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Growing Limes: Citrus latifolia etc.

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Limes are members of the Citrus family. Modern citrus fruits, according to genetic analysis, are complex hybrids arising from mandarin, pummelo, citron and pepeda ancestors, refined by more than four thousand years of cultivation. Several citrus species and hybrids are called lime. A few of them are in commercial production or sold by nurseries for residential use.


Form: Shrub or small tree.
Lifespan: Possibly 50 productive years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Moderate to fast.
Mature Size: Citrus latifolia: 15-20' high and as wide, often 10-15'.
Flowers: White, five petals, fragrant to scentless. Reddish buds.
Bloom: Depends on cultivar. Often spring through fall, possibly all year in regions without freezes.
Self-fruitful: All lime cultivars self-pollinate.
Years before fruiting: 3-6 for first fruits. 8-10 years for full production. Remove all small fruit in the first 5 years to speed growth of roots, stems and leaves.
Fruit: Round to oval, sometimes with nipple at blossom end, rough surface.
Months for fruit to ripen: 5-6 after flowering. Picked green commercially, but mature when skin is light green or pale yellow.
Storage after harvest: 6-8 weeks in refrigeration.
Leaves: Oval to lance-shaped, glossy green, slightly fragrant.
Stems: Thorny to thornless depending on cultivar.
Roots: Sometimes grafted onto a hardy rootstock.
Cultivars of Note:
Citrus australasica: Australian Finger Lime – small leaves, cylindrical fruit filled with fleshy, round vesicles, fewer, separate seeds, enjoyable lime-like flavor. Hybrids with other citrus species have produced a variety of rind colors, including red. Known as lime caviar because the flesh is made up of small, round, thin-skinned drops.
Citrus latifolia: Tahiti / Persian / Bearss Lime – larger, oval fruit, seedless, dark green to light green at maturity, milder flavor, grown commercially;
Citrus limettioides: Sweet / Palestinian Sweet / 'Adelina' Lime – lemon-sized fruit, light green to yellow at maturity, refreshing juice lacks acidity (sourness), a plant that deserves wider residential use, and some would say, better-tasting than Tahiti or Key lime;
Citrus aurantifolia: Key / Mexican / West Indian Lime – Very frost sensitive, small round fruit, yellow at maturity, limited commercial production;
Citrus aurantifolia x japonica: Eustis Limequat – a small hybrid of round kumquat and key lime, lime-like flavor, somewhat more cold hardy than key lime but not nearly as hardy as kumquat;
Citrus hystrix: Makrut / Kaffir Lime – fragrant leaves used in Asian cooking, fruit rind used in Asian curry and Creole cuisine, fruit has bumpy green to yellow skin, unpalatable fruit juice used in shampoos and believed to kill head lice.
Wildlife: Attracts insects, birds.
Toxic / Danger: For some cultivars, exposure to rind oil and sunlight, or tree sap, causes dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Possible thorns.
Origin: Southeast Asia.

Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 9-11 for Tahiti, Sweet Lime, Eustis Limequat; 10-11 for Key Lime, Finger Lime.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full all-day sun.
Drought tolerant: Depends on rootstock. Drought will damage fruit crop.
Water after becoming established: Deeply, monthly in winter to weekly in summer, from the trunk to just beyond the canopy. Young trees need watering more often than older trees even though older trees consume more water. A sign of insufficient water is leaves turning dull and curling inward from the edges. Allow top of soil to become dry between waterings.
Soil: Well drained to prevent root rot, pH 5.6-6.5 (acidic to slightly acidic). Alkaline soils will cause iron deficiency.
Fertilize: Do not fertilize the first two years. Apply an organic fertilizer every month from mid-February to early October. Apply a citrus micronutrient solution three times a year in February, May and August. Do not fertilize after October to keep the plant from producing new growth that will be harmed by early frost.
Mulch: To protect evaporation during hot weather, and protect roots in winter. Keep mulch 6" away from trunk to avoid collar rot.
Planting: Can be grown in containers.
First Year Care: Water at planting, then every other day for the first 8 weeks, then twice a week for the first 3 years, reducing frequency with rainfall.
Prune: Only to remove dead and crossing branches. Do no prune branches up to expose the trunk. This will cause sun scald on the bark.
Litter: Fruit if not harvested.
Propagation: Cuttings and air layering. Seed is highly variable and may be sterile.
Pests: Giant Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar. This larvae resembles bird poop and has white and black and/or brown splotches. On a large plant it will cause no harm. On a small plant, relocate it to a large citrus.
See Citrus: Diseases and Disorders
Uses: Fruit, ornamental, shade.

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Sweet Lime: Citrus latifolia - flower

Sweet Lime: Citrus latifolia - fruit

Sweet Lime: Citrus latifolia
Citrus limettioides: Sweet / Palestinian Sweet / 'Adelina' Lime

Makrut Lime: Citrus hystrix - fruit
Citrus hystrix: Makrut / Kaffir Lime

Limequat: Citrus aurantifolia x japonica - fruit
Citrus aurantifolia x japonica: Limequat

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