Kaffir Lime Tree: Growing Makrut Limes At Home


Do you like Thai delicacies? If you do, you then’re most likely conscious of the weather that go into a superb Thai curry. And you’ll be able to develop a necessary ingredient in your personal backyard. If you’re into stir fries, and tangy lime zest, attempt rising a kaffir lime tree!

Although these timber are native to tropical southeast Asia, it’s very simple to domesticate them outdoors that area. With a bit of shifting within the colder seasons, you’ll have kaffir lime all yr spherical. Alternately, skip that outside rising altogether and develop kaffir lime indoors. 

Citrus crops could also be giant of their native habitats, however they preserve a small measurement simply in the appropriate circumstances. Your timber might be residents of a greenhouse, patio, or they are often grown indoors. Watch out for the thorns, although!

Let’s talk about what might be your new favourite potted plant, and even your favourite tropical to domesticate within the southern United States. 

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Quick Care Guide

The kaffir lime tree produces fragrant leaves and bumpy limes. Source: Stratman2
Common Name(s) Kaffir lime, makrut lime
Scientific Name Citrus hystrix
Days to Harvest Varies after 3 years
Light Full solar
Water 1 inch per week
Soil Well-draining, sandy soil
Fertilizer Citrus pellet fertilizer 2 to three instances per yr
Pests Ants, cottony cushion scale, mealy bugs, spider mites, leaf miner, whiteflies
Diseases Greasy spot fungus, foot rot, citrus canker, huanglongbing 

All About Kaffir Limes

Makrut buds
Tiny flower buds making ready to bloom on a kaffir lime. Source: willsfca

Kaffir lime or makrut lime (Citrus hystrix) originated in Southeast Asia. The phrase “kaffir” has been attributed to a racial slur referring to non-Muslim Swahilian Africans who had been stolen from their lands through the Indian Ocean slave commerce. The Kaffirs had been additionally an ethnic group in Sri Lanka who descended from Bantu peoples. 

With latest modifications in political beliefs of widespread names, many eating places and grocery shops use the title makrut lime. It seems that micrantha – a time period that refers to a lime with a protracted lineage – is similar species as C. hystrix. In the curiosity of compassion, many select to make use of the time period makrut as an alternative when referring to this citrus plant. 

This citrus tree is an evergreen bush that stands wherever from 6 to 35 toes tall. The double hourglass-shaped leaves with a leaf blade twice the dimensions of the petiole develop on thorny branches from a central trunk. In spring, 4 to five-petaled white flowers bloom as much as 2 inches extensive and self-pollinate. They die away and inexperienced citrus fruit with a bumpy exterior type the place the flower as soon as was. The fruit ripens and varieties yellow pores and skin. Home gardeners hand-pollinate kaffir lime when they’re grown indoors.

Crushed leaves emit an intense citrus perfume and carry a scrumptious taste into cuisines. The fruit rinds have an astringent taste put into curry base paste. They’re additionally zested into spiced rum. The rind will not be solely used to impart taste, however is reputed to maintain away mosquitos, fleas, and lice. The fruit’s recent juice is blended into water and used as a cleaner. The important oil of makrut is utilized in a number of industries, together with aromatherapy.

Because this plant takes some time to fruit (at the very least three years from the sapling stage), many gardeners prune it to maintain it sufficiently small for a big planter. That’s not a straightforward feat attributable to thorns as much as 1.5 inches lengthy. Some individuals even graft much less thorny citrus onto makrut to take away a number of the thorniness in future development, though this could produce a blended fruit tree. Grafting makrut branches onto one other citrus rootstock can be widespread.


Most individuals within the Western Hemisphere place their kaffir lime tree in a big planter, at the very least three toes deep. The kaffir lime tree thrives within the tropics. If you’re dwelling in a tropical area, and also you’re rising different tropical crops, plant the kaffir lime tree outdoor in late fall so your tree has time to root into the soil earlier than the summer season warmth. Do not transplant within the lifeless of winter in chilly climate, otherwise you put the kaffir lime in danger. Place it removed from different fruit timber, and away from your own home and facilities. Kaffir lime timber attain as much as 35 toes tall in optimum circumstances. 

