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Old November 1, 2018   #1
MissMoustache
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Default Citrus trees, I need help!

I was given three trees. Two Flame Red Grapefruits and a lemon of indeterminate name.

I've never had a citrus tree before!

I have a basement apartment with no large windows for natural light, so I have a growing set up in my utility room. I have two shelves with led and florescent tube lights for my succulents and starting seeds ...These trees are all too big!
The grapefruits are five feet tall and the lemon is a couple feet...but I might prune it because its very sad looking.
So I know I need to rearrange to make room. Anyways...will one double fixture about four inches above the grapefruit leaves be enough? Should I hang two double lightbulb fixtures there? The lemon tree is short enough to go next to my micro tomatoes I'm growing for winter so that spot is alright...just need to shuffle things around.

They all had aphids, spider mites, some curling leaves, and were very dried out...the dirt has what looks like chunks of salt!
So I gave them each a shower with warm water and a gentle soap on the leaves and branches and a long soak until the pots were heavy and water ran out the bottom.
Tomorrow I will take them outside and repot them with fresh dirt and some organic fertilizers...should I rinse the root balls off? Make sure there are no creepy crawlies there too?

Any recommendations for a soil mix? I have bagged mix that's for palms, cactus, and citrus, I have pine bark and peat moss, I have organic and regular potting mixs, I have seed starting mix. I also have gravel. I was planning on just using the citrus bags...unless something else is better.

What can I do about the apparent salt build up (besides not using the blue stuff to fertilize )?

What are the curling leaves a sign of? Just the bug damage?

Help me save my new babies! I already named them: Bert, Ernie, and Oscar the Grouch.
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Old November 1, 2018   #2
oldman
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First I'd consider repotting. You probably don't know how much of the "blue stuff" is in the soil. I'm assuming it's Miracle-Gro for acid loving plants or something similar. If it's got crystals of fertilizer on the surface you probably can't flush it out with lots of water. Leave the rootball intact, but remove the loose soil. Aphid and spider mites don't mean you have problems in the soil too. The fertilizer is probably too much for critters too, even if it hasn't killed your Muppets, it's probably stressing them. Disturbing the rootball will only stress them more.

The citrus mix is best. I wouldn't add the fertilizer unless there was something to indicate you need it. It sounds like too much fertilizer is part of the current problem. You want good drainage and you want the soil to be able to dry out some between waterings. Peat wouldn't be a useful addition. You might want to consider airlayering the grapefruit to make them fit better in your growing area. If you decide to do that I'd recommend just scraping out the top inch of soil in the pots and replacing it with new citrus mix. After you get root growth on the part you're going to cut off you can pot the clone and wait for new growth on top before you repot the parent plants with new soil. That spreads the stressor out so the plant doesn't get hit with all of them at once.

Your approach to aphids and spider mites is good. Soap and water and gentle scrubbing work better than chemicals. Just remember to give the plant a gentle rinse and don't use lots of soap. It's to get the critters off. They will mostly be on the undersides of leaves, but they can be on the stems and trunk of the plant too. Repeat the wash in about a week to get rid of eggs or hatchling you missed the first time.

Ideally you'd like a quarantine area for new plants, but we work with what we have. Since your space is limited pay close attention to your existing plants to make sure none of them get mites or aphids from the newbies.

And good luck. One bloom on a citrus tree will make your whole place smell amazing. Since they bloom in winter the make a nice houseplant if you can keep them happy. Leaf curl is stress, not necessarily drying out too much. The tend to drop leaves occasionally, but should grow more than they drop. Fruit takes a long time to mature and probably won't taste too goo without natural sunlight. I'd recommend just picking most of it off when it's small. Lei the plant put its energy into staying healthy.

Last edited by oldman; November 1, 2018 at 11:56 PM.
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Old November 2, 2018   #3
MissMoustache
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Thank you Oldman!

I was in panic mode and ready to throw everything at them and hope they survive lol.
Good to know about the root balls, I would have rinsed all the dirt away in my panic over the salt crystals.

I only used a squirt of soap...just enough to make my hands sudsy with water to run over the leaves. Then the shower set on rain to rinse. Should I be using more? Higher pressure? I didn't want to knock more leaves off.

I don't have a room without plants for quarantine...I could maybe move them to my kitchen (across the room from the plants currently in there) but there is no place to hang lights (drop ceilings). I'll just keep a close eye on everyone.
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Old November 2, 2018   #4
MissMoustache
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I walked into a local nursery this spring and they had three lime trees in bloom in the main green house. It was heaven! I've been watching for sales on citrus ever since because I wanted one for my home..and now I have three!

(I'm still definitely asking my husband for a lime tree for Christmas. )
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Old November 2, 2018   #5
oldman
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Citrus is fairly easy to grow from cuttings although it will be a few years to bloom at that rate. If it's not a commercial crop in your state you can probably buy cuttings and have them mailed to you.

A less expensive option is to buy a Meyers lemon, lime, key lime, blood orange, Cara Cara or other citrus at the store. Enjoy the fruit and plant the seed. It's about four years to bloom this way, but they aren't any harder to start than tomato plants and you get the seed as a bonus when you buy the fruit. It's an excuse to try new types of citrus too.

Your approach to mites and aphid is good. The soap just loosens their grip on the plant so a squirt in a gallon or two of water is plenty. Gentle rinse, no need to blast. And if you have a waterpik/shower wand or something that will let you rinse the leaf bottoms too it helps.

Last edited by oldman; November 2, 2018 at 12:27 AM.
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Old November 2, 2018   #6
greenthumbomaha
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Meyer lemons just arrived in the supermarket this week. They are only available for a short time in my area. It would be a fun project and as you said basically free short of the supplies.

Now the flip side - I purchased a lemon tree from a reputable nursery several years ago. It was healthy and expertly pruned by one of the knowledgeable workers there. Shortly after I took it home the branches started turning brown/red at the tips. The color started spreading down the plant. It got really bad before it dawned on me that there was a red mite problem. It was almost time to start tomato seeds so I tossed the tree.

Well it was not a good year and neither was the next. I had to move my seed starting area. Removing the host was not enough, eggs live on. I had to clean everything, rug curtains everything. They can live in carpet for years (which no doubt has tons of soil dug in). I brought the mites to my cabin on another plant. and don't grow in that room now. And this was several years ago!

One thing the expert told me at purchase was to use citrus fertilizer only. She showed me a small bottle of a liquid food, which was under $10. You can often find granular citrus fertilizer but I am unsure if it is the same concentration needed for small indoor plants.

So ymmv , watch closely.

- Lisa
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Old November 2, 2018   #7
Salsacharley
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I was snagging some end of season potting soil bargains at WM and found a 27 lb bag of Citrus-Tone for $8. I couldn't pass it up. I've been obsessed with germinating citrus seeds for the past couple of years and now I'm growing lemon, key lime, kumquat, grapefruit, minneola and Valencia orange trees, and Meyer Lemon trees. Some are in 2 gal pots, some are in 1 gal pots and some are still just seedlings in 6" pots. They seem to like the Citrus-Tone, which I mixed in with MG potting soil and about 25% Ultrasorb DE from Autozone. I have no idea what I'm going to do when they get bigger. I'm just overwintering them in a sunny window. I have to rotate them since the light isn't broadly distributed enough to cover them all at one time.
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Old November 2, 2018   #8
oldman
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Maybe you could try bonsai? B-)

They aren't considered good candidates for traditional bonsai because the fruit is large. But if you aren't growing them foe the fruit and jist want to keep them health and smaller than normal it might be interesting.
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