How To Grow A Tahitian Lime Tree In A Pot

Tahitian Lime tree in a pot with fruit in front of stone wall

Do you want to grow your own limes at home but don’t have a a big garden? Try growing your own Tahitian lime tree in a pot. Tahitian Limes (also known as Persian or Bearss limes) are easy to grow and can produce fruit almost year round in the right conditions. Find out more about planting your own potted lime tree and how to care for it with these tips.

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Lime trees can be easy to grow in a pot

I have more than one lime tree in a pot at home, Both are Tahitian lime trees and they both produce a lot of fruit. And not just in the traditional winter fruiting season. It’s summer here now and both of my potted limes are covered in flowers and small fruits.

There’s a story about why I have 2 trees. One of them is almost 30 years old and was my first ever citrus tree. Much to my dismay, a huge branch came down in a storm and crushed it, taking off one side of the tree. Despite this, it has survived moving house and a change in climate and is still going strong. It just looks a little like a lopsided bonsai lime. My battered tree is a prolific fruiter and sits in a large ceramic pot on my balcony. The other tree is much younger and a more conventional shape!

The reason for sharing the story of my first lime tree is to let you know that Tahitian limes can be very hardy and long-lived. It’s well worth trying your hand at growing one in a pot. With a little care, your potted lime tree will make a beautiful garden feature and reward you with lots of juicy fresh limes.

Tahitian lime tree in pot with fresh limes

Why choose a Tahitian lime?

As well as being hardier than other varieties, Tahitian or Persian lime trees are thorn-less. This makes them the ideal container citrus. The fruit of the Tahitian lime is smooth, seedless and ideal for cooking.

Suitable climate for growing Tahitian limes

Tahitian limes are regarded as more hardy than other lime varieties, They thrive in tropical, subtropical and warm climates, but can also tolerate cooler climates.

Where I live there are 4 distinct seasons, with hot dry summers and cool (but only sometimes frosty) winters. My lime trees are happy outside all year round. While established Tahitian limes can tolerate light frosts, younger trees won’t. And anything more than light frost can damage the tree and the fruit of even well established trees.

Tips for potting your lime tree

If you are intending to plant your Tahitian lime tree in a pot, it’s better to chose a dwarf variety. Dwarf Tahitian lime trees will grow anywhere from 1 to 2 metres (around 3 to 6 feet) high. They can spread to about 1.5m (5 feet) across. One of my trees is not a dwarf at all, but hasn’t grown anymore than 5 feet high due to the limited size of the pot.

Choose a terracotta, stone or glazed ceramic pot or container for your lime tree. These will be strong enough to support the weight of your lime tree when it matures and also help prevent water loss. The pot needs to be at least 45cm (18 inches) in diameter for your citrus tree to grow to its full potential. My dwarf Tahitian lime is in a 45cm (18 inch) pot and my standard lime is in a 60cm (23.5 inch) pot. It’s a good idea to raise your pot form the ground with pot feet to improve soil drainage.

The best time to pot a lime tree is in spring. Be sure to use a premium potting mix.

Tahitian lime tree in a green glazed ceramic pot

How to care for your potted lime tree

Tahitian lime trees need a sunny spot to thrive. They prefer full sun, but mine are coping very well with full sun for only part of the day and part-shade to shade for the rest.

Watering

Young citrus trees will need to be watered almost daily to ensure that they do not dry out and grow well. You might want to install a slow running dripper system to your pot to ensure that the soil is kept well watered.

You will need to water the lime tree regularly, especially in hot weather. How often you need to water will depend on the size of your pot, the temperature and whether you citrus is looking ‘thirsty’. Our tips on how often to water a potted lemon tree will also apply to your potted lime.

Fertiliser

A lime tree in a pot has different fertiliser needs to citrus trees in the ground. Potted limes don’t need twice yearly fertiliser, but instead will do better with smaller amounts of fertiliser more often. Feed your lime with a small amount of nitrogen rich fertiliser once a month during the growing season. If you are in Australia, Neutrog Gyganic is a very good option to fertilise your potted lime tree. You can also use a good quality slow release pellet. If you use a slow release fertiliser, spread the recommended dose out over a few months.

Using a slow release fertiliser designed specifically for citrus is the perfect way to ensure that your potted lime tree gets enough nutrients during the growing season. Jobes Organics Fruit and Citrus Tree Fertiliser Spikes are an easy to use option, as they can simply be inserted in the pot around the dripline of the tree.

Pruning

It isn’t really necessary to prune a potted lime tree. However, you can prune out any dead wood or any rootstock branches that grow from beneath the graft site. Sometimes you may need to prune a vigorous growing branch to maintain the shape of your tree in the container.

Common lime tree pests

Lime trees in pots will be susceptible to the same pests as those grown in the ground. Perhaps even more so, particularly if not watered enough or fertilised regularly. Weak or stressed citrus trees tend to have more issues with garden pests.

Make a habit of checking the leaves on your potted lime tree regularly for signs of damage or pests.

Some common pests to watch out for include:

The good news is that many citrus pests can be treated naturally with organic solutions that won’t harm beneficial insects in your garden. You’ll find tips for treating pests in the links above.

Picking your own limes

Lime trees are usually sold as grafted trees, where the lime is grafted to a different hardy citrus rootstock. This means that your potted lime should be ready to produce limes 1 to 2 years after planting (or even early in some cases).

When do lime trees fruit?

Tahitian lime trees usually produce fruit from mid Autumn to mid Winter. However, a well cared for potted lime tree can even produce fruit more often. My own Tahitian limes fruit multiple times a year, including in mid to late summer.

When is the right time to pick Tahitian limes?

The photos of Tahitian limes in cookbooks and magazines often look very a dark vibrant green. You can pick limes when they are firm and green, especially if you are planning to use them for garnishes.

However the best time to pick Tahitian limes is actually when they start to lighten and turn more yellow in colour. These yellow-green fruits will be sweeter and produce much more juice so they are perfect for using in your favourite recipes.

Ripe Tahitian limes will be slightly soft if gently squeezed. Pick by twisting the stem gently rather than pulling from the tree,

fresh ripe Tahitian or Persian limes in green and blue bowl

More about limes

Need some inspiration for using your home grown limes? Try our easy small batch recipes for lime marmalade or preserved limes, Or if you have a lot of fruit that you won’t be able to use, try our tips on how to freeze limes to use later.

And don’t forget to join us for more citrus inspiration for your garden, kitchen and home..

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