How to Look After a Lime Tree
Lime trees are an evergreen citrus variety native to India and Malaysia. They can grow to around 6ft in height if left unpruned and produce clusters of lightly fragranced white flowers. These small blossoms then grow to form the little green skinned fruits we all know and love. Lime trees are self fertile meaning that they can produce fruit without relying on pollination from another tree.
Lime Tree Quick Facts
- Hardiness: Not Hardy. Will need protection when temperatures drop below 10°C for most varieties.
- Pollination: Self fertile
- Suitable for: Pot growing indoors
- Height and spread: approx 6ft maximum
- Flowering: Year round
- Harvesting: Year round
- Difficulty: Hard
Where should you keep your lime tree?
It’s a shame that here in the UK we just don’t have the climate to grow beautiful citrus trees out in our garden all year round. However, this does mean we can bring them inside and enjoy them from the comfort of our homes.
In the summer months, you can place your lime tree outside to enjoy some fresh air and warm rays of sunshine. Just make sure the temperature isn’t going to drop below 5°C overnight as lime varieties are the most temperature sensitive in the citrus family and are not hardy enough to withstand the unpredictable British weather.
Like most citrus trees, limes love to lap up the sun and need around 6-8 hours of light every day, choosing a position in a bright area of the house will make sure that your tree gets all the light it needs.
As lime trees can be temperamental it’s important to keep them away from any radiators, underfloor heating or draughts. Central heating not only causes a sudden change in temperature it will cause a dramatic drop in the humidity of the air. As lime varieties are native to the more tropical areas of the world they prefer a more humid environment.
If the humidity in the room is low, there are a few steps you can follow to improve it.
- Place the pot on a tray of pebbles covered with water
- Spraying the leaves with water
Watering your potted lime tree
Lime trees don’t like to be over watered but don’t like to be left to dry out either. They require consistent watering so the compost is moist but not wet. It’s also important to know that lime trees prefer infrequent deep watering to shallow frequent watering.
They will absolutely not tolerate soggy soil so make sure the tree is planted in a mix of well draining compost. If you don’t think the soil is draining as well as it should be, this can be improved in a number of ways;
Add bark chips, sand or grit to the compost
- Placing stones at the base of the pot
- Add extra drainage holes to the base of the pot
If the soil becomes waterlogged this can cause root rot and the leaves will start turning yellow. You can test the drainage of the pot by watering and seeing how quickly the water drains through the bottom of the pot. If you water the soil and it takes a while to drain through you may need to look at improving the drainage.
If the leaves start to curl, wilt or drop this is a sign that the tree has dried out too much. Give the tree a good deep water and you should see it start to perk up and get some life back.
If the leaves don’t start to perk up then there could be another underlying problem.
Feeding your lime tree
Lime trees are heavy feeders and when kept in pots they can deplete the nutrients in the soil very quickly. Feed your tree every few months to keep it healthy. Limes love a high nitrogen fertiliser in both summer and winter. We have both winter and summer citrus feed available on our website to give your trees the boost they need.
If you don’t plan on repotting your tree then replacing 50% of the compost every year or two to makes sure that the compost is still full of the goodness the tree needs.
How to Prune a Lime Tree
Many people argue that pruning isn’t a large requirement when caring for lime trees however it’s been proven that maintaining your tree with regular prunings once or twice a year will improve overall tree health and improve the amount of blossom produced which then, in turn, increases the yield of fruit. Not only will the pruning benefit your tree massively it will also keep it looking great. As we keep lime trees indoors in the UK pruning can be done any
time just before the tree blossoms.
Start pruning your lime tree from the base up. If you see any new shoots growing at soil level these need to be removed straight away, they’ll usually be soft green growth that can easily be pinched away using your fingers. These fast growing shoots are known as suckers and will compete with the more established branches for nutrients. Removing these will allow the tree to put energy into growing blossoms and fruits instead.
