Dwarf Kaffir Lime Tree

Growing Zones in Ground: 8 - 11 / in Pots: 4 - 11

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Description

Dwarf Kaffir lime trees are shrubby and are easily distinguished by their aromatic, jade-green, glossy leaves that looked like two conjoined leaves. The leaves can be either used fresh or dried to give a spicy-lemony taste to many dishes. The limes are acidic with a slightly bitter flavor and emit a fragrant smell.

The Dwarf Kaffir lime tree, botanically named Citrus hystrix, is a lavishly fragrant evergreen citrus tree that is generally 6 to 10 feet tall and mainly grown for use in Asian cuisine. The Kaffir Lime, otherwise known as makrut lime or papeda, is a small, thorny tree in the Papeda subgenus of the family Rutaceae that originated in Southeast Asia and widely cultivated in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand and Philippines.

This dwarf citrus tree thrives in potted environment but adapts well outdoors in USDA growing zones 9 to 11. This tropical lemon lime tree is cold sensitive and may wither when exposed to freezing weather, although if you live in colder areas you can still grow and enjoy this fruit tree indoors given you provide it with the right growing conditions.

Dwarf Kaffir lime trees are shrubby, have a sprawling habit and are easily distinguished by their aromatic, jade-green, glossy leaves that looked like two conjoined leaves caused by the winged petiole (leaf stem) that is almost the same size as the leaf itself. The prized leaves of Kaffir Lime trees are either used fresh or dried to give a spicy-lemony taste to salad, fries, curries, soups and other dishes.

Unlike the fruit of other lemon lime trees that are mostly leathery and have smooth surfaces, dwarf Kaffir Lime trees produce dark-green limes with mottled, bumpy, wart-like surface. The yellowish-green fleshed fruits are acidic with a slightly bitter flavor and emit a fragrant smell. The fruits have very little juice and are seldom used but the rind is used to flavor dishes when finely grated or zested.

Citrus Tree Care

Citrus trees, including Kaffir lime trees, are commonly propagated by grafting, joining, budding, layering, and through cuttings. These processes allow the nurseries to propagate different citrus trees and retain the qualities of the parent trees and at the same time have the trees bear fruits faster than when growing them from seeds. Furthermore, these propagation techniques make most dwarf citrus trees tolerant of less than ideal growing conditions; however, there are certain needs that should be met for optimal growth.

  • Kaffir Lime Trees are categorized as tropical plants and need a warm, temperate or tropical climate to flourish. They prefer full sun and do better in hot summers and mild, dry winters in moist, well draining soil. If you live in a cold area, make sure that you keep this citrus tree near a sunny, south-facing window.
  • Use a pot with lots of holes at the bottom to ensure proper water drainage; like many citrus trees, this lime tree does not like standing water or wet feet so it is a must that we plant them in a pot or area with well-draining soil. Also, make sure that the top of the soil is completely dry in between watering to prevent root rot and other disease caused by poor hygiene and improper watering.
  • You must replant the lime tree you bought online in a slightly bigger pot using a slightly acidic potting soil to give it room to grow. Make sure to loosen the soil and add compost before replanting at the same depth as it was in the original container it arrived in. Deeply water once the space around the tree has been back-filled.
  • Pruning plays an important role in ensuring healthy growth cycle of growing citrus trees that were propagated thru grafting. When pruning, try to create an open, vase-like crown. Remove shoots that emerged below the graft union as they would only compete with the plant and take away water and nutrients that the primary branch needs. Cut diseased, spindly or dead branches to prevent disease from spreading and at the same time allow the sunlight to penetrate the tree and the air to circulate.
  • Growing citrus trees and fruit trees are heavy feeders and must be fed four times a year with balanced fertilizer for citrus trees. Your citrus tree fertilizer must be high in nitrogen for the citrus tree to set flowers and fruit. Apply a 2-1-1 ration slow-release granular fertilizer to the soil around the base of the lime tree then water immediately right after fertilizing.
  • Standard and dwarf Kaffir lime trees are less cold hardy than other lime trees and must be protected from cold and freeze damage. Potted Kaffir Lime trees should be moved indoors or in a garage to protect it from freezing temperatures. You can also drape a blanket on your tree to give it additional protection during desultory cold winter night.

Fruit & Harvesting

Fruit

Makrut or Kaffir limes are pendulous dark-green limes with round base and slightly protruding nipple. These unsightly and irregularly bumpy fruits typically grow to 5-7 centimeters in diameter and have numerous scattered glandular dots. They are typically yellow or yellow-green when ripe and have a tremendously sour and slightly bitter flavor. Although seldom used, the Kaffir Lime fruit can be used to make “rhum arrange” or used as substitute for a portion of lemon juice and zest.

The fruit compensates with its fragrant rind that gives an exotic flavor to dishes you cannot find in other citrus fruit. The zest and finely chopped rind of Kaffir Limes are mashed with other ingredients to make curry paste in Thailand and Laos; Thai curries have a distinct flavor compared to Indian curry and are added to stews and soups. The rind and zest are also used in delis like salad, stir-fried dishes and soups like tom yam – a popular hot and sour Thai soup with wholesome lemony essence.

