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Citrus Pests & Diseases

Citrus trees are relatively easy to grow and with the proper care you can have Citrus trees with beautiful blossoms and luscious fruit that will last for decades. Caring for your citrus tree starts as soon as your remove them from your box. Please remember that if your tree came planted in a pot, you should leave it in the pot for at least a week to minimize shock. Remove the tree from the plastic bag wrapped around pot, water it and place it in a "partially" sunny location for at least a week, before you attempt to place the tree in the full sun. After one week you can then place tree in full sun (IF it is not in shock.)

Citrus tree care is based on a 4 point system

It is important that your tree gets 6-8 hours of sunshine daily. In the northern regions of the US this can be a little more problematic, (in the the winter months) in this case you can supplement with a plant grow bulb in addition to sunshine. It is extremely important that your tree is given the 6-8 hours of daily sunshine, this is a requirement for a healthy productive tree.

It is crucial that you use the deep watering method when watering citrus. The majority of plant demise is due to over watering, it is detrimental and should be avoided. A simple inexpensive moisture meter can prevent an over zealous gardener.

Moisture meters are around $10.00 and can give peace of mind to the questioning gardener on whether or not to water.
When you water the tree just water until water comes out of the hole at the bottom of the pot.
When the meter reads under 50% then you know it's time to deep water your tree.
Watering your trees for a few minutes every few days, is NOT acceptable.

It is important that you remember to fertilize your tree. Nitrogen deficiency is one of the main causes of yellow leaves.
Citrus trees are heavy nitrogen feeders. Without nitrogen your tree CANNOT produce fruit. Fruiting trees remove nitrogen from the soil and convert it into fruit.

We recommend a 2/1/1/ ratio fertilizer. The first number on any fertilizer is nitrogen and it should be double the other two numbers.
Citrus should be fertilized in February, May, and early October. If you live in the south and your tree is planted outside DO NOT fertilize after October because that encourages the tree to start new tender growth during the winter when there is a danger of frost.

The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is so true when it comes to preventing your tree from insect infestation.
It is imperative that you protect your investment, a little prevention goes a long way.
It is important that you educated yourself on hazards that could cause undue stress or extreme danger to your citrus tree.


After you take your tree inside in the fall before winter make sure that you use WARM WATER ONLY to water your tree. Water can be extremely cold in the winter coming out of the tap, so be mindful of the water temperature before watering 

The root area of the pot is just as important as the foliage of the tree, and if the root area gets too cold, the tree will begin to drop it's leaves. To stop this situation you should wrap a towel around the pot and water with warm water, the towel will help keep the warmth in. During the day it helps if the pot is elevated to the window, so the pot also receives warmth from the sunshine. 

Also in the summer  if you use a garden hose to water your tree DO NOT make the mistake of leaving water in the hose, the water left in a garden hose can get very hot in the summer, cooking in the sun. Make sure you always empty your hose and get fresh water in the hose, before you water the trees.

Green leaf drop is a problem when trees are inside for the winter. Lighting is usually the issue when green leaves drop off an otherwise healthly tree. Our recommendations for winter growing can be found here-



It is important in tree care to do a few preventative steps to insure that your tree stays healthy.
You should be familiar with the graft area of your tree, and not allow growth below the graft area, as this will eventually take over and kill your tree.

BRACKET SHOWS GRAFT AREA, Red arrow is a sucker and needs to be pruned off. The lighter part of the branch V shaped, is the grafted area.  Any growth below the graft need to be removed. The whiter branch near the graft is fine, it is only the branch that sprouted BELOW the graft that is a concern.


It is very important when transplanting the tree that the root crown is not buried under the soil, as this could cause the trunk to rot away from the rootball.


Creating a barrier between your trees pot and foliage is essential.
First, take a wide piece of masking tape or tangle guard, long enough to wrap around the tree and support stick at least a few times.

Red arrow pointing to tape barrier

Wrap the tree STICKY-SIDE OUT  first with wide tape guard or masking tape. It is important to make sure that the tree is completely wrapped before you wrap the support stick. 
Once the tree trunk and support stick are wrapped, you can add tanglefoot to the sticky part of the tape, making it a lot more sticky. If a tunnel is created between the tree and support stick that ants can crawl under, just pinch off any access points  and use a toothpick to add tanglefoot to block gaps.

