Care of Lime Trees: Information On Growing Citrus spp.

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by Max - last update on August 30, 2019, 2:19 am
Lime Tree

If you’re a fan of fresh limes, why not try growing your own lime tree? Be careful, though, as they can only survive in temperatures above 50º F, so you’ll need to grow them inside or at least bring them inside when the temperatures drop.

Lime Tree Quick Facts

OriginSoutheast Asia
Scientific Name:Citrus spp.
Common NamesLime tree
FamilyRutaceae
TypeEvergreen tree
HeightUp to 20 feet
WateringMaintain moist soil
LightFull sun
ToxicityNon-toxic
PestsCitrus mites, aphids, leaf miners, scale

Varieties of Lime Tree

There are many varieties of lime tree, though often, lime trees found in garden centers are sold under the generic name of lime tree. For a particular variety of lime tree, you may have to seek out a specialist nursery. Some of the most popular types of lime tree include the following.

Citrus hystrix

Citrus hystrix
Citrus hystrix (Kaffir lime tree)

Commonly known as the Kaffir lime tree, this variety of lime tree is popular for its use in Asian cuisine. It can be grown outdoors in mild climates, but its dwarf size of just five feet tall makes it ideal for growing inside. The foliage of this plant is dark green and glossy, and the leaves are harvested for use in recipes, adding flavor to Asian dishes such as curries and soups.

In cooking, Kaffir leaves can be used fresh, dried, or frozen. The fruit of this tree is a similar size to the common lime, but the skin is a darker green and more heavily textured. The Kaffir lime is less juicy than its common counterpart and so is not typically grown for its fruit.

Citrus aurantifolia

Citrus aurantifolia
 Citrus aurantifolia (Mexican key lime tree)

This tree is commonly known as the Mexican key lime tree, West Indian lime tree, Omani lime tree, or bartenders’ lime tree. It grows easily and rapidly if ideal water and lighting requirements are met, to medium size of around eight to sixteen feet tall. The fruits of this tree are small and round and are especially juicy and flavorsome, making them popular for use in drinks and pies. This tree is especially sensitive to cold temperatures and should not be subjected to temperatures of less than 60º F. You should aim to provide this tree with around ten hours of full sun each day for it to thrive and feed it with a heavy nitrogen fertilizer.

Citrus × latifolia

Citrus × latifolia
Citrus × latifolia (Persian lime tree)

Known as the Persian lime tree or the Tahiti lime tree, this plant is a hybrid between the Key lime tree and the lemon tree. It produces fruit which is seedless and green in color, though they become yellow as they age. The fruits of this tree are the most widely cultivated type of lime for commercial purposes, and most limes sold across the world are from this type of tree. It is often preferred to key limes because the fruits are larger and have no seeds, and the trees do not have thorns (University of Florida Extension).

Lime Tree Care Tips

Lime Tree Care

Watering

Lime trees are very thirsty and so need their soil to be kept continually moist. However, the quickest way to kill a lime tree is to leave it standing in water, so you need to strike a good balance by consistently generously watering it without watering it excessively.

If a lime tree does not get enough water, it will lose its leaves quite suddenly. Because of the lime trees aversion to sitting in water, the single most important thing you can do in terms of caring for your tree is to ensure it is planted in a well-draining soil. If you are planting it in the ground, then consider building up the spot where it will be planted so that the base of the tree is slightly higher than the ground around it. This will ensure that the tree does not sit in a puddle during times of heavy rain, as the sloped gradient of the ground will carry water away from the base of the lime trees trunk.

Make every effort before planting your lime tree that the soil quality is good, adding sand or other coarse materials if necessary to improve the drainage of the soil. When planting your tree and backfilling the hole with soil. you should pay careful attention to ensure no pockets of air are created. An air pocket in the soil can quickly lead to the demise of the tree. Backfilling gradually while watering the soil will help to prevent this from happening. Lime trees planted in containers should also be in well-draining soils, and it is vital that any plant pot you select has a drainage hole at the base for excess water to run out of.

Light

Lime trees are sun lovers
Lime trees are sun lovers

Lime trees are sun lovers, and they should ideally be grown in a position of full sun. Lime trees grown in even partial shade may become straggly as they search out a light source. Take care when planting in the ground that you choose a location where the tree will get full sun, as lime trees can become stressed and suffer if you attempt to dig them up and move them in the future.

Many types of lime trees, especially dwarf varieties, are ideal for growing in containers. The benefits of container-grown lime trees are that you can move them to a sunnier spot if you find they are struggling, and you can also move them inside if the weather gets cooler.

Temperature

Lime trees like warm temperatures and can only grow year-round in temperate climates. The minimum temperature it can tolerate is around 50º F, so if temperatures are likely to dip below this, you will need to bring your lime tree inside in order for it to survive.

If you live in a region when temperatures typically drop to lower than 50º F, it is essential to growing your lime tree in a container pot so that you have the benefit of it being portable. As the weather gets colder, you can move your lime tree indoors to get through the winter, moving it back outside as spring returns.

Propagation

Lime trees can be grown from seed, air layering, or stem cuttings. While growing a lime tree from seed takes the longest, it is a very easy and reliable method of propagation. If you sow the seeds indoors, you can begin the propagation process at any time of year. Propagating from air layering or stem cuttings will need to be done in the summer. Both methods require roots to form from a healthy lime tree stem, with the difference being that air layering is done with the stem still attached to the mother tree. It can take anywhere from weeks to months for roots to develop from a lime tree stem, but once it begins to grow independently, it can bear fruit as soon as the following season.

Pruning

Pruning a lime tree is not an involved process. Simply remove any dead or damaged branches, looking out for fruit or blossoms which look diseased or disfigured. Remove any branches that are growing outside of the natural shape of the tree, and any small branches growing within a foot of the soil line. This will help to allow more light to reach the remaining branches, keeping the tree neat and healthy (University of Arizona Cooperative Extension).

Common Pests and Diseases

Lime trees are susceptible to fungal diseases, as well as pests that commonly affect all citrus trees. These pests are leaf miners, citrus mites, scale insects, and aphids. They can be discouraged with the use of neem oil, but heavy infestations may need to be treated with insecticide.

Which variety of lime tree do you prefer? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to share this page with other interested growers!

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