Saving baby orange tree

Citrus Tree Rescue | Bobbins of Basil

My little citrus trees had quite the journey while moving. They moved to my parents’ house back in the end of March. Once it got warm enough, my mom moved them outside. The lemon tree grew a bunch of new leaves there. Then, after our wedding, my husband’s parents took them to their house. Then they brought them here on July 3rd.

The little orange tree was in bad shape! The leaves were yellowing, and over the next few days they got way worse even though I repotted them immediately into some fresh citrus soil. Then, three of the 13 leaves fell off. I knew something was wrong.

These trees haven’t had the BEST care since I got them in the summer of 2011. I couldn’t find any citrus fertilizer, so I had fed them a few times with an all-purpose fertilizer. They grew a bit since I got them, but not nearly as much as I expected them to. Part of that could be due to lack of sunlight in my apartment window.

Quite a bit of internet searching led me to believe the orange tree had some root rot along with both a magnesium deficiency AND a nitrogen deficiency, most likely because the rain washed away most of the nutrients the trees had. The lemon tree survived much better. I set off on a mission to save the orange tree.

I don’t have a picture of the dire state the tree was in before any intervention, but here’s what I did:

  • July 3rd: Repotted both the lemon and orange tree into bigger pots with fresh, dry citrus soil. I tried to get the trees to dry out. I brought them inside at the threat of rain, and then I brought them out again in the sun. The orange tree didn’t get any better.
  • July 11th: Poured some Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate) around the base of both trees and watered it lightly. Within a few days, the bases of the bottom leaves were a little greener.
  • July 12th: Diluted epsom salt in water and sprayed it on the leaves (foliar spray). I continued doing this every 2-3 days. The leaves got greener.
  • July 15th: Fertilized with dilute fish emulsion, which has a higher ratio of nitrogen compared to phosphorus and potassium. I more or less followed the instructions on the bottle. I diluted it in a gallon of water and poured it until water ran through the bottom. There was a little bit left (between a pint and a quart), so I poured that into the lemon pot.
  • July 18th: Dug up the tree and put some rooting hormone on the roots to encourage new growth. I figured all the fertilizer in the world couldn’t help my tree if its roots were crap. I waited until they had dried out to do this so they wouldn’t rot again.
I don’t know which of these things helped the most, but together they cured my plant! The leaves got greener with the epsom salt but still were way paler than the lemon tree. Then the fertilizer triggered new growth, and the leaves got even greener. I dug around and saw a ton of new root growth within a week of adding the rooting hormone, which probably contributed to all the improvement.
Citrus Tree Rescue | Bobbins of Basil
07-15-13: This was already an improvement from a few
days before
07-15-13: Yellow leaves, already improving
a bit after some Epsom salt on 7-11-13
Citrus Tree Rescue | Bobbins of Basil
07-22-13
Citrus Tree Rescue | Bobbins of Basil
07-24-13: Leaves are much greener (still some yellow
tips, new buds forming)
Citrus Tree Rescue | Bobbins of Basil
07-24-13: Buds forming
07-29-13
Citrus Tree Rescue | Bobbins of Basil
07-29-13: New growth is very reddish
Citrus Tree Rescue | Bobbins of Basil
07-30-13: Still a little yellow on the tips,
but the leaves look wayyy better
Citrus Tree Rescue | Bobbins of Basil
08-01-13: Looking good!
Citrus Tree Rescue | Bobbins of Basil
08-01-13: Orange tree’s leaves are a bit less green than
the lemon tree’s, but I can deal with that. It’s alive!
Now my little orange tree really looks like a tree! I made sure not to overwater the lemon tree or the orange tree, and just the other day I applied the fish emulsion fertilizer to the lemon tree now that I know its power. The lemon tree has some new growth too! I’m hopeful that by the time they have to come inside this winter, they’ll be big enough to ACTUALLY bear fruit over the next year or so!
The lemon tree did bloom once in the spring of 2012. The bloom developed a small green lemon that never really grew at all in size. Eventually it turned yellow, and then it started to dry out and eventually fell off. I sliced it open. It definitely was a little lemon, and it tasted like one, but it was the size of a marble. I should have pinched it off because I think the energy that went into making that one tiny fruit prevented the tree from growing at all.
Here’s a quick update on the citrus trees over the past two years:
Growing Citrus | Bobbins of Basil
Just a month after they arrived. I started with three, but the
lime never got any bigger. Then it dropped all its leaves.
I continued watering it, etc. but it never grew any new
leaves, so I eventually got rid of it.
About a year ago, there was a little green lemon on my
lemon tree. I can’t find a picture of it when it was yellow!
It never got any bigger than this, though.
Growing Citrus | Bobbins of Basil
The only flower so far (spring 2012)

One quick note: the new leaves smell SOOOOO good that I keep rubbing them and putting my face in the plant.

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