How to Kill a Potted Lemon Tree in 3 Easy Steps

how to kill a potted lemon tree

Trying to grow a lemon tree in a pot? Whatever you do, do NOT follow these steps!

If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you probably remember that beautiful lemon tree that I was growing. I bought my potted lemon tree in spring of 2011, and I managed to keep it alive for almost two whole years, but after this winter I’m pretty sure that my poor lemon tree is kaput.

Last winter, I moved my potted tree inside when the temperatures got too cold, and it did great! It was fine all spring, summer, and fall, too. This winter, though, I learned exactly how to make sure that a lemon tree dies tragically. It’s easy!

1. Over- or under-water it.

Lemon trees don’t need a ton of water, but you do need to remember to water that little guy. Too much water, and the roots will rot, too little, and he dies of thirst. You can choose either method – they will both mean your tree’s tragic end.

2. Forget to fertilize.

This was probably my most pathetic mistake, because I had calendar alerts set up reminding me to fertilize, and I had a big box of organic citrus fertilizer in the pantry, steps away from where my tree was living out its winter.

What would happen? The calendar alert would pop up, and I would hit snooze. And snooze. And finally say, “I will do that this afternoon!” and hit dismiss. And then I would forget.

3. Ignore the death throes.

The soil on my lemon tree became so dry that it was actually pulling away from the sides of the pot from neglect, yet I continued to not water it for days. At that point, it might be too late to compensate with a ton of water, but I sure did try!

Also, there was this approximate exchange, which happened between my husband and me several times over the course of the winter:

Him: Wow, there are a lot of flies in the back hallway!

Me: Yeah, I think they’re coming from the lemon tree somehow, isn’t that weird?

Him: There are a lot of leaves in the back hallway!

Me: Yeah, the lemon tree keeps dropping leaves, isn’t that weird?

If you’re trying to kill your lemon tree, I can’t stress this enough: don’t research problems like that. You might discover what is wrong with your tree and be able to save it.

Have any of you guys grown a lemon tree in a pot? How did it do? I’d love to hear your experiences! Maybe my next stab at a potted lemon tree won’t end so disappointingly!

  1. Mary Gerush

    I hope you haven’t dragged it to the curb yet. Last fall, we bought a Meyer Lemon and Lime tree in pots. Left them outside because it was still warm in TX. Grasshoppers stripped a lot of leaves but they still looked half alive. Brought them inside when it got colder.

    They now look like your poor bunch of sticks. I researched and found a common condition called Wilted Leaf Drop. If they have great climate change or are overwatered or get too much sun or are looked at sideways during the winter (when they are supposed to be dormant), they drop their leaves. Ours even flowered and lost those too.

    I think (hope) they rise again as weather warms and we can move them outside. Just have to keep the grasshoppers away.

    1. Becky Striepe

      Ooh we do still have it! I will leave it be out back until spring. It shouldn’t get too terribly cold again, I think, so hopefully it will be cool on the back porch!

  2. Allena Luecke

    Lemon oil may be used in aromatherapy. Researchers at The Ohio State University found that lemon oil aroma does not influence the human immune system, but may enhance mood.

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