Mexican Lime Stopped Producing fruit

morbeMarch 28, 2012

Hello Everyone.

I will admit I am not a gardener nor do I have a green thnumb it seems I'm only slightly lucky when planting plants. Some things grow some dies but mostly things just stay on life support it seems. But I'm having issues with a Mexican Lime tree, So here it the Long Story for those who care to read it:

I purchased a Mexican Lime Tree from a reputable nursery here in San Antonio TX. I picked it because it had a couple of fruit on it already. I took it home and left it in the pot. Cared for it and the next year it didnt produce any fruit or flowers. So I started to use a store bought citrus fertilizer and the next year NOTHING. My wife suggested that I put it in the ground and I did, I didnt expect much after the first year of planting it. But now a about 4 years later still nothing. I've read some basic check lists for Mexican Lime trees.

Full Sun: I planted mine smack dab in the middle of our full sun area. It gets at least 8 hours of sun.

Heat: with summers here reaching the triple digits months at a time, I get plenty of heat and during the very mild winters I wrapped it in front blankets.

Drainage: I planted this plant on a slope side of our house's back yard. plenty of drainage.

When I first purchased the tree you could rub your fingers on the leafs on the dark green glossy leaves and smell the Limes aroma. Now the tree has mutated into growing these light green double lobed alien leaves that smell bitter when you rub your finger in the leaves. I'm really seriously thinking about diging this thing up and tossing it in the garbage. It seems I tried everything. It still grows new buds its not diseased. Please Help anyone.

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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Now the tree has mutated into growing these light green double lobed alien

sounds like the rootstock has taken over.
can you post a picture?


    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 1:58PM
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have you fertilized?

nurseries fertilize their trees heavily to force them into flowering/fruiting

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 9:27PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

I agree with Mike, you're describing trifoliate rootstock. Look at your tree's trunk. Are the branches emanating from below the graft? If so, see if any of the branches are growing from above the graft. If not, you're lime tree is no more, and the rootstock has taken over the cultivar graft. So it would then be time to shovel prune your tree. Also, a Mexican lime in your zone would never survive. We frequently have troubles growing Mexican (Key) limes here in my very temperate area that is very close to the Key lime's native habitat here in San Diego county, unless you're right up at the ocean. In zone 8, it would never survive your winter temps! If you want to try a lime in the ground, you're better trying a Bearrs lime, which has some lemon in its lineage, and can tolerate colder winter temps. Key limes are just about the least tolerant citrus out there for cold temps. Post some photos of your tree, some close ups of the various leaves, and where these branches are coming out of the trunk. See if you can find the graft line and then take photos of the trunk for us at that point and post them to the forum. If you don't know how to post photos in a message, just ask, and we'll give you instructions. It's very easy :-)

Patty S.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 9:45PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

oh yeah you got a problem there. Twin trunks which is fine if they are both above the graft but it really looks to me like One is the rootstock the other is the Mexican lime. Hard to tell which is which a close up would make it easier, but the double lob branch with large thorns should be the rootstock and it needs to go. Also you need to remove the grass away from the tree atleast to the drip line and then mulch up to an inch or two of the trunk. The tree is competing against the grass and itself. fix these 2 problems fertilize and water and it should get back on track.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 8:31AM
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I think im screwed, its all root stock. Thorns every where. I have a drip irrigation part of my sprinkler system. Im not sure if there is a graft? Should i just chop this thing down to two main branches and keep an eye out for a cerain type of branch? And let those florish? Yep im in the process of getting our other gardens ready for late spring and summer, part of the honey do list. When i get mulch and pull the grass and weeds from the front of the house i will then move to lime tree. I will send a close up pic of the bottom branches tonight. I just dont believe that a tree can be ruined to never bare fruit again?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 9:54AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Yeah if you can post a picture of the trunk that would help.
Even if there is one bud of the scion left you could still recover the tree the question would be do you want to wait for it to recover or spend $$$ and get a new more vigorous tree.

