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My indoor finger lime is dropping leaves rapidly-is it doomed?

M Y
last month

I had purchased a finger lime tree in June 2020, and repotted it to a larger container within a week. I didn't put any stones at the bottom of the new pot, as it had 8 drilled holes around the bottom. I used miracle grow indoor potting soil and 5 oz of Nelson plant food.


The plant was growing well for a couple of months - only issue is that I have had red spider mites appear randomly. I used a vegetable oil and dish soap in water spray, and that helped reduce their numbers, but they occasionally still appear. I read something that said adding chili powder to this spray further reduces pest problems, so I did that last week.


I usually water 30z twice a week, once on Thursday and once on Sunday. Sometimes, I stray and wait for the soil to dry a bit, and for the drain saucer to let its liquid evaporate.


Recently, my plant has had browning edges on its leaves. More alarmingly, many new growths are yellowish and stunted. Some leaves have curls and are misshapen. I have trimmed some of these off, but I am concerned that my plant might be dying.


My instinct tells me the problem is one of the following: I have left too much moisture at the bottom of the plant and it is hurting my tree; random spider webs are appearing, and the mites are hurting my plant; or that the addition of chili powder to my spray is harmful to my tree (I used the chili spray a couple days before this started happening).


Any help would be much appreciated! Photos are below!









Comments (97)

  • Ken B Zone 7
    27 days ago

    I actually just copied and pasted your name from the post from howard, so he was the one the misspelled it originally....funny how much a letter can change a word! :)

  • poncirusguy6b452xx
    27 days ago

    Ken I see it now. Quite funny.

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  • hibiscus909
    26 days ago

    (I only skimmed quickly over the posts, so bear that in mind)

    Yes, get the spider mites under control asap. Homemade sprays can be OK, but if not mixed and applied right, they can damage the plant. Same is true for commercial sprays, but of course those have exact dosages and directions. Persistence is critical for pest control.


    Potting mix sure is a hot topic. I use a general potting mix (Berger brand) that is amended with perlite. Some of mine are in 5-1-1 but I just can't get the hang of it. For the bark I use pine bark fines, which is (of course) smaller than the pine bark you generally find available. I can only find it as 'soil conditioner' at Home Depot



  • HOWARD Martin
    24 days ago

    I'm not not perfect I'm just beginner

  • poncirusguy6b452xx
    24 days ago

    I'm not perfect either and I have been around 8 years. Just ask my wife.

    Steve

  • M Y
    Original Author
    17 days ago

    Just thought I'd throw in an update. The since the post, I've drenched the pot in water on 3 separate occasions over the course of 11 days (about an hour, each time).


    Yesterday, I repotted the plant using 10-2-2 (a little less than a cup of lime). Unfortunately, throughout this time, the tree has continued to shed leaves pretty rapidly (I usually wake up to a good 10-20 leaves per morning to clean up). I also bought a plant light and moved the plant away from the window in hopes that it doesn't get burns from sunlight anymore. Any time I water the plant, I am sure to empty the saucer to make sure the pot isn't sitting in a wet plate.


    Since many of these changes are pretty new, I am hoping that even though the tree is still dropping leaves, it will bounce back soon. To be safe, I took a couple measures that weren't mentioned in the above posts. These include:


    -moving the tree even further from ventilation (it was about 6 feet away from the nearest vent, and not in it's line of fire for AC)

    -increasing the overall temperature in my apartment - I generally like it cool, so I set the AC to 72, but since it's a small apartment, it might actually be cooler than that.


    I am wondering if maybe I overlooked the possibility that the tree has begun to rot - I definitely notice some black spots along the stems that don't wipe away with a paper towel, and even some really dark brown/blackish stem tips. I've posted a few of the updated pictures, in case anyone wants to see.


    Thanks again everyone! Hope it's a good holiday weekend!






  • HOWARD Martin
    15 days ago

    the best can vary with your enviroment

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    15 days ago

    Does not look too bad, a bit lanky and sparse but I think it will recover.

    When you repotted the plant did you inspect the roots for rot? Rotted roots are dark, sometimes mushy and easily separate from the rest in clumps. Second, did you bare-root the plants - that is wash out all the old soil? If not that can cause problems down the road. Also the roots must be kept wet throughout the process of repotting. Assuming everything went fine with repotting. The next thing is what kind of led light is that. Does not look bright enough for the plant. I would keep it in bright but not direct Sun for a week or two after a repot and transition to direct Sun or the brightest spot next to a window. Assuming this plant will be kept indoors. Mine is outside and gets full Sun for 4-5 hrs I would say.

