Meyer lemon tree as of 7/21/17[![Meyer lemon tree as of 7/21/17]23]3I discovered 2 days ago that my lemon tree appears to be dying. I'm not sure when it began. Because I have never had problems with this tree, I simply did not notice it turning brown. My neighbor noticed it and informed me.

Prior to this it was healthy, green and had green buds and flowers. It typically puts out beautiful, delicious lemons every year. Although it is watered perhaps every 2-3 days, it receives little water from the sprinkler as it is some distance from it. The soil does drain well and dries in between. It sits directly in the sun. I have never had to fertilize it, but I do keep it pruned.

This tree was here when I bought my home 9 years ago. Nothing has changed in the management of this tree. However, about 2 or 3 weeks ago, I sprayed a very tiny bit of Roundup to kill a weed growing up through the crack of my driveway. I is about 8 feet from the tree and directly parallel to it. I have never used Roundup in this area before. I only use it at the base of my driveway because my yard is full of ornamentals. The only thing I can assume is that perhaps some of this herbicide leached into the soil.

All of the leaves are brown and curled, but there are some green buds still present. Some of the branches are dried and brown when scraped, but others, while brown, have a green, moist texture underneath. I scraped the bottom of the tree trunk and it is moist and green as well(see pic).

There does not appear to be any fungus or infection of the tree trunk; actually, it appears quite healthy. I soaked the base of the tree one time and have gone back to the regular watering schedule to avoid drowning the roots. I don't know what else to do now.

Any advice on how I can save the tree if it is dying from the herbicide?

enter image description here Brown Meyer lemon tree with scraping of base
enter image description here enter image description here

Here are some updates on the tree's current status, with some new branches and buds:

enter image description here enter image description here
enter image description here

  • Are these the pictures you were trying to add? Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 1:00
  • 1
    My pleasure! It's not easy being new here, but definitely worth it, so please let us know if we can help with any features of the site. I can see you've taken our tour and spent some time in our help center, which plenty of people don't do. This is a text book example of an excellent question, with lots of details and great pictures! I really hope your tree can be saved, it's hard when we lose them. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 15:28
  • From your description, it would seem to be unlikely that glyphosate (Roundup) is the culprit. Roundup is pretty much deactivated on contact with soil - unless it got onto the leaves of the plant it would not cause the plant to die suddenly. (Glyphosate is ingested through the leaves). Also, volume matters - a tiny drop on a tree should not kill it.
    – davidgo
    Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 5:47
  • Hi Sue, can you tell me how to upload more pics when I am commenting? Thanks...
    – Misa
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 2:28
  • Congratulations on saving your tree! I'm so happy for you! I know you really love it & have worked hard, and it paid off! Thanks especially for coming back with an update. We often wonder what happens, and these updates help the community now and in the future! Hope we see you again! Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 21:10

3 Answers 3


If you have green living material under the bark then it might not be dead. Lots of die back, yes. I recommend cutting it back hard to remove all dead leaves and minor stems. Then water and wait....

  • Sure...why not try? Trees and shrubs take a long time to die. But without any photosynthetic growth...good luck. MAJOR sigh.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 2:26
  • Would citrus fertilizer possibly make any difference? I have already started cutting off the dead branches. I scrape each one I can reach. If it is dry underneath the bark, it gets removed. If still green and moist, I leave it. All I can do is try at this point. Definitely nothing to lose but this tree if I don't give it a shot. Thanks for all your help. Will keep you posted. Worst case scenario, I plant a new one.....
    – Misa
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 4:50
  • 1
    @user15211 Water is what it needs now. Fertilizer is for when you see new growth. Even then apply at half strength
    – kevinskio
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 11:18
  • Yup, Kevinsky is right might as well try...I would. But this is pretty drastic...water, in fact I'd get some 2 - 4 inch pvc pipe, drill holes in it and push it down 3' into the soil...at least 2 or 3 of them. If the top growth looks dead you can bet the mirror image of the roots below are dead as well. All the fine feeding roots will have suffered, probably the reason in the first place. Put that pipe down into the soil and water inside that pipe. Don't get it so wet that it drowns. Would you please pull the ground cover aside take a pic to show the soil on that trunk?
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 21:34
  • 2
    Kevinsky, I would like to thank you for your advice. My tree did not die. I cut back most of the dead branches, performed deep watering every 3-4 weeks, light watering every 10 days and fertilized twice with MiracleGro. I have added a pic demonstrating the new growth of branches and buds. Again, thank you.
    – Misa
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 19:15

I never thought I'd be saying this but that tree is DEAD. For all intent and purposes, no one barring magicians or a god could bring that guy back. Bummer for sure. Let's figure out what happened that you could learn from, watering schedule, a picture of the bottom of that trunk in the soil, and a larger view of the other plants nearby.

The low cover looks dehydrated by this picture. The amount of concrete and paving and gravel could have easily cooked this guy's roots even with lots of water. Where the heck do you live and what temperatures are happening??

Very dead, sweetie. The trees in the background look stressed as well. I don't think any glyphosate could harm this cute tree without killing the groundcovers as well. This appears to be heat damage and/or not enough DEEP watering versus a little now and then.

  • I live in California where the weather has been >100 degrees. This tree has been in this location for years. It was green, lush and flowering until 2-3 weeks ago. I'm afraid I caused it and am sick to my stomach. I have updated photos; however, they have been sent to a queue. I'm new to this site. The ground cover and surrounding foliage remain unaffected other than what is typical for this season.
    – Misa
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 0:48
  • 1
    Hi. Did you post those pictures here under stormy's answer, or as part of an edit to your own? I think they ended up in the queue because they looked like you were trying to edit this post, and you don't have enough rep to do that yet. Don't worry, we'll take care of it, and get them in for you! Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 0:57
  • 1
    Shoot, I feel for you user15211. Major bummer sweetie. You said that you think you caused this? Why? I am not seeing anything with which to point a finger at you!! Why do you think you caused this? Hey, even getting lots of education does not protect a real gardener from mistakes and heartbreak...
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 2:16
  • I mistakenly posted under Stormy's answer. Thank you for correcting. I'm new to the site.
    – Misa
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 4:46

Since your tree has been defoliated, it will need to survive on stored energy reserves to able to grow new leaves. For this reason, avoid removing any branches that are still alive (green) as you will diminish the amount of stored energy available.

Since the cause of failure is presumed to be heat and water stress to the roots, perhaps you need arrange for some timed watering system while the weather is still hot since it failed with your existing watering system which you have not changed.

  • Today I did cut back the dead branches and thinned out the branches to allow more photosynthesis of the ones that appear to be surviving. I have changed the timing on my watering system and will pay closer attention to periodic deep watering.
    – Misa
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 2:37
  • Graham, your advice was helpful as well in saving my tree. I have added an updated pic.
    – Misa
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 19:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.