Suckers On Lemon Trees: What Are Tree Shoots At Base Of Lemon Tree


By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Are you seeing small tree shoots at the base of your lemon tree or new strange looking branches growing low on the tree trunk? These are most likely lemon tree sucker growth. Continue reading to learn about suckers on lemon trees and how to go about removing lemon tree suckers.

Tree Shoots at Base of Lemon Tree

Lemon tree suckers can grow from the roots and will grow out of the base of the tree and sprout right from the ground around the tree. Sometimes, this lemon tree sucker growth can be caused by the tree being planted too shallow. Building up a bed of soil and mulch around the tree base can help if you suspect your tree is too shallow.

Other times new shoots may grow if the cambium layer under the bark has been nicked or cut. This can happen from mishaps with mowers, trimmers, shovels, or trowels used in the root area, or animal damage. However, suckers are pretty common on fruit trees.

Lemon tree suckers can also grow from the trunk of the tree below the graft union. Most lemon trees are made from grafting fruit bearing branches to dwarf or more hardy resistant rootstock. The graft union in young trees is usually obvious as a diagonal scar; the bark on the root stock may look different from the fruit bearing tree. As the tree ages, the graft union may scar over and look like just a bump around the tree trunk.

Removing Lemon Tree Suckers

Any lemon tree sucker growth below the plant’s graft union should be removed. These shoots grow quickly and vigorously, stealing nutrients from the fruit tree. These suckers produce thornier branches and will not produce the same fruit as the grafted lemon tree. Their quick growth allows them to quickly take over the fruit tree, if ignored.

There are various fruit tree sucker stopping products you can buy at garden centers and hardware stores. However, lemon trees can be very sensitive to chemicals. Removing lemon tree suckers by hand is much better than trying products that may damage the fruit bearing tree.

If your lemon tree is sending out suckers from the roots around the tree, you may simply be able to control them by mowing.

Lemon tree sucker growth on the trunk of the tree should be snipped back to the branch collar with sharp, sterile pruners. There are two schools of thought for removing lemon tree suckers around the base of the tree. If necessary, you should dig down as far as you can to find the base of the sucker. Some arborists believe you should then snap off these suckers, not cut them off. Other arborists insist the suckers should only be cut off with sharp, sterile pruners or loppers. Whichever way you choose to do it, make sure to remove any suckers as soon as you spot them.

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Removing Lemon Tree Suckers - Dealing With Suckers On Lemon Trees - garden

Pruning is a common task necessary for best production of many common fruit trees. Most types of deciduous trees are pruned to invigorate the tree, to improve branch configuration, and thus make branches less likely to split under a heavy crop, to improve fruit quality, and/or to reduce the crop load which will improve the potential size of individual fruits.

Homeowners with previous experience pruning deciduous trees often assume that citrus trees should be pruned similarly. However citrus wood is naturally strong and is not as likely to break under the stress of a large fruit load. Furthermore, citrus trees can produce fruit in all but the most shaded part of the tree, and need not be regularly pruned to allow more light into the interior of the canopy. Even when the crop load is heavy, individual fruit size is large, so pruning to reduce the crop load and improve fruit size is not necessary except occasionally with tangerines. Finally, citrus fruit quality is typically just as good or better from a minimally pruned tree as compared with one that is heavily pruned.

Nevertheless, citrus trees should not be left completely unpruned. Proper citrus care for the young tree should include sprout removal, and cautious elimination of weak limbs within the tree canopy. For mature trees, sprouts should be removed regularly, deadwood should be pruned out, and diseased or crisscrossing limbs should be removed. If there is no interior fruit, the center of the canopy may need to be opened up to improve light penetration.

Satsuma mandarins tend to have pendulous branches that hang to the ground. These are called skirt branches, and they can impede weeding, fertilizer and compost application, and provide pathways for ant populations to use the trees.

