I inherited a dead lemon tree.


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Foremost, I know nothing about horticulture. However, I am keen to learn.

The lemon tree lived successfully on a balcony in Italy for a number of years. It died last summer when it's owner was travelling. It was subsequently kept in its pot as a decorative sculpture.

Having recently moved into said owner's apartment, I decided on a whim to chop it back as far as I could with the tools at hand, a pair of pliers, and to water the carcass regularly.

After a couple days, this happened:

IMG_20190620_205114.jpg


And then after a couple weeks this happened:

IMG_20190712_224952__01.jpg


The water and sunlight thing seems to be working. I'd like to keep it going until it produces lemons, which I gather will probably take a number of years.

I have some questions about what's going on:
  • Is each sprout a different tree?
  • Can they all grow healthily together?
  • Is the old trunk helping? Should I cut it back further?
  • Will the new growth use the old trees root system?
  • When will it start to look like a tree?
  • Is the original tree coming back to life or are they dormant seeds woken up by the water?
I would be very grateful for any advice as to how best to care for it moving forward.

Thank you for your help!
 

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Isn't nature great @AbsoluteNovice :)
Your tree has decided to grow again from the roots now it has had some water, and will all be part of the same tree. If you had left on some of the branches, there would be new growth from the nodes of those as well.
If that were mine, I would make a nice lean cut now with a sharp, clean pruning saw, and continue to water it well. I would also feed it well, using seaweed based - or maybe chicken manure pellets, or similar, and continue to water and feed until the winter comes - then stop feeding.
I think you will be surprised how quickly that will now grow..... so you might be a learner but you did something right this time (y)

Ps... another good idea would be to mulch it well - maybe with straw, or peat, or spent mushroom compost - whatever you can get, to help keep the moisture in the roots.
 
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Sorry to disagree @Tetters but I don't think you are correct. IMO this was a grafted tree as illustrated by the larger diameter trunk with the cuts. The shoots are coming up from the root stock which in most cases is a trifoliate orange and not good to eat at all. But to answer your questions. Each sprout will make a tree. No, they won't grow healthily together in a container but will make a big bush if planted in the ground. Scratch the bark on the old trunk. If ANY green shows it is still alive but doubtful if will be of any help and a sure sign of a graft. The new growth is growing off of the old roots. If you want to make it look like a tree cut off all but one of the shoots and let it grow. In about 2 years start pruning the lower limbs off. There weren't any dormant seeds, just a dormant root system.

If I am correct that this is a grafted tree you may as well throw it away because all you will end up with is a tree with large sharp thorns and fruit you can't eat.
 

Meadowlark

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  • Is each sprout a different tree? Yes it appears that way to me.
  • Can they all grow healthily together? No, prune to remove all sprouts except the best looking sprout and continue to remove any other sprouts that may pop up later.
  • Is the old trunk helping? Should I cut it back further? I would not cut it back further right now...months later you can easily remove it
  • Will the new growth use the old trees root system? Yes the new growth is coming from the original tree root stock
  • When will it start to look like a tree? Next spring it will begin to take shape....but don't expect it to look like the original lemon
  • Is the original tree coming back to life or are they dormant seeds woken up by the water? It appears the sprouts are coming from the resilient original root stock. I would let it grow mainly to see how it turns out. You can always get rid of it later if you don't like it but at a minimum it should make a great conversation piece.
 
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Thank you the advice @Tetters @Chuck and @Meadowlark!

Here's an update:
IMG_20190722_144524.jpg


I decided to prune all of the sprouts except the strongest. It seems to be loving life and it is definitely growing.

My only concern is that some ants have taken up residence in the pot. They don't appear to be messing with the tree, but I'm not sure if they will develop to a problem.

Thanks for the help!
 

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