Im a sucker I would try and revive it but at the same time I would buy a new one.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 2:44PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

morbe, please paste the HTML code and not the URL into your message. Makes it MUCH easier for us to see the photos right in your message. You'll know you've gotten it right because your photo will appear in your message when click on "Preview Message". Two trunks is the problem. I suspect at least one is a rootstock sucker. But, we would need a nice close up of your trunk. Remove all that grass so we can see all the way down to the dirt. We're trying to help you find the graft union, and then see where the two main trunks or branches are emanating from - above or below the graft union. Not sure about the leaf with the huge winged petiole. Definitely not a Mexican lime leaf. Mexican limes are thorny, but they don't have this huge winged petiole. My guess for you: Your Mexican lime graft died due to cold temps and the rootstock has simply taken over. I would replace with a Bearrs lime, it should survive in your zone.

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 3:38PM
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If it is a rootstock sucker, consider using it to topwork (graft) a different variety before you cut it off and discard it. An established, healthy in-the-ground rootstock is a valuable resource and can get you a couple years headstart on having the tree you want there. It would be interesting to have one of the more expert here ID what variety the sucker is. It is not trifoliate or sour orange. Looks a bit like grapefruit leaves ?

I live in Tucson, and I think the winters here are generally similar to slightly warmer than San Antonio ? Here the conventional wisdom is that limes Grafting citrus is pretty easy to do successfully. There are lots of videos on Youtube and lots of tutorials on the web. The same techniques used on stone fruit and apples are used on citrus and citrus is generally easier to succeed with. It is now the ideal time of year to graft, there should be available choices for scion (the variety being grafted) at both local nurseries (buy a liner), or maybe neighbors. All you want is a couple sticks about pencil sized with a few buds on them of the desired variety(s). If you don't want to attempt it yourself (but it is very easy), there should be a local fruit fanatic, arborist or extension agent that could do it in 10 minutes. Search "cleft graft" and "bark graft" on youtube to see how easy it is.

I am just a hobby grower so I don't have extensive experience, but I have done about half-a-dozen rootstock topworks here for friends and neighbors with the same issue you seem to have. Invariably it is a lime or lemon that was winter killed and the rootstock came up. The owners usually don't know what's happened for a couple years until they get some oddly horrible fruit.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 5:25PM
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Purdue univ: "The Mexican lime tree is exceedingly vigorous; may be shrubby or range from 6 1/2 to 13 ft (2-4 m) high, with many slender, spreading branches, and usually has numerous, very sharp, axillary spines to 3/8 in (1 cm) long. The evergreen, alternate leaves are pleasantly aromatic, densely set; elliptic- or oblong-ovate, rounded at the base, 2 to 3 in (5-7.5 cm) long, leathery; light purplish when young, dull dark-green above, paler beneath, when mature; with minute, rounded teeth and narrowly-winged petioles."

univ of Cali Riverside: "The trees are moderately-sized and bushy, almost shrub-like, and the leaves are distinctively aromatic when crushed.

Tree medium in vigor and size, spreading and bushy with numerous, slender, willowy fine-stemmed branchlets densely armed with small, slender spines. Foliage dense and consists of small, pale green, broadly lanceolate, blunt-pointed leaves with definitely winged petioles. Flower buds and flowers small, and flowering occurs throughout year but mainly in spring and late summer. Not withstanding contrary statements in the literature, the new shoot growth is faintly purple-tinted and flower buds and young flowers faintly purple-tinged. Coloration fades rapidly, however, especially if the weather is warm, and is soon lost."

not sure what rootstock you have, but doesnt look like trifolate.

are the smaller leaflets between the larger leaf and stem called petioles?

both sources say the leaves are aromatic. crush a leaf from each of the trunks.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 8:00PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Not trifoliate after seeing the photos, but definitely NOT Mexican Lime for sure with those huge winged petioles. I'd say the graft has died unless morbe can find branches with different leaves that look like the ones in the photo I posted (yes, with narrow petioles). As I mentioned, just NOT the climate for a Mexican Lime. And even a Bearss Lime will struggle unless grown in a protected area for sure. Sorry, morbe. Looks like this Mexican Lime should have stayed in a pot. But, not to despair. If you now how to graft, you can certainly top work the tree, or just replace it with a better citrus choice :-)

Patty S.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 9:01PM
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