    Often plants, especially indoors will drop leaves if there is not enough light. Often after a repot the plant will shed some leaves and sulk for a couple of weeks before reversing course.

    Also no need to drench/flush everytime. You can do that every 4th time you plan to water. After watering tilt the pot to drain out any excess. How are you fertilizing?

  • bonsai_citrus_and_indoor_gardening
    14 days ago

    I noticed that you mentioned you've soaked it 3 times in 11 days? You might have waterlogged it a bit. I might use a skewer to tell if the soil is really wet (take a wooden skewer or a wooden chopstick, insert it deep into the soil, then pull it out. If soil sticks to it and it feels wet, your soil is wet and you don't need to water). I would do that, or get one of those cheap moisture meters and use that, they're not always totally accurate but they can get you in the ballpark. Alternatively just stick a finger in the soil and see if it feels really wet to you. Even with a grittier mix you can still overwater, and if you are seeing black spots you might have overwatered it. As tropicofcancer said, did you inspect the roots? Roots are going to tell you a lot about your plant. Luckily plants can bounce back from a lot. I have a fig that lost about 90% of its root mass before I got it and it came back after some careful root pruning of the rotten roots and subsequent care, and I have a brush cherry that was completely defoliated and lost about 90% of its root mass to a pest infestation that has begun flushing out again. So don't worry, as I said before, trees can survive a lot with the proper care. What I might do is let the plant dry out for a bit, then water once the soil is no longer soggy or too wet. Citrus trees tend to grow in flushes, so even if you don't see any immediate results in the form of new leaves, it is likely growing new roots under the surface and will flush out again soon. Good luck!

  • Jan
    14 days ago

    the tree doesn’t look terrible but I’ve experienced this many times with indoor trees. I think you should definitely put it in the sunniest location you have it can never get too much sun and maybe let it dry? citrus can take a wilt more than an overwater it’s usually the most common reason for the death of a citrus is when someone over waters it. Did you put it ins bark based mix? Those actually stay wet for quite some time in my experience. If it doesnt get full sun I would not water it so much.

  • HOWARD Martin
    14 days ago

    good morning. I had to get a new phone

  • HOWARD Martin
    14 days ago

    I got a question and it may be a tough one to respond to

  • HOWARD Martin
    14 days ago

    I live here in Ashland , Kentucky in zone 6b my regular lemon seedling. survived. temperatures of lower 20' s. And upper teens. winter winds and the pot was filled with clay soil. the pot was black painted gold and march extreme sun pot was half full with clay. the seedling wa about two inches high?

  • HOWARD Martin
    14 days ago

    an regular lemons aren't supposed to handle those temperatures

  • M Y
    Original Author
    13 days ago

    Hi again everyone!


    Unfortunately, while repotting, I hadn't thought to research rot deeply, so I didn't know what to look for. However, during repotting, I noticed that my soil retained a great deal of moisture even 3 days after watering (and before I intended to water on that day). I didn't notice anything that stood out to me in the roots - though certain parts of the roots looked pretty dark brown, while other parts did not. I did not prune the roots at all.


    In repotting, I did brush off as much of the old soil as I could get. I placed the plant's roots in a home depot bucket that was full of water. The new potting mix is indeed composed of wood fines (fir). After repotting, I used the citrus Nelson Plant Food mix (as instructed by the US Citrus guide), but only used a little under two tablespoons spread along the top of the potting mix.


    As for the drenching - sorry that I wasn't clear when I originally posted that. I usually water my plant 2 times a week, ~30 oz. each time. However, because of the spiderwebs I noticed, I submerged the soil in water 3 separate occasions over 11 days so as to kill any possible mites. Going forward, I intend to use a meter, as suggested, and aim to keep the soil at 40-60% moisture levels.


    The light I use is the one that US Citrus recommended - they sold me the plant and indicated that the light is sufficient for consistent growth. It's a 15W full spectrum bulb, by a company called Sansi. The plant is currently next to a west-facing window and gets about 1-2 hours of direct sunlight/day; I also leave the light on for ~12 hours/day, but that might be overkill.


    Going forward, I'm going to monitor the leaf drop. I repotted about 4 days ago. The first two days, the plant continued to drop many leaves every day (15+ leaves). In the last two days, however, it seems to have reduced (maybe 15 leaves, combined). If it stops dropping leaves, I am thinking about pruning off the browned tips of the plant to stimulate growth - would you guys recommend against this?


    Hope you guys had a good Labor Day weekend!


    PS - I'd love to help you Howard, but as you can see, I'm probably not the best source of information on this stuff!

