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Clementine has dropped 85 leaves in 5 hours - help!

So I've purchased a clementine tree for my mother's 60th (she already has a lemon which does well in her conservatory).

I've been keeping it in my conservatory for the last 2 weeks and it's been completely fine. I've made sure the door is open to keep the temperature even. But today it went from fine to losing 85+ leaves in about 5 hours and I just don't know what to do. Googling suggests I should water it more and not water it, keep it cool and keep it hot, put it outside and keep it out of the sun. I have no idea what to do.

Some points:
  • The plant is about 2ft tall.
  • It still has about 1/2 of its leaves.
  • It has 3 large, yellow fruit growing on it.
  • The surface of the soil seems dry to the touch, but it was watered from the base this morning.

I've been watering it with a small cup of water every 3 days or so, today I thought it looked a little dry and poured a larger cup of water than usual into the saucer, this is the only thing I can think that's different, but feeling the soil it feels dryish.

I grow all sorts of plants myself but I've never once kept a citrus tree, I'm completely at a loss. :'(


  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,191
    I have a lemon, a lime and a calamondin tree and, in my limited experience, I have only seen them shed a large number of leaves like that when they have had a shock of some kind.

    Perhaps the move from the conditions in the shop to those in your house surprised them.

    When I water mine, I tend to give them a good drenching and then leave them for a few days, but I don’t know if that is the “correct” thing to do.

    I wouldn’t leave it in full sun but I would give it good light.

    Sorry I can’t suggest anything more.  Perhaps put the leaves that it has lost into a bag and give them and the tree to your mum as “a project”.😊

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Derbyshire but with a Nottinghamshire postcode. Posts: 16,462
    Try standing the whole pot in a bucket of rain water if possible, to give it a thorough soaking for a couple of hours, then let it drain well. The root ball may be dry even if damp on top.  citrus need a good soak when they get dry, but do not like standing in water.
  • Singing GardenerSinging Gardener EssexPosts: 1,214
    It's important to use rain water and not tap water, especially if you're in a hard water area. My citrus trees dropped most of their leaves when I absent mindedly watered them with tap water once.
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 6,535
    ‘A small cup of water every three days or so’ - the poor thing will be dying of thirst, so no wonder its dropping leaves. Agree with all of the above, give it a really good soaking, drain well, keep it in good light but not direct sun and mist the remaining leaves with a spray bottle as well. Let it dry out a bit between waterings then water again deeply  which means at least a small watering can, say 1-3 litres, maybe more, depending on the size of the pot...

    Pity you couldn’t have asked your mum, she seems to know what to do with citrus, but that would have given the game away! I am sure she will nurse it back to life, it will just look a bit sparse this year...
  • rhinnehrhinneh UKPosts: 3
    edited June 2019
    Nollie said:
    Pity you couldn’t have asked your mum, she seems to know what to do with citrus, but that would have given the game away! I am sure she will nurse it back to life, it will just look a bit sparse this year...
    I know, I was thinking exactly the same! The thing which really gets me is, I got it from a good nursery and they gave me a leaflet to go with it. Having never had any sort of citrus before I followed the instructions to the letter, but then after a good google it seems half the leaflet it complete nonsense.

    Thank you so much for your help though everyone! I've soaked it well, removed it from full sun and misted the leaves and although a few leaves are still falling, the rate they're dropping at has definitely slowed so fingers crossed!

    One thing I'm not sure on is, it has 3 large fruit growing on it (and several smaller, new fruit), would it help at all to remove any?
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 9,857
    I don't have any citrus but I do see Monty Don watering his every season and he always uses seaweed extract and rainwater on all of his.
    Hope you can get it back to good health soon!
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • edhelkaedhelka GwyneddPosts: 2,267
    It's better to water from top, then wait for ten minute and remove all excess water from the saucer.
    My citrus (keffir lime) also had a leaves drop when it was new because I was afraid of overwatering and watered too little. It took 2-3 weeks to start growing new leaves.
  • rhinnehrhinneh UKPosts: 3
    Thanks for your help everyone!
    The leaves seemed to have stopped dropping now (touch wood!) and it's put on an abundance of new growth already - there are even a few flowers coming out.  :)
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 6,535
    That’s great news, rhinneh, phew!

    You asked about removing the fruit, if the fruits will still look ok when you are presenting your mum with it, leave them, if they are looking a bit ropey, cut them off. Since you have new growth already, probably won’t harm the plant either way.

    Citrus do prefer their soil slightly on the acid side and can get yellowing leaves (chlorosis) with long-term watering with hard (alkaline) tap water, which is why Monty will use the more acidic rainwater, but he does have it in buckets where he is! Usually a citrus feed or a weak dose of sequestered iron will sort this out, but if the new growth looks healthy enough (it will be a paler green than the old leaves anyway), I would probably leave it alone until after the handover, by which time I am sure you will be mightily relieved!

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