Citrus Trees Should Survive Recent Freezes

By Bruce Schultz, LSU AgCenter 

Jeremy Hebert, LSU AgCenter horticulture agent in Acadia Parish, inspects a satsuma tree. Hebert said the sudden freeze in January has caused citrus trees to lose their leaves and fruit, but the trees should survive. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

Jeremy Hebert, LSU AgCenter horticulture agent in Acadia Parish, inspects a satsuma tree. Hebert said the sudden freeze in January has caused citrus trees to lose their leaves and fruit, but the trees should survive. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

(01/27/17) ABBEVILLE, La. – Citrus trees that dropped leaves and fruit after the recent freeze should survive, according to LSU AgCenter horticulture experts. 

Dan Devenport, AgCenter horticulture agent in Vermilion and Lafayette parishes, said the sudden cold snap was a shock to citrus trees. Usually, he said, cold weather is preceded by gradually lowering temperatures that help plants become acclimated to winter, but this frigid air came after continuous weeks of warm weather. 

Raking leaves and fallen fruit from under the trees is a good idea, Devenport said. 

Devenport is encouraged because trees are showing signs of recovery. “I’m seeing a half-inch of new growth on citrus, so they are bouncing back,” he said. Grapefruits started to show growth first. 

Lemon and lime trees are the least cold-tolerant, he said, while satsumas and kumquats are the hardiest, with grapefruit in between. 

Jeremy Hebert, AgCenter horticulture agent in Acadia Parish, said he has fielded several calls about the condition of citrus trees. “I’ve gotten more calls about that than anything else in the past two weeks,” he said. 

The roots are affected most by the cold, and trees drop leaves and fruit as a defense mechanism. 

“I’ve seen a lot of trees while just driving down the road,” Hebert said. “These trees went from being fully leafed to not having a leaf on them; completely defoliated.” 

He said fruit he has inspected is still good, and the trees should survive the freeze unless they had been severely stressed previously. “I think the majority of these trees will bounce back.” 

Robert Turley, AgCenter horticulture agent in Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis parishes, said leaves already damaged by insects were affected most. 

“Depending on where you were, there was a lot of foliage burn on the outer leaves,” Turley said. 

Fruit quality will be affected when temperatures fall below 28 degrees for more than four hours, he said. From Iowa to Lake Charles, the temperatures fell to 25 degrees, he said, and temperatures were lower north of I-10. 

“Most of the trees should recover,” Turley said. 

Fruit should be removed from trees by Feb. 1 to prepare for the next crop, with fertilizing at the rate of a pound of 13-13-13 for every year of a tree’s age up to 12 pounds, he said. 

Pruning should be done in February if needed to prevent excess height and to prevent fruit from touching the ground. Trees also should be treated with horticulture oil to control insects, Turley said.