Growing lemon trees in containers

Potted Lime Trees; How to grow and take care of themPotted Lime Trees; How to grow and take care of them

Growing potted lime trees is popular on of these days. Gone are the days when the only way a farmer could grow limes was in the old-fashioned orchard in the backyard.

Nowadays, gardeners can grow lime trees in containers without compromising the quality of the fruit.

Growing potted lime trees gives you the advantage of easy movement of the growing pots in winter when the temperatures drop below 50 degrees.

Lime trees love the sun and warm tropical climates, so should the temperature drop 50 degrees, it is a death sentence for your lime trees.

Also, by growing potted lime treed, you limit the size to which a plant grows because it limits root growth. This makes it easier to take care of the plant and harvest limes at the end of the day.

Potted lime tree Growing conditions

How tp grow potted lime trees

Lime trees have basic requirements if the tree is going to be healthy and even bear fruit. There are some factors and basic needs that need to be in place to ensure the lime tree’s general well being.

Listed below are the conditions that all lime trees and citrus trees at large require for healthy growth.

1. Sunlight

Limes are sun-loving and require full sun. Sunlight is not important in photosynthesis but is also key in the blossoming of the lime tree. Sunlight also keeps scale and spider mite pest infestation at bay. 

With that in mind, a lime tree must receive at least 8-12 hours of sunlight. Place your growing pot in the sunniest part of your garden or patio. For indoor-grown lime trees, place your potted lime at your sunniest window.

Remember natural light shifts so remember to rotate and shift your plant with the sun accordingly.

If you cannot access that much sunshine, maybe because of winter or your geological area’s climatic conditions, please consider investing in an LED grow light. This isn’t sunshine, but it’s the best you will get close to mimicking sunlight in dark areas for the health of your lime trees.

2. Temperature range

Lime trees thrive in temperatures above 50 degrees. If the temperature drops below 50 degrees and remains low for a while, your lime tree is bound to get frost damaged.

Lime trees are cold-sensitive and tend to prefer warmer tropical environments. While lime trees are hardy and could withstand a little frost here and there, prolonged low temperatures will cause frostbite to your lime tree and death in adverse scenarios.

Even though lime trees like warm climates, too much sunshine again isn’t ideal for your limes. Therefore, it is important to use a sunscreen or shield above your lime tree in areas with extremely hot heatwaves and blazing hot summers.

3. Soil type

The best soil for lime trees in pots is potting soil mix. Most commercial potting soil mixes have good drainage and nutrients required for lime tree growth. 

Limes like slightly acidic soil between a pH of 5.5-6.5 but even then, should the pH drop below 5.5, it will be hard for the lime tree roots to absorb nutrients, which could end up killing your lime tree. The pH must be balanced within that range (5.5-6.5).

4. Watering frequency and amount

Lime Trees require to be watered at least two to three times a week, depending on your lime tree’s size and the ambient weather in your area.

The larger the tree, the more water it is going to need. Also, if your weather is dry, then you might need to water more.

Many factors determine how much soil water is available for your plants, excluding the tree size and weather;

  • The kind of pot that you used to grow your lime trees. Metal and plastic containers have a higher water holding capacity than wooden and porcelain containers. So if you used metal and plastic, you might require less water than if you had used wooden or porcelain containers.
  • The drainage of the soil that you used. If you used sandy soil, which has good drainage that limes prefer, it means that you may have a need to water frequently than if you had used clayey soil that holds onto water.

You can use the wooden skewer method to gauge how much water is in the soil. 

The wooden skewer method to test soil dryness

The wooden skewer method includes getting a wooden skewer and inserting it beside the plant’s main trunk into the growing medium, then pulling the skewer out. 

Depending on how the soil is attached to the skewer, you can estimate the soil’s amount of water. If the soil on the skewer is dry and dusty, it means that the soil needs watering. In contrast, if the soil attached to the skewer is muddy and moist, it means that the soil has enough water.

Alternatively, you can use your have to feel the soil but better still, invest in a soil water tester.

5. Fertilizers

Fertilize your lime tree

The best fertilizer for lime trees in containers is one that is;

  • Rich in all the 13 essential elements that limes require for healthy growth. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, iron, copper, chlorine, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.
  • Fortified with microbiomes. It includes micro bacterial, micro fungal, and mycorrhizal communities.

The majority of organic fertilizers, lake compost worm castings, and seaweed are good options to use as fertilizers for container-grown lime trees.

The best synthetic commercial fertilizers that meet the above criteria and can be used in place of organic fertilizer include:

  • Jobe’s organics
  • Dr. Earth
  • Miracle-Gro

Unlike limes grown on land whose roots can spread to nearby areas to get nutrition, limes grown in containers and pots have only the nutrition you give them. You must occasionally fertilize the soil to keep your limes nourished. 

Unless you don’t have severe winter, limit fertilizing in late fall or winter because new growth post fertilizing will be frost damaged.

How to grow potted lime trees

Growing lime trees in a container may be the only option that a farmer sometimes has. For instance, if you live in a cold climate or don’t have enough space for the traditional orchard. 

Below are the steps that you can take to successfully plant a lime tree in a growing pot.

