How to treat lemon tree leaf curl

Lemon Tree Leaves Curling? (How to Revive Curling Leaves) – Gardener Report

Lemon tree leaves curl up as a reaction to drought. Excess wind, low humidity, watering too lightly all sap moisture from the leaves causing them to curl to conserve moisture. Aphid infestations feed on the sap of emerging leaves which causes leaves to curl.

Whilst drought stress is the most common reason for leaves curling on your lemon tree, nutrient deficient soil, transplant shock from moving lemon trees indoors and even over watering can cause leaves to curl often with yellowing of leaves and leaf drop.

Keep reading to identify the causes curling leaves, how to prevent it and how to revive your lemon tree…

Under Watering is the Most Common Cause of Curling Leaves

Leaves that have a shriveled and curled appearance most often indicate that the lemon tree is suffering from drought stress.

Lemon trees actually prefer the soil to be on the dryer side compared to a lot of fruit trees but problems occur when the soil dries out completely or there is too much wind that saps moisture from the leaves.

Lemon tree leaves curl because:

  • Watering too lightly. Lemon trees prefer the top two inches of the soil to dry out between bouts of watering, followed by a generous soak, around once per week. If the lemon tree is watered too lightly the water does not infiltrate the soil and reach the roots which causes the leaves to curl.
  • Pots heat dry out quicker. The soil in pots dries out a lot quicker then the soil in garden boarders. Pots have less capacity for soil and therefore less capacity for moisture. Also lemon trees require full sun which can further exacerbate the drying of pots and cause drought.
  • Excess wind. Lemon trees should have some protection from wind as excess wind increases moisture loss from the leaves which is one of the more rapid causes of the leaves curling.

Revive Lemon Trees with Curling Leaves due to Drought

Lemon Trees with curling leaves that have suffered drought can be revived if you adjust some conditions.

  • Try to shelter the tree from direct wind. With potted trees this may be as simple as moving the dry to an area with a natural wind break such as shelter from other trees or fences. Be careful not to deprive you lemon tree of sunlight when moving it to more shelter. For lemon trees planted in garden soil try to form a wind break with other plants to buffer the worst of the winds.
  • Mist the lemon trees shriveled leaves with a sprayer to increase the humidity of the micro-climate to mitigate water loss from the leaves. Spray the leaves twice a day whilst the lemon tree recovers.
  • Use a soaker hose for lemon trees planted in the garden. Leave the soaker hose on for several hours to saturate the ground. It is important to be generous with watering after drought because excess heat and sun bake the soil hard so that water runs off the surface rather then infiltrating to the roots, so ensure that you give the tree a generous soak.
  • Increase the frequency of watering for lemon trees in pots. Potted plants dry out quicker, particularly in full sun. Lemon trees prefer the soil to be somewhat dry between bouts of watering but too much sun and heat can cause drought stress. Water as soon as the top two inches of the soil are dry which can be twice a week or more in summer.

For potted lemon trees suffering from drought it can be beneficial to submerge the entire pot in water if possible either in a basin or wheel barrow of water.

Submerging the pot in water allows the moisture to reach the roots without running off the surface of the dry soil and down the side of the pot without reaching the roots.

Once the lemon tree has a good watering and the leaves have been sprayed regularly, the leaves should recover from their curled appearance over the following week.

If it is a hot day I recommend temporarily shading the lemon tree, so that it does not have to contend with blazing sunshine whilst recovering from drought.

(Read my article how to water lemon trees to learn how to establish the optimal watering frequency for your climate).

Indoor Lemon Tree Leaves Curling

Lemon trees are tropical plants that are not cold hardy and therefore grown in pots and taken indoors over Winter for protection from frost.

However there are some specific conditions indoors that tend to cause a lemon trees leaves to curl and even drop off.