This barrier will catch ants and prevent them from gaining access to the trees foilage.Since your tree is a good food source of honeydew.
REMEMBER- Check tape when you water your tree, to make sure ants haven't built a bridge across your barrier and do not push tree against a wall or railing or other plants, as insects would just climb them to gain access to the trees foliage. 

Taping the tree sticky-side out will also help prevent spidermites and snails from gaining access to the tree. But it is important to know spidermites can get blown through the air on a windy day. Other preventatives that you could consider using are essential oils, such as tea-tree, eucalyptus, peppermint or wintergreen- one dropper mixed with water in a spray bottle. Do not spray theses directly on your tree, use these to spray the outside of the pot and surrounding area to deter pests. Neem oil can be sprayed on your tree and is a great deterrent against pests.

If your tree is infested with anything you must wash your tree with Dawn dishsoap and warm water, scrubbing with a wash cloth.  Make sure top side and under side of leaves are completely washed and scrubbed of sooty mold, and cleansed of any sticky substance. You can use a toothbrush in hard to reach areas, such as a crevice at the Y part of a branch. Treat tree once it is clean with a horticultural oil, or neem oil. 

It is IMPORTANT that all insects are removed, so take care to educate yourself on the insect infesting your tree. These will be listed further in this article.



Ants form symbiotic relationships with a variety of arthropods including scale insects, mealybugs, cottony cushion scales, whiteflies, and aphids. Ants are a lot like humans,they domesticate other insects, like humans domesticate cattle. Ants will carry these insects up the tree and drop them onto foliage and branches. These insects use sharp mouth parts to pierce into plants extracting the sugary goodies. Then the ants will walk up and tap scale or an aphid with a foreleg or antennae and on cue the scale or aphid will give up a droplet of honeydew. Ants drive off a host of potential predators, of the scale and aphid and so for payment of this ants protect their flocks and for this protection ants are rewarded with honeydew. Ants move their herds of bugs from "pasture to pasture" as each food source is used up, just like a cattle rancher moves his herd from pasture to pasture. It is important to protect your tree from ants. 

If at any point you notice that your potted tree has become infested with a colony of ants, making themselves at home in the soil of the pot, then it is an emergency. YOU MUST  kill the colony.  

Use a small jar lid and pour in Mountain Dew, mix in 3 pinches of Borax Laundry Detergent. Set the lid with this mixture close to your pot, about 2-3 feet away from your potted tree. If you mix too much of the borax, it will kill the ants immediately, and they will not have a chance to take it back to the colony, killing all the ants in the colony. So be sure you don't mix it too strong. If you notice a lot of dead ants near your mixture, then the mixture is too strong.


Ant getting drop of  honeydew from scale

SCALE looks like blisters all over branch- Included in photo- a very faint web (spider-mite) that is attached from thorn to branch

When scale is attached to the tree, it often appears as crusty or oatmeal like or waxy bumps on the tree, often it is mistaken for parts of the tree’s own growth. Picture clearly shows bumpy beige like waxy growth. These are insects that suck sap from plants and produce a sticky substance called honeydew. Honeydew if left on tree will then turn to black sooty mold.


 Branch with scale, and honeydew dripping off leaves and branches

MEALYBUGS from the family of scale insects



Although leaf miner is unsightly, it's normally not too damaging to Citrus Trees. Leaf miner is identified by squiggly lines in the leaves.
Treatment: spinosad to treat the adult insects


Leaves saturated with honeydew with spidermites and web to the right of the main leaf.  

Honeydew that is dripping from a leaf, will cause fruit flies to be attracted to your tree and can be a warning sign that the tree is in distress.



 As scale suck fluid, they create an environment ripe for the fungal disease called black sooty mold. Honeydew, if not removed will turn to black sooty mold and will become prevenlant on leaves, twigs and branches.

As the branches, twigs and leaves turn black, the mold will reduce the trees' ability to conduct photosynthesis.


All that applies to the scale also applies to many other insects and how they affect your Citrus tree.

Aphids crawling on branch


 Aphids on the under-side of a leaf, with larvae and eggs



Spidermite infestation will usually infest in large numbers, and they damage leaves and plants. They suck the nutrients of the plants and leave them to die. Any webs on your citrus will indicate a spider-mite infestation.


Majority of Citrus Tree death is over-watering. It is impertive that you DO NOT OVER-WATER your tree. Over-watering can create a perfect environment for Fungas Gnats that eat at the root system of the tree and will eventually kill your Citrus tree.  A moisture meter will prevent this from happening.



