Why is Lemon Tree Leaves Curling? Causes and Solutions

Only when all conditions and care are adequate will a lemon tree grow and produce the best lemon fruits.

You might wonder why your lemon tree leaves are curling. There are a few possible causes like lack of water, nutrients, Overwatering, and pests. 

Worry not, we will tell you how to correct the curled lemon leaves and restore health to your tree! 

#1 – Curling Lemon Tree Leaves Due to Dehydration

Dehydration in lemon trees can be visible through the curling of leaves. The tree is under stress and tries to handle it by curling its leaves.

How does it help? Well, curling sometimes can help to retain moisture. 

Pro Tip : The direction of leaf curling helps to indicate the cause of curling. Upward curling is usually due to dehydration, windburn, or poor air circulation. Whereas downward leaf curling is due to overwatering, excessive feeding, or pests. 

Dehydration in lemon trees can occur due to a combination of factors. This includes watering efforts, humidity, soil water retention capacity, and high sun intensity. Perhaps it is a mixture of all three that is creating the problem

A) Underwatering

Throughout the year except for winter (and fall to some extent), lemon trees need generous but diligent watering. Usually, it is a soil dip test that decides if watering is due or not. 

By dipping your finger into the top 2-3 inches, you will be able to tell if the soil is dry or still moist. But, judging by your lemon tree’s curled leaves, the soil is probably very dry! 

This either means watering frequency needs to improve or watering needs to be more generous during each session. Keep using the feel test and you really can’t go wrong. 

B) Humidity

Lack of moisture in the air can target your leaves by increasing lemon leaf transpiration.

This is because the atmosphere has less moisture than the lemon leaves. This excessive loss of moisture through the stomata causes curling of the leaves. 

Therefore a humid environment won’t lead to the curling of lemon leaves. If this is happening you must find a way to improve air humidity. 

C) Soil Water Retention Capacity 

Water retention capacity refers to a material’s ability to hold water. In this case, the soil is the material.

Soils for lemon trees should be well-draining but not very sandy since these soils have a very low water retention capacity. Also, clay soils hold too much water. 

The water holding capacity doesn’t just depend upon the amount of sand or clay present.

It is also influenced by the amount of organic matter in the soil. The more organic matter present, the higher the capacity to hold water.

D) High Sun Intensity

Curling of lemon trees can also be associated with windburn. Windburn is a symptom of high sunlight intensity or being too close to the source of light.

This is more likely for lemon trees grown in enclosed spaces with artificial light sources. 

This condition presents as the drying and curling of leaves. Eventually, wind-burned leaves will become so dry that they become brittle and break off! It is not rare for brown lemon leaves to develop. 

Solution to Curling and Dehydrated Lemon Tree Leaves

Curling of lemon tree leaves in summer when all conditions are appropriate is bound to be due to dehydration.

Since there are a few factors that lead to severe dehydration in lemon trees, care has to be taken to ensure the trees are hydrated aptly.  

  • Keep an eye on humidity with a hygrometer. If it dips below a certain point you can get an indoor air humidifier. But, this applies to lemon trees that are kept indoors or in a greenhouse. 
  • For all lemon trees, indoor or outdoor, testing the soil helps to keep up a healthy watering plan. Feel the soil first, preferably the first 2 to 4 inches to get a clear idea of its moisture. Water if it feels dry and don’t if it feels wet or even moist.  
  • Keep an eye on where your lemon tree is located. If the spot appears to be getting sunlight throughout the day it’s definitely excessive for the tree. You should consider moving your lemon tree or at least providing it with some form of shade. 
  • Prior to planting, assess and test the soil’s ability to drain as well as retain water. If it drains too fast, add more organic material to allow water retention for longer. 

#2 – Curling Lemon Tree Leaves Due to Overwatering

You’ve just heard about the curling of lemon tree leaves due to underwatering. But, have you heard of lemon leaves curling because of overwatering? You need to know how much water lemon trees need. 

Unfortunately, both incorrect watering habits can induce the curling effect on lemon tree foliage. 

When given too much water for a relatively long period of time, lemon trees enter stress mode. One sign of stress is the curling of leaves.

Excessive water in the soil will affect the roots first. But, since you can’t see the roots the effects are first noticed in the foliage. 

Discoloration and curling are the most common signs of overwatered lemon trees. You should not dismiss them as your lemon tree could be at risk entirely. 

Solution to Curling of Lemon Tree Leaves Due to Overwatering

Watering without checking the soil first, is bound to end in overwatering! Here are a few other points to identify overwatering in lemon trees. 

