The Key Lime Tree is bushy and has spindling branches that has short to medium length thorns. Key Lime Trees produce small white flowers that emit a spectacular aromatic scent that can last an entire season. This lime tree fruit has an invigorating blend of acidity and sweetness that is unlike any other lime.
Growing citrus trees comes with many benefits. Citrus trees are easy to grow, produce a pleasant, fresh fragrance, and the fruit can be used for cooking, mixing drinks, baking and even cleaning. All of these benefits can be said for the Key Lime tree, which is also known as the Key Lime tree.
The Key Lime Tree is native to the small islands on the southern tip of eastern Florida. Key Lime trees are relatively small and seldom reach 12 ft in height. This hardy citrus tree is naturally resistant to pests and diseases and can adapt to many types of soil. It is bushy and has spindling branches that has short to medium length thorns. Key Lime Trees produce small white flowers that emit a spectacular aromatic scent that can last a whole season through.
Another notable aspect of this type of lime trees is that they are self-pollinating; meaning you only need one tree for it to bear fruits. All you have to do is take one flower from your tree and swab it over the other blooms and pollination process is already underway.
Key Lime tree – including the dwarf key lime tree – produces small, just about 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter, and round to oblong fruit that has an invigorating blend of acidity and sweetness that is unique and unlike any other lime in the world. The rind of Key Lime is thin and smooth, and the color is deep green when unripe that turns to pale green when ready to be harvested. It also has 10 to 15 seeds that are polyembryonic.
Citrus Tree Care
When buying a Key Lime tree, it is important that you know how to properly care for it.To get a new lime tree blooming and bearing fruit in no time, check out the tree care tips we have prepared below:
In-ground or container grown regular sized and dwarf lime trees flourish in the sun and should be planted against a south facing wall where it can get 8 hours of direct sun; doing so would not only give your citrus trees their much needed sunlight, it would also protect them from the cold northern winds.
Over or under watering can damage your lime lemon trees; it you let the soil dry out the leaves will wither and drop off; if you overwater the leaves will turn yellow and start cupping. A good watering technique is to deeply water your citrus trees until the water has penetrated the root system and make sure to allow the top 2-3 inches of the soil to completely dry out before watering again. Cut down on watering before winter arrives to prevent any growth that may become damaged in colder temperatures.
For potted dwarf lime tree, stick your index finger into the soil down to about 2 knuckles. If the tip of your finger is still wet, hold off on watering until the time the soil feels dry at that depth.
To retain moisture and stave off weeds from growing, place a 2-4 inch layer of mulch over the soil. However, keep the mulch 2 inches away from the bark of the lime tree to prevent diseases.
Pruning a lime tree is imperative for it to grow healthy. Watch out for any suckers that grow below the graft union tree (they steal away or suck out nutrients from the main trunk of the tree). Prune these suckers away. Doing so will help to maintain the shape of the tree and bolster fruit production. You can also snip the thorns off the branches to avoid getting scratches when picking fruits; removing the thorns won’t harm your tree.
Remove dead wood and crossing limbs to properly ventilate the tree and allow sunlight to flow between branches.
Key Lime trees love temperatures over 50°F and grow best outside in US hardiness zones 8 through 11; can survive USDA zone 4 when potted and brought indoor during winter or when the temperature drop to 40°F. When taken inside, the best location for your potted lime tree is a sunny window facing south. If planted in ground, the best way to protect your Key lime tree is to string holiday lights in the canopy and cover the tree with a blanket throughout the cold weather.
Like other citrus trees, lime trees are heavy feeders and should be fertilized every few months. Feed your tree with citrus fertilizer containing extra nitrogen during spring and summer once every six weeks. Scratch into the top few inches of soil and water the granulated fertilizer for citrus trees into the ground. This will help replenish the nutrients in the soil ensuring your trees’ healthy growth cycle. For fall and winter season, cut back to fertilizing once every 2-3 months.
Key lime trees are self-pollinating but if you only have one tree and it is potted indoors or the yield is meager, you can hand-pollinate the limes by removing one flower and gently wiping it over the other blooms.
Fruit & Harvesting
The lime is extensively grown in Florida. The tree bears fruit all year round but yields heavier during 2 main seasons: May to June, and November to December.
Key lime tree fruit are small spherical fruits, just about 1 ½ – 2 inches in diameter. The thin green rind turns yellow when ripe but is usually picked when still green for commercial consumption. It is typically seedier (10-15 seeds per fruit), tarter and has stronger aroma compared to other lime varieties.
Harvesting limes can be a bit tricky since they are harvested prior to ripening for us to get the perfect blend of sweetness and tartness that is unique to its kind. To make it easy, the time from bud to harvest is generally 3-4 months.
