I have a semi-dwarf Bearss lime tree in a container. It seems vigorous and started flowering and producing fruit only a few months after I bought it.

It is producing new growth well, but I have noticed that all of the new growth looks less healthy. The larger new leaves are variegated, while the smaller/newest ones are pale green, almost yellow. Some of the new growth is misshapen too.

The container has at least 4 drainage holes which are not blocked.

I've tried:

  • Watering less, in case I was over-watering. It wilted noticeably after a few days and recovered as soon as I watered it again.
  • Watering consistently when the first ~2 inches of soil feel dry
  • Applying a foliar spray with iron, zinc, manganese, etc.
  • Applying a slow-release citrus fertilizer to the container soil.

Tree in container Close up of new growth 1 Close up of new growth 2

  • Have you done a soil test on this container, Nate? Container plants burn through nutrients much faster than their in-ground counterparts, and citruses are even heavier feeders than normal. It sounds like you've been doing your homework with regard to nutrients. FWIW, brand new baby leaves are always lighter green, that's normal; but the variegation in the older ones seems problematic.
    – ingernet
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 21:15
  • I found this - based on how much you're fertilizing, it's possible that it's just producing SO much new growth that the new stuff is chewing through all the magnesium available, including leeching magnesium from older leaves. jimsmowing.com.au/2016/02/…
    – ingernet
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 21:18
  • Also this! lemoncitrustree.com/store/pest-disease Sorry to spam your comments but this topic (citrus care - I have an improved Meyer lemon in a container) is near and dear to my heart and I am really hoping you can get your tree sorted, it's lovely.
    – ingernet
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 21:21
  • Thanks! I have not done a soil test yet. These trees are ultimately destined for ground planting, so I am going to test the ground soil first. I didn't realize magnesium was so mobile, that could explain the variegation. There was definitely a huge amount of growth in only a few months, even before I added any fertilizers. Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


I wonder if the generation of new growth and new flowers/fruit at the same time is simply taxing your small tree in a container. I think you are doing all the right things so maybe watch how the new growth is doing in a week or two.

I have seen recommended to remove the fruit/flowers while a plant is newly growing (I know its painful to do) but can allow the roots to focus its delivery to just the leaves and new growth.

  • I think you may be right. I checked again and it had even more flowers/fruit than I had realized (some clusters that were hiding under leaves). Probably way too much for such a young plant. I pinched off all but 3 fruits and I'll keep an eye on the health of the plant. Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 17:20

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.