Popular in many cultures and cuisines, lime trees are a popular fruit tree for he home garden. They grow well in the garden in warmer climates and are also suited to growing in containers. They can be grown from Queensland right through to the southern states including Victoria and as far south as Melbourne.
How to Grow Lime Trees
Lime trees are usually grafted and therefore are purchased as potted plants. It is possible to collect the seeds and grow your own tree, however you will find that the fruit is not usuallyn as good as that of a grafted tree.
Lime trees come in a number of varieties, the most common being the Tahitian and the Kaffir lime. Both require a warm climate and neither tolerate frosts that well. In tropical climates the West Indian Lime is also grown. More recently the Australian Finger Lime Microcitrus australasica (syn. Citrus australasica)has become very popular and is sought after by home gardeners and restraints alike.
All of these Lime trees differ in what they offer.
Both the The Tahitian and the West Indian Lime are Citrus aurantifolia. These two do differ in taste and growing requirements.
Planting your lime tree.
All varieties require a well drained soil, a sunny position and protection from frosts.
- Choose a sunny position. In cooler climates a protected position any from cold winds and frosts.
- Ensure that the soil is free draining. In clay soils, you may need to amend the soil or hill up the planting position.
- Dig a hole twice as wide as the container.
- If needed, amend the soil by adding some well rotted compost and a little aged cow manure.
- Plant the tree at the same level as it was in the container.
- Water in well with a liquid seaweed fertiliser. This will promote good root growth as well as remove any air pockets around the root system.
- Mulch around the plant and water through the first summer.
- Do not allow grass or lawn to grow beneath the tree.
- Fertilise in spring with a complete citrus fertiliser. Watering well both before and after fertilising.
- renew the mulch after fertilising each year.
Growing Lime Trees in Containers
Growing lime trees in pots is common, you will need a large pot to accommodate the root system. Drainage is important so ensure that the pot you choose has multiple drainage holes rather then one central hole.
You need to be able to lift the pot itself so that it does not sit directly on the ground, or paved surface. Sitting the pot on the ground can cause the drainage holes to block and therefore root problems.
Fertiliser for lime trees will depend on where you are growing them. In containers, a granulated citrus fertiliser is probably best as it does not smell. In the ground, away from outdoor living areas, a composted chicken fertiliser works well.
Regular applications of seaweed fertiliser are also beneficial.
Pruning Lime Trees
Lime trees rarely need pruning, they do however require shaping and a general clean up every year or two.
The clean up involves removing and dead or damaged wood. The shaping is a matter of rounding off the tree and taking back some of the long leaders.This will improve the look and also improve fruit production.
When will lime trees fruit ?
Lime trees will bear fruit at around three years if they are grafted. Those grown from seeds can take around 9 years to fruit. While the tree is developing remember to fertilise regularly and prune to shape.
Lime trees also require more warmth that lemon trees to to flower, so make sure they are are in a warm sheltered position.
- The Tahitian Lime (Citrus aurantifolia), it is mainly used for the juice. This variety will grow in cooler climates as long it is in a warm sheltered position and it has very few seeds.
- The West Indian Lime (also Citrus aurantifolia) is stronger tasting and has more seeds, also smaller fruit. Sometimes called the ‘Key Lime’, it does require a sub tropical climate to thrive. Also sometimes called the bartenders lime as it is the preferred variety for drinks.
- The Kaffir Lime (Citrus hystrix) is used for the leaves as well as the flesh which are used in cooking.
- The Rangpur Lime is a hybrid, Citrus × limonia. Also known as the Sylhet lime, it is a cross between a lime and a mandarine. Sweeter fruit on a very ornamental tree.
- The Australian Limes (Finger Limes or Blood Limes) with their attractive beads of juicy flesh are used both for the flavours and the attractiveness of the flesh.
These are fruit tree that will grow well from Sydney through to the tropics. You can grow them in Melbourne, however you will need to create a warm sheltered micro climate for them to fruit well. They are not a tree that thrive in the cooler hills around Sydney unless protected.
Leaf Curl On Lime Trees can be caused by a variety of problems
- Citrus Leafminer
- Aphids and Mites can also cease the same problem
- Lake of water is a third cause.
- Potassium deficiency is another case.
More detailed growing instructions are available for each variety.