Salvaging an overgrown lime tree

We’re building a new house on a lot along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, zone 9a. There is an overgrown citrus tree that is setting a few fruit (three to be precise). However, suckers from the rootstock (identified by my PlantNet app from the leaves as a sour orange) as a have grown up and are threatening to overwhelm the grafted part (identified by PlantNet as an Egyptian lime). I’ve attached a photo. The root stock branches are to the left, the lime branches to the upper right. I cannot tell where the original graft was made.

Is this tree worth saving? Should I prune all of the sour orange branches down to the ground? The leaves are quite distinct, and the sour orange branches have viscous thorns. The lime branches seem to go into the ground, so the graft may be buried.

I would be grateful for advice. Thanks.


Yes you can absolutely save it. I would do as you suggested, prune out all the rootstock shoots and keep doing that. You can probably boost fruit production by next year by fertilizing. Citrus trees need regular nitrogen much more than most fruit trees for good production. You might also get some benefits from supplementing iron and adding some sulfur to keep the soil slightly acidic.

But if you don’t want to spend too much effort I’d say top priority is pruning out all the rootstock suckers, and then second is fertilizing. Although I’d say don’t add any fertilizer until early spring you ideally don’t want tender new growth going into winter. And then you can keep fertilizing until late summer and see if it sets a bigger crop.


Thanks, Gibberellin. I’m going down in early October to inspect the house progress and work on the landscaping. I will do the rootstock cutting at that time, and will post a photo of the result. Thanks also for the fertilization tips. I will act on that in the spring, as you suggested. We have a selection of about six citrus trees ready to go into the ground: two grapefruit, two lemon, and two satsuma. We’re hoping the trees will do well in this location.

In addition to the citrus trees, we’re looking for additional fruit trees and bushes to plant. We have about four acres. I suspect it’s a tricky microclimate. There is a very narrow band a couple of miles deep of zone 9a along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The soil doesn’t look great: mostly sand near the water and clay - possible fill - a little further up. I’m sure there is quite a bit of salt in in the dirt. I would love to grow a few apple and pear trees, but I know chill hours will be a problem. I would also like to try my hand at blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, and perhaps kiwis. If somebody has suggestions for cultivars that might do well here, I would love to hear them!


If the soil is mostly sandy, the salts may have washed away from rain. But if it’s an area that gets storm surge ocean flooding, you might lose some trees when that happens. You could get a soil test and that would tell you the salt content.

I don’t think chill hours are generally an issue with apples, that’s been largely debunked I think, but you may have a tough time fighting fungal diseases there.

And I can’t help but suggest that you try growing some cold-hardy avocados as well, especially if the soil test shows your soil isn’t too salty (though you could select salt tolerant rootstocks).

1 Like

Fascinating, I did not realize that! Thanks!

1 Like

The last time the lot had an inundation was Katrina, I think. We’re going to try to keep the fruit trees back from the ocean. I like your soil test suggestion and the suggestion to try avocados. Thanks!