Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Key Lime, Mexican Lime, Mexican Thornless Key Lime
Citrus aurantiifolia

Family: Rutaceae (roo-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Citrus (SIT-rus) (Info)
Species: aurantiifolia

5 vendors have this plant for sale.

38 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden

Edible Fruits and Nuts

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Pale Pink
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Blooms all year
Blooms repeatedly


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Provides winter interest
Suitable for growing in containers

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From hardwood cuttings
From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel
By grafting
By air layering

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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There are a total of 31 photos.
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17 positives
3 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive tmccullo On Nov 21, 2012, tmccullo from Houston, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

We have a 6 year old Key Lime tree that was grown from seeds and planted. It is about 12' tall and has survived 2 below average winters here where is was 21 and 19 degrees. It was mostly defoliated and some of the branches died but it grew back quickly. So far it has not fruited but we expect it will next spring. The leaves are a lighter green than most critics we have and the leaves smell like a key lime when you rub them.

Positive TRUNK On Feb 16, 2012, TRUNK from North Andrews Gardens, FL wrote:

I live a neighborhood known as "North Andrews Gardens", in the city of Oakland Park (10 mins outside of Fort Lauderdale Metro & 30 miles north of Miami), Florida . I planted 4 of these plants purchased from Nu-Turf Garden Shop in Pompano Beach Florida. I potted them up as Patio trees. They are doing wonderful. I have all the limes I need whenever I need them. I move them every 6 months from the Westside to Southside annually. They perform best in full sun with a dish under pot, and 4inches of mulch packed tight in the pot. I have thyme growing in the pots which I also use. additonally what makes this plant interesting is that every year Giant Swallowtail Butterflies find their way to my trees and give birth. Watching the caterpillars to butterflies is very interesting. the butterflies dont do much harm so I let nature takes it course here...

Neutral a_griebel On Jan 31, 2011, a_griebel from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

Davidsimpson, It's very possible your lime is stressed; although, it's normal to drop a lot fruit in early development. Growing it a pot, it's likely it's watering needs aren't being met quite right. They are sensitive to both over watering (cirtus needs fast draining soil) as well as under watering.

Negative davidsimpson On Nov 20, 2010, davidsimpson from Brisbane
Australia wrote:

I am in Brisbane Australia. I have a healthy lime tree in a large pot. It is about 5 years old, I think it could be a Persian lime, it has green fruit and at maturity they are about 3 inches long, as they ripen they go a light green but never go yellow. (very nice in a cold Corona)
Trouble is in spring the tree produces thousands of healthy flowers which most set to a small lime, then the limes all start to fall of until the tree is left with 1 or 2 limes only.
I have fertilized, spayed with magnesium & zinc, but nothing I can do to keep the fruit.
Has anyone got some advice?

Neutral dancingbeartx On Feb 4, 2010, dancingbeartx from Houston, TX wrote:

Houston, TX:
I have a 20 yr old lemon & lime tree on the SW corner of the house. They throw hundreds of fruit per year.
All of the leaves on the 18' high lime tree have fallen off and it does not look good. We had some cold weather about one month ago, but we had hoped that the size and root depth would help.
Any thoughts out there about feeding and pruning to save it?

Positive swedey On Dec 11, 2009, swedey from Winnie, TX wrote:

i planted 6 seeds from a walmart key lime. five sprouted quickly.i now have them i 3/4 gallon pots growing nicely i the south window. 68 miles east of houston. i intend to put one in a pot 24" wide on a dolly outside come march the 15th. i can roll it under the carport andprotect and heat it but i wonder if i can put one in the ground and keep it small enough to cover in the freezes?anyone near here that has tried it?

Positive perkite On Nov 5, 2009, perkite from Houston, TX wrote:

I have had my key lime in the back yard here in Houston for over a year now. It survived last winter just fine. The coldest night recorded at my house last year was 28 degrees, and there was no damage at all. In fact, this tree grew faster in February (no frosts occured in Feb) than any other month this year.

Positive Psykofax On Sep 20, 2009, Psykofax from Portland, OR wrote:

We were told this plant is a key lime when we bought it from Portland Nursery, covered with blooms. None of them set fruit, and it hasn't bloomed in four years. It always grew a little and stayed healthy, but it hasn't bloomed for years.

Now, starting a month ago, it went nuts. Covered with blossoms and setting viable limes for the first time, the fruit are clustered and all over the plant. Flowers start pink and turn white when opened, gentle fragrance is just lovely. It grows straight up, unlike my other citrus. Is it a key lime or a limequat?

