Lime trees are self-pollinating in the sense that they do not need another tree to grow limes. A single lime tree can grow limes as the flowers contain both male and female parts. Lime tree flowers can pollinate the same tree by the wind, insects or even by hand with a small paint brush or cotton bud.
This article will explore how lime trees are pollinated, indoors and outdoors and how you can grow more limes at home.
Lime tree self pollination
Lime trees grow beautiful white flowers that will appear in Spring and Summer and open up to have a bright yellow center.
The flower itself contains the female stigma and male anthers which carry the pollen. When the pollen is transferred to the female stigma the flower can be fertilized and the lime fruit can grow.
Yellow pollen will stick to the sticky female stigma is in the middle of the lime flower to fertilize it. The pollen can move to the stigma when insects come to collect nectar, via wind or by hand pollination.
Outdoor lime trees in exposed areas will usually successfully pollinate themselves without the need for hand pollination. The healthier your yard and the more insects that visit the more likely it will be that your lime tree will successfully self-pollinate.
Indoor lime trees will need a helping hand to move the pollen to the stigma. Let’s explore the three main ways that lime trees self pollinate to decide whether or not you need to do it by hand.
How a lime tree gets pollinated
The top 3 ways that lime trees get pollinated include insects, the wind and hand pollination.
Outdoor lime trees are most likely to be pollinated by the wind. The pollen will be lightly attached to male anthers on the flower. Even light wind can be enough to move this pollen onto the sticky stigma which sits in the middle of the flower.
For trees in sheltered areas or for trees with a dense leaf canopy it can be harder for the pollen to move into the flower. Keeping the tree trimmed so that there is space for the wind to move the flowers around can help the pollen to move into the flower.
2. Bees & insects
Bees and other pollinating insects including wasps and flies can pollinate a lime tree for you. Bees will head into the flower and the pollen will stick to their bellies and backs. This can move the pollen into the same flower to fertilize it or other flowers as the bee travels to collect more nectar.
3. Hand pollination
Hand pollination is essential for indoor lime plants. They won’t have the benefit of wind pollination or insects visiting their flowers so pollinating them is up to you. This is an easy process and you will only need a small paint brush or cotton bud to do it.
Simply look for the yellow pollen on the end of the small stringy anthers and brush it into the center of the flower. You can brush it from one flower to another to increase the likelihood of successful pollination.
Once the flower has been hand pollinated leave it and within a week or two it will curl up and a tiny green fruit will begin to form in the middle. Most lime trees will grow more flowers than they are able to turn into fruit so don’t worry if not all flowers for the time fruit.
How to increase pollination rates in lime trees
There are some easy ways to increase the chance of successful pollination in your lime trees and grow more fruit at home.
Plant outdoor lime trees in a sunny position
Sun will help your lime tree to produce more flowers and attract more bees. The bright white flowers can cover your tree in Spring and Summer and give the bees plenty of opportunity to successfully pollinate them.
Plants grown in shade generally attract less pollinating insects. A lime tree grown in full sun can even attract butterflies which are great to get your kids interested in gardening.
Plant flowers nearby
Increasing successful pollination of lime tree flowers is helped by attracting more insects to your garden. Surround your lime tree with flowering plants to help to bring more bees to your garden. Keep the flowers away from the lime trees root zone because they hate competition.
Plant spring flowering bulbs, violas pansies and daisies near your lime trees to attract more pollinating insects and to grow more fruit.
Prune your lime tree
Pruning a lime tree to reduce leaf growth and to allow more air movement can help the plant to successfully self-pollinate. Reducing the amount of new leaf growth in Spring can help to open the tree up, allowing more air movement, more sun for the flowers and access for the bees.
The tree can have a light trim at the start of Spring and again in Fall to keep it open and in a neat shape. Don’t worry if you remove a few flowers. Lime trees will usually have more flowers than the tree is able to turn into full sized fruit.
Fewer fruit will actually give you larger limes so don’t worry if a few get knocked off while you are trimming.
Are lime trees self-pollinating? | Summary
Lime trees are self-pollinating in that they carry both male and female parts which can be moved on the same tree to pollinate the flower and grow fruit. Outdoor lime trees usually need no help for successful pollination but indoor lime trees will need to be hand pollinated.
My lime tree has been growing for around 5 years and despite being moved from a pot to the ground this year it is still producing limes. I expected it to skip a year of fruit as it went through a rather significant move and a major trim but I am still getting lots of flowers and a few early fruit.
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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.