I have a lemon that I grew from store bough lemon seed so it's not a dwarf variety. It was growing crazy fast but now it started to drop leaves, some seemed healthy other had some browning around tips and edges.


  • Constant 19-24C
  • Low humidity
  • Mostly overcast daylight
  • Water 2-3 times a month (with general purpose nutrients)

Roots seem to grow very slowly and have not yet reached the bottom of the pot. It was only transplanted once. Plant is only a few months old.

I have been adding tea leaves which is the only major change I can think of. It doesn't look like high ph symptoms from other resources though. I haven't added anymore for a while or watered for maybe 3-4 weeks - symptoms do not appear to have spread or gotten worse. Perhaps it was over watered but again symptoms don't seem to match.

What is the likely cause and the solution?

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  • What sort of soil is the lemon tree in? Jan 14, 2018 at 19:15
  • Nothing special, compost with some worm castings. It did very well up to now so I don't think soil is an issue.
    – DominicM
    Jan 14, 2018 at 21:14
  • Has there been any sudden change in the amount of light the tree receives?
    – Jurp
    Jan 14, 2018 at 21:37
  • @Jurp Sorry for late reply. Not really, it's inter and very bad weather lately but that's not uncommon
    – DominicM
    Jan 15, 2018 at 18:56
  • The reason I ask is that when I put my Clementine orange (from seed) outside in the Spring in too much sun it drops its leaves; when I bring it inside for the winter, it drops its leaves. They always regrow. I water my orange maybe once a month, and only if the pot is light - well, as light as a clay pot with a 4' tree in it can be :)
    – Jurp
    Jan 17, 2018 at 1:10

1 Answer 1


Diagnosis through photos is hard so I hope you will find it useful if I point out what I do not see:

  • no sign of white grains of salt on the underside of the leaves which indicate spider mites which are a common problem.
  • no scale or mealy bug observed, thrip would be unusual outside of a greenhouse and there is no telltale frass or silvery tracks on the leaves => no pests
  • no sign of green veins and yellow leaves which are typical of an iron/manganese deficiency due to alkaline soil

The item that may be causing this is overuse of fertilizer. Yes, outdoors in a high light situation you would have to work hard to over fertilize. Indoors where light levels are ten to a hundred times lower fertilizing two to three times a month is too much.

I suggest watering once with distilled water in sufficient quantity that water runs out the bottom of the pot. This will reduce the fertilizer salts that may present in the soil. Then switching to a citrus fertilizer or similar that has chelated iron and manganese. Apply once every two months at half strength in fall and winter. During spring and summer apply at half strength every month.

  • there does appear to be browning at the edges on one of the pictures suggesting fertilizer burn. Jan 14, 2018 at 21:57
  • Also for citrus trees it is important that they have dry spells. Overwatering will cause the leaves to curl up.
    – Tikkes
    Jan 15, 2018 at 10:27
  • That's a no to all the points. Fertiliser burn seems plausible. Could over watering also cause brown leaf edges? What about acidic soil from tea leaves?
    – DominicM
    Jan 15, 2018 at 19:15
  • @GrahamChiu Yes the main symptom is browning leaf edges closest to tips, then often drops. Any good resources relating to this?
    – DominicM
    Jan 15, 2018 at 19:17
  • Citrus likes acidic soils. Jan 15, 2018 at 19:24

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