Lemon Tree Update (Again)

After the excitement that my lemon tree had turned a corner with healthy new growth, (see Lemon Tree Update) over the past few weeks that beautiful growth has been turning sicker and sicker. I don’t know what to do! I hate watching it!


It’s in a spot which has poor drainage. This is unavoidable. My whole garden is clay that’s either really wet or really dry. The corner of the garden that it’s planted in was also a bit of a dumpster when we moved in. There were rotten eggs, bones and all sorts of rubble in the dirt. Most of it was dug up and the soil was turned before the lemon tree was planted but perhaps there’s something wrong with the soil. Perhaps I should dig up the lemon tree and bare root it and replace the soil for some bought soil? I fear it wouldn’t survive such a process.

It seems to attract tiny spiders, but I’ve been keeping these under control.

It looks deficient in nutrients. I’ve read various things, some saying the green Christmas tree pattern on the leaves is an iron deficiency, some say magnesium, some say nitrogen. So I’ve fed it Epsom salts, and a generalised liquid fertiliser with iron and nitrogen in it, as well as slow release fertiliser. I’ve been um-ing and ah-ing as weather or not to put pea straw around it for some extra slow release nitrogen because I don’t want the soil to retain any more water. It is quite sunny in Melbourne lately so maybe a light sprinkle will be ok?


It’s still got a few lemons that haven’t died yet (although about 80% did just shrivel up and fall off). I’m clinging to these!


Any advice would be much appreciated on this one. I’m very attached to this tree after all this effort, plus it was the first plant we planted in our “blank canvas”.

6 thoughts on “Lemon Tree Update (Again)

  1. Wow, it’s really not happy, is it? Look, it may just be best to put it in a giant tub for the time being. Dig up a decent root ball, wash off the soil and re-establish it in a really good premium potting mix for citrus, with 8 month nutrient release so you don’t have to keep feeding it stuff. It’s sort of the wrong time of year, if you can get it to hang on till April/May, it might do better. It’s going to depend on how fast it goes downhill. Once in a tub, you can establish if it’s the soil/position versus basically being a sickly tree that isn’t going to make it anywhere. A tub will also drain a lot better, especially with some rocks and gravel in the bottom. Minimum size would be about 50 litres, but the bigger the better, as the tree is quite well grown. I do hope you find a solution after all the love and attention you’ve lavished on it.

    1. Hmm.. I fear you may be right Kate. I’ll hold on longer and keep up with the feeds (I could’ve bought about 3-4 lemon trees with the amount I’m spending on food!) and keep any crawlies off it. Will keep you updated 🙂

  2. We’ve really had to work our soil too due to heavy clay. I dig through gypsum & compost twice a year, and we’ve added a lot of soil and pea straw. It’s taken time, but the soil is fantastic now. I have three citrus, which are all in large pots to help with drainage (and I’m not 100% sure where I’m going to put them yet…) I have two orange trees that in the past have done nothing (one didn’t even form fruit in the past few years), and I got new lemon tree this year which did ok for about a month until all the leaves curled up – looked really sick, but no sign of pests. After talking to an experienced fruit grower, he suggested good dose of epsom salts and iron chelate at two week intervals. I’ve also been adding seasol to this mix. Without fail throughout spring and into summer every two weeks I tip half a watering can of this mix onto each tree and they have never looked better. The lemon grew new stronger leaves which have never curled, and the oranges are both forming fruit which are now larger that I’ve ever managed to get (fingers crossed they hang on!). Worth a try anyway 🙂

    1. They’re hungry little buggers aren’t they! I’m already on the epsom salts and seasol and I added iron chelate to the mix about a week ago. Do you remember how long it took for your lemon tree to start looking happy again after your feeding regime? Our soil does have very poor drainage, but there are at least 2 other lemon trees in our street which are looking ok, so it can be done! Thanks for the advice Penny!

  3. Probably a couple of months? But I went and looked at it again yesterday – it’s really the new growth that looks good, the old growth is still discoloured & curling… may have to wait till the next growth spurt to see results. Let me know if it works! 😉

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