Kaffir Lime Tree Care

Kaffir Lime TreeThe Kaffir lime tree (Citrus hystrix) is often cultivated to be used in different Asian cuisines. It gives a sour, tangy taste to meals. However, the green, uneven peel of Kaffir limes make a dish of citrus fruits a little more tantalizing. This tree requires plenty of sunlight, adequate amounts of water, and quality soil to maintain its health. A fertilizer with lots of nitrogen is a prerequisite to support the growth of fruit and flowers. Manure pellets and slow-release fertilizers deliver the ideal nutrients to the Kaffir lime tree.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Also known as Makrut lime, Leech lime or Thai lime, this lime is a variety grown mainly for its aromatic leaves rather than the fruit. The dark, glossy leaves look like two separate leaves joined together.  Mature fruit are yellow and bumpy and they have many seeds. They are usually harvested when still green. Juice and oils from the fruit are used in shampoos, cleansers and air fresheners.Kaffir Lime Leaves

About Kaffir Lime Trees

These lime trees are small with large sharp thorns. They are similar in size to a Western lime and the fruit is dark green with a bumpy surface. They prefer tropical conditions but can be grown in cold climates if protected from cool winds and given lots of sunshine.

Planting a Kaffir Lime Tree

The Kaffir lime tree grows well in pots. Though it can thrive outdoors, it is more appropriate for indoors. If you live in an extremely cold area, plant these trees in pots so that you can move them inside conveniently. Use a container that allows proper drainage.

Selecting a Location

Before planting your tree, pick a location that receives maximum sunlight. After all, this dwarf citrus tree may not bloom to its absolute potential in a shaded area. These trees can often grow as high as eight or ten feet, thus it is imperative to choose a spot that can accommodate your lime tree easily.

Time to Get Started

Use a spade to make a hole in the soil. This hole should nearly be twice the thickness of the root ball of your tree. Make sure to use well-drained soil to plant your tree. Place high-quality organic material or compost into the hole. Add fertilizer or soil amendments, if required. You can help the roots expand to the right level by arranging the walls of the hole with your spade.

Positioning Your Kaffir Lime Tree

Arrange the root ball of the tree in the hole. Use a spade to fill the hole with the soil. Flatten the surface to remove any possible air pockets. Spread enough soil around the stem such that this area doesn’t collect water.

Watering the Tree

Provide water to your newly-planted tree. Don’t provide too much water as it can cause root damage. If you’ve planted your tree in well-drained soil, make a basin around its perimeter so that water can run efficiently.

Fertilization Techniques

Noticing yellow leaves on your lime tree? This may be an indication of a deficiency of fertilizer. Implementation of proper, effective fertilization strategies can provide you with fully grown, juicy limes.

Spreading Compost Pellets

Once you’ve planted your tree, intersperse sheep or chicken compost pellets near its base. Spread these pellets to the drip line. It is important to leave enough space between the tree’s stem and pellets. When you water the plant, the pellets gradually start releasing nitrogen into the soil.

Applying Granular Fertilizer

Apply a grainy, slow-release fertilizer in spring as well as at the starting and end of the summer season. If your tree is around three years old, spread enough fertilizer around your tree’s base. You can even spread it beyond the drip line. You may have to use large amounts of fertilizer in case your tree is over three years old.

Get a Rake

Gently mix fertilizer with the soil using a rake. Avoid exerting too much force as it can damage thin roots.

Post-Fertilizing Watering

Once you’ve fertilized the Kaffir lime tree, give it almost one inch of water.

Care for Your Kaffir Lime Tree

Though Kaffir lime trees are likely to thrive in almost any kind of conditions, it is important to fulfill certain lime tree care requirements to ensure their optimal development.

Sun, Soil, Water – A Few Prerequisites

Kaffir limes grow well in well-drained, moist soil. If your tree is planted indoors, set it close to a sunny window. Provide them with adequate amounts of water during the growing periods. Since excessive water can damage its roots, it is better to let the soil dry out before you water your plant once again.

Protection From Frost

Kaffir lime trees need to be protected from harsh, cold climates. If your tree is planted outside, bring it inside the house during winter.

Efficient lime tree care can help you get a fully-developed, healthy, and sweet-smelling Kaffir lime tree.


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Best Lime Trees for Your Location

'Tahitian' or 'Persian' Lime FruitSome lime trees are much better performers in gardens than others. Choosing the best lime tree to grow depends upon your usage, location, climate and growing conditions.

Lime trees are frost sensitive, small and leafy, and grow to 10 feet (3 meters) with smallish, generally round yellow to green fruit at maturity. Limes have the highest requirement of all citrus varieties for heat. Tropical and subtropical areas suit them best.

‘Tahitian’ or ‘Persian’ lime tree (Citrus aurantifolia)
This variety is the best lime for a cool climate. It has very few thorns and produces very juicy fruit all year round. The plants grow to around 10×10 feet (3x3m) tall, and they do well in the garden or in pots.

‘West Indian’ or ‘Mexican’ or ‘Key’ lime tree (Citrus aurantifolia)
This tree is has sharp thorns and grows to 6-13 feet (3-4m) high. It prefers tropical to semi-tropical climates and is frost sensitive. It should not be planted where frosts of 28F (-2C) are experienced.

‘Kaffir’ or ‘Makrut’ lime tree (Citrus hystrix)
This lime is a variety grown mainly for its aromatic leaves rather than the fruit.They prefer tropical conditions but can be grown in cold climates if protected from cool winds and given plenty of sunshine.

