Key Lime Tree won't bear fruit!

ToddZarNovember 15, 2012

Let me start by saying I've read every forum imaginable and have tried just about everything. I bought this "Key Lime" tree almost 10 years ago at a gift shop in Florida. It was pretty much a twig about 8" tall with a few leaves wrapped in plastic in a tiny pot. So year after years it's been steadily growing but has NEVER even flowered. It's always been in a container and brought in during winter. I've tried to never have it outside when it's 50 degrees or colder. Over winter it's near a window but doesn't get full sun. In summer it gets full sun all day. I've read that if it was started from a seed it could take up to 7 years to mature, but as of now it's at least 10 years old. This past spring I started fertilizing it with Citrus fertilizer, which resulted in lots of new branches and leaves but still no blossoms! I've also read about root stock, grafting and scions, but that's all way over my head. Just wondering if there's anything more I can do or is it a lost cause and I should just start over with a tree bought from a real nursery and not a gift shop!

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A nice looking tree and it will eventually flower - as long as you don't keep pruning it. It's just you're being a bit impatient! In a non-citrus climate it can take 12 years or more for seedling citrus to fruit.
A grafted tree from a proper nursery would have been better to start with, and buying one now would probably still give you some fruit earlier than your seedling.
Why not keep your seedling and provide it with another citrus tree as some company?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 1:12PM
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Thanks for the quick feedback! I'll keep the faith for a few more years (although it's starting to take up a lot of space in my living room!). I may indeed buy another one just so I can finally fulfill my dream of sitting on my deck with a bucket of Corona and plucking a lime right off my tree, but after such a long term relationship with this tree it seems like that would be cheating!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 1:33PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Citrange is giving you sage advice. Your tree looks just lovely! I would continue fertilizing a little every month. As much sunlight as possible, and keep outside as temps allow (limes are very frost sensitive, so make sure it comes inside if temps are threatening to drop below 40 degrees). I agree with Citrange, why don't you pick yourself up a nice Bearss lime to keep this lime tree company? I'm suspecting you have a Mexican lime (since Bearss limes are very seedless), to have a nice "bookend" of lime trees! You have a very beautiful tree, don't give up on it yet, you're doing a fine job, and yes, seedling potted citrus can take a bit to flower, but in looking at your tree, I'd guess you may get flowers pretty soon. And don't prune - flowers are produced at the tips of the branches, so you don't want to prune off potential flower buds.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 2:42PM
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RyanLo(NC 7B)

I would almost be sure it is seed grown. I have a clone key that in its second year started producing. This year its fourth (I think) its produced hundreds and its about the same size as yours. I wouldn't even worry about pruning, when they start flowering they produce so many its impossible to stop it. I guarantee when it starts producing you will have so many you'll have to give them away. hopefully that will be next year!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 3:53PM
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Would more potassium and less nitrogen help? It is a good looking tree, and plenty green.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 6:08AM
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As a Chicago Cubs fan, "Wait 'til next year" is all too familiar!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 12:15PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Possibly, Doglips. Todd, you can also try forcing blooms. This is called the Verdelli Process, which is used to time lemon blooms in certain parts of Italy:

After the lemon tree is more than 1 year old, stop watering the tree during the summer season for around 35 to 60 days until the leaves begin to wilt. Then heavily irrigate the lemon tree and fertilize it with a high-nitrogen-content fertilizer. This technique, known as the Verdelli process, will force the tree into bloom in August or early September.

Since you're tree is in a pot, you may not need to withhold water for that long. Just long enough for the leaves to wilt or cup, but not start dropping. See if this will force your little lime tree into blossom. The key is timing (heat of the summer), and some water deficit then followed by a punch of fertilizer and water.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 1:32PM
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Your tree is still a juvenile give her a chance to go to the adulthood.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 5:17PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

A 10 year old tree, even a seedling, is not a juvenile tree :-) I'd say more like young adult. Seedlings, especially those in containers can be slower to produce, but once a lime tree starts to produce, they are prolific producers. Tons of limes. I'd say try a little water deficit very carefully when you get some nice warm temps in the summer, then water very well, apply fertilizer, and water it in well and water frequently. That should snap it into blossom for you.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 5:26PM
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I bought a 5 feet naval orange tree which I was told it was 4 years old grafted on a rootstock. It is in 10 gllons pot it gets lots of sun in summer and none in winter but plant light. It grew to over 6 feet and flowered in may. Alot of flowers dropped down and some fruit dropped whem it were marble size. I have about 18 oranges on it now of about tennis ball size. I was told it will ripen around January-February. I fertlizes it with Miracle Grow 3-1-2.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 5:37PM
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JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LIME IS COME!!! Thanks for the tips everyone, you can't believe how freakin' ecstatic I was when I saw the first fruit of my labor! Apparently the water deficit was the key and shocked it into blooming, funny I didn't even notice the first blossom and thought it was some kind of weird bug or fungus or mutant leaf... and about fainted when I saw this little zygote of a lime growing there. Now I've counted about 16 additional blossoms about to bloom, and am back to watering and fertilizing - hopefully it will continue thriving once I get it back outside this summer! Corona's for everyone!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 10:17AM
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As a followup question, can anyone tell me when I should bring this key lime tree outside? I've read varying opinions, some say don't let it get below 50F and other say they can even handle a short frost...?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 5:12PM
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Congratz on the fruits. I have a key lime tree as well but I grow it for leaves so don't really care about the fruits.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 5:57PM
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Congrats! I just bought 2 key limes, both are in full bloom (joys of grafted!) and really hoping to have some set for me! Love my limes!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 6:10PM
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Maybe its a different cultivar or something, but that doesn't look a whole lot like my key lime. Mine has much smaller thorns, and smaller leaves.

I've also heard that key limes will bear fruit in their 2nd-4th year, from seed. Maybe some other sort of lime?

Nice looking tree though, and glad you're finally getting blooms. Let us know if it ends up a key lime, or something else.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 2:21PM
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syntria(8a - South DFW Area)

I have a 5 or so year old Key Lime tree I want to try this dry then fertilize method on. I'm in Texas and we've got 100 temps. I keep both this and my meyer lemon tree, both in 18gallon pots, under my overhang and they get around 4-5 hours of direct sunlight. I was worried about them getting to hot but can they handle the heat? Should I put them out so they can get lots more sun? Both tree's have lots of new growth and I've been fertilizing them with a general 12-12-12 about once a month. I have a drip system that waters once a day (the high temps, usually its every other day), so I'm pulling the dripper out of the Lime tree for now and going to try. I'd love to see an update from the original poster about his tree!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2013 at 12:05AM
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I have a related question - my key lime tree will bloom but I've only gotten one tiny little lime off of it in 4 years! I got it from a nursery and it was about 3' tall. It's in a large pot beside a dwarf meyer lemon that produces fruit several times a year. It's about 4 - 5 ' tall now, plenty of nice green leaves (but it seems to drop them all from time to time). Got them both at the same time and thought I'd have lemons and limes, but so far life has just handed me lemons! ;-) I'm in Southern California and we they get full sun year-round. It blooms a few times per year and sometimes even gets tiny little fruit buds, then they all just fall away. Any ideas? Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 10:43PM
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