Lemon Tree Leaf Drop | Top 5 Causes and Solutions

Lemon trees will drop leaves if they are not getting enough water, if the temperature changes rapidly, if they are attacked by pests or if it lacks nutrients. Very hot weather or frosts can also cause lemon trees to drop their leaves. The tree can be saved if it is protected from frosts, watered regularly with water and fertilized with pelleted chicken manure, iron chelates and trace elements.

This article will explore the top causes of lemon tree leaf drop and what you can do to solve this problem at home.

Lemon trees can drop leaves due to a lack of water, nutrients or due to extreme weather.

Here are the top cause of lemon tree leaf drop and what you can do to solve each one.

1. Not enough water

Lemon trees like regular water so if they dry out it can cause leaf drop. Leaves can turn yellow and then brown before dropping to the ground. If the soil dries out too much, the lemon tree will send less water to the tips of the leaves causing them to drop.

If you notice brown, dry leaves on the ground under the tree it might need more water. Stick your finger in the soil 2 inches below the surface and see if the tree ground is dry.


Give your tree a deep water to make sure it meets the lower roots and repeat every 2-3 days for at least a week. This will rehydrate your lemon tree and help it to recover from drying out.

Water your lemon tree with seaweed solution once per month to help to improve the soil and root growth. A strong root system will help the tree to survive dry periods in the future.

Lemon trees are quick to respond to deep watering and in warm weather you may see new leaves grow within 2 weeks. New lemon leaves will look small and a dark red color. This is a sign that the tree is healthy and it was likely that lack of water was the cause of the leaf drop.

Mulch the lemon tree around the root zone with 3 inches of bark mulch, straw, hay or pea straw. This will help the soil to hold moisture for longer and reduce surface evaporation.

2. Very hot weather or frosts

Extreme weather including frosts or very hot weather can cause the lemon tree to drop its leaves. Frost damage can cause the tree to drop its leaves rapidly, particularly the new growth on young trees.

Very hot weather can also stress the plant which will hold back moisture from the leaf tips keeping it in the center of the plant. This can result in leaf damage and leaf drop.


Lemon trees can recover from leaf drop caused by very hot weather or frosts. For a tree with heat damage, give it a deep water and cover with a thick layer of mulch.

Leave any frost damaged leaves on the plant until you are sure that frosts have passed. The damaged leaves will protect the new healthy leaves underneath. The frost damaged leaves can then be trimmed off with sharp secateurs. Lemon trees will quickly grow new leaves to replace the old once the weather warms.

Bug damage can cause the leaves to drop. These holes are caused by caterpillars.

3. Rapid temperature changes

Rapid changes in the temperature from hot to cold or cold to hot can shock your lemon tree. It can rapidly drop its leaves to protect the main stem and roots of the plant if the weather changes quickly. Rapid winds can also blow damaged leaves off the tree quickly. After a windy day or thunderstorms, you may you can lose almost all lemon tree leaves.


To protect your lemon tree during a rapid change in temperature the best thing to do it to surround lemon trees in the ground with mulch. Layer the soil with 2-3 inches of bark mulch or straw to help to reduce the temperature change of the soil.

If strong winds or thunderstorms are coming you can shift potted lemon trees under shelter against a wall. For lemon trees in the ground, you could cover them with a wire cage, pinned to the ground and covered with shade-cloth.

Before a storm comes you can trim long stems with secateurs to prevent the whole branch breaking. Do this in fall after the plant has finished fruiting and before the winter storms arrive.

4. Scale bugs, stink bugs and aphids

Scale bugs and aphids will suck the sap from your lemon tree and cause the tree to suffer and eventually drop its leaves. Scale bugs will stick to the stems of the tree sucking the sap, releasing a sticky substance which can attract ants.


Scale bugs are easily treated with an eco-oil which can also be used to treat aphid attack.

To treat sap sucking pests like scale or aphids follow these simple steps.

  1. Wash the scale off with a hose, use a jet stream to remove extra bugs.
  2. Allow the tree to dry off naturally in the sun and wind.
  3. Spray the area with eco-oil which will help to treat the scale.
  4. Repeat the process of treating with eco-oil until the scale is completely gone.

Stink bugs are a common pest during the warmer weather in spring and summer. They look black or yellow and will suck sap from new growth causing the leaves to turn brown and drop off. Stink bugs can be removed by squirting them off with a hose or shaking them into a bucket with warm, soapy water.

Fill a bucket with warm water and dish soap, wear gloves and protective eye wear and shake the branches to remove the bugs and get them to drop into the water. Shake the tree and avoid touching the bugs. They will squirt a stinky substance that is very hard to get off and can irritate skin and eyes.

Young stink bugs look orange and will suck the sap from the new growth.

Repeat this each day over the next week and you should remove the stink bug colony.

5. Lack of soil nutrients

Lemon trees will need to be fed with organic fertilizers at the beginning of each season. They will also thrive with a dose of iron chelates and trace elements in spring. Without the range of nutrients they need, they can drop their leaves.


The easy solution is to follow a yearly schedule of fertilizing. At the start of each season add handfuls of pelleted chicken manure. In spring mix iron chelates with water and give it to your plant around the root zone. Give them trace elements in spring to replace those used up during the last years fruiting.

Will lemon trees die if they lose their leaves?

Lemon trees will not always die when they lose their leaves. They are a hardy plant and can recover if the cause of the leaf drop if found and solved. Inspect the tree for pests, test the amount of moisture in the soil with your finger and top it up with water and mulch if it needs it.

Top dress the tree with compost and add a few handfuls of pelleted chicken manure to keep it happy. This will give your tree a boost of nutrients to help it recover.

Why lemon trees lose their leaves

Lemon trees will lose their leaves if they get too dry, if there is a rapid change in temperature, frosts or if they are attacked by pests. Treat the pest problem like scale or aphids with eco oil and then top dress the tree with compost.  Keep the tree well-watered and keep an eye on the leaves over the next few weeks.

You should start to see new leaf growth, especially if the weather is warm. You can remove the damaged leaves to tidy up the plant and give space for new leaves to grow.

Will lemon tree leaves grow back?

Damaged lemon tree leaves will not grow back but can be replaced with new leaves if the tree is healthy. Identify the issue first and fix the problem by either watering it more, less or treating the pest problem.  When the weather warms the tree will grow more leaves and freshen up the canopy.

New growth can appear within a few weeks after the old leaves have been cut off.

Why is my lemon tree dropping leaves? | Summary

Lemon trees will drop leaves if they lack water, if they experience extremely hot or cold weather or if they are getting attacked by pests. You lemon tree can be saved if you catch the problem quickly.  A lemon tree that has the nutrients and water it needs will be more resistant to pests and cold weather snaps.

Organic fertilizers are my favorite way of looking after my citrus trees. I always use pelleted chicken manure each season to feed it and keep it growing strong.

Happy gardening.

For more on growing lemon trees, check out my previous articles here: