I have a young, indoor, variegated lemon tree that I purchased in November 2020. This is my first tree and I live in PA. I understand that the climate here is not optimal for this type of tree. Leaf drop in winter is understandable but my new tree is dropping healthy looking leaves constantly. The roots are growing like crazy however. My tree is in full Eastern sunlight and the sits in a window where I can close the curtains at night to provide more warmth in the winter. I admit that I have over-watered this tree out of concern for it’s well being.

Would anyone have suggestions to care for this tree? I find it very odd to have excessive root growth AND excessive leaf drop. I’m thinking it could be due to the soil I used to repot the tree. Please respond if you have any thoughts. Thank you :) enter image description here

  • ![Variegated Lemon Tree With Buds](i.stack.imgur.com/Nr2lD.jpg) I changed the light source from East to South facing light after all leaves fell off. Now there are buds but no leaves. I have read that this could be the tree’s final throws and that I should prune the buds but I’m not sure if this is a good thing to do.
    – Tombcake
    Mar 28, 2021 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


Citrus grows best in slightly acid soil conditions, and when in a pot needs good drainage. So this means potting soil that has no alkaline components and watered with water that is not "hard", that is not containing basic/alkaline components like lots of calcium. Clean rain or melted snow has a pH of about 5.6 which is acid enough to counteract a small amount of alkaline content in the potting soil provided it is used consistently, so rainwater is much better than tap. Contact your water authority to find out what pH they aim for if you only have tap water available. If you are on a well on limestone or chalk then look for an opportunity to collect your own rainwater/snow for irrigation.

Leaf drop is associated with some dramatic change like abrupt temperature, light or water changes, or pruning or root interference. Normal behaviour of the plant is to shed leaves and then replace those with fresh growth, so not really anything to worry about in the immediate term. Wait and watch for new leaves appearing and use the bare tree opportunity to prune the tree carefully to ensure that it has balanced, open growth and no dead parts.

No need to worry about closing curtains to preserve warmth. North of you, I have a young citrus in cold room against a window without curtains or artificial light watered with melted snow in regular garden soil and it is happy as can be.

Watch out for soapy water made with lye soap - it has a very high pH so if you are ever tempted to use soapy water to treat citrus for insects make sure not to get any soap on the soil.

  • Hi Colin, thank you for your response. This is very helpful. I have been giving the tree tap water and I live right next to a water treatment facility. I can taste when they add chlorine to the water and this happens frequently. I could understand why the tree might not be happy with this. I will try melting the snow for watering while it’s still available :)
    – Tombcake
    Feb 23, 2021 at 14:54
  • When the leaves are down it is a good time to clear off the spines. Side cutters do a good job while the spines are soft. Once they harden up they are vicious. Feb 23, 2021 at 15:37
  • How's the humidity in your dwelling? I've seen that do awful things to leaves. Mar 28, 2021 at 21:31
  • Can root interference lead to the death of the plant? Or it just takes some time until the leaves recover/are dropped and new ones appear? @ColinBeckingham
    – M.K
    Dec 19, 2022 at 9:56

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.