27 February 2009

Shock the Lime

Alright people, I need your collective wisdom.

My potted Mexican lime tree has decided to throw off all its leaves. Pop. The potted Meyer lemon doesn't seem too far behind. Help.

The backgrounder: I left both citrus trees out all winter. We've had a pretty mild winter, and they've both been in bloom almost the whole time. I've been watering, but not too much. I did not fertilize all winter, but since spring is here, I decided it was time to give them a boost. I know that citrus likes nitrogen and needs extra.

In the past, I've used blood meal, which has worked pretty good for the trees. Problem is, Libby (le pooch) loves to snarfle that stuff down, exposing the roots. So this past weekend, I stuck a Miracle Grow Fruit & Nut tree spike into each pot. Now, the directions are clearly meant for planted trees. In fact, the package clearly says not to plant the spike within 2 feet of the trunk, impossible in my potted trees. I took a risk.

So this week, all the leaves just started falling off. Some of them are turning blotchy tan first. I've checked for scale, another citrus killer, and there ain't nothing.

I promptly removed the spikes.

Any thoughts out there in the blogosphere?

(I'll try to post photos this weekend.)


erin said...

this is no fun! is it all the leaves, or just the older ones? citrus trees normally lose the older leaves each year before they flush out for spring. it can be alarming.
if the fertilizer spikes are slow-release, it's probably not the fertilizer. it's pretty coincidental that it happened just after you fertilized, though.
good luck!

east-side-patch said...

Hi Lee.
More than likely the cold caused the leaf drop. It will probably jump right back to life when it warms up. My Mexican lime tree used to do this alarming behavour when it was younger. Regarding fertilizer, I found anything topical (and even liquid) applied to the roots and leaves, such as seaweed, fish emulsion, etc was not "stomached" very well at all by the tree. In fact it turned the leaves brown. The only thing I use on my citrus now is non-burning, good-old home-made compost, cast on top of the soil and allowed to slowly decompose. Seems to work for me.

Lee said...

OK, well it sounds like it is not the end of the world, which is good to hear. I'll keep my fingers crossed that the leaves show up again soon...and thanks for the compost tip. Libby doesn't give that stuff a second sniff, so I'll give it a shot!

Mary Beth said...

Lee -
I had the same experience as ESP with my lime tree - it would drop leaves and I couldn't figure out why. But it always put out a new flush of leaves. I would just be careful about doing too much - too much water, too much fertilizer, too much of anything that might add stress to a tree already under a bit of stress. Let us know what happens! Mary Beth

Lancashire rose said...

My lemons and limes are losing most of their older leaves. I think it is just a natural part of the cycle. I was told that once the fruit is forming not to fertilize as that causes the fruit to be bitter. I would just use fish or seaweed if you use anything.
Watch out for scale- it usually shows up at some point, sort of sneaks up on you.

Michelle said...

My Mexican Lime tree did the same thing exactly. The leaves turned tan and looked pretty bad. Within no time it is full of fresh little leaves and covered in small buds. I can almost taste those limes already!!!

Good Luck!
Getting Dirty in Texas