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I have slowly been watching my lime tree die. I thought it just didn't get enough water last winter when we had no rain in the Los Angeles area and had heat problems. I noticed the bark seemed damaged so I painted the side that got the hot west sun. We have clay soil and I planted it too close to the garage expecting it to be a dwarf and much smaller. It had really small limes this year, but almost no new growth or leaves. The branches seem dead. I wonder if this tree looks like it can be saved? We are in the area for these Asian citrus psyllid, but I never saw them on the tree or damage in fruit. I have an orange and lemon tree both doing fine. Should I just take it out, or wait and see if there are new leaves?Here is a picture I just took, looks dead

  • I can't quite see the base of the tree clearly, but it looks gnarly and lumpy, as if its suffered damage there previously, Is that the case (strimmer/weed whacker use maybe)? I also see a stub from a branch previously badly pruned off that might have allowed some problem with the roots - any soft areas at the bottom there or anywhere on the trunk? – Bamboo Jan 29 at 23:54
  • No soft areas, but as I said the bark looked sunburnt and gnarly on the west side for some time. – Lilith Marie Haas Jan 30 at 21:02
  • It does look pretty sick - you've the choice of giving it another year to see how it goes, or removing it now. If there's something else you'd like to plant there, I'd take it out now. – Bamboo Jan 30 at 21:04
  • Thank you. I just don't know if it's worth paying for a tree expert, it looks too far gone for a fungicide. I think most of the dead tree branches would need to be cut out. There is one small green branch just off the ground which may be from root stock. I read you should 'check the feeder roots for rot', but am afraid if I dig down it will cause more damage. Do you know how far to dig to check for rot in feeder roots? – Lilith Marie Haas Jan 30 at 23:00
  • Frankly, if its put up a shoot off the rootstock, that's another strong hint the tree is failing, or the grafted part anyway. You already said it got bigger than you expected for the spot its planted in, and it also bakes in the sun... bite the bullet and get rid of it. Attempting to bring it back to health will take a couple of years and may not be successful anyway. Every bare spot is an opportunity to plant something new in a garden, after all. Pay someone to take the roots out too if you can't manage that yourself. – Bamboo Jan 30 at 23:27
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Clay and salty soils are not suitable environments to grow a citrus. You can trench an area near the tree at least a foot deep back fill with rock and cover with soil. Ideally you will trench downhill letting the soil drain. Your tree probably encountered Phytophthora which is a fungus that can be treated in the spring with an antifungal. You will need to remove infected branches.

  • Thank you for answering. I looked that up and guess it's not so easy to get an accurate diagnosis. I did attempt to add peat moss and rock around the base of the trunk last summer. I guess it's hard to tell if the water is pooling underground. If the infected branches need to be removed looks like its most of the tree, so how can I tell for sure where the "infection" is ? Otherwise, I see a lot of fungicides available. Thank You again. – Lilith Marie Haas Jan 30 at 21:22
  • If the trunk is diseased near the ground that tree will surely die this year. Cut it down and start new. This time however plan the location first then plan the type of tree that thrives in your soil. I imagine a crepe myrtle would thrive in that very spot. – Bryan Hearn Jan 30 at 23:23

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