How to Grow a Key Lime Tree and Care for Them? 

 March 31, 2022

By  admin

Key lime trees are a tasty fruit that can be grown in many places, but not all areas. They grow best in warm weather climates and need to have the proper amount of sun exposure. This article will teach you how to care for your key lime tree, so it can provide delicious citrus fruits year-round!

Key limes are a popular citrus fruit that is native to Central America. They are hardy and can grow in containers or outdoors. To grow key limes, they need fertile soil, sunshine, and plenty of water.

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A citrus hybrid known as key lime, Mexican key lime, or West Indian lime. The fruits are medium in size, but their skins are thinner and their tastes are intense. Because it is a tropical plant, it produces a lot of fruit in the early summer and late autumn, but it also produces fruit throughout the year.

The rich scent and unique taste of key limes are well-known. They’re often employed in the preparation of pies, tarts, and drinks. You may make some excellent dishes by combining key limes with the correct components. 

What’s better, however, than organic key limes right from your own backyard? This article will walk you through the full process of growing key limes in your yard, from propagation to harvesting. Keep an eye out for some useful hints and recommendations to keep in mind.

Continue reading to learn more!

Lime Tree (Key Lime)

Key lime, also known as Citrus aurantifolia Swingle, is a hybrid of three plant species: Citron, Pummelo, and Citrus micrantha. It’s also known as West Indian lime, Mexican lime, Dayap, Manao, Chanh, and a variety of other names. 

The Lime Tree (Key Lime) is small and bushy with slender branches. It usually has heights lower than 12 feet or 4.1 meters and thorns that are short to medium in length. The foliage is dense and leaves are small, pointed, and pale green.

Spineless species have dark green leaves and grow in a compact and upright shape. Fruit output, on the other hand, is much lower.

Suitable Geographical Conditions for Lime Tree (Key Lime)

The key lime was first introduced to Europe by Arabs in areas like as Spain and Portugal. In the early 16th century, the plant was brought to America by the Spanish and Portuguese. This plant was first grown in the Florida Keys and other portions of Central and Southern America in the United States.

The plant gets its name from the Florida Keys, however it’s only cultivated in Florida now. Key limes, on the other hand, thrive in warm tropical and subtropical climates. These plants are cultivated in plantation zones 9 to 11 in the United States. 

Mexico, India, Egypt, and the West Indies are the top producers of this fruit. 

The following are some more ideal geographical conditions:

  • Temperatures: The plant is quite susceptible to extreme cold. At temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the foliage is badly harmed (0 degrees Celsius). As a result, warm temperatures are required.
  • Despite the fact that the plant bears fruit all year, summer is the best time to harvest it. The highest quality fruits are grown in the hottest climates.
  • Soil: Lime Tree (Key Lime)s can be grown in a variety of soils. However, deep sandy soils promote vigorous growth. These plants also require soils with good drainage capacities.
  • Key limes should be planted where they will get plenty of sunshine. They need 10 hours of direct sunshine in order to thrive. They also thrive in regions where there is sufficient air movement.
  • Rainfall: These plants like low to moderate rainfall and will die if they are inundated.

Are you looking for other indoor plants as well? Take a look at the numerous varieties of succulents available here!

When to Plant Lime Tree (Key Lime)?

The best time to plant key lime trees is determined by the location of the plants. Potted plants may be cultivated at any time as long as they are properly hydrated and get enough sunshine.

If the plants will be cultivated in soil, however, it is recommended that they be planted in the early spring or late winter. This will give the plant adequate time to establish in before the blooming and fruiting seasons.

Seasons of Flowering and Fruiting 

The blossoms of the key lime grow in bunches along the stalks. They have white petals and are tiny and fragrant. Flowering occurs mostly in the spring, although it may be seen all year. 

Summer is when most of the fruiting takes place. Fruiting may take place at different times depending on the technique of propagation. 

For instance, Lime Tree (Key Lime)s grown from cuttings or air-layers, fruit within a year of planting. Seedlings require up to 2 years before producing fruits. Those cultivated from budding or grafting will fruit within 3 years.

Propagation of Lime Tree (Key Lime)

They may be grown outside in tropical locations. They should ideally be planted in a trench in a sunny position. 

People who live in colder climates, on the other hand, will have to grow the plant in a container. Select dwarf plant varieties for this purpose. These will be smaller and have a shallower root structure, making them more manageable.

Pollination of key lime plants growing indoors must be done by hand.

Here’s how you can propagate Lime Tree (Key Lime)s:

1. Seeds for Propagation

Key lime seeds are polyembryonic, meaning that they contain several mother layers. From a single seed, many trees may be grown, all of which will be identical to each other and to the parent tree. 

