My orange tree: Please don't leaf me this way

Howdy friends! Hope you’re all safe and sane, and I also hope you can help!

Our orange tree is being stubborn and doesn’t want to give us fruit. Can you believe that? We’re in San Diego where the climate is pretty mild all-year-round, but our lemon tree does very well here.

When we bought the orange tree 3 years ago, it already had some oranges on it at the nursery and they were SO good. Since then, it has been completely bare. Not even one orange. When new leaves pop up, they almost immediately curl or deteriorate with markings or the white stuff. Hopefully, you can see what is going on in the attached pictures.

We tried insecticide soap spray a few times, but that hasn’t done anything at all. Would the neem oil give us the same result or should I try something completely different? It gets water every three days, by the way. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks so much!!

Welcome, from a fellow Cali member.
I’m located in NorCal and your climate kills mine, yet my Washington Navel carries hundreds of oranges every season.

What you’re seeing on those leaves is from Citrus Leaf Miner, normally not a big issue (other then being a little unsightly). In your case if the tree is still really young those damaged leaves may be preventing the tree from producing energy/food.

Are you getting at least 7+ hours sunlight?
Also, have you been regularly fertilizing?

Another thought Coastal San Diego does not get a lot of heat, and sweet oranges want/need heat to really produce. One of the reasons lemons thrive in San Francisco, but they haven’t a prayer to grow heat loving oranges. Just a thought.


Just to add to what @Calron said - what’s your fertilizing schedule? aka what fertilizer are you using, dosage, what times of the year, etc?

Young citrus trees do need protection against citrus leaf miners. Spinosad + mineral oil + neem oil in 2-3 applications with an interval of 2 weeks inbetween works for me.


@Calron @californicus

Thanks so much for the reply. The tree gets about 8-9 hours of sun a day. I give it fertilizer once every 3 months, all-year-round. It gets water every 3 days. The leaves are all green, except for the marks where it has been damaged by the leafminor and maybe aphids. Here is the picture of the liquid fertilizer concentrate I give it, mixed with water. It’s called Moon Juice. Let me know if you recommend something better.

As for your recommendation of Spinosad + mineral oil + neem oil, I saw a video on YouTube that said the 3 should not be combined when applying, and it sounds like that’s what you’re saying as well. How much time do you have in between each application? Should I do Spinosad one day, then wait 5 days and do the mineral oil, then wait 5 days and do the neem oil? Thanks so much for your help!

I’m not an expert on fertilizer and I don’t use any liquid fertilizer, but 0.2-0-0 seems too low to me. I usually go with a citrus fertilizer with micronutrients. There are both synthetic and organic options available.

I do mix them both - spinosad and mineral oil. I followed the video here. I think @hoosierquilt suggested adding neem oil to the mix. So, I replace 50% mineral oil with neem oil.


I’d have to agree on the low fertilizer percentages. Citrus are heavy feeders.

Another outside the box suggestion if you still don’t see improvements, I’ve done this with my Mexican Lime that was a really slow bloomer when young.

I actually deprived it of irrigation for over 2 weeks, until the leaves just start to get limp. And when I did that, it put out a few flowers. The theory goes, the tree thinks it’s going to die with the water stress, so it puts out flowers to try to reproduce.

I know it sounds bizarre, but there are articles on this, and it actually worked when I used it on the Lime tree.

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Great. Thanks so much for this. Should I remove some of the heavily damaged leaves or just spray over them?

Thanks! Do you have an recommendation for a citrus fertilizer with a higher percentage?

If your tree is planted inground , fertilizing is different, just 13-13-13 is good enough. In containers you have to use stronger fertilizer like 25-5-15 Peters h/p with micro,s… it only comes in a 25 lb bag. Their are a lot of other ferts you can choose in smaller packages.


I generally will just use a dedicated citrus/avocado fertilizer. Something 10> for all three of the main ingredients. And apply quarterly, which sounds like you’re doing.


Yup, dedicated citrus fertilizer is what I’d recommend too. Espoma citrus tone or Dr. Earth citrus fertilizer are organic options. Vigoro or GroPower citrus fertilizer are synthetic options. All of these have micronutrients, which (if I remember correctly) Jobe’s citrus fertilizer lacks.

No need to remove the leaves unless really badly affected. The spinosad + oil will kill the miners on the leaves


Leaf Miners are going to town on the new growth on all my citrus grafts. Will I kill the young grafts if I spray spinosad now?

Spinosad (AFIK) shouldn’t kill young shoots. I did spray on my young Kumquat graft and it controlled leaf miners on it

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Awesome, thanks @californicus ! I’ll give it a try.

Just to be careful, spray in the evening after sun is down. Also, I did see your video on using neem oil in summer. I used the pure neem oil which hasn’t burned my citrus leaves so far, but you can omit it just to be cautious.

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Thank you! Sprayed yesterday after sunset with spinosad only.

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Spraying Spinosad worked and kept the leaf miners away for a few weeks. Did not damage any of the young grafts either, which is great! But the leaf miners are back with a vengeance. Do I have to spray again or can I afford to be lazy and just let them be? Wondering what is the worst the leaf miners can do?

Thank you!

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Leaf miners affect the growth of young trees/grafts. So, I would say the worst could be the graft growing slowly or runting out completely. In my experience, it takes 3 sprays, 1 week apart to control the leaf miners. I have leaf miners everywhere on my new trees and I just sprayed last week. Will follow up again tomorrow and once more later.


Thank you @californicus, I guess I’ll have to get the sprayer out as well. Please do keep me posted on how the 3 time spraying works. Or if you end up doing a 4th/5th round.

BTW, for the benefit of others - this product did not work at keeping the leaf miners away. May be it is for detection only to use as a guide for when to spray… - Monterey Citrus Leafminer Trap and Lure


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