Lime trees make up a part of the evergreen citrus tree family, they are native to India and Malaysia and make great indoor trees to grow in the UK. They produce zesty green fruits and fragrant blossoms year round and make the perfect addition to an unheated conservatory or porch.
Follow our Lime Tree Care Guide for top tips and advice on how to look after your lime tree indoors in the UK.
How to Look After Lime Trees UK
In their natural, outdoor environment, lime trees can often reach heights of up to 6ft when left unpruned. Growing them indoors in a smaller pot helps to keep them at a manageable size so they won’t outgrow your space.
Just like lemon trees, the lime tree is a self fertile variety meaning you only need one in order for it to produce fruit. When grown in the UK, these citrus trees tend not to follow a seasonal pattern and may fruit and flower at any point in the year.
Lime Tree Quick Facts
- Hardiness: Not Hardy. Will need protection when temperatures drop below 10C for most varieties.
- Pollination: Self fertile
- Suitable for: Pot growing indoors
- Height and spread: approx 6ft maximum
- Flowering: Year round
- Harvesting: Year round
- Difficulty: Moderate - Hard
Where should you keep your lime tree?
The cooler temperatures in the UK means that we are not able to grow beautiful lime trees out in the garden. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t grow them at all.
Your lime tree will be happiest kept in a location of the home away from any radiators, underfloor heating or cold drafts. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity are the main 2 culprits for wreaking havoc and causing stress to citrus trees.
If the summertime is particularly warm you may place your lime tree out on the patio to enjoy some sun. Just ensure that the temperature is not scheduled to drop below 5-10C. Lime varieties are the most cold sensitive of the citrus trees and it may not withstand the unpredictable British weather.
If the air in your home is dry, here are some ways to increase humidity:
- Place the pot on a tray of pebbles covered with water
- Spritz the leaves with water every few days
- Place a humidifier nearby your tree
Lime trees are sun worshippers and need at least 6-8 hours of bright, filtered sunlight every day. Choose a bright area of your home where your tree will receive the most light each day, especially during the dark winter months. Some direct sunlight is okay but make sure to watch out for leaf burn or scorching.
Watering your potted lime tree
Watering your lime tree correctly is a skill that needs to be mastered, get this right and your tree will be happy and thriving.
Lime trees prefer infrequent, deep waterings rather than frequent, shallow waterings. To do this, water the pot until you see it running out of the base and then allow all excess water to drain away before placing back on a tray or into a decorative pot.
The compost should be consistently moist but never soggy or left standing in water. Your lime tree will not tolerate having “wet feet” and soil that is left wet for too long can lead to root rot - a bacterial infection that slowly eats away at a plant’s roots and can be fatal.
This citrus tree also doesn’t like to be left to completely dry out either so make sure to water once the first couple inches of topsoil starts to feel dry.
If you notice the compost is staying wet for too long, you will need to look into improving the drainage.
First, test soil drainage by watering the tree and seeing how quickly the water drains through the compost and out of the base of the pot. If it takes longer than expected then drainage should be improved as soon as possible. You can do this by following one or all of the steps below:
- Create a lighter potting mix by adding bark chips, sand or grit to compost
- Place a layer of stones into the base of the pot before planting
- Add extra drainage holes to the pot
Lime tree over and under watering
If the leaves on your lime tree start to curl and turn yellow, this can be an indication of root rot and that the compost is too wet. Trees and plants experiencing root rot need to be repotted urgently into dryer, well draining soil.
If your lime tree starts to look wilted, droopy or crispy this is a sign that it’s dry. Give the pot a good deep water and the foliage should spring back to life in no time.
Feeding lime trees
Potted trees deplete the nutrients in their soil quite quickly and as lime trees are very heavy feeders they will benefit from a high nitrogen fertiliser throughout the year to stay healthy.
From April to September, use our summer citrus feed and for the rest of the year use our winter citrus feed. To fruit and flower, lime trees need lots of nutrients, both feeds can be applied every couple of months so your tree stays flourishing. For all year round feeding, check out our bumper annual citrus feed pack.
Another way to increase nutrients is to repot your tree, renewing the compost that it’s growing in. This can either be into the same container, or a larger one if you plan on potting up.
If you don’t plan on repotting at all, replacing 50% of the compost or top dressing the soil with fresh potting mix is a great way to add those nutrients back in.
How to Prune a Lime Tree
Pruning isn’t a large requirement when it comes to caring for lime trees, however, it’s been proven that maintaining your tree with regular prunings once or twice a year helps to keep it in good condition and will improve the health of the tree over time.
Lime trees that are regularly pruned are shown to grow much more blossom than others which in turn offers a higher yield of fruit each year. So not only will your tree be looking fantastic but it will be much more proficient too.
