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A Couple Questions For New Citrus Growers

Shane Allen
2 months ago

Good Afternoon Everyone!

I have been reading the message board here for the past few weeks after inheriting some citrus trees, and have (mostly successfully) been trying to find already-answered questions of ours before I post anything. However, I do have some lingering questions that are of importance to me and my S.O....If anyone can help answer a few of these questions (or all), that would be great!

Background Facts:


  • Orange County, CA

Trees Grown:

  • Meyer's Improved Lemon
  • Eureka Lemon
  • Key Lime
  • Bearss Lime
  • Navel Orange
  • Valencia Orange

Original Tree Containers (Late July - This Past Tuesday):

Current Tree Containers (This Past Tuesday - Present):

Soil Used:

Tools & Sprays Used:

Question #1: Soil moisture & Perlite Content

When we began this odyssey, we simply replanted the existing root-bound trees from their nursery 5 gallon pots to the new 15 gallon pots. However, as the weeks progressed, we noticed that the soil at the bottom half of the plastic pots was usually very moist (9-10+ On Moisture Meter) while the top half of the plant was sometimes down to a 1-2 on the moisture meter and in need of some water. In addition, we were having lots of mushrooms growing in the top of the pots and slime mold issues at the bottom of the pots.

To "fix" this, we added fair amount of perlite into the soil in the plastic containers. This ended up largely fixing the issue of the soil being very wet for prolonged periods. However, once we moved the plants into the new terra cotta containers this past Tuesday evening (while keeping the plants in the same soil), we have noticed the soil drying out much quicker now. I expected this to a degree since the terra cotta would allow for greater moisture wicking and due to the fact that pots should naturally dry from the outside inwards, but I am surprised at just how fast the perlite-infused soil is losing its moisture compared to the original soil in the root ball.

For reference, as of this morning, most of the trees are reading <5 when the moisture is measured at the edge of the pot (about 6-7" away from the tree). Meanwhile, the moisture meter reads 8+ when measured within 2-3" of the tree.

With this in mind, would you fine folks suggest mixing in more Dr. Earth (we still have an entire bag remaining) into the existing perlite-infused soil to keep the moisture content more evenly distributed?

To better illustrate, I made the following table:

Figure Above: Tree Moisture On Friday Morning After Re-Potting And Watering On Tuesday Night. Note that the Meyer Lemon and Key Lime Were Removed From Root-Ball Due To Root Rot Issues (See Question 2).

Question #2: Replanting After Some Root Rot Issues

Regarding the meyer's improved lemon and key lime trees, both unfortunately experienced some minor root rot while they were in the old soil and plastic containers. Because of this, my significant other and and I removed the trees from the root ball soil and carefully removed rotted/affected roots.

After cleaning everything up, we repotted these with new soil/perlite in their new terra cotta pots on Tuesday. While we expected shock loss and other issues, we are fairly surprised at just how pronounced it has been. Both trees shed their 1-2 pieces of fruit and almost all of their leaves have come off as well. I accidentally bumped into the pot this morning and that alone sent a dozen leaves to the ground.

Based on the pictures below of the plants today, what do you feel the prognosis is? Are these things salvageable?

Figure Above: Key Lime Tree

Figure Above: Key Lime Tree Up-Close

Figure Above: Meyer's Improved Lemon Tree

Question #3: Cutting Or Leaving Alone This Massive Branch On Our Bearss Lime Tree

The coolest tree so far is the other lime tree, and how fast it has grown. However, it has one branch that has significantly outgrown the others to a fascinating degree. In the 7 weeks of owning this tree, this branch has grown by a solid 2 feet - if not slightly more. After reading some various posts on here, it seems that it may be wise to trim this branch down by a fair amount if I want a "fuller" looking tree. Is that the consensus, or should I just let this bad boy keep growing and hope the other branches start to catch up (even though this branch has slowed down in recent weeks)?

Figure Above: Massive Branch Growing On Bearss Lime Tree

Figure Above: Same Bearss Lime Tree: Note The Size Of This Growth Compared To The Rest Of The Tree

Question 4: Post-Pruning Tips

After pruning, do you like to do anything in particular to protect the exposed parts of the tree's limbs where cuts were made, such as touching them up with pruning paint? Or do you like to just let it heal on it's own?

Question #5: Grow Light To Help On A North-Facing Deck

When we got these trees, we were getting roughly 10 hours of sunlight daily. However, in only a matter of weeks, we have seen that amount be reduced to only 6 hours per day and falling. This is mostly due to the sun's lowering angle and how it is interacting with our building's design. We are moving to a new complex when our lease expires in late November, and will be getting a south-facing deck at our new place as to avoid this issue now that we have plants to keep alive.

However, would an outdoor grow light be something we should consider for the next 3 months? Is there a recommended light than can be plugged into an existing outdoor light socket - or is that even a suggested set-up in the first place?


As you can tell, we are trying to do what we can to ensure wonderfully healthy and thriving plants down the line, but need guidance as all people starting in a newfound hobby might need. With that in mind, any help is greatly appreciated, and if there are any questions or clarifications needed, I will certainly do my best to answer them. Thank you again!

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