The conditions that cause leaf curl for indoor lemon tree are:

  • Dryer air with low humidity. Lemon trees are native to tropical climates and prefer some humidity. Indoors the lemon tree leaves have to contend with air currents from air con, forced air and radiators which sap the moisture from the leaves. The lemon tree reacts by curling its leaves to conserve moisture. This often results in a lemon tree losing some of its leaves.
  • Sources of heat causing fluctuating temperatures. Indoors in Winter we often turn on the heating at home in the evenings. This is at odds with the daily cycle of temperature change that a lemon tree experiences when outdoors which causes stress that manifests in curled leaves. The sources of heat also increase evaporation from the soil which dries the plant out and results in shriveled leaves.
  • Less light indoors. Lemon trees prefer full sun so they often suffer from shock reacting lower light levels indoors which causes stress.
  • Transplant shock. Lemon trees leaves can curl as a reaction to a sudden change in environment as there is a significant contrast between the conditions of the outdoors and your house. It is the drastic and sudden contrast in conditions such as temperature, that is responsible for the leaves curling.

How to Revive an Indoor Lemon Trees with Curling Leaves

Indoor potted lemon trees can recover even if some of the leaves are starting to drop or turn yellow. The key is to address the moisture balance and mitigate shock of being moved indoors.

  • Spray the leaves with a mist sprayer. This is one of the most effective ways to revive curled leaves as it effectively increases the humidity to replicate the preferred conditions of the lemon tree. Spray with water as frequently as twice per day to ensure the leaves stay moist whilst it acclimates to your home and to mitigate water loss from the leaves.
  • Ensure that the lemon tree is not in any direct airflow from air conditioning or forced air. The lemon tree should be in a sunny window with and out the way of air currents. Mist the leaves regularly.
  • Increase the frequency of watering. Lemon tree become habituated to a watering frequency outdoors but their demand for water increases when they are brought indoors which causes the leaves to curl as a sign of stress. Lemon trees prefer the top two inches of the soil to dry out between bouts of watering in the Winter because of the reduced rate of growth, however lots of heat indoors can drive evaporation and cause the pot to dry out more quickly. Monitor soil moisture regularly and as soon as the top two inches of the soil are dry give the tree a good soak.
  • Give your lemon tree time to acclimate to indoors. The shock of being moved indoors causes stress to the lemon tree but as long as it is located in a sunny window, watered the according to its conditions and the leaved are sprayed regularly then it should revive.

Some leaves can drop off after they have curled up as this is the lemon trees way of conserving moisture.

Do not worry if this happens as new leaves emerge in the Spring in reaction to more hours of light, if the tree is cared for properly.

(Leaves can drop from lemon trees for several different reasons so I wrote another article on what causes lemon trees to lose their leaves and how to save it).

Over Watering Causes Lemon Tree Leaves to Curl and Droop

Lemon trees prefer dryer soil conditions then most fruit trees any are susceptible to over watering which can also cause leaves to curl as a sign of stress.

Typically curling leaves caused by drought also look shriveled in appearance whereas curling leaves from over watering can lose their green color and turn slightly yellow.

(Yellow leaves on your lemon tree can indicate several problems so I wrote another article on what causes lemon tree leaves to turn yellow).

Lemon trees require well draining soil and prefer the top two inches of soil to be somewhat dry between bouts of watering.

Lemon tree leaves curl due to over watering and too much moisture around the roots when:

  • Watered too frequently so that the soil is constantly moist. If the soil is damp the leaves tend to curl and turn yellow as a sign of stress. Damp soil also promotes the conditions for fungal diseases such as root rot which can kill the lemon tree.
  • Slow draining soils. Lemon trees do not grow well in boggy areas or heavy clay that retain lots of water. They naturally grow in well draining soil with a high organic content and perhaps some inorganic material such as grit for improved drainage. Slow draining soils mimic the affects of over watering causing the leaves to curl, turn yellow and risk root rot.
  • Pots with drainage holes in the base. Some decorative pots do not have proper drainage holes in the base which causes the soil to become saturated causing the leaves to curl, turn yellow and potentially drop off as a sign of stress.
  • Trays underneath pots of indoor lemon trees. Trays under pots prevent excess water escaping the pot and cause the soil to become boggy which causes stress to your lemon tree.