With heavy fruit loads, these branches bend and fruit may touch the ground. Fruit may then be contaminated by soil borne pathogens. These pathogens may be plant disease-causing such as Brown rot, or potential food safety risks, depending on the practices in the orchard. Trees should be skirted up to 18-24 inches above the ground every couple of years.

Pruning to Mitigate Alternate Bearing

Alternate bearing is the phenomenon where a tree carries a very heavy crop load one year and then a very light crop the next. In heavy years, the tree’s resources are depleted and it produces less new growth and is unable to set as much fruit the next year, giving only a minimal yield.

Pruning can mitigate alternate bearing to a degree. Trees should be heavily pruned after a light crop year, to reduce bearing wood and potential fruit load. Major branch pruning as well as canopy thinning should occur at this time. Pruning heavily after a light year allows the tree to replenish its reserves and move to a more balanced bearing habit.

Regular pruning for citrus trees should take place in the spring, between February and April. Pruning may be done prior to bloom, and it is important to note that although flowers may not be seen, they exist in a microscopic stage and will be lost due to pruning. However, unless pruning is drastic, yield loss will be minimal. Major pruning activities should take place after risk of a freeze has passed, but well before summer heat. If trees are pruned too early in the spring, the pruning can stimulate a growth flush which is susceptible to frost or freeze damage. Any maintenance pruning done in winter should only be small branches, one-half inch or less in diameter

The best time for severe pruning is after the danger of freezing temperatures is past and just before the spring growth flush. At this time new foliage will grow rapidly to cover exposed limbs. Bark that has grown in the shade is easily sunburned and may be killed in severe cases. Never prune trees drastically when they are suffering from drought.

Prune citrus to eliminate sprouts, remove weak, crossing or dead branches, or to allow more light in the canopy.

  • February through April are the best months to prune.
  • Remove all sprouts originating from the trunk. Most sprouts are best removed by hand when they are small.

Cold Tolerance of Citrus

Although citrus trees are cold-tender plants of subtropical and tropical origin and have not developed the effective cold hardening processes typical of temperate, woody, deciduous species, they have the capability for acquiring considerable cold tolerance. Citrus does not enter a deep dormancy (“resting” condition) characteristic of temperate-zone deciduous tree species such as apples or peaches. Rather, citrus enters a period of “nonapparent” growth (quiescence) as cooler temperatures (approximately two weeks of 40-60 degrees F.) occur.

Cold tolerance develops most readily when trees are not flushing (producing new leaves). Severely pruning dooryard trees during the late fall or winter months can reduce the size of the canopy, limiting the canopy’s heat retaining capacity and stimulating untimely growth of tender flushes of new foliage. The healthier, less injured, and less stressed trees are, the more they respond to cooler temperatures that induce quiescence.

In general, the degree of cold tolerance acquired by a tree is influenced by environmental conditions - mainly cool temperatures - as well as by tree health, its rootstock, and scion. Maximum cold tolerance ordinarily develops in citrus in the cooler parts of the marginal citrus growing areas because of lower average winter temperatures, compared with citrus growing in the far southern areas and along the coasts. But warm temperatures at any time during the winter may cause citrus trees to resume growth and reduce their cold tolerance. Such trees are very vulnerable to cold damage and should be protected or severe damage can occur.

Trees are most vulnerable to cold damage during their first 5 years, especially during growth flushes and when the trees are recovering from stress caused by lack of water, drought conditions, diseases, insect pests, nutritional deficiencies, and previous cold damage. Parts of the tree exposed to the atmosphere and the smallest parts of the tree (twigs, leaves, developing fruit) cool the fastest and are the most vulnerable to cold damage. Flowers are the first tissues to freeze, followed by tender, new growth (leaves and twigs), then older fully mature growth, small-diameter wood, and then large-diameter wood, with the trunk being the last to freeze.

Young, developing fruit tends to freeze before mature fruit and smaller size fruit before larger fruit of equal maturity. Fruit with thin peel tends to freeze sooner than fruit with thick peel. As a rule of thumb, citrus trees generally freeze from the top to bottom and from the outside to the inside of the tree.