  • bonsai_citrus_and_indoor_gardening
    13 days ago

    In the future always check the roots when you repot, dead roots are going to be dark brown and mushy, live roots will be plump and crisp. When you have dead material on a tree I've always found it best to remove it. It won't necessarily stimulate immediate growth on a citrus tree (citrus tend to grow in flushes), but it sometimes can depending on other factors. Dead material doesn't always harm a tree, in fact in some species of tree bonsai masters will sometimes create dead material for aesthetic appeal, but it can draw strength from the tree and weaken it if it begins to rot on the branch. In addition it can be diseased and you want to remove any diseased wood in the healthy tissue before you get to the diseased parts. Dead material will sometimes turn brown (I have a dried out citrus branch from a rootstock sucker on a family member's tree that was allowed to grow way out of control that retained its bright green color because of ambient conditions, so brown isn't always your indicator if a branch is dead), but if the branch is brittle and dry it is likely dead. Make sure you sanitize your cutting tool (I just run some rubbing alcohol over it on a paper towel and that usually does the trick, other people have other methods), and then make your cuts in the healthy tissue past the dead tissue. Make sure to dispose of any dead tissue in the event that it might have a fungus or other pathogen. Mite infestations can often cause leaf drop and it can take a tree awhile once the mites are gone to stop dropping leaves, so don't worry, if you keep taking care of the tree it can still bounce back.

  • M Y
    Original Author
    13 days ago

    Thanks bonsai, really good tips - I definitely would have cut off the few bits of dark brown root - unfortunately they're still in there. I'm tempted to dig it back up and cut them, but I'm suspecting that since I've let it sit for so long, if rot is developing, it might have already spread too far. Mainly the leaves that are dropping now are healthy looking leaves that snap off upon a light touch. Will keep an eye on it - if not, hopefully I'll be able to replace it with one that I will be better equipped to care for.

  • HOWARD Martin
    13 days ago

    u need to get some insecticidal soap for those spider mites and keep your soil dryer

  • bonsai_citrus_and_indoor_gardening
    13 days ago

    If you're certain that it had a few dead roots I might take the chance to turn it out and trim them off. If there is any healthy root left, removing the dead stuff can give it the chance it needs to recover, the dead stuff can just spread disease. Your tree will put out new roots first, so even if you don't see any new leaves, stuff can be happening under the surface. By removing the dead material and leaving the live, healthy, tissue you give the tree its best chance. As long as the material above the graft line doesn't die, your tree can recover. Trees can always grow new leaves, it just takes patience.

  • Ken B Zone 7
    13 days ago

    Drenching the soil for spiderm mites does nothing, spider mites are not in the soil, they are all n the foliage. Even just spraying water helps but horticultural oil every 3 days for a week or two will take care of them. Just only spray it in the shade or cloudy day or you will get burn.

  • bonsai_citrus_and_indoor_gardening
    13 days ago

    It all depends on the variety that you have. Some varieties of spider mite will hide in the soil if they're knocked off the branches, or will overwinter in the soil, (the variety in my area do, therefore you have two choices if they get into a houseplant: soak the plant but only do this once every 11 days or when the soil dries out, or carefully remove the top 2 inches of soil and dispose of it. I've had whole planters covered from the top of the plant to the base of the planter in their silk. (used to have a planter with flowering plants on the doorstep, they devoured the plants in 2 days that I wasn't home.) Whatever variety that exists in my area is difficult to get rid of for that reason. Outdoors I'd definitely go the predatory mite route, but indoors you don't have to go that far. Going the neem oil route, you have to treat often, and remove the top layer of soil to catch any that fall or they'll simply reinfest the plant. Once again though, this is variety specific. You need to know the variety you're dealing with, is it 2 spotted? Pacific red? Identification is half the battle.

  • Silica
    12 days ago

    Personally, I would chose horticultural oil, such as Ultra Pure HO, over neem. Does a much faster and better job of control.

  • HOWARD Martin
    11 days ago

    tropicofcancer I'm wondering why am I having such good luck at getting lemon seeds to com up in fire plastic clay and most people fail at getting anything to grow in clay soil

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    9 days ago

    HOWARD Sprouting seeds and growing them to maturity are two different things. For one a seedling has the seed itself to provide the initial food needed for the seedling to grow on its own a bit. Second the roots are shallow and so have not yet encountered water saturation in clay or lack of oxygen. Let it grow for a year and see how it does.

