Stunting from Lack of Water?

I’ve heard of stunting from carrying too much fruit, but I am wondering whether lack of water for an immature tree - over a prolonged time - has the same effect.

For context:
I have multiple citrus trees that have been on a dedicated irrigation loop (one of three loops in the yard). The amount of water they get for each time the irrigation runs is adjusted based on the evapotranspiration for my location and time of year, so I know they are getting the right amounts of water (as also validated by other, successful citrus growers in the neighborhood).

However, here is where I went wrong: While I set the individual irrigation loops properly, I made the mistake of running all of them at the same time. With the citrus at the highest point on the property, they ended up not getting nearly enough water over the last 1.5 years. All of them were 2 year olds when I first planted them and they have remained pretty much the same size since then. I have found extensive root systems on them, so they are looking for water, but I am now worried that the “drought” as effectively stunted them…



Yes it has reduced their growth. But it won’t be permanent. Up the water and they’ll take off again. I don’t think it will be a long term issue like it can be with apples on certain dwarfing rootstocks.


@fruitnut and i have had identical experience if you can keep the trees alive the stunting is temporary in my experience provided the water shortage is not permanent. I had an apple that during a dry 3 years that never grew over 7 feet finally the water returned and the tree doubled in height. The poor soil in that location saved its life because clay stays wet deeper longer. The trees in better soil were all dead because the soil was looser and dried out easier. I watered them but could not save them. The disadvantage that tree was given would normally be a bad thing but it just demonstrates we are not in charge and we do not know the future. I smiled a bit when i ate my first apples off that tree thinking it and many of us people are not so different. We started with nothing going for us but it’s my belief God himself smiled on us equaling things up over time. Others would say it was just luck but either way in time the trees should be ok.


The apple stunting that can take a couple of yrs to overcome isn’t from lack of water. Rather it’s severe over cropping. That not only reduces vegetative growth but it pulls the branches over below horizontal. The growth pattern then needs correction.

If it’s just lack of water that’s easily and fully corrected with more water.


Great - glad to hear it. I’ve verified they are getting the right amount of water, spread out the different loops to run at the right times during the night, so the application of the water at this point is not longer an issue.

However, since I’m here: Do you guys have a preference for what sprinklers/drip systems to use for tree irrigation?

I’ve used some of the Antelco micro sprinklers but those seem to create a single ring and don’t actually wet the full area underneath the tree. Seems to me that while a ring the size of the canopy is certainly good, the feeder roots are on the surface throughout the area underneath the tree’s canopy, and so that whole area should get wet. Or does that not matter so much?

You don’t need to wet the whole area. But if you wet small areas you need to do it more often. I like the drip emitters that are built into the black tubing. With good filtaration they don’t plug and it lasts a long time. Don’t go with the emitters that plug into the tubing.

This is what I like. Either in rows or spiraled around each tree. 1/2" Emitter Tubing - Tubing - Drip Irrigation — Rate and spacing for your soil.