Ice formation in citrus tissues - not low temperatures as such - kills or damages citrus trees and fruit. However, tissue where ice forms does not always die. The critical temperature for ice forming in citrus tissues is approximately 28 degrees F., except when trees are in bloom and/or visible frost (frozen dew) occurs. Because of a phenomenon called supercooling, citrus flowers, fruit, leaves, and wood sometimes have the ability to supercool (to exist in an unfrozen, undamaged state below critical freeze temperatures) to as low as 16 degrees F. in leaves and 10 degrees F. in fruit, depending on the severity and duration of the freezing temperatures.

Pruning After Severe Cold or Freeze Damage

After a severe freeze that causes damage to major limbs, wait several months to prune. During the spring flush following a freeze, leaves on freeze-damaged limbs may grow but then will wilt soon after. After this wilt occurs on the spring flush, you will have a better idea about which limbs to prune. Realize that limbs with minor cold damage and split bark can linger in a poor state of growth for months, and even years, after a freeze. Loose, split bark and oozing are immediate signs of injury, but damage may be more extensive so one should wait to prune until they know the full extent of the damage. New growth (or the lack of such growth) will show the damage after several months. Once any damage is evident, typically by early summer, it is time to remove dead branches by cutting back several inches into healthy, green wood, then protecting the large limbs that are cut with diluted latex paint if the returning shoots are few. Typically the regrowth is vigorous and paint will not be needed.

Sometimes when a tree is weak, frozen back or broken off, a sucker or shoot will grow from the rootstock. The fruit from this rootstock shoot will usually be different than on the original tree. (The tree may produce two kinds of fruit if a portion of the scion (top, desirable part of the tree) remains. Fruits from rootstocks may be sour orange, rough lemon, trifoliate orange, Carrizo citrange, or Swingle citrumelo or other rootstocks. Large thorns are common.) Cut the sucker off to allow the desired variety to become dominant. Some selections such as ‘Orange Frost’, ‘Arctic Frost’ and ‘Bumper’ are propagated on their own roots so they will come back true to type after a freeze. Some commercial nurseries such as Greenleaf Nursery propagate all of their citrus on the plant’s own roots so they will come back true to type after a hard freeze. Greenleaf Nursery propagates Meyer Lemon, Mexican Lime, Calamondin, ‘Seto’ Satsuma, ‘Miho’ Satsuma, ‘Okitsu’ Satsuma, ‘Kimbrough’ Satsuma, ‘Mr. Mac’ Satsuma, ‘Rio Red’ Grapefruit, ‘Meiwa’ (round) kumquat and ‘Navel’ orange.

It is very important to always protect the main trunk of all citrus from being killed by a severe cold so the top of the tree can regenerate itself. When a severe freeze (temperatures less than 20 degrees F. for several hours) is expected, the main trunks of all citrus should be protected. A simple, practical way to provide enough protection is to stack and/or lean several bags (2 cubic foot bags) of bark mulch around the lower trunk. The bags should be tightly nested together as a solid wall all the way to the ground. Then cinch or tie them together with rope to create a solid, thick barrier to protect against the low temperatures damaging the main trunk. A well protected lower trunk and the mature root system assure quick regrowth of the top of the plant and the tree will return to productivity within several years. There is no other practical means to protect a mature citrus tree when the freeze-from-Hell (1983/1989 when temperatures below freezing temperatures occurred for over a week and low temperatures were in the teens.) occurs again. Want even more protection? Inject water into the bags to make the bark wet causing it to be even harder to freeze. In the spring when all danger of hard freezes has passed, remove the bags of bark mulch from the tree trunks and use them to mulch around the base of the trees.

