How to Grow Kaffir Lime Trees Indoors

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Kaffir lime fruit
Kaffir lime fruit (Image: Wikipedia Commons, Stock.xchng)

The Kaffir lime tree is a dwarf citrus tree that is usually cultivated for use in Asian cooking. Because a Kaffir lime tree only reaches a height of 5 feet, it is ideal for container gardening and can be grown as an indoor plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Kaffir lime tree, (one-year-old preferred)
  • One 16-inch (or larger) pot made of plastic or foam
  • Good quality potting soil, enough to fill pot
  • Slow release fertilizer
  • Warm, sunny place free from drafts and away from air vents
  • Watering pot (or some other way to water the tree)
  • Epsom salts
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoon

Carefully look at the available sources for your lime tree. It is possible to grow Kaffir limes from seed, but this method is not recommended because it can be unreliable. Kaffir lime trees are readily available from a number of different nurseries and online sources. If you order from an online source, make sure that you choose a tree from a reputable dealer. Find out how the tree is shipped and whether the merchant will guarantee the tree and under what conditions. It is best to get a one-year-old tree because it will produce blooms and fruit faster.

Kaffir Lime
Kaffir Lime

Purchase a large pot at least 16 inches in diameter with good drainage, preferably one made of plastic or foam which will help retain moisture.

Pots
Pots

Place a layer of stones in the pot and then add a well-draining soil. Use a good quality potting soil, one that includes 25% compost.

Add about 1/2 cup of slow release fertilizer and mix it into the soil.

Bury the roots of the tree completely and water it.

Understand that Kaffir limes need plenty of light, water and humidity as they are growing. Choose a large enough space for the tree close to a sunny window where it can get plenty of light. The tree should be protected from heating and cooling vents but still have good air circulation. In a warmer climate the tree can be placed outside during good weather to enjoy the sunshine.

Check the moisture of the soil frequently. Too much water may result in root rot while too little will keep the tree from thriving. It is best to water very well and then let the soil dry out a bit before watering again. Mist the tree regularly with a spray bottle of water to provide the tree with the humidity it needs.

Take steps to make sure that most of the flowers set fruit. Spring is the time when the lime flowers the most. But when you grow plants indoors, bees and other insects cannot get inside to pollinate them. The Tasteful Garden says, "To ensure the setting of fruit when plants are growing indoors, use a small brush to lift the pollen from the stamen (male part of the flower) of one blossom and gently dust it onto the pistil (female part of the flower) in the center of another. Within a few days the pistol should begin to develop a tiny new fruit."

To prevent acid and pest problems, every two months dissolve 1/2 tsp. of magnesium sulfate, also called Epsom salts, into 1 qt. of room temperature water and add it to the soil. Kaffir limes require acidic soil and if the leaves begin to turn yellow, the soil does not have enough acid in it. Also, although Kaffir limes do not usually have many pest problems, the tree must be kept away from any other plants that might be infected by mites or scale.

Kaffir lime leaves
Kaffir lime leaves

Tips & Warnings

  • Kaffir limes and leaves are mainly used for cooking. To encourage growth, pick the leaves every few weeks. Use them fresh or dried in Asian cooking. To retain their freshness the leaves and the fruit can also be frozen in freezer bags and used as needed. For other household uses, crush the leaves to release their fragrant oils and use in potpourri, add to rinse water to scent and condition hair, or use the oils in other household cleaning. For other household uses, crush the leaves to release their fragrant oils. Use in potpourri, add to rinse water to scent and condition hair, or use the oils in other household cleaning.
  • Kaffir lime trees are very thorny and must be handled carefully to avoid injury.

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