Damage caused by Citrus thrips

Small orange-yellow insects whose feeding activities scar and damage the surface of the fruit. The insects feed on the fruit buds and puncture the epidermal cells, leaving scabby, grayish or silvery scars on the rind.


It is important to keep a proper sanitation program around citrus tree, do not allow dead foilage to build up inside the pot as this could fill up pretty quickly with snails and slugs. It is important to have a barrier between the soil and the foliage to prevent slugs from climbing up the tree and eating the foliage and fruit.


It is important that you inspect your tree at least once a month to insure that you have no infestation. Egg clusters or whitefly larvae will be present on the undersides of infested leaves. Remove larvae or nymph-infested leaves from your citrus tree by hand and treat the tree with neem oil.




The swallowtail butterfly will lay her eggs on leaves of citrus trees the larvae are the Orange dog caterpillers, which eat the leaves of citrus.
Normally they are not harmful to the tree, unless the tree is young.





 A fungicide can prevent many fungal infections.



It is important that you check your tree regularly to prevent fungus and treat tree with Liquid Copper Fungicide.
One of the first signs that a citrus tree may be suffering from root rot is that the fruit has blemishes, or decaying or yellowish-brown spots.
A fungus or root rot can cause citrus leaves to become moldy or have blackened veins or black lesions. Root rot causes a slow decline of the tree so it is impertive you have adequate soil drainage and avoid overwatering. As root rot advances, the bark cracks and dies leaving dark sunken cankers on the tree trunk. Prevent any problems before they start, use Copper fungucide which is effective if used regularly to prevent many of the common fungus problems known to citrus.



Citrus Canker is a serious problem and is Citrus canker is a highly contagious bacteria. The main symptoms are lesions on the leaves, stems and fruit of citrus trees. Copper-based fungicides or bactericides can provide a barrier against infection, but they will not treat an existing infection. Control for citrus canker is better achieved through prevention. If you spot a lesion on your citrus tree, that lesion can’t be cured. However, you can prevent the bacteria from spreading beyond it because the bacteria are limited to the lesions. Carefully prune away infected areas and store in ziplock bag or large heavy duty garbage bag. Gardening tools need to be sterilized between uses to prevent the spread to other trees.


Citrus Greening is a bacterial pathogen spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, the insect is very small, no bigger than the size of a pin and spreads the disease as it feeds on the leaves and stems of citrus trees. Researchers have discovered that the deadly disease attacks roots long before the leaves show signs of damage. The bacteria travel quickly to the roots, where they replicate, damaging the root system starving the tree of nutrients and then spreads to the rest of the tree's canopy.

Exposing citrus seedlings to a minimum of 48 hours of temperatures of 104°F to 107°F significantly reduces, and often eliminated, HLB infection. This is done by making a plasic tent in very hot weather, or heat lamps. Heating trees in tents, is the only known cure to kill the pathogen. Also the lack of Phosphorus, has been linked to citrus Greening. Phosphorus applications will not cure the tree, but will improve the symptoms and fruit yield.



Nitrogen deficiency will limit tree growth and fruit production and is expressed by light green to yellow foliage. 

Overwatering your tree will cause yellow leaves, if your Citrus has yellow leaves but you know you are not overwatering then your tree has a Nitrogen deficiency.


Phosphorus is important for raising healthy citrus trees, but no matter the variety, they need only modest amounts of it. Growth is reduced when the supply of Phosphorus is too low and the symptoms appear first on older leaves. Symptoms: Small leaves that may take on a reddish-purple tint. Leaf tips can look burnt and older leaves become almost black. A research project has found phosphorus deficiency to be a contributor to citrus greening disease symptoms. By applying phosphorus, growers could potentially eliminate greening symptoms and improve fruit yield.



Manganese deficiency systoms are a light yellowing or whitening of normally green plant tissue because of a decreased amount of chlorophyll.
As the stress increases, the leaves take on a gray metallic sheen.



Veins and petioles show a very distinct reddish color. Simular to nitrogen deficiency with yellowing leaves but sulfur deficency is much more uniform over the entire plant. Brown lesions often develop along the edges, and the leaves tend to become more erect and often twisted and brittle.


Potassium deficiency causes fruit to become smoother, with thinner rinds and causes smaller fruit to devolop. Leaves become yellowish with edges bent downward.


Leaves appear as dark green veins, with yellowing between.


Extensive yellowing develops between veins when zinc is deficient.


If you have any questions about caring for your Citrus Tree, please call us at: 229-299-5555 or contact us.