How to Revive Lemon Trees with Leaves Curling due to Over watering
  • Scale back the watering. Only water your lemon tree when the top two inches of soil is dry. Typically this is about once per week but you should determine how often to water your lemon tree according to your climate, and weather conditions. Wait till the soil is dry to a fingers depth and then give the lemon tree a generous soak.
  • Lemon tree should be planted in well draining soils. If your tree is in an boggy area then ideally you should transplant it to an area of the garden that is more well draining or the lemon tree is likely to die back. A good potting mix or soil recipe for lemon tree growing is 1/3 multipurpose compost, 1/3 garden compost and 1/3 horticultural grit, sand or perlite. This soil mix replicates the soil conditions of the lemon trees natural environment and provides a good balance of soil nutrients and good drainage.
  • Potted lemon trees should be grown in pots with good drainage. If your pot does not have drainage holes in the base then transfer to another pot as a matter of urgency as the curling leaves can turn yellow and the plant can die.
  • Trays underneath pots should be emptied of water regularly. Whilst trays under pots can be important to prevent watering spilling from your indoor lemon tree there should not be watering pooling underneath the pot for long periods.

With more favorable drainage and good watering practices the soil around the roots of your lemon tree can dry out somewhat between bouts of watering.

This creates the perfect balance of moisture in the soil for lemon trees and allows the plant to recover.

You should start to see improvement in the curling leaves in the following weeks.

However if the soil remains too damp then the lemon tree is likely to develop the fungal disease root rot causing the leaves to curl, turn yellow and drop off and the plant to die back, hence the importance of knowing how to water properly.

(Read my article, how revive dying lemon tree).

Nutrient Deficient Soil causes Lemon Tree Leaves Curling

Lemon trees are heavy feeders and require regular fertilizer applications in the Spring and Summer to meet their nutritional requirements and to produce the best fruit and flowers.

If there is a nutrient deficit, one of the signs of stress can be that the leaves start to curl, droop, turn yellow and potentially drop off.

Potted plants tend to be more susceptible to nutrient deficiencies, especially if they have been in the same pot for years as the roots exhaust the available nutrients.

Magnesium and potassium deficiencies in the soil are likely to be the specific cause of leaves curling with leaves curling inwards more indicating magnesium and leaves curling downwards indicating potassium deficiency in the soil.

Leaves can also droop and turn yellow due to a lack of nutrients which may look like a curling leaf.

You can of course request a soil test where you send a sample of your soil off to a lab to determine the health of your soil.

Or you can use a citrus fertilizer to address the nutrient deficit.

Use a specialized citrus fertilizer (available at a garden center or on amazon) rather then a multi purpose fertilizer as a citrus feed contains all the nutrients that your lemon tree requires at the right concentrations to avoid over fertilizing which can also cause your leaves to curl downwards.

With consistent monthly applications of fertilizer through the Spring and Summer the lemon leaves should begin to look a lot healthier rather then a curled appearance (always follow the manufacturers instructions).

Aphids and Spider Mites can Cause Lemon Tree Leaves to Curl

There are a few insect pests that can attack your lemon tree and cause the leaves to curl.

Spider mites…

If you notice small yellow spots as well as curling leaves then this indicates a spider mite infestation.

Spider mites are more common indoors because of they prefer the dryer environment of houses so often affect lemon trees that have been brought indoors for Winter protection.

Misting the leaves regularly is very effective at displacing the spider mites as they dislike humidity and moisture. Washing the leaves with soapy dish water is also a very effective treatment.

Trim back any severely affected foliage and the tree should recover.


Aphids can cause lemon leaves to curl.

Aphids can also be a problem as they seek to feed off the sap in of your lemon tree which has the affect of curling the leaves.

Aphid attacks are not uncommon on lemon trees and they usually attack the more tender younger leaves, but any serious damage is usually mitigated by a good garden ecology.

There are lots of insect predators (such as ladybugs) which prey on aphids as well as birds.

For a serious infestation of aphids the solution is to use an insecticide such as neem oil which is applied to the leaves of the lemon tree and kills the aphids.

Lemon trees usually recover very well from insect infestations if they are treated. Cut back any leaves that are severely affected and any curling leaves should survive.

Key Takeaways:
  • Curling leaves on your lemon tree indicates drought stress due to under watering, excess wind, and low humidity which causes the leaves to curl to conserve moisture. Aphids feed on the sap of young emerging leaves which cause them to curl up.
  • Nutrient deficient soil, over watering and transplant shock when moved indoors can cause lemon tree leaves to curl.
  • Lemon trees require full sun, regular fertilizer, watering when the top two inches of the soil are dry. Spray leaves can help increase humidity which revives leaves and mitigates damage from pests.
  • Use neem oil or a insecticide to treat insect infestations that can cause the leaves of lemon trees to curl.

