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Why Are My Meyer Lemon Leaves Falling Off? (Citrus x meyeri)

Why Are My Meyer Lemon Leaves Falling Off? (Citrus x meyeri)

If you’re here now, chances are it’s because you have Meyer lemon leaves falling off and you’re desperately seeking a solution to prevent the loss of your precious Meyer lemon fruit and to protect the health of your potted citrus tree.

Our two citrus trees were doing so well indoors in their pots for winter. They were both flush with fragrant blossoms that began giving way to baby citrus fruits. And then it started. Slowly at first, then picking up speed with Meyer lemon leaves falling off daily.

“Yikes! It’s happening again!!!” This happened the previous year except it was the citrus fruit that fell off until we had only one lemon left on the tree. That one lemon survived and thrived with our little tree giving its all to the one lone fruit.

“Uhn-uh…not this year”, I said to our dwarf Meyer lemon tree. (You talk out loud to your plants too, right)?

Time to stop the Meyer lemon leaves falling off before it’s too late. So we dug into the research and scrutinized our plants closely.

Indoor Citrus Trees in Pots Are More Susceptible to Leaf Loss

There are many possible reasons why lemon trees lose leaves. Once indoors, garden plants are susceptible because the many beneficial bugs that are pest predators rarely come indoors with your plants. But aphids and other common indoor plant pests, somehow always know when to show up and seemingly appear out of thin air.

Some leaf drop and fruit loss is normal. But how will you know if your Meyer lemon leaves falling off are a part of the normal process or excessive?

How will you know if your plant’s leaf drop is a sign that something is wrong with your lemon tree?

Healthy lemon trees don’t lose leaves that frequently, so you will know something is wrong with your citrus plant if leaf loss occurs daily. 

Leaf loss by a stressed citrus plant often begins with a leaf or two a day and then increases to several leaves a day.

Daily loss of multiple leaves is a sign that your citrus tree is in distress.

What is Stressing Your Citrus Plant?

One thing is certain, if your Meyer lemon leaves are falling off, it’s an indication of a stressed plant. The same goes for excessive loss of fruit. But what kind of stress? Discovering what’s bothering your plant is the next most important step.

Meyer lemon leaves falling off in excess is the sign of a distressed plant.

Common Reasons Meyer Lemon Tree Leaves Fall Off

  • Cold
  • Humidity – dry indoor environment
  • Nutrient Deficiency
    • iron
    • manganese
    • magnesium
    • nitrogen
    • zinc
  • Pests
    • Asian citrus psyllid 
    • citrus leaf miners
    • citrus scale pests
    • spider mites
  • Root Rot
  • Sun
  • Water
    • over watering (can lead to root rot)
    • under watering (can stress plant beyond recovery)

COLD: What Temperatures Are too Cold for Meyer Lemons?

Meyer lemons are not cold hardy and should be brought indoors when temperatures drop below 50°F / 10°C. If you miss the frost warning and leave your Meyer lemon tree outdoors when it dips below freezing, it might lose its leaves. However, in most cases it can recover in time to flower and fruit again, although you may have to nurture it back to a healthy state first.

Meyer lemons can grow outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 8 and above, best at 50°-80°F

HUMIDITY: – Dry Indoor Environment

The natural outdoor environment for citrus trees typically includes high humidity. The dry heated indoor air of winter climates can stress tropical plants that are happy in moist air. To counter that, we’ve had good success in bringing greater comfort to plants and people alike by running two humidifiers in our sunroom, day and night.

This is our newest humidifier. We like it’s compact and quiet design but it does run out of water sooner. Our old faithful workhorse of a humidifier is an older version of Vick’s largest home humidifier.

NUTRIENTS: What Nutrient Deficits Cause Citrus Leaves to Fall Off

Leaf drop is often a sign of nitrogen deficiency. Get a good citrus fertilizer and apply according to manufacturer’s instructions, once a month during growing season, spring through fall.

PESTS: What Pests Can Cause Lemon Trees Leaves to Drop Off?

Common pests that can cause citrus leaves to fall off include Asian citrus psyllid , citrus leaf miners, citrus scale pests, and spider mites.

Signs of Pests on Plants

  • Leaves falling off
  • Faint residue on leaves
  • Leaves that appear torn or eaten
  • Cobwebs or fine spider webs

Spider mites are the cause of our Meyer Lemon leaf drop this year. At first I automatically thought it was water… a common assumption that can easily lead to overwatering. Fortunately, I started noticing the fine cobwebs around the plant, yet couldn’t see spiders. Ahhh… it must be spider mites!

We immediately got out the organic pesticide that includes spider mites on the label and sprayed it thoroughly on the top and underside of the leaves, and lightly on the soil. Then we sprayed a Qtip and used it to swipe off the leaves of mite residue.

ROOT ROT is a Common Reason for Meyer Lemon Leaves Falling Off

Root rot is a plant disease. Like the disease of cancer, there are a number of possible causes of root rot disease, and, as with common cancer causes, root rot is the outcome of a stressed plant in poor plant health, typically due to poor environmental conditions. The opportunistic fungi and parasites feed on weak or compromised plant systems, so prevention is the goal.

Causes of Root Rot

  • Fungi, such as:
    • Armillaria mellea, common name: honey fungus
    • Clitocybe tabescens, common name: mushroom root rot
    • Fusarium, common name: basal rot
  • Plant Parasites:
    • Oomycetes, common name: water mold, fungus-like parasites that can cause serious problems to plants. These include:
      • Pythium
      • Phytophthora
      • Aphanomyces
  • Water Stress, caused by:
    • Overwatering, caused by:
      • poor, compacted soil
      • no drainage / poor drainage
      • low oxygen
    • Underwatering / inconsistent water, weakening the plant’s vigor, which signals weakness to opportunistic organisms

SUN: Lemon Trees Losing Leaves Because of Lack of Sun

Your indoor lemon tree will need to be at a sunny window with at least 6 hours of sunlight, preferably. Alternatively, you can try grow lights.

WATER – OVERWATERING: Lemon Tree Losing Leaves Due to too Little Water

Excess water is a common malady amongst new plant owners. As soon as we see a plant droopy or ailing, we rush to give it more water, assuming that to be the issue. Subsequently, root rot can set in around a wet and soggy root ball, causing leaf drop and eventual death if not remediated quickly.

One spring we transplanted one of our Meyers to a larger pot and placed it in the garden. While tending to all the other plants we didn’t notice that it was becoming waterlogged. In the garden, the leaf drop wasn’t as obvious as it is when the plant is indoors, so we caught it all too late.

Fortunately, even though that little lemon tree was literally drowning in water, it survived and rebound to flower and fruit the following year.

Overwatering can drown plants — too much water, not enough oxygen — can lead to disease.

WATER – UNDERWATERING and DROUGHT: Lemon Tree Losing Leaves Due to Lack of Water

Most plants can take a little dryness now and then but too dry or infrequent watering resulting in too many periods of dryness can overstress a plant and require a season to recover.

How to Prevent Meyer Lemon Leaves Falling Off

Now that we’ve covered the reasons why Meyer lemon leaves fall off, you can probably already glean some possible solutions. But let’s cover those here too.

Solutions to Meyer Lemon Leaf Drop – What Your Indoor Citrus Tree Needs to Be Healthy

Find lots more on growing dwarf Meyer lemon trees here.

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