Why Is My 22 Year Old Potted Grapefruit Tree Dying?
Please help me-I grew this tree from a seed 22 years ago when my son was fighting brain cancer. It means more to me than you could ever imagine. It started dropping a lot of leaves 4 months ago. I found it to be drowning in water and roots. I moved it into a pot I thought was bigger, they don't make them any bigger because it was still a tight fit. I trimmed off some of the roots and filled in with potting soil. That did the trick for awhile and then it got scale a month later. I treated for scale with it outside for the summer. Brought it back in a month ago and it had an attack of aphids! and the scale was back!! I treated them and their gone (as far as I can see), but NOW over the last 2 weeks it has dropped over 350 leaves. Old, new, every kind of leaf imaginalble. I'm crying that I'm afraid I'm going to lose it for sure. The tree is about 6 feet tall and a 4 foot spread. It takes up a good portion of the family room. I thought it must be water logged again so I had someone lift it up and out of the container and the soil was just like it came out of a new bag. Kind of dry. Now the top of the root ball is 4 inches over the edge of the pot. How do I find a bigger pot? This one is huge! I have always planned on planting this in my front yard in Florida someday (I'm in Michigan) The leaves fall at a rate of 50 a day. PLEASE HELP ME SOMEONE!!!!! QUICKLY BEFORE THEY'RE ALL GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
It does sound like it is a water issue and it likely related to being root bound. You simply can't provide it with enough water and it is losing leaves. Most likely, when the roots were drowning before, it developed a bit of root rot which pruned the roots back for you. But now, the roots have regrown and it is needing water.
In the short term, I would increase water, just make sure the drainage on the pot is good. In the long term, you have a tough choice. You can root prune the tree and repot it in the same pot, which could kill it. Root pruning is always tricky and if you decide to root prune such a large tree, I would have it professionally done at a local nursery - by someone experienced with plant. Do not let them just let anybody do it.
Your other choice is to put it into a large container. Not sure how big your current one is, but if it is not larger than a than a wine barrel, you may want to look at wine barrels or industrial barrels. Beyond that, you can also ask your local nursery for recommendations on where to buy it. If you know someone handy with wood, you can also ask them to build a planter for you with cedar or pressurized wood.
As long as the branches are green and pliable, you have a good chance to bring it back. Just for good measure, in case, treat the plant with neem oil. This will get rid of both pests and fungus that might be affecting the plant.
And finally, since this plant is so dear to you, I would have a professional come and look at it (again, a local nursery is best for this). I am giving advice as best I can over the internet. A professional may see something on the tree that I would not be able to see and you may not know is an issue.