Overwatered lemon trees are identified by signs such as yellow leaves, premature dropping of fruits and leaves, and in extreme cases, root rot. These symptoms are common to most citrus trees when they are exposed to excess water. 

Overwatered Lemon Tree

If overwatered lemon trees are diagnosed earlier, saving them is relatively easier and less time-consuming.

This article will enlighten you on how you can diagnose an overwatered lemon tree and possible interventions that you can employ.

What Are Possible Causes of Overwatering in Lemon Trees?

Overwatering your citrus tree can be due to excessive addition of water, poor drainage facilities, changing environmental conditions, and too large a pot size. Let’s explain these factors in more detail.

– Excessive Addition of Water

If you give your plant drinks within too short a space of time, overwatering may result. This is because you add water when the potting mix is still moist enough to sustain your lemon tree. The water that you add will be in excess so waterlogged conditions develop over time.

When the soil of your plant is waterlogged, the air spaces become clogged, thereby curbing the free movement of the oxygen that is needed by your plant. As a result, respiration processes that require oxygen are hampered so your lemon tree won’t have enough energy and other resources that aid proper growth and fruit formation. 

Excessive irrigation also promotes leaching, which is a process whereby nutrients in the potting mix are washed away as the water drains out. This makes nutrients unavailable for absorption by the lemon tree root system. Such a situation exposes your plant to deficiencies that may result in its leaves turning yellow.

– Poor Drainage Facilities

Poor drainage is as dangerous as adding excess water to your citrus fruit trees, whether meyer lemon or orange tree. With a poor drainage system, water accumulates in the pot after watering. This also promotes waterlogged conditions that deprive the lemon tree root system of effectively accessing nutrients and oxygen.

Poor drainage can be due to the potting soil that you use for growing your lemon tree. If the soil is too compacted, then its soil structure will not allow excess water to drain out effectively.

Soils such as clay cause the growth medium of your plant to become devoid of airways that allow water and air to move freely. Also, the potting mix may become compacted if you use it for long periods of time without engaging in care procedures that help to loosen it.

If your pot does not have enough drainage holes, this may lead to overwatered conditions. This is because the excess water that you use to soak your plant with during irrigation will not be able to escape from the pot.

Therefore, it will accumulate and cause waterlogged conditions. In some cases, the potting mix clogs the drainage holes of the pot, thereby making it difficult for water to pass through. This will also cause your lemon tree to sit in water, a scenario that causes root rot.

Causes of Overwatered Lemon Tree

– Changing Environmental Conditions

Processes such as evaporation and transpiration play a crucial role in aiding the drying process of the potting mix after a watering session. The combined effect of these two processes is referred to as evapotranspiration. 

The faster the rate of evapotranspiration, the quicker the speed at which the soil of your plant dries, a scenario that reduces the chances of your lemon tree becoming overwatered.

Now, processes of transpiration and evaporation are significantly affected by changes in environmental conditions, especially temperature and light. For instance, lower temperatures are associated with a slower release of water into the atmosphere by your plant’s foliage and soil.

This means that your potting soil will stay wet for longer periods, thereby increasing the risk of root rot and other effects of overwatering like yellowing leaves.

Lower light conditions reduce the efficiency of your plant in taking up and using water. For water to be taken up by the roots of your lemon tree, some water has to be lost through the leaves via pores or openings that are known as stoma.

The stoma tends to open in correlation with the amount of sunlight available. When the light intensity is lower, as is the case with winters, the stoma is not wide open so transpiration is low, and so is water uptake.

– Too Large Pot Size

Larger pots retain moisture for longer. Therefore, if the size of your pot does not match the size of your tree then chances are the plant will sit in soggy conditions. Even when repotting is necessary, transferring to a pot that is too large will pose the same overwatering threats.

– Ignoring Changes in Seasons

The recommended schedules for watering your lemon tree are not the same for the winter and summer seasons. Ignoring this fact and using the same watering patterns throughout the year can cause overwatering. 

During winter, the lemon tree assumes a more dormant state so its growth is limited during this time. As a result, it requires less water, which is why excessive irrigation will trigger waterlogged conditions.

In summer, the growth of your plant is vigorous and fruit formation takes place. Therefore, your plant will effectively absorb water and use it for making the energy that is redirected to the growth and development of the plant.

Such efficiency in using water will cause the potting mix to lose water at a relatively faster rate than it would during winter times. Failure to understand these phenomena could be the root cause of overwatering scenarios.


Symptoms and Ways Forward 

Lemon tree leaves are highly affected by overwatering, which is why you may see them turning yellow, in addition to other effects that may result in damaged leaves. 

Leaves curling may also be due to pest infestations so be sure to diagnose correctly. Having identified the possible triggers for overwatering on your plant, go on and do whatever it takes to save it. 

– Water Only When the Potting Mix is Dry

Watering schedules for lemon trees may vary depending on a number of factors that you may not be able to control, like temperature and light conditions. Therefore, the easiest way to make sure you give your plant the right amount of water is to allow the soil to completely dry between waterings. 

Alternatively, you can let the first six inches of the potting mix dry before your lemon tree’s next drink. This strategy helps you to avoid watering moist soils, a scenario that may cause your lemon tree to sit in water for prolonged periods of time.

