When Does A Lime Tree Produce Fruit?


If you have recently planted lime trees in your yard, you might not be seeing any fruit on the branches yet.  In that case, you may be wondering when lime trees bear fruit, and if there is anything you can do differently to help them along.

So, when does a lime tree bear fruit?  A lime tree will produce the most fruit in the summer, although some lime trees can bear fruit year-round.  A lime tree will produce fruit 1 to 3 years after planting.  A lime takes 6 to 9 months to fully ripen.

Of course, depending on the variety you choose, it may take a longer time for your lime tree to start producing fruit.  There are other factors like improper pruning, over fertilization, and environmental conditions that can delay the growth of fruit on your lime tree.

Let’s take a closer look at lime trees, when they bear fruit, and the factors that can affect your harvest.

When Does A Lime Tree Produce Fruit?

A lime tree will take 2 to 3 years to grow out of the juvenile stage and start producing fruit.  It can take another year or two longer for trees grown from seed to start producing fruit.

lime tree
Lime trees will not produce fruit until they are at least 2 to 3 years old. Limes take 6 to 9 months to ripen fully.

Many lime trees will produce most of their fruit in the summer, but some can produce fruit year round.  Remember that it can take 6 to 9 months for limes to fully ripen.

For more information, check out this article on limes from the Texas A&M Extension.

You may also see some limes falling off the tree in the spring.  This is simply a tree’s way of keeping only as much fruit as it can reasonably support to maturity.

Fruit drop will be heavy during dry, hot, and windy weather, or if trees are not watered enough.

For more information, check out this article on citrus fruit from the Arizona Cooperative Extension.

Do Lime Trees Produce Fruit Every Year?

No, lime trees do not produce fruit every year.  In the first few years of life, a lime tree will be focusing its energy on growth and storage of energy and nutrients.

lime tree
Lime trees will not produce much fruit for the first few years of life. They may also sometimes alternate between years of heavy fruit set and almost no fruit, known as biennial bearing or alternate bearing.

Keep in mind that problems like frost injury, over pruning, and over fertilization can delay fruiting on a lime tree by a year or more.

Also remember that if you plant a seed harvested from a hybrid lime tree, you may end up growing a tree that will never bear fruit.  To ensure fruit production on a lime tree, buy an established plant from a nursery online or in-person.

In some cases, you will see what is called “biennial bearing” in your lime trees.  This means that they will only flower and produce fruit every other year.

Often, this will happen after a year of very heavy fruit production.  Essentially, the tree’s resources are exhausted from using so many nutrients to produce a large harvest.  The tree then takes a year to recover its strength and prepare for production the following year.

You may be able to avoid biennial bearing by thinning the flowers and fruit in heavy years.

How Much Fruit Does A Lime Tree Produce?

The amount of fruit your lime tree produces will vary by age, variety, location, and quality of care given.

lime tree
A mature lime tree can produce 30 to 50 pounds of fruit in one year.

According to the University of Florida, a mature lime tree can produce 30 to 50 pounds (13 to 23 kilograms) of fruit per year.

Key limes are 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5.1 centimeters) in diameter, and often green (although some varieties ripen to a yellow color).

What Kind Of Lime Tree Should I Buy?

When selecting a lime tree, make sure to choose one that you can grow in your climate!  For more information, check out the USDA Zone Hardiness map to see what zone you are in.

Here are some different varieties of lime trees that you might want to try.

  • Key Lime – this tree grows in Zones 9 to 10, and produces small green fruit that matures in the summer.  The mature tree is 6 to 8 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet wide.  The tree will bear fruit in 1 to 2 years.  For more information, check out Key Lime trees on the Stark Brothers website.
  • Bearss Lime – this tree grows in Zones 9 to 11, and produces small green fruit that matures at different times during the year.  The mature tree is 7 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide.  The tree will bear fruit in 1 to 2 years.  For more information, check out Bearss Lime trees on the Nature Hills website.
  • Kaffir Lime – this tree grows in Zones 8 to 10, and produces small green fruit.  The zest (grated skin) or leaves of the tree are often used for seasoning food.  The mature tree is 10 to 12 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet wide.  The tree will bear fruit in 1 to 3 years.  For more information, check out Kaffir Lime trees on the Nature Hills website.
  • Thornless Mexican Lime – this tree grows in Zones 9 to 11, and produces small green fruit.  The mature tree is 6 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide.  The tree will bear fruit in 1 to 3 years.  For more information, check out Thornless Mexican Lime trees on the Stark Brothers website.

