Sunday, 25 September 2016

New Citrus: Key Lime.

Well i finally caved and brought a Key Lime tree today. I had tried to resist the urge as i already have way too many Lime trees already (6x Tahitian, 2x Australian Fingerlime, 1x Kusaie, 2x Kaffir). But i have been reading through the Gardenweb forums lately, and from what a lot of the members there say it is the best flavoured of the Limes compared to a Tahitian. Funnily enough, even with all my Lime trees, i have run out of Limes at the moment! (this is how i have justified the purchase). Must be time to ease up on the cocktails LOL.

Key Limes are smaller and seedier, with a higher acidity, a stronger aroma, and a thinner rind, than that of the Tahitian lime. It is valued for its unique flavor compared to other limes. 

The peel is thin, smooth and leathery, and greenish yellow to yellow at maturity. The pulp is greenish yellow, juicy, and highly acid with a distinctive aroma. They are quite seedy, which are highly polyembryonic (two or more plants identical to the mother plant may be produced from one seed). The name comes from its association with the Florida Keys, where it is best known as the flavouring ingredient in Key lime pie. (Here's my recipe for Key Lime Pie). It is also known as West Indian lime, bartender’s lime, or Mexican lime.

Key Lime is a small, bushy tree that will grow to around 5 metres when fully mature. Its trunk, which rarely grows straight, has many branches, which often originate quite far down on the trunk.  It has slender branches armed with short to medium length thorns.  The leaves are small (
3-9cm long) & ovate, resembling orange leaves (the scientific name Citrus Aurantiifolia refers to this resemblance to the leaves of the orange, Citrus Aurantium). The flowers are 2.5 cm in diameter, are yellowish white with a light purple tinge on the margins. Flowers and fruit appear throughout the year, but are most abundant from May to September in the Northern Hemisphere.


There are various ways to cultivate Key limes. This variety of citrus can be propagated from seed and will grow true to the parent. Alternatively budwood can be grafted onto rough lemon or sour orange rootstock. The method of cultivation greatly affects the size and timeliness of the harvest. Trees cultivated from seedlings take 4–8 years before producing a harvest. They attain their maximal yield at about 10 years of age. Trees produced from grafting or 
cuttings bear fruit much sooner, sometimes producing fruit (though not a serious harvest) a year after planting. It takes approximately 9 months from the blossom to the fruit. When the fruit have grown to harvesting size and begin to turn yellow they are then picked.

The Key lime tree does best in sunny sites, well-drained soils, good air circulation, and protection from cold wind.
Generally, Key lime trees need only limited pruning. Prune only to shape trees, to remove dead wood, to limit tree height & maximise the circulation of air.

Key Lime Pie


  1. Hi Troy, enjoying your blog very much. I'm also in Auckland and have been looking for key limes at the local nurseries, but no luck. Where did you track yours down?


  2. Hi Matt i found mine at Kings Plant Barn in St Luke's. They are labelled as "Mexican Limes" or "West Indian Lime" which is another name for them. If there are none in stock they can order you one in pretty quickly. Failing that the Tahitian Lime is one of my favourite trees/fruit.