Leaves are considered the most precious part of Kaffir Lime trees. Fresh or dried, the leaves can be used on salads, soups, stews and fried dishes to give them a burst of refreshing and exotic flavor.

Aside from flavoring, the fragrant oil from the rind of Kaffir limes can be used as insect repellant, cleaning ingredient and even as shampoo. It also has medicinal property and can be used to make tea to provide relief from cough, cold and chest congestion.

Harvesting

Kaffir limes are mostly available all year but harvest is mostly concentrated in fall.

Like most limes, it is a little difficult to determine when to harvest Kaffir limes as they have to be collected before they are fully ripe. Keep in mind though that it takes 3 to four months until limes reach their peak flavor. Look for fruits with a glossy sheen and give a little when squeezed.

Leaves can be collected during summer and spring, dried and set aside for winter use. Dried leaves should be stored like other herbs and will keep for 12 months in an airtight container.

Growing Zones

Advice

The Dwarf Kaffir Lime Tree thrives in potted environment and can be planted in pots outside USDA growing zones 8 to 11. It usually grows up to 6’ to 10’ in height when planted in the ground but tend to stay smaller when planted in a pot. The usual bloom season of Kaffir Lime trees is in spring and the fruit season is in fall. This citrus tree needs to be protected when temperature goes below 32º.

  • Categorized as a tropical tree, Kaffir Lime Tree needs full sunlight – about 8 to 10 hours – to grow healthy. If to be taken indoors, place near a south-facing window where it can get as much sunlight it needs.
  • Prune and make a 45º angle cut to remove brown, diseased or dead limbs using clean and sharp pruning shears.

Pests and Diseases

Citrus tree diseases can be prevented or minimized with good and proper tree care; plant citrus trees in full sunlight and well draining soil, deeply water the trees regularly and do not let it stand in water to prevent root rot.

Kaffir lime trees are relatively disease and pest resistant but are susceptible to mites and scales and suffer diseases like root rot or citrus scab.

  • Mites are tiny insects that cause defoliation and die back. Red mites primarily damage fruits while rust mites causes leaf injury due to their eating habits. Healthy trees can withstand minor infestation, however, when mites population is way out of control it may cause real damage to the tree and should be controlled using their natural predators or other non-chemical sprays.
  • Citrus Scab or Verrucosis is a disease that infects other citrus cultivars but mainly infects lemons and limes. Wart-like protrusions appear on the leaves and the fruit’s rind. It may look unappetizing or unsightly but the quality of fruit and juice is not affected. Routinely applying copper spray to the tree can prevent the disease from infecting the tree.
  • Root Disease is a common problem caused by Phytophthora fungus. It causes root rot and trunk canker that leads to the tree’s death in its most advanced stage. There is no known treatment to this disease but it can be prevented by planting the tree in a well draining soil and not planting them too deeply. You can also stop the spread of this disease by pruning the infected part of the tree, removing all debris from under the tree’s canopy and disinfecting the tools you used.

FAQs

Are there other uses for the Kaffir lime?

Kaffir lime seeds are traditionally used to help solidify fruit jams, because the seeds are high in pectin. The seeds are crushed and steeped in a filter bag within the heating fruit mixture, when jam is being made. The steeped seeds add pectin, which is helpful in thickening the fruit jam once cooled.

Is it true that Kaffir Limes have medicinal uses?

Kaffir lime tea made from the leaves is said to help congestion and relieve coughs. Also, traditional wisdom holds that adding Kaffir Lime Leaves and rind to foods can aid in digestion. The oil in Kaffir Limes is thought to have some antibacterial properties.

How big will a Kaffir lime tree get?

Kaffir Lime Trees will grow to a height of 15 to 18 feet tall in ground, and reach a width of about 15 to 20 feet but remain smaller in pots.

Where are Kaffir lime trees grown?

Kaffir lime trees are native to Asia, but they are also grown in Australia, California, and Florida.

In what kinds of dishes can you use Kaffir limes?

Many Thai, Malaysian, and Indonesia dishes use Kaffir Lime leaves, such as fruit salads, curries, seafood, poultry, and soups. The fruit rind is also used as zest in curry paste, marinades, and stews.Because of their fragrant citrus flavor, Kaffir lime leaves pair well with fish, shellfish, poultry, rice, and a wide variety of vegetables.

What does Kaffir Lime smell and taste like when used?

Kaffir lime leaves provide dishes with an unmistakable, floral fragrance and tart but not sour citrus flavor. They are often used like bay leaves, to simmer in stews or soups, and have a similar flavor to lime juice, but with a more citrus blossom aroma.

How do you use a Kaffir lime?

Kaffir limes produce a dry, seedy fruit that is sour and acidic. The fragrant leaves are used in Thai and other dishes to lend a unique, fragrant, citrus-like flavor. The fruit rind is also used for bittering or to add a citrus zest to recipes. Since the leaves and fruit lose much of their flavor when dried, a living tree can become a chef’s prized possession.