WHY IS MY LEMON TREE DROPPING LEAVES?

Why is my lemon tree dropping leaves? - http://breakfastandotherstories.files.wordpress.com/


It can be quite worrying if your once magnificent lemon tree begins to drop its leaves, and it can appear to do so without any obvious cause. However, citrus are not as temperamental as they may seem and will only drop their leaves if they are put under environmental stress.

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In their native habitat of north-east India, northern Burma, and China, they are blessed with a warm, mild climate. Within this environment they can be considered evergreen but since migrating to cooler climates where it is grown as a commercial crop they have had to cope with harsher weather. In extreme cases leaf drop will occur prior to dormancy, but this is a natural response in which the plant protects itself while waiting for the weather to improve. So rather than being evergreen, lemon trees are in fact deciduous.

Of course for any citrus tree losing its leaves is an exceptional response and only occurs as the last resort of self preservation. It must be considered as a dramatic and even traumatic event in its existence and you can expect to see a certain amount of die back in branch extremities. Furthermore, recovery will take time and it may take two to three years before it reaches its former glory, but only if it is not subjected to further environmental stress.

The most common reasons behind leaf drop in garden citrus is over-watering. However, in field grown stock under irrigation the most common reason behind leaf drop is damaged or broken irrigation pipes. If kept in terracotta pots with a well-drained compost you can water almost freely over the growing period but as soon as the nights begin to cool you must allow the top few inches of compost to become dry before re-watering. Furthermore, it lemon trees are left outside over winter they may be able to tolerate temperatures below 5°C and even lower for short periods, but any colder and they will drop their leaves. At this point they must be brought in under protection to prevent further damage to the branches. For optimum condition lemon trees prefer a cool winter rest with a minimum winter night temperature of not less than 10°C.

Once under protection they can become a little precious with the low light levels, higher humidity and warmer temperatures. Under these circumstances they can be prone to dropping leaves especially if there are draughts, too high or too low a temperature and either too much or too little water in the winter. Citrus can be placed back outside in the garden once the threat of late frosts is over and have been hardened of a week or so beforehand.

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