Please note that the soil for your plant will take longer to dry during the winter seasons. This is mainly because the temperatures are lower and so water leaves the plant and soil at relatively lower rates. 

Solutions of Overwatered Lemon Tree

In summer seasons, the loss of water to the atmosphere is higher so it will take less time before the potting mix dries. Therefore, remain patient during the winter to allow the soil to dry and avoid overwatering.

It is important for you to note that not all citrus fruits require the same watering patterns. For instance, the rate at which lemon trees use water more than orange trees.

With that in mind, the general rule of thumb is that you should water your lemon tree once a week if it is potted and twice a week if you are growing it on the ground. 

A more frequent schedule is required to meet the water requirements of a lemon tree planted on the ground because infiltration is not controlled as with potted plants.

– Ensure That the Soil is Well Draining

The lemon tree is relatively nonselective when it comes to its growing medium. However, the common characteristic among the possible soils that you can use for your plant is being well-draining. 

This is why we recommend sandy loam soils that have a loose soil structure that enhance free water and air movement for the proper growth of your plant. Please, avoid hard clay because they have a highly compacted structure that will make your plant prone to sitting in water.

The best soil for your lemon tree should have well-balanced abilities to retain and lose water. Those are the soils that we are referring to as “well-draining.” To create such soil, mix sand, silt, and clay at ratios of 6:3:1.

With this potting mix, air spaces are left open so water and air move freely. This makes it easy for the roots of your plant to access these resources and use them for its healthy development

Another important attribute of sandy loam soils is their lightweight texture. Lighter soils are less likely to become compact enough to block air spaces. This is unlike the heavyweight soils that contain higher components of clay. Waterlogged conditions are more likely to result when you use heavyweight soils.

– Use Well-Draining Pots

You will undoubtedly need to get pots that have good draining properties for the benefit of your lemon tree. The pot that you use should have enough drainage holes to allow excess water to escape after a thorough irrigation session.

Also, take note of the size of the drainage holes. They should not be too small, otherwise, water loss won’t be efficient enough to prevent waterlogging conditions from occurring. If the drainage holes are too big, you might gradually lose your potting mix as soil particles escape together with the water, especially after watering.

We also recommend that you regularly check your pot for blocked drainage holes. A pot with blockade drainage holes is inefficient in losing excess water. Use tools that can match the size of the holes on your pot to remove the potting mix that is blocking them. Last but not least, be sure to use a pot that matches the size of your plant.

– Check for Root Rot and Treat If Needed

A dangerous effect of overwatering is root rot so it is crucial to make sure that the damage on your lemon tree plant doesn’t get that far. Root rot can be reversed if you are able to diagnose it at an early stage before the majority of the roots are destroyed.

Wear gloves and make sure that the tools that you will use are well sterilized using isopropyl alcohol. Dig around your plant so that you expose all the roots for inspection.

If the roots show signs and symptoms such as yellowing lemon tree leaves, loss of foliage, and smelly growths that are white in color you can be sure it’s an attack by Armillaria root rot. These symptoms also apply when the roots of your lemon tree are affected by Phytophthora root rot.

Exposing the lemon tree roots to a distance of two feet will assist to expedite drying around the rooting system.

Save Overwatered Lemon Tree

Also, trim off the damaged roots to reduce the chances of the healthy ones being affected, too. In the event of severe infections, consider using fosetyl-al or mefenoxam fungicides, and be sure to use them as instructed by the manufacturer.


How long can an Overwatered Lemon Tree live?

Overwatered Lemon Trees may survive for several years, but their lifespan can be significantly reduced due to root rot and other related issues.

Do Overwatered Lemon Trees need direct sunlight to recover?

Overwatered Lemon Trees require sunlight for recovery, but direct sunlight may exacerbate stress. Providing filtered light is recommended.

How do you dry an Overwatered Lemon Tree?

To dry an Overwatered Lemon Tree, adjust watering frequency, improve drainage, and ensure proper air circulation. Let the soil dry out before watering again.


With the information that you obtained from this article, you are now in a better position to fight for your plant in cases of overwatering scenarios.

Here are some of the nuggets that you should keep at the tips of your fingertips:

  • Yellowing and curling of leaves are some of the most common signs of an overwatered lemon tree.
  • When growing lemon trees, overwatering may result from adding excess water, using too large pots, compromised drainage facilities, and ignoring changing environmental conditions.
  • To curb overwatering, use well-draining sandy loam soils and pots with enough drainage holes.
  • Always water your plant when the potting mix has dried, at least down to six inches.
  • Check for root rot so that you can deal with it early.

Now, you can take care of your lemon tree with confidence, not even overwatering cases can scare you. Apply the techniques that you learn from this article and take care off your lemon tree the expert way!


  1. https://cals.arizona.edu/extension/ornamentalhort/landscapemgmt/general/citrusirrigation.pdf
  2. https://www.yarden.com/blog/how-much-water-does-a-lemon-tree-need/
  3. https://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/citrus/Dry-Root-Rot/#:~:text=Symptoms%20and%20Signs,-The%20general%20symptoms&text=These%20include%20reduced%20vigor%2C%20dull,and%20spreads%20into%20the%20crown.
  4. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/overwatering-meyer-lemon-tree-34212.html

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