6 Common Problems With Your Lemon Tree - Backyard Boss
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6 Common Problems With Your Lemon Tree

Want life to hand you lemons? Grow your own lemon tree! Pots make growing these evergreen shrubs possible outside of their natural habitat. But first, if you enjoy growing citrus, understanding common problems that may arise with your lemon tree is a great way to get ahead of any issues.

Time to get familiar with these six common problems that you may encounter. Then, all you’ll need is a little tender, love, and care, and your lemon tree will be set up for a long and healthy life!

1. Yellowing Leaves 

yellow leaves on lemon tree
Image credits: Santiago Manuel De la Colina via Pexels

If you’re a plant lover, you know that yellowing leaves are usually not a good sign. There are a few reasons why this occurs with lemon trees, and there are different remedies to fix the problem.

Overwatering is one cause of yellowing leaves. Citrus trees enjoy deep watering and soil that remains moist but not soggy. A proper watering schedule is one to two times a week for a potted tree, with water coming out of the bottom drainage holes, indicating thorough watering. Note that outdoor potted trees may need more water come summer (up to once daily!). Always check the soil 1 to 2 inches beneath the surface to see if it’s dry before giving your plant a drink.

In addition, yellowing leaves may indicate that the lemon tree lacks nutrients. Your tree needs nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, to produce healthy leaves, flowers, and fruit. Fertilizers typically provide these nutrients, so follow the application directions on the package. It’s important to note that lemon trees are heavy nitrogen consumers, so opt for a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen ratio.

2. Drooping Leaves

yellow leaves on lemon tree
Image credits: Jaclyn Vernace via Shutterstock

Drooping leaves or wilt may signify problems at the root level. Root rot, overfertilization, or poor watering practices (too much or too little) inhibit the lemon tree from sending proper nutrients to the rest of the plant.

Even though lemon trees are heavy nitrogen consumers, overfertilization can happen if you do not adjust the amounts around the seasons. Reduce (or eliminate!) fertilizer use in the winter for your lemon tree, as the concentrated salts in fertilizers can damage roots.

Another cause of drooping leaves is temperature shock. Temperatures that are too cold can cause leaves to droop and die back or turn yellow. Make sure to climatize your potted tree slowly if you are moving it outdoors for the summer season and slowly again in the fall when bringing it indoors. Note that pots do not insulate the roots, so potted lemon trees are even more susceptible to mild frosts.

For the year-round indoor potted lemon trees, consider relocating them to another area of the home if the temperature dips below 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night in their current location.

3. Pests

The ornamental house plant leaf was infested by scale insects on the upper leaf surface.
Image credits: DAwee via Shutterstock

A lemon tree in good health is the best pest deterrent! However, common insects such as aphids, spider mites, and scales may eventually find comfort in your tree. Checking the top and undersides of the lemon tree leaves helps determine if pests are present.

Removal of insects is essential to the ongoing health of the lemon tree. Use soapy water to wash the leaves and remove the top layer of soil if you notice aphids or scales. Other pests, such as spider mites, may require a food crop insecticide or organic pesticide to remove them. If the pests are only on a few leaves, prune those leaves and clean the rest!

4. Sooty Mold Fungus

Image credits: Jean Faucett via Shutterstock

Sooty mold fungi is a black dust-like substance that may be on the leaves or fruit of a citrus tree. This fungus grows on the excretions left behind by pests such as aphids, scales, and mealybugs. Though not harmful to the plant directly, it can cause indirect problems if it gets too thick and blocks out sunlight from the leaves of the plant.

To remove, wash down the leaves and fruit with water and prune the tree to provide better air circulation.

5. Yellowing Leaves with Green Veins

lemon tree leaves
Image credits: Myristica via Morguefile

If you notice green veining on yellowing leaves, your lemon tree has a soil problem. This signal indicates that the soil level is not acidic enough. Lemon trees prefer an acidic environment, so adding a soil acidifier will fix this issue. Make sure the soil acidifier’s active ingredient is sulfur and apply it according to the directions on the package.

6. No Fruit or Flowers

Lemon tree green fruit before picking and pruning
Image credits: Dick Thompson Sandian via Openverse

Wondering when and where the fruit and flowers are? If you have a juvenile plant, don’t expect to see any produce within the first few years. Similarly, some citrus trees only produce every second year. However, it is necessary to rule out other factors that may be hindering the growth of your lemon tree.

Inadequate lighting is a common problem to consider. Lemon trees enjoy a full day of sun, anywhere from eight to 12 hours. As well, poor soil conditions, low nutrients, and improper watering practices hinder growth. To help the soil, remember to use a high-nitrogen fertilizer, especially in the spring and summer months. 

Lemon-Aid Is Served!

Now that you are familiar with the six common lemon tree problems, feel confident if you encounter them yourself! From drooping or yellowing leaves to black sooty mold and pests, confidently grow a lemon tree at home.

Do you enjoy growing citrus trees at home? Share your experiences in the comment section below!