If your tree is completely destroyed, it is usually better to plant a new tree of the desired variety than to try to bud the rootstock. If you are thinking of moving a mature tree to a different location, it is also usually more economical to plan


How to grow orange and lemon trees

Grow orange and lemon trees in terracotta pots in a sheltered, sunny spot such as in front of a south- or west-facing wall. They do best in high humidity. In summer, water around once a week, using rainwater if possible. Feed them weekly with liquid seaweed and a citrus fertiliser. Prune in spring, thinning out the centre of the plant so light and air can get in, and remove branches that look dried, thin, tired or lacking in vigour. Move indoors in winter, where it remains cool but frost-free.

Watch Monty Don demonstrate how to look after a lemon tree growing in a pot:

Find out how to grow lemon trees and other citrus plants, below.

Planting orange and lemon trees

It’s best to plant lemon and orange trees in pots, so you can move them in and out of the garden for summer and winter. Opt for terracotta pots when planting, as they lose moisture more quickly, so it’s harder to overwater. Good drainage is essential for all citrus trees, and they won’t thrive in waterlogged soil. Try a 1:1:1 mix of loam, leafmould and horticultural grit, or John Innes No.3 top-dressed with garden compost or well-rotted animal manure. Repot in spring every two to three years, moving to a slightly bigger pot each time. Leave a gap between the top of the pot and the top of the soil to let water pool when you water.

Watch Monty demonstrate how to repot a citrus tree:

Caring for orange and lemon trees in summer

Once your orange or lemon tree starts growing again in spring, it’s important to move it outside to as sunny a spot as possible. The important thing is to protect them from sudden temperature changes. Look out for late frost forecasts and keep some horticultural fleece handy – you’ll need it to cover and protect the new growth if frosts are predicted.

Prune in spring once it’s outside and producing new shoots. Thin out the centre of the plant so light and air can get in, and remove branches that look dried, thin, tired or lacking in vigour. Cut out any suckers that appear at the base of the plant. Trim again in September to keep plants to the desired size. Don’t worry about pruning too much, most citrus (especially lemon trees) are vigorous and will benefit from pruning by producing more flowers and fruit on their remaining, strongest branches.

On young plants, it’s best to remove fruits, as they take a lot of energy to produce. Aim to encourage the tree to bear fewer but larger fruits, until it’s more mature. Pick any ripe fruits when you move the plants indoors in autumn, and again when you move them outside again, as ripe fruit can inhibit flower production.

Watering orange and lemon trees

Orange and lemon trees do best in high humidity. In summer, water around once a week, using rainwater if possible. If only tap water is available, let the water stand for 24 hours to let any chlorine evaporate. Water sparingly in winter – once a month is usually plenty – and a thorough soaking on occasion is much better than watering little and often.

Caring for orange and lemon trees in winter

In winter, orange and lemon trees will fare best in a cool, frost-proof area such as a garden shed, cellar or unheated greenhouse. Centrally heated rooms indoors are to be avoided, which are too hot and dry. If you have little options other than a room indoors, then go for a Calamondin orange, x Citrofortunella microcarpa, which copes best with dry heat.

Growing oranges and lemons: problem-solving

  • Leaf drop: this is a sign of stress through too much heat, cold, incorrect watering or a lack of humidity, but not a disaster. See if reducing watering and increasing humidity helps
  • Sticky leaves: these could be a sign of citrus mealybugs or scale insects, which thrive in warm, humid conditions. They excrete sticky honeydew that in turn, sooty moulds grow on. Wash the leaves every now and then with a soapy solution, and prune to improve ventilation. Under glass, biocontrols of wasps and ladybirds are effective
  • Leaf damage: larvae of citrus leaf miners bore channels in leaves. Prune in autumn, removing all damaged material
  • Yellow leaves: can be a sign of red spider mite, which is best controlled with biocontrols and high humidity. Citrus may also suffer from chlorosis as they don’t tolerate lime. Draughts, low temperatures, over- or underwatering, or poor feeding can also lead to yellow leaves

Find out how to restore a lemon tree to health, in our Quick Tips video:


DEALING WITH TREE SUCKERS


Sometimes a tree starts looking more like a shrub, with a bushy clump of young stems sprouting from the base or from a spot on the trunk. Those stems are called suckers, because they zap water and nutrients from the main tree. As suckers are unhealthy for trees and they are unsightly, it’s important to know how to eliminate them and when possible, how to prevent them in the first place.

