How to Grow Kaffir Limes / Makrut Limes (Citrus hystrix)

kaffir limes

by Jennifer Poindexter

I like to grow different plants around my home. I’m not someone with a cookie-cutter style, so I like to seek out unique items for my home and garden.

If you’re interested in growing a different fruit around your home, consider the kaffir lime. This is a beautiful tree with edible leaves and bumpy fruit.

Don’t worry if you’re unsure of how to grow this plant. I’ll walk you through all you should know to begin this journey.

Here’s what you should know to grow kaffir limes:

What You’ll Learn:

  • The history and implications of the name “Kaffir lime.”
  • Ideal growing conditions for Kaffir lime trees.
  • How to plant and care for Kaffir lime trees.
  • Possible pests and diseases that could affect these trees.
  • How to harvest and use Kaffir limes.

A Word About the Term Kaffir

The term kaffir is considered a derogatory word in certain places in the world. It was originally used as a word to describe non-Muslim people.

Then it was later adopted by white settlers who used the term to describe people with darker skin tones. Many people now refer to this plant as a makrut lime for this reason.

For the purpose of this article, this word isn’t meant to be offensive or used in a derogatory sense. Now that you understand some of the history behind this plant, let’s discuss how to grow it.

kaffir lime growing in container

Growing Conditions for Kaffir Limes

Kaffir lime trees are typically grown in containers. You may move them outdoors during warmer portions of the year, but grow them indoors during the cooler seasons.

Expect these trees to only remain hardy in planting zones nine and ten. In other areas, they’ll need to be overwintered inside.

These trees reach heights around 5 feet once fully mature and require a container that can support a plant of this size.

It should also be well-draining as these trees don’t do well in oversaturated situations. Be sure to plant in well-draining soil and in an area with plenty of sunlight.

If the plant doesn’t receive enough light, it won’t produce fruit. You should also ensure the growing temperatures remain at 60-degrees Fahrenheit or above.

This fruit tree is loved by many because not only is the fruit edible, but the leaves can be cooked as well. If you’re in the market for a versatile fruit tree you may grow indoors, don’t overlook the kaffir lime tree.

How to Plant Kaffir Limes

The best way to grow kaffir limes is from a cutting or transplanting a store-bought sapling. If you purchase a tree, ensure you select a growing container with proper drainage and that can support the size of this tree.

Once you’ve selected an appropriate container, fill the bottom with well-draining soil. When the soil fills ¼ of the pot, place the tree in it.

From there, continue to fill the container with soil and press firmly around the base of the tree. Water the tree deeply, allow it to drain, and then move it to a sunny location inside your home if the temperatures outside are too cold.

If not, place it outside in a location where the tree receives plenty of sunlight.

The next option is to grow a kaffir lime tree from a cutting. A tree won’t bear fruit until it’s approximately three years old.

Select a branch from a tree about this age. The tree should be fruiting, and the branch should be young. Ensure there’s no fruit, blooms, or flowers on the branch.

Cut the branch about 3-inches beneath a leaf node. The cutting should be around 6-inches long. Remove the foliage from the lower portion of the cutting.

Dip the cutting into rooting hormone and plant it in a container with proper drainage and well-draining soil.

Water the cutting deeply and keep the soil moist for approximately thirty days. The cutting should develop roots during this time.

Continue to provide adequate care to the plant and increase the plant’s container size as needed.

Another option is rooting the cutting in water before transplanting it into a container, as described above.

If you’d prefer to root the cutting in water, skip dipping it in rooting hormone. Instead, remove the bottom foliage, and place the cutting into a shallow glass container.

The plant should sit in the water but not be fully submerged. Place it in a sunny windowsill that receives bright, indirect light and change the water every two days.

In approximately three to four weeks, the plant should have roots. At this point, transplant it into a container with well-draining soil and provide care as it becomes established and grows.

kaffir lime tree growing in ground

If you live in planting zones nine or higher and decide to grow this tree in the ground outdoors, be sure to leave ample room between trees.

Kaffir limes need 6- to 10-feet between each tree or from the nearest structure. It also isn’t recommended to start these trees from seeds as it can take up to ten years to receive fruit when using this method.

These are the methods you may use to grow a kaffir lime tree. Pick the options which work best for you and begin growing this plant around your home.

Caring for Kaffir Limes

Kaffir lime trees are simple to care for. They require water, humidity, pruning, and fertilizer. If you supply these few basics, the tree should do well in your care.

When watering this tree, be sure to practice the deep watering method. This means you’ll apply large quantities of water, fewer days of the week.