In the UK, pruning can be conducted at any point throughout the year but is best done just before your tree is about the blossom.
Start your pruning from the base of the tree and work upwards. New shoots and suckers growing from the soil should be removed first, these are usually quite soft and can be pinched off using your fingers. These smaller offshoots end up competing with the more established branches for nutrients so removing them allows the tree to put more energy into producing fruit.
Next, look out for branches that are either growing downwards, inward towards the trunk or any that are crossing each other. The aim here is to encourage your tree to grow outwards and upwards to create a nice bushy shape with an open centre.
Branches that grow inwards or cross each other can cause overcrowding on the inner part of the plant. This restricts light and airflow from reaching the inner canopy and can leave your tree more susceptible to infections and pests.
Weak, broken or damaged branches should also be removed, these won’t be able to bear the weight of any fruit and will also be competing for light and nutrients.
When removing a full branch, always use sharp, clean secateurs and cut it as close to the main trunk as possible.
If you are pinching a branch back or just removing a small part of it, take it back to where a new bud is forming.
To keep your lime tree at a manageable size, pinch back the branches that are starting to reach upwards and outwards. Where the branch has been snipped it will produce 2 new shoots which in time will create a lovely bushy lime tree that is still a compact size.
Why is your lime tree dropping leaves?
Lime trees are evergreen which means they shouldn’t be losing leaves. A couple of shedding here and there is nothing to worry about but any more than this means your tree is stressed and needs some TLC.
The most common reasons for citrus leaf drop are either overwatering, under watering or a dramatic change in temperature and humidity.
Find out what's wrong with your tree by answering the following questions:
Is your tree close to a radiator or in a room with central heating?
If the answer is yes, move to a location away from any radiators - unheated conservatories, hallways and porches are perfect locations.
Is your tree experiencing a cold draft?
If yes, move your tree away from any doors, windows or windowsills that could be causing fluctuations in the room's temperature.
Are the leaves wilting and droopy? Does the soil feel dry?
If yes, underwatering - your tree is in need of a drink. Fill up a jug and water the soil until it runs through the bottom of the pot.
Are the leaves turning yellow and wilting? Does the soil feel wet?
If yes, overwatering - your compost might not be draining properly and your tree has wet feet. Follow the steps from earlier in the blog post to increase drainage.
Winter can be the hardest time to take care of your lime tree so read our full winter citrus tree care guide for more in depth information.
Lime tree pests
The cooler temperatures outside tend to keep pests at bay, however, when lime trees are kept in warm indoor environments they can be prone to some common pests.
Watch out for mealybug, scale insects, aphids, and red spider mites. If you see holes, stickiness on the leaves, webbing, or brown circles forming on the branches then this is a sign there might be pests attacking your tree and you should take action as soon as possible.
If caught early, these are easy to treat and a simple solution of washing up liquid should work well enough to get rid of them. Left too late and an advanced treatment will be needed, find non toxic insecticide and follow packet directions.
How to harvest limes
Limes are always harvested before they have ripened. Not many people realise that ripe limes are actually yellow in colour, just like a lemon. By this point they are usually too bitter and don’t taste very nice at all.
When the fruit becomes light green and slightly soft when squeezed, it’s ready for picking! Gently twist the whole fruit from the branch and viola, a fresh lime ready to use in the palm of your hand.
Limes do not continue to ripen once they’ve been picked so take them off the tree as you need. If you do need to harvest all the fruits together then you can juice the fruits and freeze it in ice cube trays for when you want to use it.
If the fruits are left on the tree too long, they will turn yellow and wrinkled before eventually dropping from the branch naturally.
There is no particular time for harvesting lime trees in the UK and fruit can be produced and harvested at any time of year.
Grow your own lime tree!
Although lime trees are one of the more temperamental citrus varieties, they are definitely well worth the effort!
Once you harvest the very first yield of tangy, green skinned fruits you’ll be glad you took such good care of your tree. Browse our collection of lime trees for all the different varieties available, we guarantee there’s one perfect for any person or occasion.
Lime Tree Varieties
The Kaffir Lime Tree can be used for both its fruit and its leaves. The unusual bumpy skinned limes aren’t commonly used for their juice or flesh. Instead the tangy rind is grated into dishes for flavour. The leaves can be used both dried and fresh and crushing them in your hands will release the fragrant essential oils that are popular in Thai recipes. It also comes in a mini size with our Dwarf Kaffir Lime Tree.
The Limequat Tree is a hybrid variety of the Key Lime and Kumquat Tree. The fruit has sweet greenish-yellow skin and tart, acidic flesh. Limequats are often used for both flavouring recipes and cocktails. Lime trees make wonderful gifts for many different occasions such as birthdays, housewarmings and anniversaries. Send a unique zesty gift that will last for years to come!