Tahitian Persian lime trees are somewhat delicate to grow because they are a three-way hybrid between citrus medica, citrus grandus, and citrus micrantha. Determining exactly what sort of lime you might have on hand can be a challenge because various limes are known as Tahiti lime, Persian lime, or Tahitian Persian Lime.
Propagating from Seed
Like most hybrids, Tahitian limes are difficult to get to breed true from seed. Each seed produces only one sprout, and it might or might not have the characteristics of a Tahitian lime. In an experiment at the Agricultural Research and Education Center of the University of Florida, Homestead, only ten out of 114 seedlings grown from seed exhibited the characteristics of a Tahitian lime.
Tahitian limes typically have no viable pollen, which means that they require another lime tree in order for the blossoms to be pollenated. The fruits are typically a bright, dark green until the fruit is ripe, at which time it will turn yellow. It is not as strongly flavored or scented as the Mexican lime, which is typically sold from Mexico to the United States, Canada and similar areas. The Tahitian lime fruits rarely contain seeds, are somewhat more delicately flavored, making them good candidates for limeade – but not for growing from seed.
To attempt propagation from seed, remove the seed from the lime fruit. Gently wash it, and either plant it in a small pot or place the seed and some potting soil in a plastic bag. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. When the small tree is about six inches tall, you can transplant it into a pot for wintering over.
The result is likely to be an attractive plant, but there is no guarantee that it will have the distinctive Tahitian lime coloring and flavor.
Grafting Tahitian Limes
The easiest way to be sure that you will get a Tahitian lime is to graft a twig from a Tahitian lime tree onto some other citrus root stock. This could even include grafting onto one of the young plants grown from seed. Usually, however, they are grafted onto lemon or grapefruit stock.
The twigs can often be obtained during pruning, although lime trees do not require a great deal of that.
Planting out Young Lime Trees
If you live in a sufficiently warm climate, regardless of whether they are seed grown or grafted, the young trees can be planted out in a long trench. Tahitian limes are slightly less vigorous than Mexican limes, and can therefore be planted a little closer together, perhaps as close as ten or fifteen feet from each other. They require a well-drained location. If there is any chance of frost or chilly weather, lime trees might require protection from chill weather.
Growing in Pots
Tahitian limes can be dwarfed and grown in pots. They can be an attractive plant for your patio or in your greenhouse. But they do need to be protected from cold if grown in an area that has even the slightest chance of frost.
Fertilization seems to be an essential part of Tahitian lime propagation. A 4-6-6 NPK application four times a year is said to work well. Potash affects fruit production and maturity.
Importing Plants from Nearby Islands to Australia
Tahitian lime trees have been cleared for growing in Australia. They are allowed to be imported from select locations, but growers should examine their trees carefully as soon as they arrive. Limes are susceptible to three types of mealybugs, and they can spread from your tree to surrounding trees. If you suspect that your tree is infected, it must be treated right away and quarantined to make sure that the pests are completely gone.
Seventy percent of the fruit will mature during the summer season, but the fruits can often still be picked once a month during winter, providing the tree is planted in a warm-climate area. Care needs to be taken to pick the fruit while it is still a little bit green but not too green in order for it to have the right amount of juice. Picked too soon, it is hard; picked too late, it will turn yellow before it reaches the market.
Tahitian limes, although difficult to grow from seed, do well as grafted plants. They can be grown in most warm areas, especially in climate zones that are similar to the central part of Mexico. They are milder in flavor than the Mexican lime, making them a good choice for limeade and similarly mild flavored drinks. They are a dark, glossy green when ready to pick, but will turn yellow as they ripen. In fact, they were once considered to be a “green lemon.”
They are highly susceptible to frost and cold damage, and if grown in northern areas, should be protected from cold.