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Limes growing on a lime tree
Everyone should have at least one citrus tree in the backyard, and perhaps for you it will be a lime. The juicy fruit may be too astringent to enjoy on its own, but it’s the perfect ingredient for adding a refreshing zing or a sharp tang to curries, drinks and desserts.


What you need to know about limes

Name: lime; some species include Key lime, Mexican lime, West Indian lime (Citrus x aurantiifolia), Tahitian or Persian lime (Citrus x latifolia).

Height: up to 6m; dwarf forms up to 2.5m.

Plant type: small, evergreen tree.

Foliage: glossy, dark-green foliage with a pungent citronella scent when crushed.

Climate: Tahitian limes are moderately hardy, so can be grown in cool temperate zones, but extra protection will be required if heavy frosts are expected. Key lime trees are frost sensitive, so grow best in warm and subtropical climates.

Soil: fairly tolerant of most soil types, but it needs to be rich and well-draining.

Position: full sun, with protection from strong winds when young.

Flowering and fruiting: fragrant white blossoms appear in spring and summer, followed by small or medium-sized, round green fruit from mid-autumn to mid-winter. In warmer climates, Tahitian limes can be ever-bearing and may fruit outside the main cropping season. West Indian limes are smaller, more acidic and seedier than Tahitian limes.

Feeding: feed regularly with an organic-based fertiliser throughout the year.

Watering: water regularly when young. Once established, limes are fairly drought tolerant, but will perform better with a deep watering every couple of weeks.

Appearance and characteristics of lime trees

A handsome, evergreen spreading tree with glossy green foliage, wonderfully perfumed white flowers and small- or medium-sized lime-green fruit. West Indian lime trees have thorns on the branches, which can make harvesting tricky. Their fruit is small and round with a strong acidic flavour and lots of seeds – unlike the Tahitian lime, which is seedless. The Tahitian lime is also virtually thornless. The fruit is slightly larger and, while not as astringent as that of the West Indian variety, it still has a pleasant tangy lime flavour.

Close-up of lime fruit

Uses for a lime tree

Plant a lime as an attractive feature tree in a pot or garden bed. The fruit can be used to add zing to savoury curries and stir-fries, or a limey tang to drinks and citrus desserts.

How to plant and grow a lime tree

A lime tree needs full sun to develop its juicy fruit, so choose a spot with 6–8 hours of direct sunlight and well-draining soil. If the soil is hard to dig and mostly clay, consider growing in a raised garden bed or large pot filled with quality potting mix. Dig a hole twice as wide and to the same depth as the root ball. Remove the plant from its pot, gently loosen the soil around the roots and position in the centre of the planting hole. Backfill with soil, firm down and water in well. 

Mulch around the tree with pine bark or sugar cane mulch, keeping it at least 10cm away from the trunk. 

How to care for lime trees

Remove any developing fruit for the first two years. While this sounds like self-sabotage, it allows the tree to put more energy into forming a strong, healthy framework for future growth.

Harvest limes when they are green, as they have a perfect tangy flavour when under-ripe. The fruit becomes yellow and slightly sweeter as it ripens.

How often should you water and feed lime trees?

Water trees regularly, at least once a week (more during hot, dry or windy weather) until well established. Once established, they can go for longer periods without water, but will benefit from watering once every couple of weeks, particularly during prolonged dry spells.

Feed lime trees in spring, summer and autumn. Apply an organic-based, pelletised fertiliser around the base of the tree and water in well. This will not only help feed the tree but also nourish the soil. Avoid fertilising when the tree is in flower as it can cause the flowers to fall.

How and when to prune a lime tree

Prune once fruiting has finished to remove dead or diseased wood and to open the canopy. Remove any growth or suckers growing below the graft union on the trunk. 

Diseases and pests affecting lime trees

Sap-sucking insects like aphids, scale, mites and bronze orange bugs (stink bugs) are common pests on lime trees. Treat them all with Yates Nature’s Way Citrus & Ornamental Spray.

The larvae of citrus leaf miner tunnel through new, young foliage, causing leaves to curl and distort. They also leave tell-tale squiggly silvery trails on the surface of the leaves. Help prevent damage to new leaves by regularly spraying them with an oil-based insecticide like Eco-Oil or Pest Oil during the growing season. 

How to propagate lime trees

Limes are best grown from cuttings grafted onto suitable rootstock, so it’s best to purchase grafted varieties in store. 

Safety tip

After applying fertiliser, rinse fruit well before eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.  

If you like this then try

Finger lime: a slow-growing, native lime with unusual finger-like fruit and caviar-like pulp. 

Lemon: every backyard should have a lemon tree, whether in a garden bed or pot.

Pomegranate: a small- to medium-sized fruit tree with highly ornamental fruit.

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.