How to Revive a Dying Lemon Tree Properly

A lemon tree that is dying typically due to overwatering or cold temperatures, or even transplant shock following the move inside. The overwatering of lemon trees causes the leaves to drop and become yellow , with a faded appearance. A lemon tree dying that is losing its leaves could be because of temperatures lower than 50degF , or issues with transplant shock.

The leaves of lemon trees can be prone to curling inwards because of the stress of drought or the absence of fertilizer.

Read on to find out the reasons why lemon trees’ leaves change color, turn yellow or drop off, or curl upwards, and how to apply the remedies to revive your dying lemon tree…

Lemon Tree Leaves Turning Yellow

  • Symptoms. The leaves of a lemon tree droop and turning yellow.
  • Causes. Slow draining soils, overwatering and drought, low nutrition sunlight, and cold temperatures.

The reason that the leaves of lemon trees turn yellow is typically due to overwatering or low temperatures. Lemon trees require well-drained soil and are not tolerant of temperatures below 50 degrees. When the soil becomes sloppy because of excessive watering or a lack of drainage, lemon trees may develop root rot , which can turn the leaves yellow and has an appearance of dying.

The lemon Trees are indigenous to Mediterranean climates, where they thrive in full sunshine (more than six hours of direct sunlight) Warm temperatures, and prefer well-drained soil that is slightly dry between watering sessions.

The lemon trees can be vulnerable to roots decay (which can cause leaves to turn yellow and droop). leaf to change color to green and drop with an appearance of dying) when the roots are placed in a soil that is consistently saturated. This could be caused by:

  • Overwatering.
  • Soils that drain slowly (clay soils drain to slow for the lemon trees).
  • Pots with no drainage holes in the base cause water to collect around the roots.
  • Pots that have saucers and tray underneath that collect water and block drainage of the soil correctly.

When the leaves appear to be only beginning to turn yellow, it’s not necessarily a sign that the root has rot.

But, too much soil water ejects oxygen in the soil, which hinders the root’s respiration and hinders the ability of roots to absorb the nutrients and moisture properly.

cut lemon with branch

If the roots are unable to absorb water and nutrients, the leaves will turn yellow and they may droop, and eventually fall off.

The lemons in pots also experience dryness and lack of nutrients more often especially if the pot is small . Pots that are smaller are prone to drying out in summer sun. They also have a low capacity for nutrients, which makes their leaves yellow.

Lemon trees generally can withstand temperatures up to 100 degrees (as long they can access water) however, at temperatures less than or equal to fifty degrees Fahrenheit (10degC) The lemon tree’s leaves may change color and then drop off.

The lemon tree is native to regions that have mild Winters however they can be saved following a brief exposure to cold temperatures. In freezing temperatures, however, the lemon tree dies.

How to Revive a Dying Lemon Tree Losing its Leaves

  • Bring the lemon trees inside when the forecast temperature is to be below 50degF (10degC) or cover them by a the horticultural fleece. The introduction of lemon trees into indoor spaces can cause leaves to fall however keeping them outside in cold temperatures will likely result in the trees dying back therefore, always bring your lemon trees indoors when you live in areas that have cold winters.
  • Find your lemon tree in the indoor space in a bright South looking window. Even in the Winter lemon trees like the sun to be as bright as they can, therefore, try to find the most sunny window in your home, or better yet, put it in a greenhouse that is heated.
  • Make sure the lemon tree is kept away from heat sources. If the lemon tree is located too near central heating, or in the forced air flow of air, then the plant will dry out faster, and cause the leaves to turn brown and fall. Make sure to place the lemon trees in a place free of draughts.
  • Apply a spray of mist to the tree at least once every daily to help create a more humid micro-climate. The air outside is more humid than the indoor air, so spraying the remaining leaves as well as the tree can decrease the difference between the humidity of outdoors and indoors, and also reduce the loss of water from the leaves which is the main reason for leaf loss.
  • Even in winter, lemon trees need a good soak. Make sure to thoroughly water lemon trees when they are moved indoors to ensure that they can access water to combat the dry conditions that an indoor climate can bring.
  • Make sure to water the lemon trees well to ensure that water drips out of the bottom of the pot, or until the soil in the garden has received an adequate soak. This method of watering encourages roots to develop deep into the soil, so that they are able to access water and nutrients, making them less susceptible to drought. If water drips through the bottom of the pot, then the water should get to the roots exactly where it is needed and stop the leaves from falling because of drought. The insufficient watering can cause the roots to become shallow, which increases the chance of the lemon being affected by the effects of drought and losing its leaves.
  • Let the top 2 inches of the soil to dry slightly between watering sessions. Slow draining soils and overwatering tend to make the leaves of the lemon tree yellow, which can lead to the dropping of leaves. Letting the soil dry out a bit to ensure the best balance of moisture , and also creates better conditions for the leaves to develop back.
  • Create an area of windbreak to help revive lemon trees in the outdoor. Plant trees or shrubs nearby that don’t block the view of your lemon trees, but protect the tree from wind that is sucking too much moisture away from the leaves.