Do You Need Two Lime Trees To Get Fruit?

No, you do not need two lime trees to get fruit, since most lime trees are self-pollinating.  This means that the flowers contain both a male and female part.

However, self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination.  The flowers will still need to be pollinated by insects or by you (with an electric toothbrush or some other means).

electric toothbrush
Use an electric toothbrush to stimulate flowers and increase the chances of self-pollination of trees.

This is especially important if you are growing lime trees indoors.  Be sure to use an electric toothbrush, paintbrush, or other tool to stimulate pollination of the flowers on your lime tree.

For more information, check out this article on citrus trees from Clemson University.

What Other Factors Affect Fruit On Lime Trees?

The quality of care that you give your lime trees will determine how much fruit you get each year.  Some of the most important factors are temperature, watering, fertilizing, and pruning.

Temperature For Lime Trees

Most lime trees will grow outside in Zones 9 and 10.  If you grow lime trees elsewhere, you will need to keep them indoors for part of the year to protect them from cold.

Cold temperatures in the high 20’s Fahrenheit (-3 to -2 degrees Celsius) will kill or severely damage lime trees.  For more information, check out this article on citrus trees from Texas A&M University.

Your best bet is to be prepared to bring your lime trees inside if there is any danger of freezing temperatures.

For more information, check out this article from the University of Arizona on protecting a citrus tree from cold.

Watering For Lime Trees

Avoid letting the soil get too dry for too long, especially if you have young lime trees.  If you have a problem with dry soil, check out my article on preventing dry soil.

garden hose
Be careful not to over water or under water your lime trees!

Although lime trees prefer moist soil, soil that is too wet can cause problems.  Over watering can spell death for your lime tree, due to root rot or fungal diseases.

If necessary, you can plant your lime trees on a mound to assist with drainage.  For more information, check out my article on over watering.

Fertilizing For Lime Trees

In general, compost and mulch is not necessary for a lime tree, according to Texas A&M University.

It may be necessary to use fertilizers as a supplement, in order to provide extra nutrients if you soil is lacking. The best way to tell if you need fertilizer is with a soil test.

For more information, check out my article on soil testing.

Remember that it is possible to harm or kill your lime trees by over fertilizing them.  For example, too much nitrogen can prevent your lime tree from producing any fruit.

For more information, check out my article on over fertilizing, and my article on low-nitrogen fertilizers.

Pruning For Lime Trees

Pruning lime trees is usually not necessary, except in the case of damage from winter cold and storms.

pruning shears
Pruning is usually not necessary for lime trees, unless there is frost damage to deal with.

For more information, check out this article on limes from Texas A&M University.

Spacing For Lime Trees

Lime trees should be spaced 12 to 25 feet apart (for dwarf citrus trees, leave 6 to 10 feet between trees).

Of course, you can adjust the space between trees depending on the width as noted in a nursery catalog.

Leaving enough space between trees is crucial to prevent competition for water and resources.  This extra space also gives you room to tend your trees as needed.

For more information, check out this article on citrus trees from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Conclusion

By now, you have a good idea of when lime trees are mature enough to produce fruit, and what time of year to expect fruit.  You also know a bit more about how to take care of lime trees and how to avoid the problems that can affect your harvest.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.  If you have any questions or advice about lime trees, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jonathon. I’m the gardening guy (not guru!) who is encouraging everyone to spend more time in the garden. I try to help solve common gardening problems so that you can get the best harvest every year!

Recent Content