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Pruning Variegated Pink Eureka Lemon

St. Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

This is a dwarf Variegated Pink Eureka Lemon tree that has gotten all lopsided over the winter while indoors. The shape of it is driving me insane! And, on the tallest branches, it is growing new growth again. I am dying to prune the long branches back to near the rest of the (mostly leafless) tree. What do you guys think? I have just moved it outside for summer. Thank you for any feedback, and happy gardening!

Thumbnail by jaimelemon Thumbnail by jaimelemon
Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Oh, Jaime, I wouldn't prune off any part that has healthy leaves. That plant needs all the leaves it's got. It's also growing new leaves on the end of the part that's flopped over.

How about removing the stake it has, putting in a taller stake and tying the lopsided top branch up straight?

That being said, you should not expect a baby citrus tree to grow straight, or in a classic "tree" form. Especially a dwarf. They are really more shrubby in habit so until it gets pretty big and you can limb it up to look like a tree, you are going to have to live with random branches and just be happy it is growing new leaves!

noonamah, Australia

Generally lemons can take quite a heavy pruning, but I don't know with varieties that are dwarfed and variegated. They may be more sensitive. Dyzzypyxxy's solution is probably safest/best.

(I gather from a few of your posts your logon name is J'aime lemon?)

St. Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Thank you guys for the advice. :)

Breeze- my name is actually Jaime, I just added a lemon at the end. Don't let the name fool you, I am a total newbie who is obsessed with trying to grow my own citrus. I really don't know what I'm doing, that is why I value DG members' advice so much.

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Jaime, if your end goal is really to get fruit, you need to not worry about the appearance (shape) of the plants. Health and vigor is what you're going for.

Next winter, you might try to keep your citrus plants a little bit cooler. Here in FL where they grow outdoors, in winter the groves get down into the 30's at night on a regular basis, remember. This slows down the growth rate so maybe your indoor babies will grow less when they only have artificial light and light from your windows. In summer when they have lots of sunlight is when you want them to put on their big growth spurt of healthy, shiny dark green (and variegated) leaves. We also don't fertilize our citrus in winter. February, end of May, and end of September are when they get fertilizer here, so they grow strongly when the weather is warm and the sun is bright.

You might want to buy some citrus-specific fertilizer if you don't have it already. It will have some extra trace elements that citrus trees need. Down here, where everyone has citrus in their back yards, we can get it at Home Depot but since Missouri isn't known for its citrus I'd think you may have to order it. Or possibly HD will get it in for you, that might save you the shipping!

Also if that is a new plant, (you're gonna hate this) you really should remove any and all fruit for the first year or two so it can put all its energy into growing leaves and roots. You can enjoy the lovely fragrant blooms, though. But pinch off that fruit!

This message was edited May 8, 2013 2:12 PM

St. Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Thank you Dyzzy! You are right, I don't want to hear that I need to pinch off my fruits, lol. :( I know it should be done, though. This one didn't flower or anything, but my Ponderosa lemon does have 2 tiny fruits right now that I know I should get rid of, I just don't want to see them go. It makes me feel like I'm actually doing something right, you know? It will make me sad, but I will do it if it is best for the plant. :) I have actually been wanting to repot it since it is in a pretty small pot because it started out so small. (And I have plans for that pot again... lol)

Also, thank you for the fertilizer tips. I do have a citrus-specific fertilizer that I was using last summer, and I did stop all fertilizers while they were indoors this winter. (Thanks to DG'ers like you!) I just put them back outside, so I will give everyone a dose this weekend. The only thing I'm not sure I can do is to keep them cooler during winter. I guess I could put them down in my basement, but I'm not sure how much natural light they would get. We just have those tiny, rectangular basement windows. I'd have to invest in some grow lights or something. I'm just happy spring is finally here to stay, and my babies are finally back outside where they belong!

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

I had a friend who has a pretty little dwarf lemon tree on her patio. Every year she would have one or two fruits that she would coddle and treasure. Finally one year I convinced her to pinch off the fruits and give the plant a rest from making fruit for a year. She was astounded to see how much the plant grew that season, and it set 12 lemons the next year. You really do need to pinch off the Ponderosa lemons, it takes a lot of energy for a little plant to produce those huge lemons!