If the leaves of the lemon tree have fallen off when it was brought indoors, adjust the indoor conditions so it is more favorable to the lemon tree to re-grow (more sunlight, humidity and avoid heating sources).

If the conditions improve the lemon tree will adjust to the new environment and its leaves will grow with new growth that is more likely to appear in the spring and summer months.

How to Resurrect Dying Lemon Trees by introducing yellow leaves

  • Reduce the amount of watering to such that the top 2 inches of soil feel wet to touch. Then, apply generously. The soil’s drying process, and then a full wateringcreates the ideal balance of soil moisture that allows lemon trees to flourish. This lets the roots perform as they should and draw in moisture and nutrients to rejuvenate the leaves that have turned yellow.
  • Make sure the lemon tree is drainage-friendly soil that has been that is amended with horticultural gritty. In the Mediterranean region, the soil of lemon trees is a little sandy or gritty that allows for adequate drainage. It is essential to recreate this type of soil by amending the container or planting area by adding around 1/3 grit and 2/3 compost. If your garden soil is normally sloppy and slow to drain, it is not in line with the ideal conditions for lemon trees and I suggest moving the soil to the pot or another part of your garden that has more drainage. You can also add dirt.
  • Potted lemon trees must have drainage holes at the base, and all containers or saucers should be cleaned regularly. A good drainage system is essential for reviving the dying lemon tree therefore, ensure that your drainage hole is free of any soil that has been compacted and don’t allow water to accumulate in the bottom of your lemon tree pot since it keeps the soil wet. It is best to place the containers for lemon trees on foot or on bricks so that water to drain away from the base more easily.
  • Always look for lemon trees that are in full sunlight. When your tree gets excessive shade, the leaves drop and the tree dies. Trim any branches that shade the lemon tree, or move it to the sunniest part in your yard.
  • Apply fertilizer to lemon trees in the summer months. The roots of lemon trees particularly can deplete your soil’s nutrients, which could cause the leaves to turn to yellow. Make sure you apply a special citrus fertilizer every month during spring and summer months that encourages fruiting and has all the necessary nutrients to stop the yellowing of leaves and allow your lemon tree to flourish.
  • Cover lemon trees by covering them with fleece or bring them inside if temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10degC). Lemon trees need mild winter temperatures and are not tolerant of the cold, so make sure to plant them in pots and bring them inside during Winter to shield them from the cold and prevent the leaves from turning yellow and dying. If your tree is located outside or in a pot that is not practical to bring it inside, safeguard your lemon tree by using the horticultural fleece that provides protection from cold temperatures. Lemon trees can resurrect after a brief exposure to cold, however extreme cold or prolonged periods of cold can result in the lemon tree to die back.

After you have rectified the environmental factors that led to that the foliage to yellow using the correct timing of watering, well-drained soil, and plenty of sun, the leaves that were yellow can re-grow or fall off, and new growth could emerge in Spring and Summer , if circumstances are favorable.

(Read my article on on how you can water your lemon tree to find out how often you should water your lemon tree based on your climate and the conditions).

Lemon Tree Losing Leaves

  • Symptoms. Leaves of the lemon tree turn yellow, then wilting and falling. Leaves may fall suddenly especially when they are moved inside for winter.
  • Causes. Drought, overwatering lack of light excessive wind, low temperatures, shock from a drought when indoors

The leaves of lemon trees are lost because of the weather and drought, as well as too much wind drying the leaves, causing them to fall. Lemon trees in the indoor environment lose their leaves after moving inside due to the contrast between sunlight temperatures, humidity, and temperature the need to water.

If lemon trees lose their leaves abruptly typically due to a sudden and substantial drop in temperature below than 50 degF (10degC) as well as when the trees are moved indoors to provide Winter protection.

Lemon trees adjust to their outdoor conditions and adjust to the cycles of rainfall or watering temperatures, light, and humidity.

When they are brought inside for the duration of Winter the lemon trees do not have the same amount of light or air circulation. the air is less humid, which drains moisture off the leaves. the lemon tree is also able to adjust to the changing temperatures inside, which may be warmer during the day, and warmer at night because of the heating system in the indoors (which reverses the of the temperature cycle that they encounter outside).

These factors could cause the tree to dry much faster, causing the leaves to begin to shrink and then the shock of the changing conditions can cause the leaves to fall.

If your lemon tree is outside, excessive wind could sap excessive moisture from the lemon tree, causing the leaves to drop too much moisture and result in dropping leaves falling as well as the tree dying back.

Low levels of light and the absence of soil moisture can also cause the leaves to drop.

Lemon Tree Leaves Curling

  • Symptoms. Leaves of the lemon tree curling upwards and perhaps drooping downwards.
  • Causes. The most common cause is excessive drought or wind. Small pots, poor nutrient soil, and aphids may be contributors to the problem.

The reason why curly leaves on lemon trees typically is due to dry soil or excessive wind. If there isn’t enough water around the roots, or the wind is too strong (which removes moisture off the leaves) the lemon tree leaves will curl upwards to decrease their surface area which aids in conserving moisture.