  • HOWARD Martin
    9 days ago

    when I see my pots and buckets have too much water I tip the pots and buckets

  • M Y
    Original Author
    7 days ago

    So Thursday will be two full weeks since repotting and cleaning the plant up. The leaf drop seems slightly less severe, but it is still dropping leaves. The part that concerns me more is that there is continued browning/blacking - maybe it's too late to fix the roots?





  • HOWARD Martin
    7 days ago

    some times plants take more than a month to recover

  • Ken B Zone 7
    7 days ago

    I would expect you will lose most of the leaves on the tree, hopefully you get another flush soon, I have seen citrus trees lose every leaf over the winter and appear dead but start growing again in the spring. Is the tree grafted or on its own roots? If it's grafted watch out for rootstock growth.

  • M Y
    Original Author
    7 days ago
    last modified: 7 days ago

    Got it - was just surprised by the deep blackening and the continued yellowing. Starting to wonder if 1 cup lime was too much for the 12-13 quarts of 5-1-1 mix (waiting for my PH gauge to come in).

  • bonsai_citrus_and_indoor_gardening
    7 days ago

    Even if a tree loses most of its leaves it can still come back, like Ken said, I'd keep an eye on the blackening branches and remove any wood that appears diseased. Sometimes the tree can survive it, but it's usually a good idea to remove dead wood unless it's a look you're trying to create in a healthy tree.

  • HOWARD Martin
    7 days ago

    I agree about removing dead wood because that can take extra strength which your tree don'have

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    7 days ago

    1 cup of lime for 12-13 quarts of mix is way too much. You needed only 4 tbsp but you added 16 tbsp. The rate is 1 tbsp per gallon (=4quarts) of mix.

  • M Y
    Original Author
    6 days ago

    Bahh, the guide I read said to add close to a cup. Maybe that's why leaves are continuing to brown. Will need fix my mix again - this will be the third repot. Guess I'll inspect the roots while I'm down there. Thanks for the info, guys!

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 days ago

    The guide has two recipes: a small batch and a large batch. The proportions in either case is the same. You used the quantity for the large batch for quite a small batch.

    Do not throw away the current mix. You can "dilute" the mix. Your current mix is has 4 times the required lime. You can add 3 parts of fresh mix (with no lime) and add it to 1 part of your current mix and you will end with correct proportions. Remember to mix them up well.

  • poncirusguy6b452xx
    6 days ago

    Why not add sulfur.

    Steve

  • HOWARD Martin
    6 days ago

    u might want to add Epsom salt magnesium sulfate

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 days ago

    Sulfur requires the presence of oxidizing bacteria which is unlikely in a soil less mix and in containers. It is very slow process. Even in ground it takes years to lower the Ph. The problem here is way too much Ca/Mg that will interfere with all other nutrients and their uptake. The actual Ph may not be very high but it will not easily budge from there.

    Dolomite already has quite a bit of magnesium and adding epsom will make it even worse.

  • HOWARD Martin
    6 days ago

    just a suggestion I'm using clay soil on my trees seedling s

  • HOWARD Martin
    5 days ago

    I Don't know if you would call this a soulless mix I just put my best seedlings in a pot of actively decaying leaves

  • bklyn citrus (zone 7B)
    5 days ago

    Actively decaying leaves belongs in the holes I dig in my garden beds in fall to decompose over the winter. You are likely to introduce disease and insects into the house.

  • HOWARD Martin
    5 days ago

    these look like they have been decaying for about a year

  • Meyermike(Zone 6a Ma.)
    4 days ago

    Tropicofancer, thank you for all the info you share here. I will always appreciate that))

    Howard, how come you don't use a soilless mix at any local store? Every hardware store sells it. It's sterile giving your seedlings a better chance at survival a good growth.


  • HOWARD Martin
    4 days ago

    don't have the money

  • Meyermike(Zone 6a Ma.)
    4 days ago
    last modified: 4 days ago

    Howard, send me your address and I will send you a small bag, I don't mind at all.

    e-mail me at

    mikerno_1@yahoo.com

  • HOWARD Martin
    4 days ago

    514F 29th street Ashland ,Kentucky

  • HOWARD Martin
    4 days ago

    41101

  • Meyermike(Zone 6a Ma.)
    yesterday

    Howard , got it. I will let you when when it goes out) It will be a bulk box for cheap shipping. Hope it helps.

  • HOWARD Martin
    yesterday

    I brought my lemon trees in for this year so they can get some highth

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    yesterday

    Howard you mentioned you are moving to Washington DC very soon. Are you sure you are going to get the package at your current location that Mike is sending you?

  • HOWARD Martin
    22 hours ago

    no I'm not