Lime tree roots will seek water so if they are planted near pipes they can extend and cause damage. Plant lime trees in pots, in contained garden beds or away from water pipes to avoid their invasive roots. Plants with plenty of water, nutrients and mulch will be happy to grow in their space without heading out shallow and wide searching for water.
Lime trees are a beautiful feature in all gardens and dwarf trees can be a great choice for smaller gardens. A tree can be kept small by trimming regularly which will also help to contain its roots which will match the tree canopy size.
Keep lime trees away from hard landscaping or buildings. Allowing at least 6 feet of space away from these structures.
Lime trees will grow the majority of their roots in the top 18 inches of soil. The delicate roots that absorb most of the nutrients and water will sit close to the surface so you should avoid disturbing the soil under the tree.
Lime trees hate competition from other plants so avoid planting anything else including flowers, shrubs or herbs directly underneath the drip line. This will make sure the lime tree roots can get all the nutrients and water they need.
Lime trees are most likely to suffer first if they are planted too close to another tree or shrub. Give them the space they need and improve the soil with aged cow manure and compost before planting.
A lime tree will benefit from up to 6 feet either side of the trunk that is clear of other plants.
How to stop lime tree roots from becoming invasive
There are some easy tips to follow to avoid a lime tree from growing roots that become invasive and cause problems. Check out my easy checklist to keep a lime tree happy and contained.
1. Choose a dwarf lime tree
Tahitian limes (Citrus latifolia) are a common lime tree and grow up to 12 feet tall. Choose a dwarf version of these lime trees to keep it smaller to around 8 feet with a smaller root system.
2. Keep them away from house foundations
While lime trees tend to have shallow roots when they are watered well, the top layers of the roots can spread out further if they detect a good water source nearby. Water pipes can be tempting for a thirsty lime tree so keep them away from pipes and house foundations.
3. Plant lime trees in pots
For a guaranteed way to keep lime tree roots from invading other areas of your yard plant them in pots. Lime trees including both large and dwarf will thrive in a large pot with good quality potting soil. The root ball will stay smaller in a pot and the plant itself can be trimmed to look great.
Planting lime trees in pots to keep their roots out of any garden beds or hard landscaping is an easy way to grow them at home.
How deep are the roots of a lime tree?
Lime tree depth can be affected by the age of the tree, the type of root stock it is grafted onto, the soil type, watering and drainage1. A typical lime tree grown in good quality soil and well watered will have a roots system that is 3-5 feet deep. Lime trees that do not get enough water will actually grow a deeper roots system as the tree searches for water.
Most healthy backyard lime trees will concentrate most of their roots in the top 1 foot of soil and absorb water from the rain and your own watering rapidly. The tree will not need send down incredibly deep roots in response.
Lime tree roots can head down as deep as a few feet as they have a tap root that will search for water.
Can lime tree roots cause damage?
Lime tree roots can cause damage to concrete or hard landscaping if planted too close. Plant a lime tree around 6 feet away from any area that might be damaged by their roots. I like to keep my lime tree trimmed small to keep the root system small as well.
Lime trees can still produce a lot of fruit on a small tree. Trimming off branches that are crossed or growing straight down will reduce the lime tree size and therefore their root system.
Are lime trees shallow rooted?
Lime trees have most of their roots concentrated in the top 18 inches of the soil. This is a great thing as you can plant them in soil that has been improved on the top layers. I like to mixed aged cow manure through in the top 2 feet which is all that is necessary to keep the lime healthy.
Add a 2-3 inch layer of bark mulch on top of the lime tree root zone. This will help to keep the lime tree roots well moist. It will also gradually break down and feed the plant. I like to add an extra handful of pelted chicken manure on my lime in Spring, Summer and Fall.
Are lime tree roots invasive? | Summary
Lime trees do not have invasive roots if they are well fed and well-watered. Lime trees can be kept happy in a space that is around 6 feet in diameter. Adding a top dressing of compost in the Spring is a great way to keep the roots fed and damp.
Worms will also love this top dressing and will climb their way up through the soil, aerating it and allowing more space for the roots to grow and thrive. My lime tree is around 5 years old and still has a root system that is no larger than about 1 foot across. I had previously had it in a small pot and planted it out in my new yard.
This will be where my lime tree lives out its life and I will keep it small by trimming it over the warmer months.
Citrus root distribution under water stress grown in sandy soil of central Florida, Scientific Papers • Eng. Agríc. 32 (6) • Dec 2012. Accessed 13th September 2021, https://www.scielo.br/j/eagri/a/k88ngfhbz35DTzcFgdDYWTR/?lang=en
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I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.