For more information on these lime tree varieties refer to our Lime Tree Varieties Blog.

Best Varieties for Your Location

Australia
The Tahitian or Persian lime is the most cold tolerant of the limes and in Australia, is commonly grown as far south as Melbourne and can even be grown in Hobart in southern Tasmania, in warm sheltered locations. Kaffir lime trees prefer tropical clicates but can be grown as far south as Melbourne if protected from cool winds and fully sunlit throughout the day.

United States
Florida

Tahiti Persian lime and Key (West Indian or Mexican) limes are popular in Florida and make a satisfactory acid fruit for the home since fruit can be picked any time of the year. The Key lime is cold-sensitive and is susceptible to Scab, Anthracnose and Aphids.

Southern California
The Bearss Lime (Tahitian-type Lime) is a seedless fruit, much larger and milder flavor than the Mexican lime. It is considered the most suitable to grow in Southern California. The Key lime (West Indian or Mexican lime is very frost sensitive and is only suited to more tropical areas that do not receive any frost (coastal areas). Thornless Mexican Lime is also available and is equally frost sensitive. Limequats (lime X kumquat hybrid) have a lime-like flavor that can substitute for a lime. This tree is more frost tolerant and can be planted in areas that receive an occasional frost.

Texas
Lime trees growing outside the Lower Rio Grande Valley are at a distinct disadvantage with regard to climate, i.e., winter almost always will be accompanied by one or more freezes. Lime trees are subtropical to tropical in nature; thus, they may suffer severe damage or even death because of freezing temperatures. Lime varieties grown in Texas include the Tahiti and Mexican (West Indian or Key lime) but both have poor cold-hardiness in Texas. A better choice may be the Limequat which has good cold-hardiness.

You will find full details about varieties of lime trees and other citrus trees and great advice and photos on recognising and correcting nutrient deficiencies, pest and diseases and problems in Grow Citrus: The Insiders Secrets to Growing Great Citrus


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Varieties of Lime Trees

Did you know that the most fashionable citrus tree at the moment is the lime tree? Demand for varieties like Tahitian and Kaffir has built up significantly over the last few years, probably because they are so popular in Asian cooking. Limes are an excellent source of Vitamin C and provide a great substitute for lemons. They can be used for seafood dishes, chicken, meats, drinks, desserts, cakes, biscuits and marmalade.

Lime trees are frost sensitive, small and leafy, and grow to 10 feet (3 meters) with smallish, generally round yellow to green fruit at maturity. Limes have the highest requirement of all citrus varieties for heat. Tropical and subtropical areas suit them best however you can grow lime trees in cooler climates as they can tolerate light frost. Ensure they have a sheltered position, fully sunlit throughout the day and protected from cool winds.

There are distinct varieties of lime trees which are grown extensively. These are the small-fruited acid or sour limes (Citrus aurantifolia) and the large-fruited acid limes (Citrus Latifolia). Other limes are the Indian or Palestine Sweet lime (Citrus limettioides), the Rangpur lime (Citrus limonia) and the Kaffir lime.
The Tahitian lime is the best lime to grow in a container as the West Indian lime tree has vicious thorns and needs much higher temperatures than the Tahitian lime.

Tahitian or Persian lime (Citrus aurantifolia)'Tahitian' or 'Persian' Lime Fruit

This variety is the best lime for a cool climate. It has very few thorns and produces very juicy fruit all year round. The plants grow to around 3x3m (10×10′) tall, and they do well in the garden or in pots. The seedless fruit is small and green when ripe, although it can be left on the tree until it turns yellow. Tahitian limes are easy to grow.

West Indian or Mexican or Key lime (Citrus aurantifolia)

This lime tree is has sharp thorns and grows to 6-13 feet (3-4m) high if grafted to Trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliate) rootstock, but taller when grafted to other rootstocks such as Citronelle. This variety prefers tropical to semi-tropical climates and is frost sensitive.
The fruit are small, round to oval, with a small nipple, many small seeds and a strong flavor. The skin is slightly rough and pale green at first, turning light lemon in color at maturity. Fruit are produced year round and when mature, they fall from the tree and are picked up from the ground for use.

Kaffir or Makrut lime (Citrus hystrix)

This lime tree is a variety grown mainly for its aromatic leaves rather than the fruit. Kaffir limes will reach 1.5 metres (5′) tall, but because the leaves are constantly being picked for cooking, the trees usually remain small in size. They have large sharp thorns and also grow well in containers. They prefer tropical conditions but can be grown in cold climates if protected from cool winds and given plenty of sunshine.
The dark, glossy leaves of the Kaffir look like two separate leaves joined together. They are an essential ingredient of many Thai recipes, including curries, fish dishes and soups. The flesh of the fruit is usually thrown away, but the rind and zest is sometimes used.

Best climate: Lime trees grow well in the warmer climates. They also grow in cooler cimates, but protect from frost when young.

Lime Tree Care: A position in full sun is best for lime trees. Keep trees well watered when the fruit is forming in spring and early summer. Water well before and after fertilising. Keep the area beneath your trees free of grass and weeds. Mulch with compost or other organic material, but make sure that the mulch does not touch the trunk of the tree.

To find out which of these varieties would suit your climate read our Best Lime Trees to Grow in the Home Garden Blog.

You will find full details about caring for your lime trees and other citrus trees and great advice and photos on recognising and correcting nutrient deficiencies, pest and diseases and problems in Grow Citrus: The Insiders Secrets to Growing Great Citrus


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