Lucky Bamboo and Meyer Lemon

During the past few months, I have received several e-mails about lucky bamboo. In case you haven’t noticed, “lucky bamboo” is the name bestowed on those twisting stems with lanceolate leaves, often rooted and growing in water, that are sold at the check-out counters of home improvement stores. The stems and leaves of this plant definitely resemble bamboo, but it is only a resemblance. Lucky bamboo’s true name is Dracaena sanderiana, commonly known as ribbon plant, an indoor table plant long available in this country but only recently mass marketed.
The twisting formations that you see are the result of covering the plants as they grow so that their stem tips stretch for the light. Lucky bamboo is easy to propagate. You can take sections as small as a few inches in size and place them in a cup of water. Make sure each stem piece to be propagated has at least one node, which is the junction where leaf meets stem. Roots should start to grow within a few weeks. Lucky bamboo should not be placed in direct light or a dark corner. Indirect light suits it perfectly. If leaves should start to turn yellow or burn at the tips, this is a sign that it is getting too much light. Give it a few drops of liquid plant food every month or two.
The water where lucky bamboo is growing should be changed every two weeks. You can, of course, pot your plants in soil at any time. Another way to propagate this plant is to cut a stem and place it on its side on top of ordinary potting soil. Roots will form at each node along the stem, to be followed by leaves.
Q: I have a dwarf Meyer lemon tree that spent its first year planted in a barrel but has recently been transplanted into the ground. The problem is that the leaves are all turning yellow. I make sure not to overwater and I don’t overfertilize. Why are the leaves yellow? Is this the reason that I have only had one lemon on the tree?”
– Tina J. Harmon
A: There is no reason to panic at the sight of yellow leaves on a lemon tree, particularly at this time of year. As is the case with many broadleaf and subtropical evergreens, the foliage of lemon trees loses color in the winter, especially on trees grown in containers.
Your Meyer lemon may also be experiencing shock as a result of its being transplanted from a container into the ground. Leaf yellowing could mean the plant is getting acclimated to its new surroundings. These leaves could eventually drop off, a common occurrence when a plant is moved. When this happens, cut back on watering until leaves start to grow again. Since you have only had your Meyer lemon one year, I would not be too concerned about its lack of fruit. Fruit trees can take several years to come into their own. The transition from nursery to back yard is not always smooth. Wherever your tree was grown, it received light equally on all four sides; in a container or a back yard, light will not reach all sides of the tree in equal amounts. At the nursery, your tree enjoyed a constant fertilizer regime, but you may have only given it an occasional feeding. Citrus trees prefer fertilizer to be on the acidic side; otherwise, foliage may turn yellow. Find a fertilizer specially formulated for citrus (there are several) at the nursery and apply it. You might also try seaweed extract or other products that are sprayed on the leaves of plants to increase their micronutrient content.
The Meyer lemon bears fruit, which is less acidic than other lemons, abundantly most of the year. Another plus of Meyer lemon trees is their resistance to diseases. “Eureka” is the classic lemon tree for Valley yards, even if it is a welcome host to scale, whitefly, and mealybug pests.
TIP OF THE WEEK: To keep your lemon tree pest-free, plant it in the most open area you can find. The front yard is often a better location for a lemon tree than the back yard. In the front yard, there is usually more sun and better air circulation than in the back. Pests feel most at home in the shade and stagnant air typically found in the back yard.

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