Citrus leaf curl: How to fix curling leaves

  1. Home
  2. Garden

Keep your fruiting trees healthy. - by Better Homes and Gardens

What is citrus leaf curl?

Citrus leaves can curl when disease is present, temperatures are either too cold or too hot, or there's an insect infestation such as scale, mealy bug, mites or aphids. Over or under-watering can also cause citrus tree leaf curl.

You'll notice your usually lush citrus trees have curl when the leaves start curling upwards, wilting and/or looking wrinkled. If your trees lack water, the leaves can look dead.

The most common cause of citrus leaf curl are: 
  • Pests
  • Disease
  • Water stress 
  • Weather
  • Or all of the above

★ How to: Diagnose & Treat Leaf Curl / Yellowing Leaves (Inc. Lemon Tree Update)

How to treat citrus leaf curl

Pests: Check for evidence on the underside of the leaves. Spray your citrus tree with insecticidal soap or neem oil or a good insecticide from your garden centre. Repeat until the plant begins to recover. Silvery lines or trail on the new leaves means your tree has citrus leafminer. It's a tiny moth that lays its eggs on the leaf. The hatched larvae tunnel into the leaf and cause the tunnels creating ugly distorted leaves, reducing the harvest on the trees. Spray the plant with Pest Oil or Eco Oil every two weeks ensuring to spray both the top and bottom of the leaves.

Drought: You need to give more water to your fruit trees. Drought stress is the most common cause of leaf curl in citrus, but also the easiest to remedy.

Disease: Several fungal diseases might also be the issues, such as bacterial blast and botrytis disease. Apply copper sprays to trees infected with both, but it could mean a reduction in fruit.

Temperature: Drastic seasonal changes can give your citrus trees stress. They thrive during summer, but if there’s too much heat they can become dehydrated. Also, if it’s too cold in the winter the leaves can become brittle and damaged from the frost. So depending on the climate you can try to balance the temperature accordingly by either providing shade or removing it when you see leaves curling.

The same treatments should work for getting rid of citrus leaf curl, whether you have orange trees, mandarin tree  lemon trees, lime trees or peach trees.

Prune and trim

Citrus trees enjoy regular pruning to increase airflow, photosynthesis, and growth. Methods like topping and skirting can help prevent bugs from climbing onto the tree. If left unpruned, your tree will be more prone to the spread of diseases from the soil and other contaminated leaves.

You might also like:

How to grow citrus trees in your backyard 

How to prune lemon trees

How to get the most out of your citrus plants

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Why do lemon leaves curl?

Why did a lemon suddenly start curling its leaves? There are several reasons for this: illiterate care, in particular improper watering, lack of trace elements and damage to the plant by various pests.

Let's look at each of these causes in more detail, as well as ways to eliminate the problem of leaf curl.

Incorrect care

One of the most common causes of lemon leaf curl can be improper care.
Often, novice citrus growers can make mistakes in the maintenance of their tree, which is what it signals.

A common mistake is improper moistening

Do not water lemons with cold or unsettled water. Be sure to let the tap water stand so that the chlorine disappears from it, and also that it warms up to room temperature. Also, the earthen coma should not be allowed to dry out, watering should be moderate and timely. In summer, you need to water the lemon more often than in winter - almost daily.

This is what happens when you forget to water a lemon.

Lemon leaves often curl up in the summer, especially when the weather is hot. At such a time, it is important to spray the lemon tree with a spray bottle at least once a day. Periodically it is recommended to water the lemon from the shower, you can do this a couple of times a month.
In winter, when the heating is turned on in the apartments, the air in the room becomes dry, which also negatively affects the condition of the leaves. A humidifier turned on near the plant, or a wide container of water placed next to the lemon pot, will help fix this.

If the air in the room is too dry, then the leaves can curl up like this

Another reason for leaf curl in a lemon tree can be a lack of fresh air. In summer, take the lemon out to the balcony or outside more often. But be careful, as sudden changes in temperature, as well as drafts, can be detrimental to this plant. It is recommended to place a pot of lemon away from doors, balconies and vents - the main sources of drafts. You also need to place the citrus away from direct sunlight.

