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I have a couple of indoor lemon trees that went without water while I was away for a couple of weeks. When I got home I watered them, and after waiting a couple of days it seems almost all the leaves are dead, though the wood does not feel dead. The plants are 2-3 years old, relatively small and not bushy, and have born no fruit to date.

The tip of one branch looks good. I was wondering whether it would be a better idea to clip the healthy piece (4-5", two sets of leaves) and transplant it or if I should leave it in place to help revive the rest of the plant.

Are there any principles to guide this choice? I haven't grown many fruit trees.

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Personally, I would wait. As I noted in a previous question, I treated a clementine orange horribly and it lived for years. It may be that, if you left the plant in the dark, then that is what's causing the leaves to drop, since citrus can take quite a bit of dryness, especially in winter. I'm pretty confident that you'll have new leaves sprouting by mid-March - just don't over-water the plants (water only when dry and remove any standing water left in the saucers after 30 minutes).

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  • Mine seems so much more fragile than that. It did have (New England winter) window light and was reasonably warm, I saw some other questions but not much about transplanting. – Josh Rumbut Feb 25 at 4:47
  • I live in southern Wisconsin and grew my clementine for 15 years or so, in three different houses, all with central heating. It over-wintered best in a semi-heated sunroom, where it received direct morning sun and was kept at a temperature between 55 and 60F. I think that transplanting the plants now would be simply adding to their stress by piling transplant shock on top of the under-watering and/or lack of light shock. – Jurp Feb 25 at 12:59
  • What am I saying transplanting? I meant cloning by the process of clipping the healthy tip, applying rooting hormone, and planting the result. I think your point remains true, it's extra stress and this sort of plant can heal from this level of dehydration. It's already looking a little better actually, thank you! – Josh Rumbut Feb 26 at 11:40

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