How to fix curling citrus leaves

Keep your fruiting trees healthy.
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If you’ve noticed your lemon or other citrus tree leaves curling, it’s a sign that something’s wrong. Here’s what you need to know.

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.

Citrus leaf curl
Citrus leaf curl

What causes citrus leaf curl?

The most common cause of citrus leaf curl are: 

  • Pests
  • Drought
  • Disease
  • Temperature
  • A combination of any of these issues

How to treat citrus leaf curl

The way to treat citrus leaf curl depends on what’s causing the issue. So, here’s how to identify and deal with the most common underlying causes.

1. 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.

2. Drought

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

3. Disease

Several fungal diseases might also be the issues, such as bacterial blast and botrytis disease. A visual inspection of the tree and curling leaves will help you identify these diseases.

You can apply copper sprays to trees infected with them. Just keep in mind that it could mean a reduction in fruit.

4. Temperature

Drastic seasonal changes can put stress on your citrus trees. 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.

5. 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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