Dig a gap at the very least 3 toes extensive and twice as extensive as the basis ball. Amend the soil inside the gap to incorporate sand for drainage, and well-rotted compost. Place the kaffir lime tree within the gap, then add common backyard soil. Allow the mound of the tree to stay above the soil line, and be sure that any graft joints aren’t coated. If you reside outdoors the tropics, transplant your kaffir lime tree from the nursery pot into a big container with the identical mixture of soil that an outside tree would have. When the chilly climate hits your kaffir lime timber can then be introduced indoors. 


Vicious thorns
The thorns of a makrut tree aren’t any laughing matter. Source: moirabot

Let’s speak in regards to the fundamental wants and rising circumstances on your kaffir lime timber. You’ll have a tasty harvest of kaffir lime leaves all yr lengthy. 

Sun and Temperature

Makrut timber are tropical and want full solar. That means 6 to eight hours of solar per day at minimal. The USDA hardiness zone vary for these timber is small, starting from 10 to 12. Kaffir lime leaves produce in excessive temperatures simply. Triple-digit warmth isn’t any downside in any respect. But when the climate dips under 50 levels Fahrenheit, defend your tree. Bring it indoors, or cowl the fragrant leaves with a industrial frost material. If it experiences a tough freeze it could die. Low temperatures (under 50 levels) will even stunt flowering and fruit manufacturing. 

Water and Humidity

These crops love excessive warmth and humidity. If you’ve dry warmth in your area, and your tree is outdoor, water a few instances per week on the base of the trunk. Do so within the morning, and keep away from wetting foliage. Overall, about an inch of water per week is satisfactory with the appropriate humidity. Allow the soil across the tree to dry out in between waterings in order to not waterlog it. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are optimum for watering, however another light irrigation technique works. Do not water if there was a number of rain. In the rising season through the fruiting part, water a couple of instances per week to assist fruit type and bulk up. 


The soil across the tree needs to be common to fertile, and sandy to advertise good drainage. Fill a pot or gap within the floor with a superb combination of common backyard soil amended with sand and well-rotted compost. Makrut can survive in poor soil, nevertheless it particularly wants good drainage within the pot or gap the place you place it. A pH of 6 to six.5 is greatest.  


After the primary yr of development, fertilize makrut with slow-release citrus fertilizer 2 to three instances per yr. A couple of tablespoons are sufficient, even in mature timber. Apply this in the beginning of spring, the start of summer season, and the top of summer season. Do not fertilize in winter as this may increasingly shock the tree. The NPK of the fertilizer needs to be 2-1-1. Water it in effectively.  


Wear robust, thick gloves when pruning this tree as a result of it’s thorny and can stab simply. Use loppers. Always prune on the node of every department until you’re taking a part of the department attributable to illness. Prune again branches by a couple of inches in the event that they show a weeping posture. If you’d prefer to hold your tree small, it’s vital to prune. 

Begin by eradicating any diseased branches. Then, take away any lifeless branches which might be darkish brown and dry under the bark. Scratch the floor of the department to find out if it’s lifeless. Next, take away small sprouts from the underside 10 to 12 inches of the tree. Save them, as they are often propagated into new timber. Branches rising towards the bottom of the trunk needs to be eliminated as effectively. Note that makrut is evergreen, and the leaves is not going to drop in winter. 


Those small buds and suckers you pruned off the tree might be rooted in a starter pot. Use a propagation dome, and rooting powder or gel to assist the stems get began. Clean minimize the top of the chopping, and take away the underside leaves. Use speedy rooters and place the tip in after they’ve been dipped in rooting media. Space the cuttings out in your tray so that they don’t contact one another. Spray them with water and place the dome excessive of the tray. Place them in an space with low gentle. Keep the realm at about room temperature. It can take wherever from 6 days to six weeks for the cuttings to root. 

