Keeping Your Citrus Tree Safe When the Temperature Falls
Think you need to move to Florida if you want to enjoy a juicy lime picked fresh from your own lime tree? Think again – with a few precautions and careful tending, many types of lime trees can thrive in growing zone 9a and above. And, thanks to the development of miniature lime tree varieties, even those who live north of the Mason-Dixon line can enjoy fresh lime year-round!
Protecting a Fully Grown Lime Tree From Frost
Nothing adds a tropical twist to a cold drink like a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and no wonder – a full-grown lime tree thrives best in areas where temperatures don’t often dip below the freezing point. But even the warmest climes have been known to suffer the occasional cold snap, so it’s best to be prepared. Here’s what you can do to ensure your full-size lime plant survives the winter:
- Watch where you plant. Before you decide to buy a lime tree, choose where in your yard or garden you’ll plant it. Pick a sunny spot in a protected location (e.g. by a wall or on a gentle slope) so it has protection.
- Fertilize the lime tree in summer or fall. This will help your lime tree get the nutrients it needs before winter sets in. Since fertilizing encourages growth, you should never fertilize your tree in the winter, when new young leaves are susceptible to damage from frost.
- Prune lime trees in spring/early summer. Like fertilizing, pruning stimulates new growth, and so should be avoided in fall and winter.
- Mound soil around the trunk. This will help protect the point where the tree’s scion and rootstock join together.
- Add extra protection when frost is in the forecast. Wrap the tree from the bottom of the trunk up to where the branches begin in cardboard, palm fronds or fiberglass. Cover the insulation with plastic if ice or snow is expected.
- Keep the lime tree’s branches warm. If your tree is small enough, cover the branches and fruit with a blanket. String fairy lights through the branches of larger trees – they’ll give off enough heat to help protect it, and look nice, too!
- Keep the lime tree’s soil moist. Water emits heat, so when a frost is expected, hand-water the soil around the tree. Spraying the leaves will also help the lime tree to maintain its temperature and minimize frost damage.
Lime Trees in Containers
Dwarf lime trees are a delightful addition to any sunroom. Not only do they put the freshest limes within your reach year round, they provide clean, scented air and add a tropical vibe to your indoor spaces. Like their bigger cousins, dwarf lime trees love soaking up sunshine (at least 8 hours’ worth), so it’s perfectly fine (even preferred) to keep them on the patio in warmer weather. Unlike a full-size tree, though, potted lime trees can’t take even a short-term frost, and must be moved indoors as soon as the thermometer starts to fall.
One thing you need to keep in mind about miniature lime trees…the size of the tree is directly related to the size of the container, and after three or four years you will either need to repot it or trim the root ball back. Otherwise, you just might wind up with a lime tree that outgrows its pot!
There are several varieties to choose from when you decide to buy a lime tree:
- Bearss lime tree. A dwarf bearss lime is an excellent choice. It’s an attractive tree that grows fast, puts out sweet-smelling flowers in the spring, and produces lots of seedless limes.
- Kaffir lime tree. This Asian variety of dwarf lime has distinctive double leaves and produces a round, bumpy-skinned fruit that’s excellent in Asian dishes. It’s a bit hardier than other lime tree varieties, but still needs to be kept out of the frost.
- Key lime tree. The dwarf key lime tree is an attractive, bushy tree that produces small, potent limes year-round. You’ll love making your own key lime pie from limes you grew yourself!
- Limequat. A lime-kumquat hybrid, limequats produce 2-inch long fruit with characteristics from both plants. Limequats are somewhat more cold hardy than other lime tree varieties. The fruit is used in cocktails, fruit salads and can be candied whole.
- Lemon lime tree. Why settle for one type of fruit when you can have two? This lemon lime hybrid tree gives you a key lime meyer lemon tree growing side-by-side in the same pot. Also known as a lemon lime cocktail tree, a dwarf lemon and lime tree is a space-saving way to grow your own citrus fruit.
- Finger lime tree. This semi-dwarf Australian lime tree is growing in popularity! The long, thin fruit contains tangy, globular vesicles that have been described as a kind of “lime caviar.”
So don’t let a fear of cold weather stop you from enjoying your own fresh, homegrown limes! Find a lime tree for sale that works best for where you live, and follow these tips to keep it producing for many years.