Next, look out for any branches that are either growing in a downward direction, growing in towards the trunk or branches that are crossing each other. You want to encourage your tree to grow outwards and upwards so that it grows into a nice bushy shape, any branches going in the wrong direction will make the tree look messy. As the tree grows larger branches that are crossing each other could end up fusing to create one large branch which is not ideal, they also crowd the inner canopy of the tree restricting the airflow and sunlight to some of the other branches.
Any branches that look weak should also be removed as these will not be able to bear the weight of any fruit.When removing a full branch make sure to cut as close to the trunk as possible and when pinching back a branch take it back to just before where you can see a new bud forming.
If you want to keep your tree at a manageable size you can pinch back the branches that are starting to reach upwards and outwards. Where the branch has been snipped it will produce 2 new shoots which in time will create a lovely bushy lime tree that is still a compact size.
Why is your lime tree dropping leaves?
Lime trees are evergreen and should not drop their foliage, a couple of leaves here and there is nothing to worry about but any more than this is means your tree is feeling stressed.
The two most common reasons for citrus leaf drop is either too much or too little water or a dramatic change in temperature.
Lime trees do not like to be placed anywhere near a radiator or anywhere that’s too draughty. Not only will the central heating affect the temperature but it will also decrease the humidity of the air.
If the leaves look slightly wilted then this will usually mean that your tree needs a bit more water. If you water your tree and the leaves don’t perk up and start turning yellow then this means that your tree probably has ‘wet feet’ and the soil isn’t draining properly. Ensuring that the pot has good drainage is very important for keeping any citrus tree happy.
Watch out for Pests
Cooler temperatures outside tend to keep the pests at bay however when you’re keeping your lime tree indoors the warmer environment can become the perfect breeding ground for pests.
Watch out for mealybug, scale, aphids, caterpillars and red spider mites. If you start to see holes and stickiness on the leaves, webbing, or brown circles forming on the branches then this is a sign there might be pests attacking your tree and you should take action as soon as possible. If it’s still early in the treatment then a solution of washing up liquid should work well at getting rid of the pests however if it had become too advanced then you may require to seek out a plant-based insecticide.
To clear up an infestation, spray washing up liquid the solution on the plant once in the morning and once in the evening. Or follow the instructions on the insecticide.
Although lime trees can be a little temperamental they’re well worth it, you’ll be happy that you took such good care of it when you get your first yield of delicious tangy fruits. We have lots of beautiful lime varieties perfect for any person or occasion.
Harvesting your Limes
Limes should be harvested before they’re ripe while still l green. Not many people know that limes actually turn yellow when they’re ripe, just like a lemon. Usually, by this point, they turn bitter and don’t taste very nice.
If the fruit is a lighter green and slightly soft when squeezed this means it is ripe, you can gently twist the fruit from the branches and you’ve got a fresh lime to use straight away.
Limes do not continue to ripen when picked so pick them as you need. If you do need to harvest all the fruits together then you can juice the fruits and freeze it in ice cube trays for when you want to use it.
When limes are left on the tree too long they will start to turn yellow and wrinkled and will then fall from the branch naturally.
There is no particular time for harvesting lime trees in the UK and fruit can be produced and harvested year round.
Lime Tree Varieties
The Kaffir Lime Tree can be used for both its fruit and its leaves. The unusual bumpy skinned fruit tends to produce very little juice so the flesh is less popular to use however the tangy rind can be grated into dishes for flavour. The leaves can be used both dried and fresh and crushing them in your hands will release the fragrant essential oils that are popular in thai recipes.
The Limequat Tree is a hybrid variety of the Key Lime and Kumquat Tree. The fruit has sweet greenish-yellow skin and tart, acidic flesh. Limequats are often used for both flavouring recipes and cocktails. Lime trees make wonderful gifts for many different occasions such as birthdays, housewarmings and anniversaries. Send a unique zesty gift that will last for years to come!