Parasite infestation

Are the leaves of your lemon tree curled up and showing cobwebs underneath? This is a signal that your plant is infected with a spider mite, a fairly common and dangerous pest.
Spider mites usually attack young leaves and shoots.
They settle on the underside of the leaf along the veins, feed on the juices of plants, small yellow spots remain in the places of their feeding. At the first stage of infection, only these yellow dots can be noticed, as well as yellowing and curling of the leaves. If you do not start the fight against this pest in time, a web appears on the leaves. At first there is not much of it, but in advanced cases, whole nests can form on the underside of folded leaves.

If the leaves of a lemon are curled up because of a spider mite, then there must be cobwebs. Usually it is on the back of the sheet.

Spider mites are also dangerous because they can be carriers of various viral diseases. Therefore, the fight against them must begin immediately.
In order to rid your lemon tree of spider mites, you can use various insecticide preparations, such as fitoverm, actellik or demitan. Use them strictly according to the instructions on the package.
You can also use various folk methods to combat spider mites.

Another pest that can cause lemon tree leaf curl is the aphid.

These are small, yellow-green insects that live on the back of young leaves. In the initial stage of infection, it is quite difficult to notice these pests, because they are very small and merge with the color of the leaves. They feed on plant sap.
Aphids reproduce very quickly: from 10 to 20 new generations of aphids can appear per season.

These pests usually appear in spring, larvae appear first. They live and feed on young shoots, as their oral apparatus is not sufficiently developed and cannot cope with mature foliage. Adults suck the juices from plants through their proboscis. The plant suffers from this: the leaves are deformed, twisted, the ends of the shoots are bent.

Aphids large enough to be seen with the naked eye

If the fight against aphids is not started in time, they can spread throughout the plant, and then, when they reach too large numbers, to other plants.
You can get rid of this pest with the help of various insecticides - fitoverm, golden spark, dichlorvos. But if you do not want to immediately use radical methods of struggle, then you can try various folk methods. A solution of laundry soap, garlic water or ash can help to cope with aphids.

As a preventive measure, wash the lemon in the shower several times a month. It is also necessary to periodically arrange preventive examinations of the lemon tree in order to detect the appearance of aphids and, possibly, other pests in the early stages and start getting rid of them in time.

Lack of mineral nutrition

Another reason why the leaves of your lemon tree curled up can be mineral starvation of the plant . Curling of lemon leaves is observed with a lack of a wide variety of elements, but other accompanying signs will help to understand which element your citrus is missing.

So, for example, if a lemon lacks calcium , its young leaves begin to curl and lose color. New shoots gradually begin to die off.
But at home, calcium deficiency is rare, due to the fact that there are a lot of calcium salts in tap water, which is poured over lemon.
You can compensate for the lack of calcium with calcium nitrate, chalk extract or lime.

It is rare, because calcium is often in excess in tap water

If the plant lacks magnesium , its leaves curl, chlorosis begins - blanching of the leaves between the veins from the middle to the edges. The leaves take on a variegated color. Magnesium deficiency in lemons is most common at the time of fruit ripening, and very rarely during the growing season.
In order to eliminate magnesium starvation, you can fertilize the lemon with magnesium sulfate or various complex fertilizers.

Often observed when fruits ripen on a lemon

Boron deficiency is a fairly common phenomenon in indoor lemons. In this case, young shoots of the plant suffer first of all. Young leaves curl, look withered, as in the case of rare watering, but after watering the situation does not change. The leaves on the tops of the shoots twist from the top to the base. Some leaves may develop clear spots, while others may develop veins.
How to make up for the lack of boron? To do this, you need to use complex fertilizers, or use boric acid (but the correct dose is important here - even a small overdose can harm the plant or even kill it).

Young leaves curl from lack of boron, as in the absence of watering

With a lack of copper in the mineral nutrition of your lemon , its leaves will also begin to curl. At the first symptoms of copper starvation, the leaves become large, dark green and arched. And in more advanced cases, the leaves become smaller, curl, their edges become irregular in shape. The leaf becomes light, and not a grid of darker veins becomes clearly visible.
You can eliminate the lack of copper using copper sulfate, copper sulfate or various complex fertilizers, which include copper.