Prune tree suckers regularly while they are still young. Use sharp pruners and make a clean cut as close to the base of each sucker as possible.

Loppers—long-handled pruners—are useful for reaching above your head. A pole pruner can stretch even farther, but it can be hard to handle be careful not to damage the tree’s bark with it.

If suckers are so high in a tree you’d need a ladder to reach them, it’s best to have a professional remove them.

In general there are two reasons a tree might start growing suckers: because it’s under stress, or because a graft has failed.

Stress. Suckers are a tree’s attempt to grow more branches, often in response to some kind of injury. If the roots have been damaged, suckers may grow from the base of the trunk. If suckers grow higher on the trunk, they’re called watersprouts and they are usually at the site of a pruning wound, a crack or some other damage.

This response is the reason it’s important to prune suckers before they’re so old that their tender skin turns to bark. When you prune a large, woody sucker, you often create a wound that may prompt the tree to grow even more suckers.

Suckers can be a sign of age. Many trees sucker more as they grow old and start to decay.

They also can result from a disease or pest. If something such as a boring insect is interfering with a tree’s ability to get water and nutrients up to its branches, it may divert resources to suckers instead.

Some tree species are naturally more prone to suckering than others. But when a large tree has an abundance of suckers, it’s a good idea to have it assessed by a tree care professional to make sure there’s nothing seriously wrong.

Grafts. Many trees grown in nurseries are actually two trees—the trunk and branches of one kind of tree spliced onto the roots of another, usually a species that is more hardy and tolerant. Trees may be grafted for the sake of hardiness to preserve the special ornamental characteristics of a cultivated variety or because it’s just easier for nurseries to grow some species that way.

Sometimes, though, the graft near the base of the trunk fails and the rootstock—the part with the roots—starts sending out shoots of its own: suckers.

Grafts often fail on small ornamental trees such as crabapples and redbuds, making them prone to suckering. You can tell the cause is a failed graft if the leaves on the sucker are different from the leaves on the rest of the tree.

If you don’t prune out the suckers, the rootstock of a flowering tree can outcompete and overcome the tree that was grafted to it. You may not even notice until your crabapple blooms with different-colored flowers than you’re used to.

Tree suckers are not normally a significant problem but they must be dealt with to preserve the long-term health of a tree.


Get rid of water sprouts and suckers before it's too late

Water sprouts are produced by dormant buds that we cannot see. They have a tendency to grow vertically from the trunk or branch. (Photo: ALEX SHIGO/Shigo & Trees Associates via Bugwood.org)

Both water sprouts and suckers are clearly visible on our trees and shrubs in the early spring just as the new leaves are starting to appear. Suckers come from the underground root system of the tree or shrub water sprouts emerge from latent buds located on either the trunk or branches. These are vigorous vegetative growths and both need to be removed.

Water sprouts arise from the trunk or branches of a mature tree. The term "sucker" applies to shoots that originate below ground, in the root system, and emerge above ground some distance from the trunk. The structure of water sprout regrowth is not as strong as natural tree growth, and the shoots are more subject to diseases and pests.

MORE ON GARDENING: When and how to prune your plants

Water sprouts, also called epicormic shoots, are produced by dormant buds that we cannot see. They have a tendency to grow vertically from the trunk or branch. The growth is stimulated by some form of stress that the plant has been undergoing. Most often that stressor is incorrect pruning that occurred in a previous season. The principles of good pruning tell us to never remove more than one-third of the entire mass of the plant or you will weaken it.

When you can identify with some certainty what the stressor is, water shoots should be removed immediately. If you do not do this, they will increase rapidly in number and size, diverting important energy from the tree or shrub. Additionally, they reduce the air and light circulation on the inner branches of a tree or shrub. If left to grow on a branch, they will be significantly weaker and can becomes sites for breakage, damage or disease.

