Tahitian limes are a citrus fruit that like a tropical environment. They need to be warm, and to have moderate rain. They enjoy a well-drained loamy soil that will hold a little moisture, but that will not hold the water around their roots. Water-logged roots will kill a lime tree. On the other hand, so will a sandy soil that will not hold moisture.
- Unless you have a greenhouse or similar growing area, you need to live in a warm climate where there is plenty of rainfall. You can irrigate if your local rainfall is sparse, but your lime tree needs warmth to be happy. Lime trees love the sun, but not too much sun. A garden space where your lime tree will get at least 5 hours of sun each day, will be warm but not too warm, and where it can have natural rainfall is ideal.
- Not much happens in the world of plants without good soil. Trying to grow plants in poor or unsuitable soil is rather like building a house without a foundation. To discover whether your soil is good for a Tahitian lime tree, pick up a handful. It should hold together in a ball when squeezed, but should quickly crumble when released. It should not run through your fingers like sand. Heavy clay or extremely sandy soil are both poor choices for lime trees.
- Compensating for clay. To compensate for clay soil, you can build up a mound of mixed mulch and earth. Since you are constructing the mound, it is easy to find that just-right balance between earth and mulch. In a sense, you are recreating the natural conditions that might be found on a forest floor.
- Compensating for Sand. Again, organic matter in the form of mulch is your best remedy. Instead of building a mound, since the goal with sandy soil is to hold moisture, dig the mulch into the sandy ground, mixing the organic matter well with the soil. There are a number of different ways to do this. Using the double-digging method often employed with square-foot gardening will probably work well. Another method is to pile the mulch on the sand and to use a spading fork to mix the mulch and sandy soil together.
- All plants, even cacti, must have water. Limes like to have quite a lot of it. You can easily tell if your tree is getting enough moisture by cutting open one of its fruits. If the lime you cut open is dry and fibrous then there is a good chance that the tree is not getting enough water. The lime should be moist, with plenty of sharp, tangy juice that can be squeezed out of it. You can irrigate by running water through a ditch to the lime tree, or you can use a garden hose or sprinkler system to deliver the water. The tree should be watered deeply once or twice a week rather than being watered shallowly each day. Allow the soil to dry out to a depth of about six inches before giving additional water.
- Lime trees are susceptible to several types of insect pests, but don’t reach for your sprayer. Grab your pruner instead. Often, if you catch an infestation early, it is a simple matter of pruning away the infected area. If the infestation gets ahead of you, it is better to use something like an organic oil to spray the invaders. Oil will clog the breather apparatus of most insects and discourage them from climbing around on your tree. By avoiding poisonous sprays, you make it possible for birds to perch in the tree and to eat up many of the bugs that might otherwise be a problem. You also avoid feeding fruit that has been sprayed with insecticide to your family.
- Trace Minerals and Fertilizer. A lime tree that is producing a continuous load of blooms and fruit needs a good source of plant food. Again, mulch is your friend. If you are uncertain as to what should be in the mulch, have your soil tested and check your mulch as well. The report from the tests will let you know what is missing from the soil and whether the needed nutrients are in your compost heap, or if you will need further amendments for your soil. Just as you would not expect a draft animal to work all day without adequate food or water, neither should you expect it of a hard-working tree that is producing a wealth of blooms and fruit.
A lime tree that has the right amount of sun, is warm, properly watered, and rooted in good soil will produce more limes than you can possibly use up. More than that, they are beautiful trees that produce lovely blossoms that have a sweet aroma highly attractive to bees and other pollinators. A Tahitian lime is a beautiful addition to your garden.