Lime trees can be damaged by frosts, harsh winter and snow. Lime trees will need protection in areas that get frosts and very cold winters for them to survive. These can be made simply out of a tomato cage and clear plastic. Water lime trees regularly in winter and do not prune them until Spring.
This article will explore how to help your lime tree to survive a cold winter with frosts. There are some easy tips and tricks to help your lime tree thrive and survive.
Lime trees love warm weather sub-tropical climates and mild winters. If you live in an area with very cold winters or frosts you will need to protect limes over winter.
Frosts and very cold weather can freeze the young stems of citrus trees. Young trees are particularly vulnerable to frost damage over very cold winters and may not survive a very heavy frost.
If you live in an area that gets very cold winters and frosts, plant out your lime trees in Spring to give them enough time to establish their root system and stem growth.
How to care for a lime tree in winter
Here are my recommendations for caring for your lime tree over the winter.
Straw or bark mulch
Protecting the soil with straw or bark mulch will help to protect the fine roots of the lime tree near the surface of the soil.
While many gardeners will remove mulch in Winter however I have found better results by leaving a light layer on the soil. This will also help to prevent winter weeds and reduce root competition.
Water the plant well
Winter can be a dry time in many areas so remember to keep watering your lime tree. Unless there is lots of rainfall, you will need to keep an eye on your lime tree to make sure it doesn’t dry out.
It can be easy to forget to water your lime tree when it is cold but it can actually help to keep it healthy and strong over winter.
Fertilize before the winter
Giving your lime tree plenty of nutrients before the winter hits is important to prepare it for the cold weather. I like to use pelleted chicken manure which is a mild fertilizer that contains a range of nutrients. Because this fertilizer is mild it can be added once throughout winter to feed your tree.
I like to add some seaweed solution to my watering can to give to limes over winter. This will help to support the soil bacteria and to improve lime tree root growth.
Avoid pruning in winter
Leave your lime tree to keep its leaves over the winter months. The extra leaves will help to protect the tree from frosts. If you notice any damage to the leaves from frost just leave them on for now.
These damaged leaves can look brown on the tips but will actually protect the healthy leaves. When the weather warms in Spring and there is no risk of frost, these damaged leaves can be removed and the tree can be pruned.
For more on this, check out my previous article: When to prune a lime tree: Spring & Fall.
Cover the plant
For young lime trees that are planted out in a garden bed you may need to offer a physical protection from frosts. For very cold climates adding a plastic covering over the top of the lime tree might be the only option that can save your trees.
For small trees, a tomato cage can be placed around the tree and covered with clear plastic. This will function like a greenhouse and protect the plant from frost. Remember to add some air holes in the side of the plastic to allow a cross breeze.
On warm, winter days where the sun is warmer the plastic cage should be removed. This will allow the plant to get the direct sunlight that it loves. The cage can be placed back on the lime tree at night in case there is an early morning frost.
Plant limes in pots to protect them over winter
The easiest way to protect lime trees in cold regions is to plant them in pots. This gives you the flexibility to move your lime tree to a protected area over winter and bring it back out into your yard in Spring.
In winter a lime tree can be placed under a garage cover, near a garden wall or even brought inside. If you have a small greenhouse for raising seeds, this can be the perfect winter home for your potted lime tree.
Lime trees thrive in areas that get hot summers but will suffer if they experience a cold winter with frosts. The flexibility of moving them around in a pot will allow you to adjust their position as the weather changes.
Planting new lime trees in winter
It is recommended that you should avoid planting new lime trees in winter if you live in a region that can get winter frosts. A new tree will be more vulnerable to frost damage than a more established tree so wait until Spring before planting a new lime tree.
If you are like me and live in a tropical or sub-tropical region it can still be worth waiting until Spring or Fall to plant your lime. This will allow it to establish its roots in the ground or pot before it slows its growth for winter.
I transplanted my lime from a pot to the ground in Fall and now in Spring it is adding a lot of new growth. It even grew a lime over winter. Now that the Spring weather is here, a flush of new blooms have appeared which will produce my next crop of limes.
Can a lime tree survive winter? | Summary
A lime tree can survive a cold winter if you take the care to build it protection. A simple tomato cage covered in clear plastic can save your new lime tree from winter frost damage. A layer of mulch and regular water is important for lime trees to survive the winter and be ready to spring to life when the weather warms.
Hold out and plant a new lime tree in Spring to allow it plenty of time to establish before the next winter. This will give it the best chance of survival in a cold region.
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