Mexican Lime BushCitrus x aurantiifolia
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Citrus x aurantiifolia
Outdoor Growing zone
The Key Lime Bush is a compact, bushy form of citrus tree that produces the world-famous Key Lime. Renowned for drinks and cooking, it is also called Mexican lime and Bartender’s lime. It has evergreen leaves, fragrant white flowers tinted with purple and small green fruits that pack the most incredible lime juice there is. It can be grown in the ground in hot zones, and in a pot everywhere, keeping it outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter.
Grow the Key Lime Bush in full sun when outdoors, and in a bright, cool place when indoors. Feed and water regularly outdoors, but keep drier through the winter months. It can also be grown outdoors all year round in zones 9 and 10. Plant in any well-drained soil. Little pruning is needed, and flowers formed indoors should be hand-pollinated with a small brush.
Call it Mexican lime, Bartender’s lime, or West Indian lime if you like, but whatever it is called, everyone agrees that the Key Lime is the top lime on the planet, and far superior to the Persian lime, which is the kind usually found at the grocery store. With a much better flavor and acid balance, this is the lime for summer cocktails, Asian food, and for baking mom’s best pie – key lime pie. When available at all they are always at a premium price, yet they grow on a compact, bushy plant that is very easy to grow almost anywhere, not just in Florida. Because of its relatively small size it’s perfect for pots, which you can keep indoors during winter, and grow outdoors in summer, even on a balcony if you have no garden at all. Nothing beats the thrill of picking your own fruit, no matter what it is. But when it’s a world-class fruit like the Key Lime, the thrill is that much bigger. These limes last very well on the bush, or the juice can be frozen for later use. Either way, nothing goes to waste.
The Key Lime Bush is an evergreen shrub that will in time, if grown outdoors, become a multi-stemmed tree up to 15 feet tall and 6 feet wide. When grown in a pot it will stay around 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, making a rounded shrub that is always attractive. The oval, dark-green leaves are 2 to 3 inches long, with a smooth, glossy surface. They look a lot like the leaves of an orange tree. There are some small thorns on the stems, but nothing to be too concerned about. Flowering can happen at any time, but mostly this bush will flower between May and September. The flowers are about one inch across, with five thick white petals curling back, and attractive purple shading on the back. They have a wonderful smell of orange blossom. If flowers come outdoors bees will usually pollinate them, but if your bush is indoors you need to ‘play bee’. It’s easy – take a soft artist’s paint brush, or small-size makeup brush, and twirl it in the center of the flowers, moving at random from one flower to another. The fruit takes about 9 months to ripen, so this bush usually has fruit on it from January to May, but sporadic flowers and fruit can happen at any time of year, especially with indoor trees. The fruit is ripe when it turns from dark green to a yellowish green.
Growing this tree in a pot is easy. Here’s what to do: Start with a large pot, several inches wider than the one your tree came in. Most experts say a clay pot is best, but a plastic pot will be fine, as long as it has drainage holes. Use a soil for cactus and succulent plants. If you don’t have that, add 20% coarse sand to some regular potting soil. Pot it so that the top of the soil is the same as it was in the original pot. Feed from spring to fall with liquid citrus fertilizer, or an organic citrus food.
Grow your tree outdoors as much as possible, down as low as 400F, or 500F if you are keeping it in a very warm place in winter. Grow it in full sun – the more the better. The outdoor period is when you want your tree to grow. Feed and water it regularly. Indoors it should rest, and the ideal spot is cool but bright. Reduce watering, letting the soil dry almost completely between each watering, and stop feeding. In spring you can put it outdoors during the day, but watch out for cold nights and frost – you should bring it back indoors for the night if necessary.
The Key Lime Bush can be grown outdoors all year round in zones 9 and 10. In zone 9 grow it in a warm, protected place. Full sun is best, because shaded trees produce less fruit. Well-drained soil is needed, and sandy soils are very suitable for citrus trees. In heavier soils, plant on a raised mound, about 6 inches above the surrounding earth. Use organic mulch over the root-zone, avoiding the trunk. You can use a citrus-tree fertilizer in spring, if you wish, especially if your tree seems to be growing slowly. Keep pruning to a minimum, removing just a few branches from inside the tree to allow the sun in – don’t trim into a dense, round ball of leaves, as this reduces flowering and prevents proper ripening.
The Key Lime tree is a very special variety of citrus called Citrus x aurantiifolia. It is different from the Persian lime, which is the kind usually sold in stores. The Key Lime is a hybrid tree that is a cross between the citron, Citrus medica, a large fruit with thick skin, and a wild citrus tree from the Philippines called Citrus micrantha, with small green fruits. The Key Lime originated centuries ago in Southeast Asia, was carried by traders to north Africa, and from there to Sicily, Italy and Spain. Spanish explorers and settlers brought it to the West Indies and the Florida Keys. Then Henry Perrine, an American who was an enthusiast for introducing tropical plants into America brought this tree to Florida in the 19th century, where it was christened the Key Lime.
Our trees are produced from genuine Key Lime plants by stem cuttings or by grafting to a strong seedling root system. Beware of cheaper seedling trees that will only be a disappointment and produce very inferior limes. Order now, and enjoy the best – but order soon, as the demand for these wonderful bushes is always huge.