Water your kaffir lime trees until it’s running out of the bottom of the planter. Give the plant time to drain, and then place it back in its growing location.

Test the soil every few days. When it’s dry to your first knuckle, it’s time to water it deeply again.

This plant also enjoys humidity. You can accomplish this by growing the tree in a naturally humid room of your home such as a bathroom or kitchen.

You may also spray the plant with a bottle of water a few times per day. This can lead to an increased risk of fungal issues due to the foliage being left in a saturated state.

However, you may also place the growing container inside another container filled with pebbles. These pebbles should have water poured over them, but the water shouldn’t reach the bottom of the growing container.

This added moisture should help keep the humidity up around the plant without leaving the plant in oversaturated growing conditions.

Next, be sure to prune your kaffir lime tree. Prune it to help keep its shape, improve airflow, and also to promote bushier growth. If grown indoors, shape the plant as needed.

If you’re growing the lime tree outdoors, prune between the time after the first frost and before the first bloom.

Finally, you should provide fertilizer to your tree. These trees prefer fertilizer higher in nitrogen. Fertilize once every month during the growing season of the first year.

After this, fertilize once every two months during the growing season. These are the few things kaffir limes need from you to ensure they grow well under your care.

Garden Pests and Diseases Which Can Impact Kaffir Limes

Kaffir limes do have a few threats they must deal with in the garden. The most common pests to impact this tree are mites, scales, and aphids.

You may remedy these issues with an insecticide. Aphids and mites may also become dislodged when the plant is sprayed forcefully with soapy water.

Wiping the plant down with rubbing alcohol can also help rid it of scales. These are a few ways you can help the plant recover if pests should find it.

The most common disease to impact this plant is root rot. Root rot typically forms in areas where growing conditions are too damp. This means the tree is growing in a container with poor drainage, poor draining soil, or is left in standing water due to another issue.

Be sure that your tree is given adequate drainage. Root rot is hard to recover from, so it’s best to avoid the issue altogether.

Take these pointers into consideration as you figure out how to protect your kaffir lime trees to preserve their beauty and harvest.

How to Harvest Kaffir Limes

The last thing to discuss about growing kaffir limes is how to harvest this plant. You may harvest the leaves once the plant is producing fruit.

Cut or pluck them away from the tree. They may be enjoyed fresh or dried. Try to pick the leaves at least once or twice per month to encourage better growth.

The fruit can be harvested once it’s dark green and bumpy. The limes aren’t used for juice as they don’t produce much.

However, you may enjoy the fruit fresh or freeze them for later use. These are the ways you can enjoy your kaffir lime tree.

Kaffir lime trees are beautiful plants that produce an interesting fruit. This plant is versatile and great for a houseplant.

If you’re looking for an indoor tree that you may use for culinary purposes but also is rather low-maintenance, this could be what you’ve been searching for.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The term “Kaffir” has historical implications and is considered offensive in some parts of the world. The plant is often referred to as Makrut lime.
  2. Kaffir lime trees are ideally grown in containers and can be moved indoors during cooler seasons. They are hardy in planting zones nine and ten.
  3. The trees prefer well-draining soil, ample sunlight, and temperatures above 60-degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. The best way to grow Kaffir limes is from a cutting or a store-bought sapling. Starting these trees from seeds is not recommended as it may take up to ten years to bear fruit.
  5. Care for the Kaffir lime trees involves watering, maintaining humidity, pruning, and providing fertilizer.
  6. Common pests like mites, scales, and aphids can affect Kaffir lime trees. These can be treated with insecticides or other home remedies. Root rot, often due to over-saturation, is the most common disease.
  7. The leaves and fruit of Kaffir lime trees can be harvested and used for culinary purposes. The leaves can be plucked once the tree starts fruiting, and the fruit can be harvested when it’s dark green and bumpy.
  8. Kaffir lime trees are beautiful and versatile, making them a great addition to your home, both as a culinary asset and an attractive houseplant.

Caring for Kaffir Lime Tree Quick Reference Chart

Season Light Requirement Temperature Requirement Watering Fertilizing
Spring At least 4 hours of direct sunlight Water moderately, top inch of soil should dry out between waterings every month
Summer At least 4 hours of direct sunlight Water moderately, top inch of soil should dry out between waterings every month
Fall At least 4 hours of direct sunlight Water moderately, top inch of soil should dry out between waterings every month
Winter Light may be poor At least 50-55 degrees F Only water enough to prevent soil from drying out Do not feed until light improves in the spring

More About Kaffir Limes

The post How to Grow Kaffir Limes / Makrut Limes (Citrus hystrix) appeared first on Gardening Channel.



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