Most of us know (at least) something about
using citrus in the kitchen. But knowing when to harvest it is a bit of a
mystery. In short, citrus is ready to pick when it’s mature – not before and
preferably not after. Try the middle fruit in the picture!
Key Limes go from immature to
mature and finally to an ‘old’ condition while on the tree. But the changes
are slow and occur over several months. Some citrus, like limes, are harvested
prior to ripening. (A lime is actually yellow when it is fully ripe.) Other
varieties, like lemons, are usually safe to pick once they turn yellow. But
the trickiest varieties are oranges, mandarins and grapefruit – because sugar
content is very important. Why all the concern? Because the ripening process
does not continue once citrus has been picked from the tree.
Unlike many other fruits and vegetables, deep
color doesn’t necessarily equate to a perfectly ripened citrus fruit. But
color (deep), weight (heavy) and age can collectively provide a good
indication that citrus is ready for consumption. The best way to determine
ripeness, especially for less experienced citrus gardeners, is to taste the
Unless damaged by frost, citrus fruit keeps
longer on the tree than if picked and stored. When picking fruit, harvest from
the lower branches first. Leave the higher fruit for later in the season. If
the fruit skin is beginning to wrinkle, it’s been on the tree too long. Albeit
safe to eat, overly mature fruit is less attractive and usually contains less
For Key Limes,
the time from bloom to edible fruit is approximately 3-4 months.
key Lime Trees perform best with full sun (at least 8 hours per day).
Regular water with well-drained soil. No wet feet..
Hardy to 29 degrees
Fahrenheit (-2 degrees centigrade)
Preferred hardiness zones (U.S. - 9, 10, 11)
Can grow in a pot to restrict size or in areas that can suffer a heavy
Grows to 10-15 feet tall and wide or larger if planted in the ground.
Sandy, well-drained, dry, slightly acidic works best.
Low salt tolerance.
Rounded growth habit.
Medium rate of growth.
Used for Patio Tree, Screen, Fruit and as a Specimen Plant
The Key Lime bears
heavily when mature. Its crop size increases as the plant matures. It may
bear 10 or more limes even at 3 years old. The fruit is green in color
until it matures. The main crop matures in the summer. In a tropical climate,
the Key Lime Tree can bear fruit nearly all year long.
Guard against snails
that can eat the buds and leaves of the Key Lime tree.
After 3 or 4 years in
a pot, you need to replace the soil since it will be exhausted of nutrients.
You can either replant into a larger pot or cut away some of the outer roots
with a sharp, strong knife and replant in the same pot but with fresh soil.