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Potted lemon tree not thriving

 
Posts: 5
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Hi everyone, I'm hoping someone can help me with my cherished lemon tree. I planted the tree from seed 18 years ago in a pot. I live in what I believe is Zone 5b (Nova Scotia) so I bring the tree out onto the deck in the spring after the last risk of frost where it enjoys full sun and generally responds by producing lots of new lush, dark, shiny foliage. This year, however, the leaves were prolific but pale, with dark veins showing, and little to no lustre.

This tree has flowered a little in the recent past and once actually bore us some tiny yellow lemons. I've attached photos of its general condition and leaves. I've brought it indoors now, and it's in a southwest corner with lots of light, in rich organic soul in a 16" pot (a bit root bound), no drafts, stable temperatures. I've given it bloodmeal and other high nitrogen fertilizer. I've not seen any pests.

If anyone has any practical suggestions, please let me know. I'd really appreciate your insight and experience as this tree is like a member of the family now. Thank you.
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steward
Posts: 4411
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I wish my lemon trees looked that good  

Hopefully someone with actual knowledge comes along to help, I'll be learning too!
 
pollinator
Posts: 586
Location: Southern Oregon
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Have you pulled it out of the pot, trimmed roots and repotted recently. Doing that at least every couple years is generally recommended for potted trees, as is increasing pot size. If you haven't, I would recommend that as a first course of action.
 
Michael Gabriel
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Thank you both for your responses! Tracy, it had occurred to me to move to a larger pot (again), but I had never thought to trim roots. That makes sense, thank you. I admit I'm a bit skittish when it comes to doing something to the root system and worry that I might damage the tree by doing so. Can you offer any general guidance in that regard? Maybe something I can watch on YouTube? Mike, I thank you for your reply, also, and hope that Stacy's recommendation might be useful for you, too.
 
Posts: 1770
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Looks like it needs iron to me.
 
Stacy Witscher
pollinator
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Location: Southern Oregon
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A quick google search came up with lots of posts on youtube and elsewhere for root pruning potted plants. I have never watched anything online about this, my mother taught me how to do it, basically it's just cutting away root bound portions and teasing out the rest of the roots, just like when transplanting.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2389
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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The plant is 18yrs old it could just be time for it to die of old age.

The roots could be running out of space so either prune the roots or upgrade to a bigger pot. Even if you upgrade to a bigger pot if the roots are already circling each other it will still cause problems being root bound.

The leaves could be a problem I am seeing that the space between the "veins" in the leaves are paler/yellower.
Iron Deficiency – Yellowing occurs between the veins of young leaves. Plants absorb iron as an ion through their foliage as well as their roots. Uptake is strongly affected by pH. Chelated iron is readily available for use by the plant, other forms of iron may be tied up in the soil. Anything with the word “iron chelate.”
Less likely due to a lack of dead spot/patches but still possible is Manganese Deficiency– Yellowing occurs between the veins of young leaves. Pattern is not as distinct as with iron. Reduction in size of plant parts (leaves, shoots, fruit) generally. Dead spots or patches. Plants absorb manganese as an ion through their foliage as well as their roots. Anything with the words “manganese” or “manganous.” Often required with zinc applicatio

It is possible that the plant is getting too much nitrogen to keep up with the other Minerals, and so less blossom/fruiting happens.

The lack of fruiting could just be due to the plant adapting to the not enough heat/sunlight/energy or day length for it to blossom. Or maybe it blossoms in winter vs spring/summer and so lack of pollinators
 
gardener
Posts: 5964
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Michael, to learn root pruning all you need is a good book on Bonsai, they cover proper root pruning in great detail in most of the good books.

I would also increase container size, with enough root growth you should get lemons. The larger container combined with proper (1/3 of the root mass) root pruning will give enough space for new root growth and fruit set.

Redhawk
 
Michael Gabriel
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Wow, so many good, useful responses! Thank you Stacy, Elle, S Bengi, and Redhawk. Looks like the root pruning/pot size would definitely be a place to start, as well as the manganese and chelated iron. I'm very grateful for your time, consideration, and all your wonderful suggestions!
 
pollinator
Posts: 761
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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What about a potted lemon, only 3 yrs old (from nursery), flowering, fruiting, leafing etc.  But ... it has leaf tip and partial edge yellowing.  I'm going to try to chelated iron... but anything else?  pH should be extreme in either direction...but ?   (I was told lemons are very tough..used as street plants in L.A., etc.  hmmm... L.A.?  isn't soil down their general on the alkaline side?   Baking soda solution?  (I know... would have to be ultra light soluton)
 
Michael Gabriel
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Hi everyone. About a month after trimming and combing out the roots, adding some excellent fresh organic earth, feeding the tree with Seaboost and a slow release pellet food, my little tree is looking sadder than before. It breaks my heart to see it looking like this. Any more suggestions, please?
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Bryant RedHawk
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Posts: 5964
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I think you need to use some Epsom salts and some sort of mineral dust and or green sand.
The leaves are showing wilt (I do think this is root pruning shock more than lack of water uptake)
The coloration on the leaves can be one or more defects in manganese, magnesium or iron.
 
Michael Gabriel
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Thanks Bryant! I really appreciate your help.

Can you recommend the proportion of ES to water and how often I'd need to use it/water the tree?
 
S Bengi
pollinator
Posts: 2389
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Plants will also uptake minerals thru their leaves too, not just their roots.
So feel free to make a foilar spray and spray the leaves. Alternate between regular water leaf spray and nutrient enhanced foilar leaf spray.
 
Posts: 499
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County Zone 10b
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Michael, I believe your Lemon tree just needs some time to recover from the changes. We have two bearing Lemon trees in pots for years. I've noticed that they grow in spurts. They'll look tired for a while and then bloom and sprout new leaves.

This is a Walnut tree I planted from a nut. Right now it's asleep for the Winter.



In 30 years the soil has never been disturbed.

 
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