A full size Mexican lime tree refers to a mature Mexican lime tree that has reached its maximum height and width. Mexican lime trees, scientific name Citrus aurantifolia, are a small citrus tree that produce aromatic, tart, green fruit known as Mexican limes or Key limes. When allowed to grow to maturity, Mexican lime trees can reach heights of 13-26 feet (4-8 m) and widths of 13-20 feet (4-6 m). Their branching pattern is dense and bushy with stiff thorns on the branches. The leaves are small, oval and glossy green in color.
Mature Size and Growth Habit
Mexican lime trees are considered full size once they are around 10 years old or older. At maturity, the trunk diameter averages 2-6 inches. Growth habit is classified as a shrub or small tree. With proper care and growing conditions, a full size Mexican lime can live and remain productive for 50 years or longer.
The trees are subtropical evergreens with a rounded canopy. Left unpruned, mature Mexican lime trees tend to grow as large shrubs with multiple trunks sprouting close to ground level. They can be pruned and trained into a single trunk tree shape. Commercial groves usually keep trees pruned to 8-15 feet tall for easier harvesting.
Ideal Climate and Growing Conditions
Mexican lime trees thrive in warm, tropical or subtropical climates with hot summers. They grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11 where minimum temperatures do not dip below 20°F (-6°C). Trees may survive light frosts down to 25°F (-4°C) for short periods.
Full sun exposure is required for optimal growth and fruit production. Mexican lime trees need a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. High humidity levels are preferred as the trees are native to humid, tropical regions. Well-drained soil with a pH between 6-7.5 is ideal. Sandy or loamy soils are better than heavy clay. Good drainage is crucial to prevent root rot.
Provide regular irrigation to maintain evenly moist soil. Avoid overwatering which can lead to root diseases. Shelter trees from strong winds which can damage branches. Apply a balanced fertilizer and compost or manure around trees in spring and summer.
Pollination and Fruiting
Mexican lime trees are cross-pollinating, meaning that for the best fruit production they require pollen from a different citrus variety. Plant different citrus trees within 60 feet of each other for effective pollination. Compatible pollinators include other limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and calamondins. Or you can hand pollinate by collecting pollen and dabbing it onto flowers using a small brush.
Trees will begin to bear fruit 2-4 years after planting. Fruits ripen 6-12 months after flowering depending on climate and variety. In ideal conditions, mature trees can produce 500-600 limes annually. Fruits are oval or round in shape and turn from green to yellow when ripe. Ripe limes measure 1-2 inches diameter on average.
Pruning and Maintenance
Prune Mexican lime trees after fruiting to promote new growth and maintain desired shape and size. Remove dead, damaged or crossing branches. Thin dense interior branches to open up the canopy for light penetration and air circulation. This helps reduce pest and disease problems.
Clip off any suckers sprouting from the rootstock below the graft union. These will not produce edible fruit. Keep the soil around trees weed-free by hand pulling or light cultivation. Apply mulch to retain moisture and reduce weeds.
Protect trees from freezing temperatures and frost which can damage leaves, flowers and fruits. Wrap trunks of young trees to prevent sunscald. Control aphids, mites, scales and caterpillars which can infest trees using organic sprays as needed. Fertilize trees 2-3 times per year and irrigate regularly for productive growth and lime yields.
Choosing a Mature Mexican Lime Tree
When purchasing a full size Mexican lime tree, select one that is at least 5-6 feet tall with a sturdy trunk that is about 2 inches thick. Avoid trees with signs of disease, pests, dead branches or other damage. Choose a tree with a well-shaped canopy and healthy green foliage. It should have a balanced structure without excessive leaning to one side.
Purchase trees from reputable nurseries, garden centers or orchards that are specifically suited for your climate. Ask questions about the tree’s age, growing conditions and productivity. For the best results, select trees that were grown in containers rather than field dug. Check that the graft union looks smooth and intact.
Planting a Mature Mexican Lime Tree
When planting a full size Mexican lime tree:
– Dig a planting hole at least twice as wide as the root ball and slightly shallower.
– Carefully remove the tree from its container without damaging the root ball. Tease out any circling roots.
– Place the tree in the hole so the graft union sits 2-3 inches above ground level.