Step 1: Choose the right potted lime tree variety to grow.

In nature, lime trees can grow beyond 20 feet or more, so if you are looking to grow lime trees in pots choosing a dwarf variety is the best choice.

Check the product tags to make sure that the variety that you’re buying dwarfed. Alternatively, you can ask your local nursery to provide you with dwarfed varieties of your favorite lime varieties.

Thanks to grafting technology, it is now possible to dwarf a naturally tall tree to even below 7ft by grafting it on dwarf rootstock.

The best lime tree varieties which are suitable for growing in containers are; 

  • Persian lime, also known as Tahiti and Bearss limes
  • Palestinian lime
  • Kaffir lime
  • Mexican lime, also known as the Key lime and West Indian lime

Step 2: Select a growing pot

The best-growing pots to invest in are the large see watering pots. This will make your life easier, especially as a new gardener.

Even though the self-watering planters are automatic, you must occasionally monitor to ensure that your limes are well hydrated.

Suppose you can’t afford the self-watering pot, as a new gardener. In that case, you need to first exercise with smaller pots of about 12 inches in diameter. Most nurseries refer to them as 5-gallon pots then exercise your way to the larger 18-24 inches diameter pots. 

The best gardening pots have the following characteristics;

  • Have several large drainage holes at the bottom.
  • The pot base is slightly elevated off the ground.
  • Consider light-weight pots like plastic if you leave outside the tropics and will have to move the pots in and out of your house.

Step 3: Mix a potting mix or buy a good quality approved potting mix.

Lime trees prefer moist but not soggy soil. Soils that are poor draining and hold water too long are not the best for you. 

You should make sure that you have enough potting mix to fill the pot to about 4 centimeters to the rim to allow space for watering. It goes without saying that the more potting mix you use, the more potting mix you will require.

If you buy potting soil, you can mix in organic matter and worm castings to increase the nutrient level.

How to make potting soil for citrus trees

Lime tree potting soil

The potting mixture may be expensive or unavailable in your area. 

To make your own well-draining and aerating 5:1:1 potting mixture for your lime trees, follow the procedure below.

Ingredients and cost list

  • Pine bark mulch/fines $6
  • peat moss $1.5
  • Perlite $1.50
  • Garden lime $0.50
  • Time-release fertilizer $1
  • Nutrient sources like Earth juice, seaweed emulsion, Micromax, or organic compost like mushroom soil. $1

The total cost is $ 10 – 15 $ in case the materials are expensive in your area. For the same volume of store-bought potting mix, you’ll be charged about $40, almost four times the cost it takes to make your own potting mix.

Mix the ingredients above thoroughly to make your DIY potting mix at home. 

Step 4: Planting the potted lime tree

Before you plant the lime tree, it’s the potting mix, it is important that you first fertilize the soil.

After mixing the fertilizer and the soil, grow the seed, create a hole big enough for the seed, plant the seed, and water.

Otherwise, move the fertilized soil to the sides and create enough room for the root ball. Insert the root ball and fill back the soil you had heaped on the side to get rid of air pockets. Tamp down the soil and water.

If you are using a grafted plant, please ensure that you keep the grafting union at least 4 inches above the soil level.

Step 5: Ongoing care for potted lime trees

Below are some precautions and considerations to remember during, like tree care post-planting.

1. Water

Like all citrus trees, lime trees like to be watered at least two to three times a week and even daily if you live in hot weather.

2. Fertilize

You need to fertilize the potting soil about thrice a year after your lime tree matures. It whenever your limes show signs of malnutrition.

3. Pest control

Limes have several pest problems associated with them, so you must avoid the pests regularly spraying new growth with horticultural spray oils such as Pest Oil.

You can also use a combination of insecticide and fungicide on your limes if the pests persist after applying horticultural oil.

4. Prune

Also, remember to prune regularly to limit tree size and promote bigger better fruit. Also, wait until your lime blossoms so that you don’t accidentally prune away the flowers. Trim off thorns, suckers, and water sprouts.

5. Acclimate when moving in and out before winter

When you move your lime trees before winter or out in spring, do so gradually to avoid shocking the plant because of the sharp change in conditions.

You need to acclimate your potted limes over several weeks. 

6. Hand pollinate

Limes often blossom between mid-spring to late fall. Limes are self-pollinating, so you don’t need to plant another variety to pollinate, unlike most fruit trees.

After your lime trees blossom, use a Q-tip brush to hand fertilize, especially now if your limes are indoors where pollinators like insects are scarce it non-existent.

Care for potted Lime trees

Care for potted lime trees

After growing your limes in containers, the best practices to care for your container lime trees are elaborated below.

1. Watering potted lime trees

Water is of primary importance to your potted lime tree. The amount of water you use on the tree depends on its size and the ambient temperatures. 

You may need to water less before winter to avoid the possibility of stimulating growth, which will be damaged in the winter.

Also, always be cautious not to overwater your limes. Too much water can cause root rot to your lime trees. Limes don’t like cold feet.

Plastic, metal, and ceramic containers can hold moisture longer than wood or clay containers. So if you are using the former category of pots, you may not need to water as much as if you were using clay or wooden pots.

