How To Identify an Overwatered Lemon Tree (+ How To Fix It)

Even though you want to ensure that your lemon tree gets all the moisture that it needs, overwatering it will not make it happy.

Almost every gardener in Australia will have a lemon tree in their yard. While these trees do require an adequate amount of water and plenty of fertiliser to thrive and produce fruit, you can overdo it.

If you’ve been killing your lemon tree with kindness, you might have inadvertently overwatered it and this will result in a number of symptoms that I’m going to detail for you.

Why overwatering can be a problem for plants including lemon trees

Even though you want to ensure that your lemon tree gets all the moisture that it needs, overwatering it will not make it happy. Let me explain.

Plant roots, including those of a lemon tree, require moisture, air and nutrients to be present in the soil. The roots will absorb all of these and then transport them up to the growing part of the tree that is above the ground.

In the event of overwatering where the excess water simply can’t drain away, there will be a lack of oxygen in the soil. The spaces in the soil that would normally be filled with air will now be filled with water.

This means that the roots cannot get the air that they need and your tree will slowly suffocate. Too much water in the soil will also prevent the roots from taking up the nutrients that your tree needs to grow and thrive.

In fact, for many plants, overwatering is one of the most likely causes of death.

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Symptoms of overwatering in a lemon tree

Here are some of the signs to look out for that indicate that you’ve overwatered your lemon tree.

Chlorosis of the leaves

Chlorosis will exhibit as yellowing leaves with green veins. This means that the roots aren’t able to absorb iron from the oversaturated soil.

If you notice chlorosis in the leaves of your lemon tree, first check the soil to see whether it is overly wet. 

If the soil is not wet and you’re not overwatering, your tree may need some additional fertiliser including one that contains a decent amount of iron because your soil may be lacking this vital micronutrient.

Weak and brittle branches

If you notice the branches of your lemon start to droop, especially under the weight of fruit, you might be overwatering your tree.

This is because the vascular system within the tree is not getting what it needs.

Stunted growth

If your lemon is not growing as it should and you see a lot of stunted growth or growth that starts and then stops, it means that your tree is not getting the nutrients that it needs from the soil.

Often, this can caused by a nutrient deficiency in the soil but it can also be caused by overwatering because the roots are not able to supply the nutrients to the rest of the tree.

Root rot

In severe cases, overwatering can cause root rot in your tree and if serious enough, this can lead to the demise of your tree. Root rot is caused by a fungus that is especially prolific in wet soil.

To determine if your tree might be suffering from root rot, look for these symptoms:

  • Leaves that are turning yellow and falling off the tree
  • Branches that are starting to die back from their tips
  • Stunted growth 
  • Signs of decay on the trunk of the tree, especially close to the soil

How to fix an overwatered lemon tree

If you suspect that your lemon tree might be suffering from overwatering, here are some suggestions to help you remedy this and nurse your tree back to health.

Check the moisture level in the soil

Before you take any of the following measures, you want to ensure that the problem with your lemon tree is actually caused by overwatering and not some other problem.

For this, you want to check the moisture level in the soil. The best way to do this is invest in a fairly inexpensive moisture meter that you can purchase from your local hardware store.

Soil Moisture Meter | Fruit & Vegetables

This moisture meter will have a probe that you insert into the soil to give you a digital readout of how much moisture the soil contains.

If you can definitely ascertain that the soil is too wet, implement the following fixes.

Let the soil dry out completely before giving your tree any more water

While you can’t physically remove the excess moisture from the soil, you can allow it to dry out naturally. You might even have to improve the drainage a little to ensure that any excess water can drain away freely.

You could even consider aerating the soil by using a garden fork to gently create some holes in the soil around the base of the tree. But, you have to do this very gently and don’t go too deep so that you don’t damage the roots.

Lemon trees really don’t like their roots to be disturbed, so only do this as a last resort, if the soil is taking a long time to dry out. 

Make sure your lemon tree is getting enough sunlight

If your lemon tree is being overshadowed by neighbouring trees, prune these back so that the lemon tree is getting plenty of sunlight. This will also help to dry up the soil faster.

Prune back some of the longer branches of your lemon tree

If you cut back some of the branches of your lemon tree, it will be easier for the tree to recover if it’s been overwatered.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


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