To graft your lime onto one other rootstock (which might be one other makrut, or one other lime species), take a chopping of a wholesome department and make a 45-degree angle minimize alongside the bottom of the stem. Then minimize a department of the rootstock, exposing the wholesome flesh. Cut simply into the bark sufficient to separate it from the flesh, and place the makrut chopping below the bark. Bind them with plastic, and place a plastic bag across the grafted space, affixing the sting to the rootstock. After a couple of weeks take away the plastic bag and wrap. If the branches are fused and there’s new development, you’ve been profitable. 

Harvesting and Storing

Harvested makrut limes
Makrut limes have a particular bumpy pores and skin. Source: smashz

Despite the thorns, the stabs, and the ache, harvesting this tree in your backyard is so rewarding! Whether you go for fragrant leaves, fruit, or juice you’ll have astringence to pack into dishes all yr.  


PIck inexperienced kaffir lime leaves each time the tree is mature, in spring when they’re recent. Throw them in together with your favourite fish, rooster, or heat spicy meals as wanted. If you wish to choose a couple of leaves, doing so by hand is ok. For bigger harvests, choose a whole department and punctiliously take away all of the leaves. Gloves are a should right here. 

Fruit will set about 6 to 9 months after the flowers die away. At this time, check a lime by eradicating it by hand and chopping it in half. If there’s satisfactory juice, the remainder of the limes needs to be prepared. Harvest the fruits once they’re inexperienced, not once they’re yellow. The yellow fruits are too bitter for use in dishes, though the zest is usually added to meals as a seasoning. In tropical areas, harvest the fruits year-round. In areas outdoors the hardiness zones, harvest happens in late summer season. 


Wash recent leaves and retailer them in a plastic bag with paper towels for one week within the fridge crisper. They’ll freeze this manner for as much as 1 yr. To dry them, hold a whole department the other way up in a heat, darkish, dry place till they break simply. Store them in an hermetic container for two years. 

Store recent limes on the countertop with good air circulation for two to 4 weeks. They’ll hold within the fridge for 1 to 2 months. Cut limes needs to be consumed instantly or inside a day. Lime juice will hold hermetic within the fridge for six months. Freezing will not be really useful as it’ll break the feel of the lime, however freezing the juice is ok. The identical goes for different citrus fruits, like lemons. Dehydrate the lime to finish dryness, and it’ll hold as much as 5 years in a plastic tub or glass jar. Properly canned and sealed jars of lime final 9 months. Freeze the entire or sectioned lime zest and retailer it for 1 yr. Use this zest in dishes as wanted, and odor that beautiful perfume. 


Potted kaffir lime
Container-grown kaffir lime is certainly an possibility. Source: AndyRobertsPhotos

Now we’ve coated the care, so let’s cowl the issues to seek for while you examine in your tree. 

Growing Problems

Grow this tree in an space that’s too chilly, and it takes on chilly harm. At extended intervals of temperatures under 50 levels, the tree might turn into broken or die. Bring it indoors for those who suspect the climate gained’t let up. 

Growing the tree in a medium that doesn’t have good drainage and stays moist too lengthy creates circumstances that stress the tree and put it in peril of contracting a illness. If it dries out too lengthy, the tree will drop leaves and sluggish flowering, slowing your yield. A lack of vitamins will even sluggish yield, and present as modifications in leaf shade. Remember to fertilize 2 to three instances over the rising season to keep away from nutrient deficiencies. 


Ants are an indication that different pests could be round. They have a tendency to reap the honeydew of different pests like aphids. By domesticating these pests, ants have a meals supply… and so do the opposite pests. Mix equal elements of borax, peanut butter, and honey right into a paste and fill outdated bottlecaps with them, setting them across the base of the tree. The ants will harvest the paste, carry it again to their hive, and the borax within the paste will kill the colony. Painting the trunk of the tree with sticky paint resembling Tanglefoot Trap will forestall ants from reaching the fruit.

