Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lemon Tree's Brown Leaves Are a Serious Sign

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lemon Tree's Brown Leaves Are a Serious Sign

Article excerpt


I have a lemon tree that is 10 years old and seems to have suddenly died. The leaves are brown and hanging down. There is still plenty of fruit on the plant. Can I harvest it? Is the plant dead?

In all plants, when the leaves turn brown suddenly, it is usually a sign of a catastrophic problem. If the death is very sudden, there isn't even time for the plant to seal off the leaves, which would cause them to drop, and they just hang there.

There are two possible causes. One is the possibility that an herbicide, applied to control lawn weeds, was taken up by the plant. We often forget that tree roots extend far beyond the dripline and many herbicides can kill desirable trees. If there is a possibility that this is the cause, you may want to discard the fruit.

The more likely cause is a root rot. We had substantial rainfall this fall and citrus is quite intolerant of wet soils. The bottom of the tree may be mushy and blackened.

I know you have several citrus trees and all the others are doing well. Every plant in the landscape occupies a unique location. The drainage and water table can be different 4 feet away.

I would leave the tree in place until late spring to be sure it is dead. Remember that if the tree sprouts from near ground level, you are seeing the sour orange rootstock growing, and will not get good fruit from it.

I noticed that some road crews were cutting back ornamental grasses. Should I be cutting mine back?

Road crews and professional maintenance crews often schedule work for convenience rather than optimal results. Most people like to leave their ornamental grasses through the winter because they remain attractive through the winter.

The best time to cut ornamental grasses back is usually late January. …

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