Why are my lemon tree leaves curling?


Hi, I got a lemon tree a few months ago. It's leaves are curling and dull. I've given it citrus food and haven't noticed a change. What do you recommend? Thanks, April.


Citrus leaves can curl when temperatures are cold or in extreme heat, some insect infestations such as scale, mealy bug, mites or aphids will cause leaves to curl and also over-watering. Other times it is leaf curl disease.

Adjust watering depending upon the weather. If it is heat, apply Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic regularly and keep it well watered. Also apply Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic regularly if cold, however watch the watering and make sure not to over-water it.

Some varieties are more susceptible to leaf curl disease than others. Leaf curl overwinters in buds of infected trees. A copper based clean up spray is the most effective way of controlling leaf curl. Spray in autumn/winter using a copper fungicide and oil until bud burst in spring at 10-14 day intervals. Collect up any infected leaves that fall and burn or dispose of, do not compost as this will spread the disease.

If it is an insect problem check at your local garden centre for a suitable spray. If ants are crawling up the tree then there is a good chance there is scale insect or mealy bug or aphids.

Feed citrus in spring and summer with Tui Citrus Food or Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser (suitable for pots and containers). In frost prone areas avoid feeding any later than March as this will push soft new growth that will frost easily and won’t have had time to harden off.

Read our Lemon Growing Guide here >

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Why are my lemon tree leaves curling? Comments

  • What's your suggestion to dealing with the Guava moth problem I'm having with my lemons?

    Kevin Hill

  • Thanks for that information, my lemon tree is looking pretty sad as well. I have pruned it pretty hard, as the leaves were yellowing and curling too, It did have bugs. We have sprayed, so hopefully with the weather about to warm up a bit, it will look better soon

    Cherie Lochead

  • thanks having same problem


  • Hi Cherie, an application of Seasol plant tonic now will also help boost your tree. All the best, Tui Team


  • Hi Kevin, thank you for getting in touch. It is a shame your trees have guava moth! Prevention is the best method of control. Use a fine mesh (curtain netting is suitable) to surround your fruit so the moth cannot get into lay its eggs on the fruit. Secure with tape to the supporting branch. Remove fallen and rotting fruit, and dead leaves and mulch from under the tree as often the moths lay eggs in these areas. Guava moth pheromone delta traps with sticky bases are also available from garden centres and rural suppliers. All the best, Tui Team


  • Hello Jenna. My citrus leaves are curling and slightly yellowish on the edges. I have covered it from the frost . We have had a lot of rain in ChCh could it be that? It is 2 years old . The little lime I planted this year is also covered but some of the new shoots have been attacked by the frost despite being covered. Will it be okay in the spring ? Many thanks.


  • Hi Dominique, it sounds like your soil is lacking in some sort of nutrient, more than likely it is iron or zinc. Feed with citrus fertiliser in October, once the frosts have passed. Apply Tui Organic Seaweed Tonic at least once a month, this will give the roots a boost but not force too much top growth, which you want to avoid over winter. It will also help your trees cope with the cold weather. ^Tui Team


    • I had the citrus leaves curling problem due over watering. Thanks


  • Hi, I put my lemon tree in a pot and planted it using citrus potting mix. For the past three weeks it has been fine but four days ago the leaves started to curl and fall off. I have watered it frequently and the soil seemed damp but not boggy. I thought that I might have over watered it and left it for two days but the curling continues. There are no bugs etc near it and the leaves remain green but turn brown at the tips. Please help this is the second lemon tree I have tried to grow which been unsuccessful. I live in Christchurch and it has been been very warm so it could be stress. The soil is sandy and not suitable for direct planting.

    Quentin Findlay

    • Hi Quentin, the browning tips suggests that there is a physiological problem such as too much water, not enough water or poor drainage – are there sufficient holes in the pot for drainage.? Has it had too much fertiliser applied? Too much fertiliser can cause leaves to burn and drop off. Stress causes the plant to defoliate so it will be a process of elimination as to what is going on. If you think it may be too hot, try moving the pot to a shadier position (it will need to be moved away from the shady spot in the winter) or cover the tree with shade cloth to give it some protection from the sun and heat for now. Regular applications of Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic always helps plants withstand temperature extremes.

      Tui Team

  • Hi, I read that my citrus trees (lime, lemon and mandarin) needed citrus fertiliser and mulch so I did that. They are all mostly newly planted by 4 months and young except the lime. The dwarf lemon had also lost most of its leaves in some big winds we had. They have all started to flower and fruit before I fertilised and mulched so I was trying to make sure they had all the help they needed to keep going. I also applied some seaweed tonic to the soil. The leaves are looking a bit yellow on some and on the dwarf mandarin some have gone a whitey colour. We have also had a lot of rain recently. Can you help - not sure what I should do to fix it... or if things will come right on their own? Thanks so much!!!

    Tracy Hall

    Hi Tracy, it sounds like you have done everything you can to give your plants the best start. Keep applying the seaweed plant tonic regularly as this will help with overall plant health and stimulate growth and help keep insect pests at bay. Make sure the trees are regularly watered in the growing season, especially as the trees need to establish before going into summer. Mulch is good to help keep the weeds down and maintain soil moisture, make sure the mulch isn't right up against the main stem or trunk of the tree. Keep weeds and grass away from around the trees as they compete for water and nutrients. Make sure your tree is planted in the sunniest position possible and the soil is free draining, citrus don't do well in heavy clay soils. Feed citrus in spring and again in late summer, early autumn. The Tui Team.

  • Hi, what do we do for black sooty marks on our citrus tree leaves?

    Linley Crofskey

    • Hi Linley, the black soot is called sooty mould and is a fungus that lives on the honey dew excreted by sucking insects such as aphids and scale. To stop sooty mould you need to control the insects by using an insecticide spray such as pyrethrum which is a low toxicity spray suitable for citrus. If you spray the tree with milk or a botanical spraying oil, the black soot will wash off in rain. If the insects aren't controlled, the sooty mould will return.