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How to Care for Key Lime Trees

Almost anyone can grow key lime trees if you have the right information. Take a look at the main considerations for the growth and care of key lime trees below!

So, you've got yourself a key lime tree or are thinking about getting one.

The tree is derived from the Florida Keys and is known by a variety of names, including Mexican lime, West Indian lime, key lime, or the bartender's lime, as it is mostly used in alcoholic beverages and the notorious key lime pie

Are you're wondering how to go about caring for key lime trees? Do you need more tips to make sure your tree lives a long life and provides an abundance of fresh key lime fruit?

By reading through this article, you will be able to grasp the general sense of how to care for your key lime trees.

Facts About Key Lime Trees

A key lime tree is a small and wiry tree with some regular twig growth. The tree is not grafted, and if it is damaged by poor weather, it can still re-sprout from the original base, producing fruit once more.

The tree requires a ton of heat and is quite sensitive to the cold. In many cases, it has lots of thorns which are quite sharp to touch. However, the thornless key lime tree variety includes less and smaller thorns.

Facts About Key Lime Fruit

The fruit on this tree is small and consists of a green thin rind, which starts to yellow towards maturity. It is acidic and aromatic, while fully juicy.

The key lime fruit can be difficult to peel and contains a multitude of seeds within. In most cases, it is smaller than Persian lime fruit.

Main Care Considerations

Here are some key things to remember when caring for your key lime tree. All of these factors contribute to a healthy citrus tree, so be sure to pay attention to each one.

1. Mulch

Always use organic mulch when growing outside of a pot. This will help remove evaporation during heat strokes and protect the roots throughout the winter. However, keep the mulch about 6" away from the trunk. This will help avoid collar rot.

Also, consider a rodent gnaw guard to wrap around the trunk.

2. Prune

A key lime tree is best grown in the formation of shrubs so that the leaves can protect the trunk from the heat. When pruning, only prune the lowest branches if a tip is touching the ground.

If you do decide to prune the bottom and expose the trunk - you need a trunk pain to prevent sunscald. Pruning should be done after the last freeze in late winter.

Avoid pruning in the summer. Retain the soil with a drip line, which is free of grass so that the trees can compete for the water and nutrients.

3. Water

Water or irrigate on a weekly basis in the summer. In the winter on a monthly basis. Go from the trunk to little over the canopy.

The upper layer of the soil should be dry in between each water session. A new tree should have water reach 2' below ground. And 3' for a tree that is older than 3 or more years.

Hence, young trees require more water, in comparison to an older tree.

4. Pest Control

Key lime trees are known to have swallowtail caterpillars, which look like a bird stain with some color splotches. A large tree will not be harmed by such, however, a smaller plant can be ruined by them.

Relocate the tree or move the caterpillars to larger citrus.

5. Fertilize

Use a slow-release citrus fertilizer, which is known to be high in nitrogen. If you are using, a soil acidified, consider a ratio of 3-1-1 or 2-1-1 for the NPK.

A fertilizer should have iron, zinc, and manganese. If leaves are turning yellow, you need more fertilizer or the drainage is not well maintained.

6. Disease

Although rare, key lime trees can have fungal/disease issues, such as collar rot, algal disease, Elsinoe Fawcetti, Fusarium Oxysporum, Lime Antrhacnose, Withertip, so on and so forth.

Key Lime Trees Done Right

Now that you have a moderate understanding of the key lime tree care process, you are well on your way to having a beautiful and well-maintained selection of citrus trees!

Growing trees is fun, but if you want to have delicious, seasonal citrus fruit right away, join the Craft Citrus Club!

Get a curated box of fresh-harvested citrus fruit from South Texas sent to your door every month!