Tedious as it may be, remove all of them, using a sharp pruner, cut close to the tree. Do not leave a stub. In this way you will help your tree to heal properly. The best time to do this is early spring, but if you find water sprouts later in the growing season, remove them immediately. There is new tool on the market called “gardening scissors” and they are useful because they are small and lightweight, allowing you to get close to the branch or trunk.

CLOSE

Ray Samulis, with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Burlington County, offers tips on the finer points of successfully starting tomatoes from seed.

Suckers grow from the rootstock of a tree. In some cases, they occur naturally and if a thicket is what you want, do allow the plant to continuously expand. Forsythia, blackberry, raspberry, prairie rose and chokeberry are just a few examples of plants that like to sucker. They are useful for windbreaks and privacy screening because they grow densely enough to be visually and physically impenetrable. Other areas where suckering shrubs are desirable are on steep or rocky hills, wood lots and transitional areas between your property and a waterway or a Green Acres zone.

Other “own root plants” that often sucker are aspen, buckthorn, red osier dogwood, mahonia, black locust, honey locust and Amur maple. You can remove these suckers by cutting away at the point of origin and paring away at the surrounding tissue to remove any dormant buds that are nearby. If you simply yank them out of the ground by hand, you will stimulate nearby buds into additional growth. Never use an herbicide on suckers, since it will also be absorbed by the tree roots.

Some naturally suckering species may extend their range beyond the boundaries of your property. Alianthus (tree of heaven) and Robinia (black locust) are known as fence jumpers because they exhibit this quality.

Though the top is dead from peach tree short life disease, suckers sprouting at ground level show the roots remain alive. (Photo: ROB FLYNN/Bugwood.org)

On grafted plants such as fruit trees and roses, it is most important to remove suckers. The suckers are arising from the rootstock below the graft union and this is a different plant from the one that you purchased. It is often more hardy and more vigorous and, in appearance, less desirable. You may have to remove some soil to find the origin of the sucker. And you may have to do it again if the sucker reemerges. It is important that you do not allow the suckers to persist for more than a season.

As always, before you deal with suckers or water sprouts, take a few minutes to file the blade of your pruner (or take it to your local hardware store, as I do) for sharpening. You will be so glad you did!


Top 10 Questions About Lemon Trees

Need to know how to grow a lemon tree? What about how to treat common issues that pop up along the way? Then you’ve come to the right place. Gardening Know How strives to help avoid these issues, or at the very least amend them, by providing the best information possible…whether it pertains to growing lemon trees or other plants in the garden. And to that end, here are the top 10 questions about lemons and answers for successful cultivation of these commonly planted fruit trees.

Fertilize young lemon trees once every 1-2 months during their active growing phase and once every 1-3 months during the fall and winter when the tree is dormant. Older trees do not need to be fertilized when they are dormant, but fertilizing lemon trees should be increased during active growth to once every 2-3 months. Select a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen or a balanced NPK fertilizer, optimally one that is specifically made for citrus. If the tree is having issues with flowering, try giving it some phosphorus rich fertilizer, like bone meal. When lacking phosphorus, it will not be able to produce blossoms (which means no fruit.). Fertilize either by foliar spray or spread it out in a ring around the base of the tree. Be sure not to place the fertilizer too close the trunk of the tree.

Unlike other fruiting trees, lemon trees don’t need to be pruned on a regular basis. They should have sprouts removed as well as dead or weak limbs or crossing branches. Bigger trees may also benefit from pruning to allow for better light penetration. Prune lemon trees after the fall harvest using sharp shears or a saw, and wear heavy gloves to protect from the thorns. Always make your cuts with the blade towards the tree to avoid damaging the bark. For large branches, use a three-cut system. Start with an angled cut 10-12 inches from the branch union then cut 1/3 through the branch from the other side. Finish by severing the branch a few inches up the length.

