Thursday, July 23, 2009

A key lime was born

About a year ago, my parents-in-law brought a small key lime tree back to me from their vacation to Florida.

My Key Lime Tree (Citrus aurantifolia) covered in buds, summer 2008.  Even though the buds are pink the flowers are solid white when they open.
It bloomed all summer long and developed fruit at the end of the summer, much to my surprise and satisfaction.  There were four full-sized key limes, just a little smaller than the average lime.

Small key lime buds developing over the winter.
I was even more surprised to see that the plant continued to develop buds and bloom inside through the entire winter, sitting on the counter in my bathroom.  The first several winter blooms did not develop fruit, but I was very happy to have the bright little flowers filling the bathroom and hallway with their potent fragrance.  You could smell them just casually walking by the plant.

Mature key lime bud that formed this winter.  Notice this bud is solid white, while the summer buds were pink.
I think the fact that this plant bloomed at all throughout the winter was due to the copious amounts of fertilizer pellets that were worked into the soil by the grower.  I just repotted this little tree yet, and there is still plenty of fertilizer left in the soil for its growing and fruiting pleasure.  [Imagine what my other plants might look like if I actually fertilized!  I'm going to try fertilizing some of my plants this summer.  I have a couple of plants that have never bloomed for me, even though they seem to be large and healthy - a grapefruit tree, a bougainvillea, apostle plant/walking iris, a shell ginger, and a white bird of paradise.]

Winter key lime open blooms.  These are the most fragrant blooms I have ever smelled.
The last of the winter blooms started to dry out the first week of Spring - around March 23rd.  I casually glanced at one of the blooms, brown petals falling to the floor and Hark!  What the heck is that!?! There was a lime developing at the base of the center stamen!

Key lime fruit beginning to develop at base of stamen.  (mid to late March 2009)
Lime developing at base of a different stamen after petals have fallen away.  I have about 10 pictures, trying to get one in focus.  Alas, this is the best it got.
How could this be?  There weren't any pollinators around, except for the occasional moth that flew into the house on nice days when we left the door open.  I'm kind of doubting that one of those moths managed to pollinate my lime tree before I hunted it down and escorted it back outside (preferably alive, sometimes dead).  I am suspecting that this is one of those self-pollinating varieties that I have seen available for other fruiting plants.  [I am planning on growing some kiwi from a self-pollinating vine.]

Key lime fruit starting to develop
No doubt about it, there was definitely a little key lime beginning to form.  I'm really happy that I happened to notice it at this stage.  The first fruits that formed last summer caught me completely off guard and I don't think I got any pictures of them until they were full grown and cut into slices!  But not this time around.

Key lime fruit starting to develop - different angle
Something starting to resemble a small lime (last week of April 2009)
When I started writing this post, I expected I would be picking my lime and slicing it over some chicken sometime in mid-May.  In actuality, it is now late July and I haven't yet picked it.  But I think it is about ready to be picked now.  Maybe Monday night we'll have some lime seared chicken for dinner!

A full sized key lime, ready for the plucking (late July 2009)

FYI: I found another blog where the inflorescence -> infructescence process was photo-documented.

Do you have any citrus trees that have produced fruit?


  1. Awesome! What a beautiful plant and to have a bonus of actual fruit is a real treat! Hmm....know anything about propagating this little jewel? ;-)

  2. Hey Zach, I use to grow the dwarf citrus trees for years and from my experience they love acid fertilizer or you can give it used coffee grounds, just place some on top of the soil. The more acid they get the more they bloom and produce fruit. They are neat trees to grow.

  3. Hi Zach,
    Thanks for sharing your story and photos of your key lime! I happened across your site while researching info on how to germinate the seeds. I'm trying some from fruit bought at the supermarket. For anyone interested - the consensus seems to be to plant them straight out of the fruit after rinsing off. (do not dry first) I hope to have success and maybe someday have a nice fruiting plant. I live in Ontario Canada so it may be a challenge! Good to know yours fruited indoors. We don't have may pollinators after August up here! :)

  4. soooo i love this plant but its not a key lime its actually a ponderosa lemon plant plant, due to the way the leaves and fruit was shaped and also in my personal opinion i think that these pictures are of 2 different plants. Some of these pics are a key lime and some are a ponderosa lemon..........-_-