To determine if your limes are ready for harvesting, check if the rind color has turned from dark green to light green, feels smooth to the touch and gives a little when gently squeezed. Once you find a lime that passes the physical inspection, snip or gently twist from the stem and cut it open. If the juice is appropriate then it is time to harvest but if there is not enough juice, you need to wait a few more days before harvesting. Bear in mind that like other citrus fruits Key limes do not ripen once picked off the tree so you have to be sure that the juice and taste are satisfactory before harvesting the rest of the fruits.
Since Key lime trees are heavily laden with thorns, be cautious when harvesting limes and use a decent pair of leather gloves to avoid getting pricked and scratched. Pick the low hanging fruits first since there is more danger of severe damage from frost or soil-based fungus to fruits closer to the ground. Fruits that grew higher in the tree are less likely to be damaged. You can either use a gardening tool to snip the fruit, or you can simply hand pick the fruit by firmly grasping it in one hand and gently twisting and pulling to remove from the branch. Take some care when harvesting the fruit and placing in a container since bruised or damaged limes will not keep well.
Key Lime Tree grow from 6 to 10 ft when planted in ground but are smaller when planted in a pot. The flowers usually bloom in spring and yields fruit in fall. Key lime trees also do well in sub-tropical climates and should be protected when the temperature drops below 32°F.
If the climate in your area is tropical – subtropical then it is best that you plant the Key Lime tree outdoors where it can bask in the sun, however, if the winter season is harsh and can damage the tree, it is highly recommended that the tree be planted in a pot to ensure that it can be moved indoors and be protected from the damaging cold.
Pests and Diseases
Just like other citrus trees,Key Lime trees are bothered by some pests like leaf miner, scale, citrus mites and aphids.
Leaf Miners – damages new developing leaves by distorting its shape and stunting its growth.
Leaf miners are commonly handled by spraying pesticide specifically formulated to kill leaf miners by being absorbed into the leaves.
Another method of dealing with leaf miners is naturally killing them using beneficial predator bugs like Diglyphus isaea wasps.
Scales – these insects causes the leaves to fall off. You can control the spread of scales by removing them from the leaves using a sharp knife use alcohol soaked cotton and swab it on infected area. You can also spray neem oil on your citrus tree if you are dealing with too many scales.
Citrus Mites – these mites feed on all parts of the plant and large infestation can cause the leaf to be stippled and fruits to be deformed. Infested leaves may look silvery or spotted with yellow necrotic sections.
To kill citrus mites you can use garden insects like Ladybird beetles for minor infestation or miticide spray for heavy infestation.
Aphids – may cause blemished fruit or premature fruit drop.
You can naturally control aphids with beneficial bugs like ladybugs and lacewings. Get rid of ants that feed on honeydew produced by aphids so that the beneficial bugs can do their job in controlling the aphids.
Diseases include withertip, algal disease, collar rot Fusarium oxysporum and Sphaeropsis tumefaciens. Most diseases can be prevented or foiled by planting your tree in a well-draining soil, not planting it too deeply, and proper pruning and harvesting.
How long does a lime tree live for?
The average lifespan of a citrus tree is approximately 50 years. This age applies to both standard size and dwarf citrus. Trees begin producing fruit sometime during their second through fifth growing season, and continue to produce fruit throughout their lifespan.
Is it normal for a Key Lime Tree in a pot to drop leaves when you move it inside?
Yes this is one of the main reasons a tree might drop leaves. Key Lime trees can lose leaves for a few reasons. Stress of transport, moving a potted tree from outdoors to in (or indoors to outside), heavy fruit production and subsequent harvest, cold weather, and overwatering are all possible causes of leaves dropping. Leaves may also drop due to spider mites, fungus, canker, and other diseases. If your tree is disease and pest free, and has not been overwatered, leaves dropping is most likely a natural mechanism and fallen leaves will regrow.
If I am planning to grow a Key Lime Tree in a pot, what kind of soil should I use?
Key Lime Treesdo best in a sandy loam soil that drains well. A suitable mixture would be 3 parts bagged potting mix, one part perlite, one part composted manure (such as composted cow or chicken manure), and one part clean sand.
I have heard that the Key Lime is a bush. Is it a bush or a tree?
The Key Lime is a tree, but a bushy tree. They grow to about 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide or larger. They have many smaller branches, which lends a shrubby or bushy appearance.
My Key Lime Tree blooms, but the fruit falls off. Why is that?
Growing citrus fruit can fall off for a number of reasons. Young trees may not have the resources (roots, leaves, and trunk size) to support numerous fruit, so fruit falling from young trees is a normal part of the growing cycle. Also, some pests and fungi may cause premature fruit drop. Even when a tree is mature and healthy, it is not uncommon for some fruit to fall away in the course of a growing season.
Is the Key Lime a thornless tree?
No the Key Lime Citrus Tree is not thornless.
Is a Key Lime Tree self-pollinating?
Yes Key Lime Trees are self-pollinating. They will grow fruit with no additional pollinator. But two trees grown together will usually produce more fruit than a lone tree.