Watering citrus trees, like lemon, can be somewhat tricky, as too little or too much water have the same results – possible death. Water container grown lemon trees much as you would a houseplant. Water deeply at intervals and allow the soil to dry between watering. Be wary of giving too much water since citrus don’t do well with wet roots. Be sure the container has adequate drainage holes and place the plant atop a pebble filled saucer. Also important is relative humidity. Run a humidifier during the winter months when the air is cold and dry. Water lemon trees in the ground either manually or via rainfall once a week.

It’s an interesting thing about lemon trees they hold onto their leaves when the tree is dry and then lose them when they get watered again. It’s important to be consistent with watering citrus in general. Because these trees do not like “wet feet” (roots), overwatering may also cause the tree to lose leaves. Additionally, a lack of fertilization may result in a lemon tree dropping leaves. All three of these cause stress to the tree, and dropping leaves is its reaction to that stress.

Yellow leaves on lemon trees may be a lack of water. When lemons are water stressed, they hold onto their leaves (until watered again), but the leaves may turn yellow as a last plea for irrigation. Water in-ground lemon trees once a week depending upon rainfall and those in containers as you would a houseplant, when the soil has dried or is lightly damp. Also, add a few inches of mulch to help the soil retain moisture. Other reasons for yellowing leaves may include insect pests or disease.

Aromatic, beautiful and with such mouth-watering fruit, it comes as something of a shock to see a lemon tree armed with thorns. Nature has provided the tree with theses spikes for the same reason that animals like porcupines sport quills – protection from predators. Thorns on citrus plants are most often found on tender, young trees and less so on mature trees. Because thorns can be, well a thorn in the side of a harvester, thornless hybrids have been developed and are readily available to gardeners.

Well, one reason a lemon might drop fruit is if it has set more fruit than it can support. This is normal and doesn’t affect the end production. In facts, this is simply nature’s way of thinning itself. If fruit drop on lemon trees is excessive, however, it’s probably due to an environmental factor such as too much or too little water, improper fertilization, excessive pruning, disease or insect predation.

If a lime or lemon tree has never bloomed, it might be poor rootstock otherwise, the culprit is likely either a watering or fertilizing issue. Lemons need consistent irrigation, too much or too little messes with them. They also need a fertilizer for citrus trees that is high in potash and low in nitrogen. Excess nitrogen will give you gorgeous foliage but won’t spur the tree to produce blooms, hence fruit. The addition of phosphorous will also encourage blooming. Also, lemon trees don’t need much pruning, just the removal of spurs and dead or problem branches. Fruit sets on the ends of the branches, so any pruning should be judicious. It’s possible that an overly exuberant pruning is the culprit.

Growing citrus in a container is great for those of us who don’t live in warmer climates. A dwarf variety of lemon is a good candidate for container growing. Be sure that the container has adequate drainage and, because you want to be able to move it around easily, is on wheels. Lemon trees need consistent watering so put it on a schedule and be consistent. Container grown lemons also need to be fertilized regularly. A low nitrogen, slow release fertilizer is a great way to feed the tree, allowing it to absorb needed nutrients over a period of time. Humidity is important to your lemon tree so mist it daily or place it over a pebble tray. Prune out any sucker branches or dead or diseased limbs. Move the tree inside as temperatures begin to drop.

Lemon trees do best when temps are in the 70’s during the day and down to about 55 F. () at night. When temperatures fall below this, the tree goes dormant and can be killed when temperatures plummet. So, if you live in a cooler region, it’s best to grow a lemon in a container. Be sure the container has wheels so the tree can be easily moved indoors in the winter. Provide the pot with a pebble tray or run a humidifier in the winter to add some humidity into the air. Cut back on fertilization during winter months. Supplement light with fluorescent grow lights. When temperatures warm up, wheel the lemon back outside so it can be pollinated by bees and other insects. Alternatively, you may be able to find a cold hardy citrus variety, depending on your location.

We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.


Watch the video: Thinning Fruit from Young Citrus Trees Daphne Richards Central Texas Gardener


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