What To Do When Citrus Loose Their Leaves

poorly limeOh the grief! My once glorious lime, provider of bounteous fruits winter through spring, has defoliated. It was the endless rain that did it. The final straw, 120mm of rain in 5 days. My lime dropped it’s leaves in disgust. So sad.

Here’s my R&M plan

  • A layer of lovely homemade compost. Don’t go nuts on feeding when repairing a plant/ tree. Think invalid. Think gently easing into it.
  • A dose of EM to rebuild the soil workers and get those networks up and running again.
  • A light thin (prune) to take the pressure off.
  • A lovely layer of rotten hay to mulch.

Fingers crossed.


  1. Shona McKee says:

    Hi Kath
    did your plan work for your lime tree as I have a similar problem with my lemon tree which is only 18 months old and trying to nuture it along in our Central Otago frosts. I have it against a concrete block north facing wall and protected by flaxes either side and a glass window propped in front. It did well the first year in a pot but I planted it out in spring and have removed any fruit as I mistakenly let it grow fruit the first year. It has dropped a lot of leaves and has very small fruit after a few blossoms for the first time since I planted it in the garden. I am thinking I should remove that fruit as well.

    • No 🙁 My Lime was dead about a week after I wrote that. The problem revealed when I removed the tree – the down pipe beneath it was leaking making for a very wet soggy spot – not the favourite for citrus at all.

      Yes I would remove the fruit. Don’t feed it at this time of year. Be sure the soil is not wet. Warm, free draining soil is the key here. It sounds like you are doing all you can to create it – perhaps a frost cloth cover over the top as well. If you get to the seaside at all a pile of kelp weed beneath the mulch does wonders at increasing soil heat. Wondering what rootstock your lemon is on – may just be part of its natural cycle and also wondering how close those flaxes are….

      Perhaps get one going in a container as well – hedge your bets! Then you can move it inside through the winter/ early spring.
      Hope this helps!

      PS saw this from the ever helpful Kate Marshall
      Kate Marshall from Waimea Nurseries says citrus foliage can sometimes turn to yellow tones in winter. If the leaves are entirely yellow, this is usually just a natural process for the tree – most citrus trees are grafted onto Trifoliata or Flying Dragon rootstocks, which are deciduous on their own. Therefore when used as a rootstock in winter the roots stop taking up nutrition, leaving the evergreen part of the tree hungry for food. Margined or mottled yellow leaves are a symptom of nutrient deficiency.

      Solution: Wait until spring to feed with general citrus fertiliser, as the deciduous rootstocks won’t take up any food during the winter months. Fertilising citrus in the cooler months can be tricky, as it is best to avoid encouraging a flush of tender new growth that could easily get frosted or cold damaged. Instead feed with Dolomite lime and gypsum, which will increase trace element nutrition and improve leaf appearance without stimulating a flush.