Lemon trees require well-draining soil that is rich in organic material (compost) which helps retain some moisture, but maintains a well-draining structure that permits excess water to be able to drain away from the roots, ensuring that they don’t sit in a soil that is saturated with water.

If the soil is drying out too fast, it is likely that the leaves will curl upwards to conserve the moisture, which is a strategy to combat drought and an indication of stress.

This is more prevalent in lemon trees that are potted because pots dry faster than garden soil, especially when the pot is too small. Smaller pots are less able to hold soil, and thus less capacity to hold water.

Curling leaves can occur in every lemon tree who is suffering from drought stress. Wind can also drain moisture from the leaves faster than it is pulled up by the roots which causes the leaves to curled.

If the tree is placed in a poor soil or placed in the same container for too long without fertilizer, the roots could deplete the soil of nutrients and cause that the leaf’s leaves curl up and turn yellow.

Aphid infestations can also be a problem in the growing season as they draw sap out of the leaves and stems (particularly the young and tender leaves) in Spring which causes the leaves to curl.

How to revive a dying Lemon Tree with Curling Leaves

  • Make sure to water the plants thoroughly during the spring and summer months, so that any excess water drains away from the bottom of the container. This will ensure that the soil remains evenly moist, and reduces the stress caused by drought which causes leaves to curled. If you water too little, the upper inch or so of the soil to become wet, and the water doesn’t get to the roots where it is needed.
  • Make sure to water your lemon tree well as soon as the top two inches begin drying out. To determine the proper timing for watering your lemon tree’s environment, keep track of the soil’s moisture with your fingers so that you know the time where the top two inches of soil are begin drying out. This will help establish the proper frequency of watering, to ensure that the lemon tree is hydrated enough to stop the leaves from curving, but the soil drains enough to stop root decay.
  • Make a windbreak to stop wind from blowing over. To stop the leaves from curving due to wind, grow large trees or shrubs close to your lemon tree, or in the case of a potted tree then move the pot to a safer location to allow the tree to retain more water.
  • Replant lemon trees that have been planted in a pot, then increase the size. In the event that your pot seems proportionately smaller than what the tree is, or you find that the roots appear like they are bound by the pot, plant it in a new pot. A bigger pot has greater capacity for soil , and can therefore hold more water, meaning that it doesn’t dry out as fast to rejuvenate the wrinkling drought-stressed leaves.
  • Utilize a specific citrus fertilizer during the spring and Summer months to provide nutrients to the soil. The lemon trees that are planted in soil that is used for gardening and those in pots can benefit from fertilizer to promote the growth of fruit and flowering, and to ensure the proper amount of nutrients needed to ensure the healthy development that the tree has. It also helps deal with the lack of nutrients in the soil, which causes the leaves to curled.
  • Get rid of aphids fast to revive curly leaves. The most efficient method to deal with an aphid problem is to disturb the insects with your hands. If your disturb the aphids this not only deals with the problem quickly but also causes the aphid colony to send out a alarm response pheromone which can attracts naturally predators such as ladybirds and the garden ecology re-balances the population of aphids to mitigate their affect on your lemon trees. Aphids are usually observed attacking new growth during the spring and summer.

To bring back a lemon tree that has curving, dying leaves It is essential to ensure that the roots are able to access water and protected from dry winds. By applying fertilizers in spring and summer, the lemon tree is able to absorb enough nutrients to allow the leaves to be healthy and than curling inwards.

If the reason for the curly leaves is stress from drought, then the lemon tree needs to recover within the coming days, whereas the lemon tree will suffer be suffering from a shortage of nutrients over the next few weeks.

Key Takeaways

  • A reason behind a tree’s lemon dying is that the roots are either too dry or wet, that causes the leaves to become yellow, turn inwards and fall off. Lemon trees in the indoor environment can shed their leaves, revealing a dying appearance during winter when they are brought inside due to an abrupt change in light, temperature as well as soil water.
  • The leaves of lemon trees usually change color because the roots are located in waterlogged soil. Lemon trees require good soil drainage. When the soil becomes sloppy it can cause root rot, which stops the roots from absorbing moisture and nutrients , and makes the leaves yellow.
  • Lemon trees may shed their leaves abruptly when temperatures drop to below 50 degrees F. Lemon trees can be well-adapted to warmer temperatures and mild winters. The freezing temperatures are often the reason for a dying lemon tree in winter. The different conditions that occur when the lemon tree is brought indoors to provide Winter protection can cause leaves to fall.
  • The leaves of lemon trees curl upwards due to dry soil or excessive wind. Lemon trees require regular irrigation in the spring and summer to ensure that the soil remains evenly damp. If the soil drys out too fast, the leaves are likely to curl up as a survival strategy to keep moisture in the soil.
  • To bring back the dying lemon tree recreate the conditions in its native Mediterranean environment, which includes the full sunshine, moist soil and good drainage. Also, shield the tree from wind damage and apply a specific citrus fertilizer to make sure the lemon tree gets the nutrients it needs.


Went from a bad gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)