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Key limes are frequently grown from seed since it is "true-type". The seeds are poly embryonic, meaning more than one embryo. This results in multiple trees being grown from one seed. Sweet oranges will come true from seed, as well as grapefruit, tangerine and tangelo. Key limes may also be grafted with hard wood cuttings, with air layers or as budded trees with rootstocks resistant to foot rot.

There are some distinct advantages to both of these methods. Simply sowing the seeds eliminates the need for a grafting setup. Seedlings are more likely to be virus free, which seems to be a problem when grafting large numbers with bud wood.

There are reports that non-grafted citrus trees live up to twice as long, as grafted trees. Apparently this is determined by the number and types of disease organisms that may be present in the bud wood. If you are able to obtain certified disease-free bud wood then there should be no difference in the longevity of the trees. The seedling tree might not bear fruit for up to 6 or 7 years. In contrast a grafted tree will produce fruit within 3 to 4 years.


The Key lime is very sensitive to cold temperatures, which limits it to warm tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. Locally cold locations within the area you wish to plant may be hazardous whereas locally warm locations outside that area may be much more suitable. If you plan to grow a key lime tree it should be sheltered from cold north winds. The key lime has a high total heat requirement and needs plenty of direct sunlight in order to produce good sized fruit.

The key lime is extremely well adapted to a many types of soils. When it was formerly grown commercially in it's naturalized areas of the Florida Keys, it was well suited to the rocky alkaline soils. However due to flooding and salt water intrusion, the salt damage proved to be a frequent problem. The tree itself thrives in deep sandy soils but this tends to effect the overall fruit production, resulting in limes that are larger and less juicy and have a thicker peel. Key lime trees must have good drainage, as they will not tolerate flooded conditions.


The best time to plant from seed is late winter or early spring. If you are planting from potted trees it may be done at any time in warm locations. Each tree should be allowed at least 12 feet of growing room in all directions. As stated above, the optimum planting site will have good drainage and air circulation, plenty of exposure to sunlight, and be well protected from cold north winds.

Before planting a potted tree, remove any weeds from the planting area. Most soil conditions require a hole slightly wider than the container itself, but in rocky soils you should dig the hole at least twice the width and depth of the container. When setting the tree in the ground , it is recommended that it be slightly higher than it was growing in the container. Refill the hole around the plant, tamping and watering in order to eliminate air pockets.

The newly planted tree should be watered 3 times a week for 3 weeks. Reduce the frequency to once a week during dry periods. Pay attention to weed growth, as this eventually becomes competition for water and nutrients. Do not allow the tree to wilt, but do not overwater. Remember that the key lime does not tolerate flood conditions, and too much water can damage roots, especially in poorly-drained soils. Prune the tree only to shape it, and to remove any random sprouts that appear on the trunk. After the first growth appears, fertilize the tree with 1/2 pound of mixed fertilizer (check with a local nursery) and continue every 6 weeks for the first 3 years. Nutritional sprays can be applied 3 times per year or as needed.


This is the best advice I can offer for pest control and other related questions, as I have received many inquiries. After speaking with a researcher at the University of Florida, the best route to take would be to contact your local County Extension office. This way, your questions are addressed with specific knowledge of the pests, soil and weather conditions for your area. The extension offices are a great resource of cooperation between local educational institutions and the Department of Agriculture. Your tax dollars at work.

We will soon be adding downloadable information for growing citrus in your own home, regardless of the climate you might find yourself in. Stay tuned for these exciting additions.

Having a specific citrus problem? Texas A &M has produces a table with a diagnosis of common citrus problems. You might want to take a look here, it is very thorough and detailed. It may be found here on their site.


Click on the USDA icon, and you will be taken to a locator map of the US, which will direct you to your local County Extension office.

This page is still under construction. Last update was April 14, 2006

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