Fertilized with composted rabbit droppings and horse manure and sawdust. Worked like a charm.

Positive bassein33 On Jun 3, 2009, bassein33 from Marlborough, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:

We picked up a 2.5 ft Key Lime plant at a nursery in the Florida Keys. It was in a growing pot & I transplanted it in a slightly larger weather-resistent pot with lots of perlite & peat since it was originally in a sandy mix. It is now (June) sitting in my back yard in a partial sunny spot & appears to be doing well with several, tiny, whitish fruit clusters growing & 1 bigger green fruit. This plant did a lot of traveling as it sat in a trailer while being driven up the east coast by my father-in-law to its new home in MA (zone 5b/6). They purchased one as well. In May, it was cold, dark & rainy in Cape Cod where they lived so a lot leaves dropped & they were worried. I don't know how their's is doing, but we live further inland & more north where it's warmer & more sunny. Our Key Lime have not dropped a leaf and doing well. Ofcourse, I will have to bring it inside maybe around Oct. to protect from below 40F temps. We had one night in May where it dropped to 40F & since I'd just repotted it, I thought I'd play it safe & cover with burlap for the night (pot's too heavy so I didn't feel like moving it). It did great!

Positive StPeteGardener On May 1, 2009, StPeteGardener from Saint Petersburg, FL wrote:

There are a couple variations of "Key Lime" sold in my area, the vast majority are a hybrid between a Kumquat and a Lime/Key Lime (sometimes tagged as "limequat"). The true Key Lime's have smaller leaves and spread more than the somewhat upright limequats. The limequats are more cold hardy than the Key Limes. Fruit is fairly similar, though the limequats are sometimes more egg-shaped and occasionally less sweet than the key lime.

I had a hard time finding a Key Lime, and it's taken 2-years for it to flower. It was about 2-feet tall when I purchased and I planted it in a 20-inch pot. I had some minor frost damage the first year despite being in St Petersburg FL (zone 9a) whereas the limequats do not seem to damage in cold weather.

Positive bamagirl35973 On Jul 30, 2008, bamagirl35973 from Rome, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

I bought this plant at K Mart for 70% off.

I grow it in a large pot outside in a semi-shaded area and it is doing beautifully. I already have about 12 little limes on it!

It will go into the greenhouse for the winter.

Positive wreinha On May 5, 2008, wreinha from Macomb, IL wrote:

I have a key lime that I purchased at K-mart, it grows in a pot that was sitting outside in the garden center and it was windy and the pot was blown over, so payed for my plant and brought it hom. It is a thornless mexican lime tree , it is 3-4 feet tall and doesnt have any blooms on it yet, I do hope it flowers and bears limes on it.

Positive jdiaz On Dec 4, 2007, jdiaz from Chowchilla, CA wrote:

Despite being rated as frost sensitive, mine endured an arctic blast that lasted for a week and made temperatures plummet into the low and mid 20s. I had a small heater next to it at nightime but no other protection. It flowered and set fruit as soon as temperatures started warming back up.

Positive wtliftr On Dec 15, 2006, wtliftr from Wilson's Mills, NC wrote:

I love plants, so I had to try to plant some seeds. They sprouted and are doing well. Of course, in NC, they will always be potted plants, but they are easy to grow. I just keep them in a sunny window, and they are fine. Also have a mature tree that blooms- it is a wonderful air freshener for my classroom!

Positive kimchifan On Dec 30, 2005, kimchifan from Los Angeles, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I purchased a key lime about three years ago. The first two years the plant was in a container and it produced fruit during this time. I planted the tree into the ground in the third year, and while it has grown speedily during this period, it failed to produce fruit. It will be interesting to see if fruit production will occur during the fourth year after it is better established.

Neutral seedlng On Mar 17, 2005, seedlng from Fort Lauderdale, FL wrote:

I have been trying to figure out what the heck was that citrus in my north east corner. I bought this house 3 yrs ago. I am a landscape designer from denver and california. I love plants.
who doesnt --smiles smiles... i have a notion to plant a hedge of evergreen plants that will be under 20 ft because of utility lines... I believe the plant i have on my property is a keylime from everything i've read, learned here on web. i bought a bag of key limes form a local grocer and want to plant a hedge because im having a pool put in and I need
a low maintenance evergreen that says florida. from everything i've read this plant performs best 10a-11 zones.
my zone is 10-10a, in Fort Lauderdale; Florida. but i see comments from people from zones 9, saying its doing well so im trying this out. as directed by daves garden advice above... plant every 15-20 ft.

seedling (

Positive Pameladragon On Aug 14, 2004, Pameladragon from Appomattox, VA wrote:

I grow this citrus in a large pot in central Virginia (7a). It spends the summer on the patio and comes indoors before the first frost.