Copper Deficiency Curls Lemon Leaves

Now you know what causes leaf curl in your lemon and how to fix it. And to prevent problems with the leaves of your tree, it is very important to strictly follow all the recommendations for caring for it, and then your lemon will delight you with its healthy appearance.

Curling lemon leaves: causes and prevention


  • Main causes of the disease
  • Conditions for growing lemon
  • Mineral starvation
  • Pest control

If the leaves of a lemon have begun to curl or look bad, then you need to immediately find out the reasons for this. Change your methods of caring for the tree, the quality of fertilizers and soil, the amount of watering, and more. If you cannot conduct the examination yourself, seek help from specialists.

Curling of lemon leaves is a sign of disease

Main causes of disease

Growing citrus at home is not difficult. These trees retain their green color throughout the year. In addition to aesthetic pleasure, they give tasty and juicy fruits. Citrus growers wonder why lemons curl their leaves. To solve the problem, you need to find out the cause of the disease, the main ones are:

  • tick infestation;
  • lack of copper and calcium;
  • lack of fresh air;
  • incorrect humidification;
  • mineral starvation, etc.

The most common factor in lemon disease is poor living conditions. Temperature conditions, too humid or dry air, abundant watering, poor-quality land, lack of fertilization procedures - all this negatively affects the condition of the lemon.

Watch this YouTube video

Conditions for growing lemon

When caring for a lemon tree, the most common mistake is improper watering. First, you can not moisten the soil with ordinary running water. It usually contains chlorine, which negatively affects lemon leaves. They begin to quickly curl and turn yellow. A few drops of vinegar per liter of water will help neutralize the effect of the microelement.

Secondly, keep an eye on the condition of the earth. It should not be too dry or too wet. Water the plant as needed to keep the leaves from curling.

Dry air can be a problem in winter. Use a quality humidifier or place a large container of water next to the lemon.

Avoid drafts and direct sunlight if leaves curl. In summer, put the plant on the balcony so that it has enough fresh air.

Vinegar will help neutralize chlorine in tap water

Mineral starvation

The mineral nutrition of lemon trees consists of boron, copper, calcium. To determine which element is missing, you need to look at the tree for specific symptoms.

Lemon wilting, loss of turgor, leaves turning more and more every day - the reason may be a lack of copper. Get rid of this problem will help:

  • copper sulfate;
  • complex additives;
  • blue vitriol;
  • fertilizers containing copper.

An insufficient amount of magnesium manifests itself in the form of chlorosis - a disease due to which the veins on the leaves turn white, their color turns pale. You can eliminate chlorosis with the help of mineral fertilizers, which contain magnesium sulfate.

Lack of boron can affect lemons in the same way as insufficient watering. Young and bright green shoots turn yellow, curl along the entire length of the leaf, covered with transparent or white spots. To fix the problem, it is enough to use boric acid.

Yellow leaves can help determine why indoor lemon plants are deficient in calcium. Some of them begin to die and crumble, others begin to twist. Calcium nitrate, chalk extract, lime will restore the amount of this mineral.

Feed your lemons regularly. A tree always needs nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Their impact affects the fertility of the lemon bush. The leaves will not be able to curl, and the lemons will be tasty, juicy and big.

Copper sulphate will make up for the deficiency of copper

Pest control

The influence of pests is easy to determine. Various parasitic insects, cobwebs, small holes appear on the leaves. Experts note such main pests of lemon trees:

  • aphids;
  • spider mites;
  • thrips;
  • scale insects.

What to do in such a situation? The best method in the fight against these insects is to wipe the leaves with soapy water. To do this, take a clean dish sponge and soak it in a solution of soap (20 g per 1 liter of water). The mixture is washed off in the shower the next day.

If each leaf has turned yellow and cobwebs are visible between the shoots, you need to get rid of spider mites. They can carry infections. For preventive purposes, apply insecticide preparations to lemon leaves.

The impact of aphids is displayed as twisted, deformed leaflets with twisted shoots. For starters, you can use folk methods of treatment with ash or garlic water.

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