How to Grow and Care for Key Lime Trees

living color planting caring for key lime tree in sunlight

Limes are for everyone! Growing your own citrus trees is more accessible than you may think. Follow this care guide for planting and caring for Key Lime trees so you can enjoy years of beauty, flavor, and a little zing!

Key Lime Tree 101

The Key lime tree (also sometimes known as Mexican Key lime or West Indian lime) is an evergreen fruit tree that can grow between 6-13 feet high. It has beautiful fragrant flowers, deep green leaves, and of course, small green-yellow limes that grow to golf-ball size. We love their juicy, zesty fruit in our favorite pies and wedged on the side of a margarita glass. Key lime trees grow best (and quite rapidly) when planted in the ground, but if you’re short on space, they can thrive in pots and containers as well.

living color planting caring for key lime tree limes leaves

Preparing to Grow Key Lime Trees

As with any planting, make sure you have garden tools and supplies on-hand like a trowel, shovel, mulch, soil, and gloves. If you’re opting to plant in a container, you should select a dwarf version of the Key lime tree: it will be happier and thrive in a pot as opposed to a full-sized Key lime tree. A healthy young Key lime specimen should have strong, flexible branching, and plenty of brilliant green foliage.

living color planting caring for key lime tree ph meter soil test

How to Plant Key Lime Trees

Once you have selected your perfect Key lime tree, you should find a spot to plant it that gets ample sunlight (at least 10 hours per day) and allows for a 4-foot radius around the trunk.

1. Ensure the soil is well-draining, and test the pH level. Key lime does best with a soil pH of 6.1–7.8.

2. Add about 4-5 inches of compost, and mix it into the soil.

3. Level off the soil and leave it for one full week before planting. When it’s ready to plant, it should go into a hole twice the size of its root ball and equally deep.

4. Leave about a ¼-½ inch of the root ball above the soil.

5. Add soil to the hole around the tree, ensuring you pat down the soil to get rid of any air pockets.

6. Add a few inches of mulch on top of the soil to help regulate the plant’s moisture and prevent weeds.

If you’re opting to plant in a container, make sure there is ample room for the tree to grow, and remember that different container materials hold moisture differently. Wood and clay dry out faster than plastic or metal.

living color planting caring for key lime tree in pot single lime

How to Care for Key Lime Trees

Key lime trees need deep, weekly watering. Take your time watering them so the water can reach deep to the roots. You may need to water a little more frequently during hot and dry seasons, but water during cooler parts of the day to avoid scalding your tree. Fertilize your Key lime tree with high-nitrogen and slow-release fertilizer. Make sure the fertilizer also contains iron, manganese, and zinc. If you see yellowing on the leaves of your Key lime tree, it could be a sign it needs more care: try getting better drainage or adding more fertilizer. 

Container-grown lime trees should be pruned regularly, so it doesn’t outgrow its pot or choke itself out. Care for your Lime tree by keeping it pruned to a manageable shape and height. Pruning will also increase fruit production.

living color planting caring for key lime tree limes up close

Enjoying the Fruits of your Labor

About six to nine months after your tree matures, you will be able to start harvesting fresh limes. It’s usually best to pluck key limes while they are still green. They will ripen to a yellow shade. An all-natural Key lime pie is actually yellow in color instead of green. You can get creative with how you use the harvest from your Key lime tree: make limeade, squeeze them into your water or other beverage, or add them to a simmer pot to get your house smelling divine. 

If you’re looking for ideas for planting and caring for Key Lime Trees in Fort Lauderdale, come visit us. We’re here to help you grow the citrus trees of your dreams.

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