will need to address those challenges.

      Temps:
      The easier of the two main challenges to address would be temperature… Keep your citrus nice and warm if you can. Frost kills. Avoid cold drafts or super intense heat (from a space heater that is too close). Unfortunately, heating up a home in the North East often means that it also going to be really dry… Not to mention expensive. Citrus can definitely handle dry conditions, but you will need to keep a close eye on the soil to make sure it doesn’t get too dry. Bone dry soil (esp for a potted plant) will mean a dead citrus, regardless of the other conditions.

      Getting your citrus enough sunlight will be a big challenge. If you are lucky to have a sun room (like my sister), that will help. A nice South facing window is a great alternative. But there is always a risk of cold drafts. Covering windows with that clear window plastic draft protection stuff helped us a ton when were in the North East. This window film kit on amazon does not have the best ratings but it the type of things I am talking about.

      However, even with a sun room, or a great South facing window, the intensity and hours of sunlight in the winter will be lacking. Augmenting with a grow light will help, but again, that is expensive. As an example, here is a highly rated best seller grow light option from amazon.

      Since your citrus will need all the help it can get in the winter… optimizing everything as much as possible is really important.

      As an example, fruit and flowers cost the plant energy without contributing to the production of plant resources. Therefore, if I was in your position, I would remove all fruit and flowers at this time of year (and throughout the challenging indoor fall and winter months). I know that is not a popular option. However, that is just another way to optimize your chances of keeping your plant going through the winter.

      Best of luck and please let us know how it goes.

      Thanks!
      Tom

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