2. Pests and disease control

The main pest problems that lime trees face are aphids, citrus mites, leaf miners, and scale infestation. Consider using insecticidal soap to control the aphids and horticultural spray like neem seed oil to take care of a scale and mites. 

A gardener needs to monitor the Lime trees closely. That way, if there’s an infection, the gardener will catch it earlier on. Even stubborn infestations like scale become easier to deal with if caught early.

3. Pruning citrus trees in pots

When you prune your container-grown lime trees, watch out for any suckers or water sprouts to get rid of them. Thin the branches 2 about 4 to 6 inches to reduce branch congestion.

A farmer must remember to whitewash any exposed branches after pruning. Also, while you are pruning, if you see any fruits congested per branch, it is wise to thin the fruits to about two to three fruits per branch.

4. Fertilize potted lime trees

Fertilizer lime tree monthly until mid-summer but never in July. Fertilizing during late fall or winter is useless because you will encourage new growth, killed by frostbit. Save your money, time, and the lime by skipping out on the fertilizing in late fall or during winter, especially if you live in Winter prone areas.

5. Hand pollinate potted lime trees

Most often than not, container-grown lime trees grow indoors, at least for most of the time. While that might be advantageous in preventing frost damage, there aren’t many pollinators indoors. The gardener’s hand must pollinate using a Q-tip brush after the lime trees have blossomed.

6. Moving potted lime trees indoors and out

If you live in a winter prone area where you experience extremely hot heat waves, you made one protect your lime trees from this adverse climate conditions by moving them inside your house.

It might be wise for a farmer to invest in a caddy to make the potted lime trees easy and cumbersome.

Sometimes before you move in the plants for winter, you might need to re-pot and transplant them into bigger pots. As a gardener, you must never let your lime tree stay in a pot. It has outgrown.

The procedure of repotting is similar to the procedure of planting, as previously elaborated. The only difference is that you are planting in a bigger pot than you had previously planted.

What is wrong with my potted lime trees?

What is wrong with my potted lime tree

Troubleshooting what is wrong with your lime is rather complicated because different factors contribute to the physical and well-being.

Assessing what is wrong with your lime tree depends on the negative symptoms that you are noticing on your lime. However, listed below are the most common problems, one of which could be wrong with your lime tree.

1. Yellowing of leaves

When your lime tree leaves turn yellow, several factors could be behind it.

It could be due to overwatering or lack of nutrients in the soil or infestation by sap-feeding pests. The only way to be sure and cause the leaves to be yellow is to walk by elimination. Rule out causes that you are sure are not the cause then, which remains most likely to blame for the yellowing of leaves, then address it.

2. Leaf fall

Sometimes leaves fall off a lime tree due to shock. A sharp change in the ambient conditions can cause stress and shock it, causing a fall.

Pest infestation like scale insects can also be blamed for leaf fall. 

Some insecticides and fungicides can also cause leaf fall. If you just sprayed to kill a pest and then notice leaf-fall, it could be an after-effect of the pesticide.

Like with the yellowing of leaves, you need to walk by eliminating the improbable causes to find out the real cause.

3. Immature fruit fall splitting or rot

Tree abortion is common when there are insufficient nutrients in the soil. Trees can distribute nutrients to the most important parts of the tree. If there is a lack of nutrients, the tree will respond by shading and unimportant parts and invest the available nutrients in leaf formation to produce more food.

It is important that if your fruits are dying or falling, you address malnutrition in the soil, especially potassium deficiency.

Fruit rot and splitting can be attributed to pest infestation.

4. Stunted or slow growth

The major cause of stunted growth is poor nutrition in the soil or infestation by a sap-feeding parasite.


Can Lime trees grow in pots?

Yes, lime trees grow in pots all the time. Previously impossible giant varieties to grow in pots can now be grown in pots thanks to grafting without compromising fruit’s size and quality. 

Growing lime trees in pots are advantageous, especially in areas where you do not have enough land do you invest in the old-fashioned orchard.

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

The. Of time it takes for a lime tree to bear fruit depends on different factors. The most influencing factors are the mode of propagation.

Generally speaking, lime trees that are grown by grafting or from cuttings take anywhere between 3 to 5 years to fruit wild lime trees grown from the seed can even take up to 10 years to bear fruit, that is if they ever fruit.

Other factors like soil fertility and protection from frost, pests, and diseases can also affect how fast a lime tree fruits.

Is Urine Good for potted lime trees?

Urine is a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer and is good for your lime trees. A farmer should ensure that the urine used is free of bacterial and viral infections, which might cause more harm than good to the lime plant.
The general rule is that you should never use fresh urine because it will burn your plans.

Final thoughts

Potted lime trees are often affected by various challenges. Still, suppose you can give your plants some TLC and attentive monitoring. In that case, some pest and disease infestations can be prevented before they become full-blown problems. It is easier to deal with one scale insect than deal with a scale infestation.

Likewise, it is easier to deal with a plant’s dehydration if you catch it earlier on. The key to taking care of potted lime trees is to keep your eye on them because lime trees are very sensitive and vulnerable plants.

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