Botanical Name: Citrus hystrix
You can count on kaffir lime tree to add color and fragrance to your home. This dwarf lime tree is fun to grow, and its needs are few: give it direct sunlight, frequent watering -- and if the air is dry, you'll want to mist with tepid water a few times a day.
Kaffir lime is also known as kieffer lime, Thai lime, makrut and wild lime in its native Southeast Asia habitat. Whatever you call it, this indoor fruit tree is a delight to grow for its citrusy fragrance and unusual appearance.
Buy your fruit tree from a reputable grower to ensure the best quality. You'll find kaffir lime trees for sale at some online nurseries.
The woody stems of kaffir lime are densely covered with double, glossy green leaves. Kaffir lime leaves are highly aromatic and a key ingredient in many Thai recipes. You'll also find sharp thorns along the stems, so watch for them when handling this plant.
With good care, you can expect your kaffir lime tree to be loaded with small, pinkish-white flowers, followed by fruit that turns from light to deep green as it matures. Kaffir limes have a bumpy texture, and they're small -- only growing to about 2 in (5 cm) in diameter.
No flowers? Fruit trees won't bloom and produce fruit if they don't get enough strong sunlight. You'll get more flowers if you put your plant outside for the summer and fall. A few months of hot, sunny days followed by cool fall weather will help promote flowering.
Wondering whether to repot? Repot young plants every couple years. Use a pot no bigger than 6-inch (15 cm) in diameter. Citrus trees bloom best if their roots are a little snug. Use a pot with drainage holes to prevent soggy potting soil, which can lead to root rot.
Pollinate your plant. A kaffir lime tree that is grown indoors will need to be hand-pollinated to trigger fruit production. Here's how: Use a small, dry paintbrush to dab each flower. Wiggle the brush around the center of each flower, moving from flower to flower. This carries the pollen from male to female flowers, just like bees do it.
Prune branches. Prune your citrus tree back when new growth starts in spring. Pruning citrus trees' long branches will encourage new branches to emerge from just below the cut. Cut at a 45° angle just above a leaf node (where a leaf stem attaches to a branch). Watch out for the thorns when pruning.
Something bugging your plant? Look over your tree for scale insects, which sometimes invade citrus trees. They look like brown, disc-shaped bumps on the leaves and stems. Treat any infestation immediately to prevent them from moving on to your other houseplants.
This evergreen perennial shrub won't go dormant in the winter, so continue to give it warmth, light and moisture year-round. With good care, it'll be loaded with limes every year.
Origin: Southeast Asia
Height: Up to 5 ft (1.5 m) indoors; prune it back to control its height
Light: Indoor citrus trees need as much light as you can give them. Place your lime tree directly in front of a window where it will get at least 8 hours of direct sun each day. Turn the plant a quarter turn every week to give all sides equal light for good growth. Indoor fruit trees grow well with artificial lighting, too. Move it outdoors for the summer, if you want. Make the move a gradual one, exposing the plant to a little more sun each week. Be sure to bring it back in before the first frost.
Water: Water thoroughly and empty drainage tray. Aim to keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy.
Humidity: If indoor humidity drops below 40%, put the container on a tray of wet pebbles or use a cool-mist room humidifier.
Temperature: Average to warm room temperatures 60-85°F/16-29°C. Hardy to USDA Zones 9-10, kaffir limes will tolerate warmer temperatures, but not frost.
Soil: Peat moss-based potting mix
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks in spring and summer with organic fruit tree fertilizer. It contains all the nutrients fruit trees need for healthy root growth and promotes flowers and fruits.
Propagation: Take stem cuttings in early summer. With a sharp knife or razor blade, take 4 in (10 cm) stem tip cuttings with at least 2-3 leaf nodes without flowers or fruit. Dip cut end in rooting powder before inserting in moist potting mix, then enclose in a plastic bag to maintain humidity. Stem cuttings will root in about 6-8 weeks.