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Lemon Tree Leaves Curling: What You Need to Know

You've planted some lemon trees on your property, and perhaps they've been beautiful and you've enjoyed them up until now. But there's a problem. You see lemon tree leaves curling! 

After all the work you put into creating a tropical oasis in your garden, the look you desired seems to be flying out the window. Let's go through the causes of citrus tree leaves curling and what you can do to fix the problem. 


Lemon Tree Leaves Curling What You Need to Know

Lemon Tree Leaves Curling Causes and Treatment 

When you see lemon tree leaves curling, it can indicate one or more of a number of things. Certain kinds of lemon and other citrus leaves can develop diseases that may cause this and other unsightly problems. 

Causes and Treatment for Lemon Tree Leaves Curling

Citrus Leaf Curl Disease

Leaf curl disease can be addressed with a clean-up spray with a copper base. This fungicide should be applied immediately after pruning up until the first buds of spring begin to appear. The spraying should be done every 10 to 14 days.

The infected leaves that fall off the tree need to be burned or thrown away. Never try to compost them, as this will allow the disease to spread and then you'll have the same problem all over again. 

Lemon Leaves Curling Due to Insects

Pests that feed on sap such as psyllids, mites, or aphids can cause leaf curl

If you find that your issue with citrus leaf curl is linked to an insect problem, look for an appropriate spray to remedy the problem. Pests that feed on sap such as psyllids, mites, or aphids attack your plant to get the juices they can extract from transport tissues. 

For aphid problems, refer to our extensive guide on how to identify, control and prevent aphids organically

When too many of these pests are present, they can cause leave curling and cupping. Discoloration is another common consequence. If you think that this might be the problem, look at the undersides of your tree's leaves. You'll see some of the pests grouped together in clusters. 

You can spray neem oil or insecticidal soap on your citrus tree and leaves to deal with this issue. You should do this once a week until you see signs that the problem is resolving and the pests have disappeared. 

Citrus Tree Leaves Curling Due to Cold Weather

Cold weather can cause curled leaves

During cold weather, you may also encounter lemon tree leaves curling. This is primarily because of possible frost damage so make sure to protect your citrus tree from frost

You can help to prevent this problem by covering your tree canopies with plastic or cloth sheets at night. If your trees have only minor frost damage at this point, they will probably recover.

Inadequate Soil Water is Another Potential Cause

Your citrus trees not getting enough soil water is a possible cause of curled leaves on lemon tree. You may experience this problem at any time of the year, but it's most likely to happen during very hot summer days and long stretches without any rain. 

In order to deal with this problem, add significant amounts of water very slowly to the trees' driplines. The driplines are on the ground surface beneath the canopy edges.

You should try to use chlorine-free water, if possible. If your citrus trees are mature, you might have to leave a hose trickling water on the dripline for 12 hours. 

You can also try applying an organic mulch. This may make it easier for the ground to keep its moisture.

Lemon Tree Leaves Curling Due to Sunburn

Sunburn may be causing your citrus leaves to curl

If your citrus leaves are not only curling but also have gray, yellow, or brown spots, it's possible that sunburn is the culprit. Sunburn is an especially significant problem for outer leaves that have the most exposure to sunlight during the warm and hot times of the year.

The leaves on the west and south sides of trees will also be particularly vulnerable. You can solve this problem by giving your trees more shade. 

If it's still hot outside, it may be a good idea to leave the damaged leaves on the tree until things cool down. This is because if you take them off right away, you will expose the ones beneath. 

Giving Your Citrus Trees The Right Nutrition

Giving your citrus trees the nutrients they need is also essential to prevent not only leaf curling but other signs of disease

Giving your citrus trees the nutrients they need is also essential to prevent not only leaf curling but other signs of disease, such as yellowing, fungal growth, shedding, and warts. 

One common nutrient deficiency that can cause leaf curl disease is that of potassium. If your tree has a potassium deficiency, you'll likely notice leaves that are curved downwards and have a yellowish look. 

A yellowish tinge to your citrus plant's leaves means that you need to change its fertilizer. Go to your local garden center or to specialized sites online to find fertilizers especially made for citrus plants. 

Look for a fertilizer with a nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium ratio of 2:1:1 respectively. Yellow leaves on citrus trees can also be a sign of chlorosis. This illness points to a lack of micronutrients. 

Check out our guide on why you are seeing yellow leaves on your citrus trees and how to avoid it here

Other Tips for Healthy Citrus Leaves

It's best to use a fertilizer with a higher level of nitrogen than you might find if you just chose a fertilizer randomly. Take the time needed to read and research the contents of fertilizers that you are considering. 

Always ensure that the soil has the right pH. You will have to test it to determine the pH. A pH between 6 and 8 is best for citrus trees.(Understand more about soil pH and how to adjust it here). 

If the pH is too low, you might end up with yellow leaves. This is because of a magnesium deficiency. A high pH of more than 6 to 8 means that the soil is too alkaline. When this is the situation, your plant will lack the right amount of zinc or iron. 

If the leaves are yellowish in color and have a pointed shape at the top, they probably have a zinc deficiency. If they are pale with veins that have a darker hue, there is likely to be an iron deficiency. 

Prevention is Always Better than Cure

If you haven't yet planted your citrus trees and want to prevent the problem of curling leaves and other issues in the first place, get started now.

There are things that you can do when planting your citrus trees that will help to make sure your plants stay beautiful and healthy over the long term. 

Although it's true that some coolness will benefit citrus trees, you'll still need to shelter them indoors if you have cold winters in your region. Citrus trees also demand deep levels of watering and they always need to be able to drain well. 

If you do live in a region of the world where it can get snowy and icy and you'll need to bring your trees inside, this is something for which you'll have to carefully plan. 

Now You Know the Causes and Treatment for Lemon Tree Leaves Curling 

Remember how important proper nutrition is in growing and maintaining healthy citrus trees. Check out our extensive how to grow and care guide for lemon trees here

As we mentioned earlier in the article, citrus trees have specific nutritional requirements that you will need to observe if you want to avoid leaf problems such as curling and yellowing. 

You now have the information you need to enjoy your garden without having to deal with the unsightly appearance of your lemon tree leaves curling.

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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1 comment
Elizabeth Tshabalala says November 17, 2022

Thank you for the information will definitely use to treat the curling leaves of my lemon tree

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