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I started using fertilizer spikes on my dwarfed citrus trees in small pots. (Details may be found in this question.) As suggested, I used half a spike for each pot and I put the spike as far from any roots as possible.

My understanding is that the risk I'm taking is that the fertilizer will burn the roots of these trees. But I don't know what to look for. Should I check the color of the leaves? What color would I expect from fertilizer burn? How long might it take to see symptoms?

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As far as I am aware, fertilizer burn is a result of too much fertilizer causing the water in the plant to be drawn out. This makes leaves look, well, burned.

In a specific search on citrus trees, it sounds like "Dark green, lush leaves with burned tips indicate excessive fertilizing".

I suggest watching to see if the leaves start showing any signs of burned tips, while keeping in mind that this is likely how the leaves would also look if they are under-watered (for the same reason, basically).

The fact that it's half a spike should mean you're fine, I would think.

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I believe this has happened to me when using a fertilizer spike (but in the ground) on a younger tree. The tree was nice and green but the tips of the leaves were burnt (brown, dead). It didn't appear to hurt the tree after the initial burn (though who knows what was going on with the root system). –  Tim Clymer Jun 30 '11 at 15:29

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