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Gardening advice on a dying pink grapefruit tree

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: July, 2014, Page 107


Q - My 25-year-old pink grapefruit tree appears to be dying, mainly on the side facing east. I discovered it’s being over-watered with daily deep soaks. Before that, it was barely watered at all for months. What should I do?

A - When a citrus tree declines on only one side, the causes are usually due either to sunburn or a condition called mesophyll collapse, explains MCCE Master Gardener Emeritus Olin Miller. Sunburn occurs on the side of the tree exposed to southern or western hot afternoon sun. Your tree’s affected side faces the more mild morning sun, so it is likely mesophyll collapse.

This problem is caused by stress from sudden unseasonable temperature fluctuations and exposure to hot dry winds, as well as uneven watering around the affected side of the tree. Water is lost through evaporation and transpiration and not replaced, resulting in the “collapse.” This condition is more common in grapefruit trees but may affect other citrus. Be sure your tree receives adequate irrigation. Find details in the publication, Irrigating Citrus Trees, at Do not remove defoliated branches yet, as with appropriate irrigation, they may leaf out again.
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