Kaffir Lime Tree

AustinKaffirMarch 11, 2014

Hi Everyone,

I'm new to this forum, because I'm trying to learn how to better take care of my kaffir lime citrus tree. I bought it from a local nursery in Austin almost three years ago and I'm not positive, but I think it might be from a seedling. I can't seem to find a bump anywhere on the bottom trunk to indicate that it's a graft.

Anyway, around October of 2013, the short bush sent up a really tall branch that grew about 2-3 feet within less than a month's time. This was after we had taken it into our home to avoid leaving it in cold weather. We didn't prune it because we didn't know what to do. Now it's March 2014 and we've just started putting it out about a week ago.

The kaffir is now starting to go crazy. The tall shoot has grown another 8 inches in less than a week and I just noticed today that almost all of the horizontal branches have tiny new leaves sprouting from the end.

The tree seemed to grow slowly for the first 2 years until last October when it had the huge shoot. Can the community please help us answer the following questions that we haven't been able to find answers to?

1. Should we prune our kaffir lime tree and if so, should we prune the tall "leader" shoot? It's March and I've read that if we're going to prune the tree, it should happen around this time of year.

2. Should we put it in a larger pot? When we bought it as a small plant, we put it in the pot you see pictured, but according to what we've read, the pot should have been about 20" in diameter.

3. We give it a citrus fertilizer about once every 6 months, because we're not sure if we should do that or not. Do you think it will really help?

4. What can we do to aid the plant in producing fruit? We've read someplace that kaffir trees from seed can take up to 7 years to bear fruit if they're going to do it at all.

Thank you so much for any guidance you can give us!

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The tall sprout is what we call a "water sprout; generally it means you are being perhaps a little too kind to your tree. Water sprouts usually have bigger leaves and bigger thorns. If you cut it back to the level of the general canopy, it should revert back to "normal" growth. The leaves can be frozen in ziplock bags for use in cooking. BTW, if you do cut it back, I would lose the stake.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 8:07PM
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Neat little tree. As an alternative, if you want fruiting a little earlier (the fruits are not really edible, but great to collect seeds!), you could just pinch off the growing tip (where the tiny leaves are). Cutting off a significant portion could result in delayed fruiting.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 12:23AM
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Thank you Johnmerr and farm96744!

Johnmerr, we're going to prune the water sprout from our kaffir tree today, but can you tell me why we should remove the stake? Obviously, we won't need it any longer once we remove the water sprout, but is it hurting the kaffir tree?

farm96744, our tree has yet to bear any fruit for us, but if we pinch off the tiny new leaves from the tip of every branch, will that keep our kaffir tree from growing any larger?

We both have brown thumbs, so we baby this tree like parents. We water it about once every 3 days during the winter, but almost every day in the hot, Texas summer. It seems to love it, but we're not sure if less is more.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 11:34AM
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Citrus do not need stakes; staking a tree does not allow the trunk to strengthen naturally as it grows.

BTW, most and usually the best of kaffirs are grown from seed.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 12:41PM
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Thanks Johnmerr! That makes sense.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 1:46PM
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Pinching off the growth tip would just induce more branching, no harm done. if you remove the stake, over time that long branch will just curve down and even out as the rest of the tree grows and catch up. Overall tree size would be unchanged, since that may not turn out to be the "main trunk" anyway, even though it looks like it right now!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 1:51AM
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Thank you farm96744! I'm always so timid about cutting anything off from my plants, because I'm afraid I'll do the wrong thing and damage them.

My husband ended up cutting off the water sprout like Johnmerr suggested, because I was too chicken to do it. I think the whole neighborhood could feel my shock when he walked in yesterday morning with the cut branch---I didn't know he was going to do it. :)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 9:13AM
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BarbJP CA 15-16/9B

To farm96744; I beg to differ about the kaffer fruit. It's true they are very sour and a rather bitter, but I find they make a really great Gin Gimlet! I do add a bit of sugar to even out the flavor, but the bitter taste goes really well with the gin. Cheers!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 4:46AM
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