– Backfill with native soil, tamping down gently to remove air pockets.
– Water thoroughly to saturate the soil. Apply mulch around the base.
– Stake the tree for support its first year until established.
– Prune off any damaged branches and shape as desired.
Allow space for the mature height and width of the tree. Plant in full sun with well-draining soil. Irrigate thoroughly after planting and as needed during dry periods.
Propagating from Cuttings
Mexican lime trees can also be propagated from cuttings to produce genetically identical trees. Take 6-8 inch cuttings from healthy branches in spring using clean bypass pruners. Remove lower leaves and dip the cut end in rooting hormone.
Place cuttings in a pot with sterile potting mix. Cover with a plastic bag or cloche to maintain humidity. Keep soil moist but not soaked. Cuttings may take several weeks to root at 70-80°F. Once rooted and actively growing, transplant to larger containers before planting outdoors after frost risk has passed.
Caring for a Young Mexican Lime Tree
Caring for a young Mexican lime tree properly is crucial to ensure healthy maturation to its full size and productive fruiting as a mature tree. Here are some tips for caring for young trees in the first few years after planting:
– Water 1-2 times per week, providing about 1-2 inches of water until established. Then water deeply as needed to maintain moist soil.
– Apply protective mulch around the base to retain moisture and reduce weeds. Avoid mulch touching the trunk.
– Fertilize 3-4 times per year with a balanced or citrus-specific fertilizer according to label directions.
– Prune only to remove dead, damaged or crossing branches and shape the tree. Avoid heavy pruning.
– Check for pest problems and treat organically as needed. Aphids, mites and scales are common.
– Protect young trees from frost and freeze damage by wrapping or insulating the trunk if temperatures drop below 30°F (-1°C).
– Stake the tree to provide support and prevent damage by winds for 1-2 years after planting.
Proper irrigation, fertilization, pest management and pruning in early years will help nurture a strong, productive lime tree as it matures.
Typical Growth Rate
Mexican lime trees grow at a moderate rate, averaging 1-2 feet of new growth per year once established. Growth rate depends on climate, soil quality, irrigation and sun exposure. Optimal conditions will lead to faster growth.
Trees grow rapidly in youth, then begin to slow down and stabilize as they reach mature size. Expect young trees to grow around 2 feet per year. Growth naturally slows to 1 foot or less annually as trees hit maturity. Fruit production also increases with age as trees mature.
Pruning and adequate water and fertilizer is important to encourage healthy new growth and flowering each year. Avoid over pruning mature trees which can stunt growth. Space multiple trees accordingly allowing room for growth to full size.
Mexican Lime Tree Facts
Here are some additional facts about full size Mexican lime trees:
– Native to Southeast Asia and introduced to Mexico where it became a popular crop. It was brought to Florida in the 1800s.
– Usually grown from grafted plants to ensure fruit quality and quick maturity. ‘Tahiti’ and ‘Bearss’ are common varieties.
– Smaller than regular ‘Persian’ lime trees which can reach 20 feet tall and wide. More cold hardy than other citrus.
– Fragrant white flowers bloom in clusters spring through fall, followed by ripe fruit 6-12 months later.
– Limes are gritty and acidic with thin, aromatic peel. They average 1-3 inches diameter at maturity.
– Whole fruits stay fresh for 2-4 weeks if kept refrigerated. Juice can be frozen for several months.
– Fruits are rich in vitamin C and used to flavor drinks, marinades, sauces, seafood and other dishes.
– Essential oils used in perfumes and aromatherapy. Leaves used for medicine. Wood makes good tool handles.
– Trees thrive with warm days, high humidity and evenly moist soil.They make excellent container plants if protected from frost.
– Sensitive to salt and soil phosphorus deficiency. Intolerant of poorly drained soil. Damaged by hard freezes.
In summary, a full size Mexican lime tree typically reaches 13-26 feet tall and wide when mature at around 10 years old or more. It produces fragrant flowers and tart, aromatic green Mexican limes. Allow enough space for the tree to reach its mature size. Site in full sun with well-drained soil and provide ample irrigation. Fertilize regularly and control pests to keep trees growing vigorously. With ideal climate and care, a mature Mexican lime tree can remain productive for decades.