Before planting, key lime seeds do not need to be pretreated or handled. It is possible to grow them at any time of the year. This process is reliable, although it may take up to 5 years for the tree to bear fruit.

2. Air Layering for Propagation

This procedure entails choosing an appropriate stem from an existing plant and treating it to encourage root growth. After that, the tree’s stem is cut and planted. Remember that air layering is best done during the summer.

Propagating Lime Tree (Key Lime)s by air layering results in trees that are identical to each other and to the parent tree. The process may take a long time but the trees fruit as early as the very next fruiting season.

3. Cutting Propagation 

Stem-tip cuttings are another favorable method of propagating Lime Tree (Key Lime)s. It includes the following steps:

  1. Select the right tree and branch: The tree should be in good condition and have a history of blossoming and fruiting. There should be no blooms or fruits on the branch you choose. 
  2. Cutting: At approximately 3 inches from the branch’s end or the leaf node, cut across the branch. 
  3. Stripping: Remove any leaves from the branch’s lowest two-thirds.
  4. Dip the branch end of the branch in an appropriate rooting hormone.
  5. Fill a container halfway with peat moss and half-way with water. Insert the stem halfway into the middle of the mixture until it has a sponge-like consistency.
  6. Place the pot in a sunny position and cover it with a plastic bag.

Water your plants in a way that encourages root development. You may then transfer the plant after the roots have sprouted.

Have you ever wanted to grow flowers? This comprehensive tutorial will teach you how to cultivate roses from cuttings.

Plantation of Lime Tree (Key Lime)

The plantation of Lime Tree (Key Lime)s varies with the type and fertility levels of soil. Generally, they should be planted around 12 to 20 feet away from other trees. Overcrowding will result in competition, and eventually, abnormal growth. 

Also, Lime Tree (Key Lime)s can potentially get damaged by the use of lawnmowers and weed whackers. Hence, they should be planted at least 2 to 5 feet away from grassy areas. 

For areas prone to flooding, Lime Tree (Key Lime)s should be planted on a mound. The major steps include:

  1. Make a mound with a circumference of 4 to 10 feet and a height of 2 to 4 feet. 
  2. Dig a hole that is 3 to 4 times the diameter and 3 times the depth of the tree’s container.
  3. Fill the hole with native dirt and backfill it.
  4. Plant the tree, leaving enough room for the roots to develop.
  5. Fill up the hole and carefully press to remove any air pockets.
  6. Water as soon as possible.
  7. If necessary, stake the tree with a wooden pole or bamboo.

Keep in mind that the methods listed above are generic and apply to all soil types. Different soil types may need further preparations.

Watering Lime Tree (Key Lime)

A newly planted Lime Tree (Key Lime) should be watered on alternate days in the first week. Then, watering can be reduced to 1 to 2 times a week for the first two months. Afterwards, they can be watered when the soil dries out.

During dry spells, they need to be irrigated on a regular basis. Irrigation might be reduced even more during the wet season. 

Mature Lime Tree (Key Lime)s do not need regular watering. Frequent watering may lead to damage and the plant growth may decline. Too much watering may cause root rotting as well. 

Fertilizer for Lime Tree (Key Lime)

Lime Tree (Key Lime)s only need to be moderately fertilized to prevent diseases and boost growth. Typically, the fertilizer compositions have to be 6-6-6-2 as in 6% nitrogen, 6% phosphorus, 6% potash, and 2% magnesium. 

Keep in mind that around 20 to 30 percent of the nitrogen should come from organic sources.

In the first year, apply 14 pounds of a young tree fertilizer every 3 to 4 months to a new plant. This quantity may be progressively raised as the plant grows. Fertilize mature trees three to four times a year with 1.5 to 2.0 pounds of fertilizer. 

In addition, if the plant develops nutritional shortages, it will need to be fertilized accordingly. Iron chelate should be added to a plant that is displaying signs of iron insufficiency (yellowing leaves and darker interveinal regions, for example). 

It’s also worth noting that the pH of the soil should be taken into consideration.

Also see Best Fertilizers for Yards and Gardens in 2022.


Mulching aids in the retention of enough soil moisture, the improvement of soil quality, and the reduction of weeds. A 2 to 6 inch layer of mulch, including wood chips, bark, and other materials, is recommended. 

Mulch should, however, be kept 8 to 12 inches away from the trunk. This is because mulching too close to the trunk might induce trunk rot.


Lime Tree (Key Lime)s don’t require regular pruning. Prune them only to shape them, to get rid of dead branches, or to limit the height. It is better to limit their height to around 6 to 8 feet because taller trees fall over and are difficult to care for.

Harvesting & Storage 

Harvest just the ripe fruits since the trees may produce fruit at various stages of growth at the same time.