  • You may not think of it at the time but, it is rather rash to water a lemon tree without first testing the soil. Seeing as lemon trees are sensitive to an excess of water, the soil must feel dry up to a depth of 4 inches before watering. 
  • Wet soil is dark in color and slightly compacted. If you notice your soil is moister, stop watering immediately. You should allow the water to dry out before resuming watering. 
  • Using the right soil with good draining ability is the best way to prevent overwatering. Soils predominantly made from clay are bound to hold too much water, resulting in curled leaves but not before roots are damaged by root rot. 
  • When trying to avoid overwatering in potted lemon trees, adequate drainage holes should be made at the bottom of the pot/container. Also, try to avoid leaving a tray beneath the pot as it will collect and hold water. 

#3 – Curling Lemon Tree Leaves Due to Lack of Nutrients 

Nutrient deficient soil is a common problem in potted lemon trees. The lack of vital nutrients and minerals will induce a range of problems, particularly in the leaves. This could range from curling to wilting, discoloration, and even falling off!

Here are all the other causes of lemon tree leaves falling off.

Lemon trees are voracious feeders and so you’ll need fertilizer. Especially during the summer and spring months when flowering and growth are prominent.

Potted lemon trees will eventually exhaust the available nutrients. Hence, replenishments are vital for growth/fruit production. 

Lemon trees need a steady supply of Magnesium, Potassium, and Nitrogen. This can easily be provided with a citrus-specific fertilizer. 

Solution to Curling of Lemon Tree Leaves Due to Lack of Nutrients 

Before you blame nutrient deficiency for your curled lemon tree leaves, get a test kit and determine the nutrient status of your soil.

As a precaution, you can also get a pH test kit to determine if your soil is acidic. Lemons need acidic soil! 

If nutrients are limited in a potted lemon tree, you can switch out the soil. Alternatively, you can use a citrus fertilizer that has everything a lemon tree has for optimal growth and fruit production.

A fertilizer like this may also be one of the solutions to lemon trees not bearing fruits. 

#4 – Curling Lemon Tree Leaves Due to Pests 

Regardless of what citrus fruit you are growing, there will always be insects and other pests to worry about. 

Aphids and spider mites and two commonly occurring lemon tree pests. 

However, the instances that attract them are very different. Spider mites mostly occur in indoor lemon trees while aphids are a pest of outdoor lemon trees. 

A) Aphids

These minute insects feed on young tree shoots and exude honeydew, a substance that will attract ants! Continuous feeding on leaves will eventually cause a color change, curling/wilting of the foliage. 

Aphid infestations can become very serious! Since they are so small, a small area could have thousands of aphids at a time. They can easily spread throughout your lemon tree and demolish any new growth, thus affecting lemon fruit output. 

B) Spider Mites

Although spider mites themselves are not very visible, their damaging effects are evident! Small yellow spots and leaf curling are an indication of spider mites. 

An interesting fact about these pests is that they prefer dry conditions. This is why you are more likely to find spider mites on indoor plants or plants that are being sheltered indoors over winter. 

Solution to Curling of Lemon Tree Leaves Due to Pests

Handling pests properly is important. Broad-spectrum insecticides are not a wise choice since they have the ability to affect beneficial insects. Here are the alternatives to handle aphids and spider mites. 

  • Aphids can be handled by removing severely affected branches to avoid the spread. Otherwise, an application or two of Neem Oil is a good idea to suffocate the aphids. Invite natural predators (ladybugs) by planting flowers nearby. 
  • Spider Mites can be removed by making conditions unfavorable for their survival. This means spraying the leaves or washing the leaves with soapy water. 

On removal of pests and infected branches, lemon leaves should lose their curled appearance. 

How do you get rid of ants on lemon trees?


The curling of lemon trees can be a result of many factors:

  1. Dehydration/Underwatering
  2. Overwatering
  3. Lack of nutrients
  4. Pests

Depending on what the cause is, you can stop the curling of lemon leaves before the entire tree becomes compromised. 

Want to protect your lemon tree from winter? Find out: Can lemon trees survive winter?


Why are the leaves on my Meyer lemon curling?

Leaves that are curling downwards usually mean overwatering, excessive feeding, or pest infestations. It can even be a combination of any of the above two factors. 

Can you correct the curling of lemon tree leaves?

Yes, if you catch and correct it in time (before leaves yellow and fall off) you can fix the curling of lemon tree leaves.