As to cooling the plants in winter, you're right, they probably wouldn't get enough light in your basement. Maybe you could try shutting off the heat to the room they live in? Even if you only did this at night, it would cool them down so that they would slow down their growth. I used to block the heat vents by stacking books or magazines on top of them when we lived in Utah so that my plants would get cool at night.

noonamah, Australia

Many young grafted fruit trees produce fruit very early. The graft is as old as the tree it came from. However, the root stock is too young so that's why it's recommended to take off the fruit for a few years. Lemons (and oranges) aren't suited to the tropics, that's why the best areas for them are mediterranean climates where they get a touch of frost but a very sunny summer. Limes are the main citrus for the tropics. So for your trees you'll need to balance the chilling with the bright sunlight.

(Looks like I over-thought about your name. But it suits anyway, LOL.)

(Zone 9a)

I know Elaine is not going to like this recommendation (LOL) but her least favorite nursery has an excellent book on growing tropical fruits indoors. Basic but good info.

;-) - Sorry Elaine. ;-)

St. Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

It's so funny you say that. I believe her and I have had the Logee's discussion as well, when I bought my Ponderosa lemon from them. lol

I will look into getting the book, thank you for the tip! :)

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Hey, you're right Alice, they do have good information available, and I've used their website info (for free!) many times. I'm sure the book is not a rip off. I just hate to see people getting ripped spending huge money on their wimpy little plants.

It wasn't only the Phaius - thereby hangs a tale. I'll go on a hunt for the two begonias my kids bought me as gifts from Logee's and post some pictures. All the ones you sent me as cuttings are huge and healthy, so you know I can grow begonias. But the two fancy expensive Logee's plants are still tiny and wimpy 18 months from when I got them. Same culture, soil and everything. I don't understand it at all.

But I get to blame Logee's, right? (o-O)

(Zone 9a)

He He, I knew I could get your dander up. LOL

Jaime, I lived briefly in the Boston area and went to visit Logees while I was up there. I wish you could see the ancient parent Ponderosa Lemon tree in their greenhouse. It is a monster and when I saw it it was covered with enormous lemons.

I grew up on Logees plants, my parents ordered from them when I was a child and that was a loooooong time ago. It seems the older the company gets the smaller their offerings get. :-)

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

LoL, Here are my two little begonias. A picture is worth a thousand words . . . ?

Sorry to hijack your thread, Jaime. I do hope your lemon tree grows and thrives for you. But pinch off those lemons and give it a chance!

Thumbnail by dyzzypyxxy
Keaau, HI

Pinch off the buds at the ends of the branches so that the lateral branches will go.

Put it in a bigger pot.

Fertilize it (chicken manure works well).

Give it more light. It wants to be in the sunshine.

St. Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Dyzzy, you will find this very amusing.

So, while we were going back and forth in this thread, I had placed an order from Logee's for a Buddha's Hand. (I had a $5 coupon from taking a survey about their website, plus the plant was on sale.) Anyway, per Ardesia's recommendation, I called and added the Growing Tasty Tropicals book to my order since it had not shipped out yet. Saturday I received my order. They sent me a book about container plants instead, even though the packing slip said the correct title. So, I call and email today. I finally get an email back today and this is their response:

"Are you able to send back the book you received in error? We have scheduled the correct book to be sent to you."

This was my response:

"So, you want me to pay more shipping to fix the mistake you made??

No. I can text you a picture of the book to prove that I am not trying to get something for nothing, but I'm not spending more money to fix your error."

Unreal!!! I think they just lost me as a customer. What if this had been a gift for someone and time was of the essence? Anyway, just thought you might get a giggle out of it.

St. Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

And now this is their response to my response:

"We are able to refund you for the cost of the shipping when sending the book back."

Are you kidding me?

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

What a mess, Jaime. Hope they make things right, and you do get the book you wanted.

Here's what I would do. Ask them to send you the right book, and along with it a postage paid envelope for you to return the other book in.

That way they at least make it easy for you to return the book, and you are not out any money. If they don't make good on this mistake, be SURE to post a review on their company on the Garden Watchdog.

Good luck! At least you've been happy with your plants from them. My only satisfaction has been to bad mouth them to all my gardening friends. (grin)

St. Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I did ask for a postage paid envelope in my second email, along with a little rant about how they shouldn't inconvenience customers due to their mistakes. I also mentioned that I would review them on GW accordingly if they pressed the issue about more money upfront. I also brought it to their attention that this is my third purchase in a year and that it was probably my last. I joked at work that I hope they didn't defile my book before sending it (think George Costanza in that bookstore bathroom episode in Seinfeld), because it was a lot like sending back a steak at a restaurant. Lol

(Zone 9a)

Isn't it a shame when a venerable institution like Logee's goes downhill? It will be interesting to see if they rebut the GW report.

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