Because they bear small fruit it is possible to get fully ripe limes from potted trees year round.

They are susceptible to both mealy bugs and scale but spraying with light horticultural oil keeps them under control.

Prune only to maintain shape or size. Like all citrus, key lime is self-pruning when left to its own.

More cold sensitive than some other citrus, don't let it get frost-bit. The tree will come back quickly but you will lose a lot of size.

The fruit is delicious and can be substituted for persian lime in any recipe. WalMart often sells small bags of the fruit, so if you are not familiar with it look for them. They are full of seeds and easy to germinate so you can grow your own this way.

Positive sonotaps On Aug 11, 2004, sonotaps from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

Key Lime or 'Mexican Lime' is very easy to grow in Phoenix. Loves the heat. Though frost sensitive, this isn't really an issue in Phoenix. If you are going to plant a lime tree, this should be it. Honestly, the flavor of these limes (when fully ripe-yellow) are fantastic and very tropical and are far superior to Bearrs/Persian Lime.

Positive htop On Jan 27, 2004, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

San Antonio, Tx.

My small container grown key lime tree sets blooms continuously and there are limes of different maturity on it. These limes may be small, but the juice from one equals in strength to 2 regular size limes in my opinion. They make fantastic limeade. I usually put lemon juice in my guacamole to keep the avacado from turning a dark color. I used some juice from one of the key limes instead and it gave the guacamole an interesting flavor. It is near the end of January and a hard freeze (in the upper 20s) is going to occur so I have to bring the tree which is covered with blooms inside. This tree makes a nice patio plant/container plant in areas that experience hard freezes.

Positive Thaumaturgist On Sep 7, 2003, Thaumaturgist from Rockledge, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

What more could anyone ask for? What was unimaginable decades ago, then became a rarity few years ago and nowadays nurseries routinely sell "Thornless" Key Lime trees.

Positive darius On Jul 27, 2002, darius from So.App.Mtns.
United States (Zone 5b) wrote:

Known best for Key Lime pies. It is a tropical/sub-tropical commercial crop, but will be an indoors plant for my zone 6b in winter. Known also as West Indian Lime or Mexican Lime, and not limited to the Florida Keys. Fruit is small, round, and yellow when fully ripe. Flowers and fruits almost continuously.

High light requirements, good air circulation, good drainage required. Do NOT overwater, and water less during winters. Thorny compact bush with small blunt-pointed leaves.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Gaylesville, Alabama
Phoenix, Arizona (2 reports)
Berkeley, California
Canoga Park, California
Chowchilla, California
Chula Vista, California
Davis, California (2 reports)
Fremont, California
Irvine, California
Oak View, California
Palm Springs, California
San Diego, California
Valley Center, California
Bartow, Florida
Bradenton, Florida
Brooksville, Florida
Clermont, Florida
Deltona, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Gulf Breeze, Florida
Homestead, Florida
Islamorada, Florida
Keystone Heights, Florida
Kissimmee, Florida
Miami, Florida
Miami Beach, Florida
North Port, Florida
Orlando, Florida (2 reports)
Ormond Beach, Florida
Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Rockledge, Florida (2 reports)
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Sebring, Florida
Venice, Florida
Honomu, Hawaii
Macomb, Illinois
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Marrero, Louisiana (2 reports)
Prairieville, Louisiana
Marlborough, Massachusetts
Harper Woods, Michigan
Natchez, Mississippi
Joplin, Missouri
Las Vegas, Nevada
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Portland, Oregon
Johns Island, South Carolina
North Augusta, South Carolina
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Aransas Pass, Texas
Brazoria, Texas
Brownsville, Texas (2 reports)
Canyon Lake, Texas
Edinburg, Texas
Galveston, Texas
Houston, Texas (5 reports)
Kerrville, Texas
La Porte, Texas (2 reports)
Little Elm, Texas
Mcallen, Texas
Mission, Texas
Palestine, Texas
Plano, Texas
Richmond, Texas
Rowlett, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (2 reports)
St John, Virgin Islands

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