The fruit may be kept in the refrigerator for many days in plastic bags. It will help to preserve them for a long time if they are carefully sealed in plastic bags. The juice from a key lime may be frozen and kept for up to four months.


Some pests that attack the Lime Tree (Key Lime) are:

  • Brown Citrus Aphids: Adults are a gleaming black color, while nymphs are a dark red or brown color. They eat new growth, causing distortion and even more stem dieback. 
  • Citrus Leaf Miner: These insects have white wings and black and brown patterns. Their mining causes leaf deformation, causing them to become dysfunctional. They often prey on newer and younger plants. 
  • Citrus Red Mites have spherical bodies that range in hue from deep red to purple. They suck the leaf sap from the top leaf surfaces, leaving brown patches. 
  • Male Snow Scales are white and may be seen clustered around the tree trunk. Females come in a variety of hues, from brown to purple. These scales induce bark splitting, weakening the tree and sometimes killing the limbs.

Did you know that spider mites are tiny mites that may cause serious harm while being almost undetectable to the human eye? This post will teach you how to get rid of spider mites.

Some diseases hinder the ability of key lime plants to thrive in the home landscape. The following are a few examples:

Lime Tree (Key Lime)s are extremely vulnerable to this disease. It is a bacterial disease that can be spread by wind, contaminated equipment, animals, or humans. 

Precise spots are one of the first signs. These are followed by elevated, brown blotches that are more apparent. This disease causes defoliation and weakness of the tree when it is highly infected. 

This disease, often known as yellow shoot disease, is carried by Asian citrus psyllid insects. Yellow spots, yellow veins on leaves, and decreased leaf size are some of the signs. 

The disease attacks the internal tissues of the tree, resulting in a reduction in growth and fruit output.

Uses & Health Benefits 

The key lime fruit has several advantages and may be utilized for a variety of applications. Here are a few examples:

  • Key lime juice is low in cholesterol and abundant in vitamins and minerals. It’s also high in A and C vitamins.
  • Its juice is used in cooking to add taste. Pies, drinks, and other savory meals often use key limes.
  • Lime oil is one of the by-products, and it’s also utilized as a flavoring ingredient.

Most Commonly Asked Questions

What’s the difference between regular lime and Lime Tree (Key Lime)s?

In compared to the conventional lime, the key lime fruit is significantly more fragrant and contains more juice. Key limes are also yellower and contain more seeds. 

Is it necessary to plant two trees in order to yield fruit?

When a Lime Tree (Key Lime) is planted outside, its pollination is carried out by bees and other pollinating insects. Therefore, there is no need for 2 trees for fruiting. However, container-grown plants have to be pollinated by hand.

How much sun does a Lime Tree (Key Lime) need?

Lime Tree (Key Lime)s thrive in a location with ample sunlight. Ideally, they need 10 hours of full sunlight, but can do well in 6 to 8 hours of sunlight as well. Remember to protect them from the northern winds.

Growing Lime Tree (Key Lime): Conclusion

To sum it up, key lime is a beautiful evergreen shrub to have in your garden. Another bonus is the savory fruit and lovely white blossoms. On top of that, this plant requires extremely little upkeep. 

Growing a Lime Tree (Key Lime) on one’s own isn’t particularly challenging. With the right information, even amateur gardeners can plant and care for Lime Tree (Key Lime)s. 

We hope that this article has given you with all of the information you need to get started. We also hope you enjoy caring for these plants as much as we do.

7 Best Soil Test Kits for Your Garden (further reading)

The key lime tree is a small, evergreen tree that is native to the Caribbean and Mexico. They are also known as “Mexican lime” or “West Indian lime.” Key limes can be used in many different ways, such as zesting the fruit for use in cocktails. Reference: key lime tree growing zone.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you take care of a key lime tree?

A: Key limes are grown in pots and soil. They do not need much pruning, but they will require an annual fertilizer application early into the summer season.

How long does it take for a key lime tree to produce fruit?

A: Key lime trees take about 7-8 years to produce fruit, so you will need to wait for at least 3-4 before the first one fruits.

How do you keep a key lime tree alive?

A: If a key lime tree has been pruned, take the shears and carefully cut off the highest branches. In addition, water it as often as desired to keep your growing plant healthy.

Related Tags

  • key lime tree care indoors
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  • key lime tree temperature range
  • dwarf key lime tree

Emil Schoene

Born and raised in Austin, TX I come from a background of home renovation. By helping my family in my younger years with their construction business, I learned the ropes quickly and as I grew it became my passion that I still do today. Looking to share my knowledge with others. I invite you to leave comments on any post as I know you will have questions that you are not finding anywhere else.

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