Cottony cushion scale is a standard downside amongst citrus timber. It appears like white fluffy bumps that seem on branches and tree trunks. It’s not a fungus or a illness, although. It’s bugs – Icerya purchasi to be actual. They suck sap from branches and may produce honeydew that ants like to drink. If there’s only some, use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to drive them to launch from the plant and take away them. Neem or horticultural oil will successfully kill these scale bugs and different mealybugs off.  

Mealybugs, spider mites, leaf miners, and whiteflies are all insect pests that suck sap from the leaves and branches of the makrut tree. Mealybugs appear like little cotton wisps that stay in colonies within the tree. Spider mites are so tiny that you could be not see them till later phases once they spin webs round elements of your tree. Leaf miners journey contained in the leaves reasonably than on the floor, consuming the flesh between the cell partitions of leaves. They go away small meandering trails in your leaves. Whiteflies are small moth-like bugs that feast on the sap of timber at anywhere. 

Search for these bugs, and blast them off with a robust stream of water as quickly as potential. This often fixes the problem. Neem oil is efficient in opposition to the eggs of most of those pests, because it causes the unhatched younger to be smothered. It’s additionally efficient in opposition to grownup spider mites. The citrus leaf miner is a bit trickier to deal with; take away leaves that present signal of mining trails and destroy them, then spray the tree commonly with neem oil because the naturally-forming azadirachtin within the oil will steadily penetrate via leaves to take out any remaining larvae. Insecticidal cleaning soap is efficient in opposition to grownup mealybugs and whiteflies.


Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citri is the micro organism that causes citrus canker. Yellow ringed lesions seem on all elements of the tree (leaves, branches, and fruit). In later phases, the lesions get a grey fuzzy middle and the tree turns into defoliated. Remove broken elements of the tree as quickly as potential. Apply copper fungicide spray per the producer’s instructions, being positive to cowl all parts of the tree. It’s vital to contact your native agricultural extension and allow them to know you’re coping with citrus canker as some areas have native rules that require you to chop down and eliminate the tree attributable to dangers to different timber within the area, and the illness is tracked. Copper fungicide will not be assured to repair this canker illness, so you might lose the tree no matter any tried therapy.

Greasy spot comes from the fungus known as Mycosphaerella citri. It begins as a spot on the underside of leaves which will type a yellow spot on the tops that seems greasy and glossy within the middle. It also can influence the fruit, creating darkish spots which might be known as greasy spot rind blotch and that are a big agricultural downside for fruit sellers. Copper fungicides work to deal with this fungus, however are sometimes blended with horticultural oils previous to spraying.

Phytophthora gummosis is the pathogen of two soil-borne organisms that trigger foot rot, or the rotting of makrut roots. You’ll discover cracked bark and gumming within the cracks. Just above the roots, you’ll see brown to black bark. Root rot attributable to Phytophthora is tough to deal with. You can graft resistant rootstock onto your tree, or use the strategies listed for greasy spot to deal with foot rot. 

Huanglongbing (HLB), additionally known as citrus greening, is a bacterial illness that impacts nearly all citrus crops. It causes new leaves to tackle a blotchy look, and for the fruit to comprise aborted seeds. The fruit might not ripen on timber affected by HLB. If you discover these signs in your tree, quarantine it, and call your native ag extension workplace. They may have details about one of the best subsequent steps. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Tiny limes forming
A cluster of newly-forming makrut limes. Source: Thanh Coutts

Q: How tall does a kaffir lime tree develop?

A: Anywhere from 6 to 35 toes, relying on the circumstances. 

Q: What is the distinction between kaffir lime and lime?

A: Kaffir limes are bumpier, develop on thorny timber, and have a way more astringent odor and style. The leaves are the preferred harvest from this tree!

Q: Why are kaffir lime leaves so costly?

A: It’s these dang thorns! Harvest have to be finished delicately so harvesters don’t get stabbed.

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