Lime trees can fail to produce fruit for a variety of reasons, including lack of nutrients, insufficient sunlight, and unpollinated flowers. Most lime trees will not grow fruit for at least the first 2 years but there are some ways to solve this problem. To get fruit sooner, feed your lime tree with nitrogen in the first year, potassium in the next year, water regularly and do not prune growing tips.
This article will outline the top reasons why lime trees may not bear fruit and offer solutions to each problem.
Top reasons why your tree is not producing fruit
Check out the top reasons why your lime tree is not producing fruit and how to fix each one.
1. The lime tree is too young
The top reason your lime tree is not growing fruit is because the tree is too young. Citrus trees less than 2 years old are not established enough to grow fruit. Some lime trees can take up to 5 years to grow their first fruit but there are some ways you can get your tree of to the best start and growing lots of fruit for years to come.
When planting your lime tree make sure the soil is improved first with compost, aged cow manure and worm castings if you have them. These add valuable organic matter to the soil and will help your young trees to grow a strong, healthy root system.
Worms will come to eat the organic matter and soil bacteria attracted by the compost and will make air pockets in the soil giving the roots more room to grow. Lime trees with strong root systems will grow lots of fruit in the next few years.
2. Nutrient deficiency
One of the most common reasons for lime trees not producing fruit is a lack of nutrients. Lime trees require a balanced mix of nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. If your soil is lacking in any of these nutrients, it can affect the tree’s ability to produce fruit.
To fix this issue, you can add fertilizer. Look for one that is specifically designed for citrus trees, as these will have the right balance of nutrients for your lime tree. You can also top dress your tree with compost and aged manure to improve its nutrient content.
Nitrogen deficiency can be common in the lime tree’s first year if the soil is poor. If they do not have enough nitrogen, the leaves can turn yellow, the plant can slow its growth and it will not produce fruit. Feed your new lime tree with a balanced fertilizer that contains nitrogen. I like to use pelleted chicken manure which is an organic fertilizer that contains nitrogen, feeds soil microbes, adds organic matter to the soil and aids in good drainage.
As your fruit trees grow, you will then want to switch to a fertilizer that is higher in potassium to encourage flower growth and fruit. The best time to fertilize your lime tree is at the start of the growing season in spring. You can then give it small amounts of fertlizer at the start of each season for the best results.
The best way to feed your lime tree to encourage more flowers and fruit is to use a citrus fertilizer in spring before flowers grow. If you still don’t have any flowers by late spring, feed your lime tree with a fertilizer with a higher potassium to nitrogen ratio.
These are often labelled as fruit and flower promoting and will encourage your plant to switch from leaf production to flower growth. Adding a fruit promoting fertilizer to your lime tree at the right time in spring will help to stimulate flower production before the weather gets too hot.
This same method is used for your potted lemon tree. It is even more important to feed potted trees regularly as they will quickly use up the nutrients in the potting mix.
3. Not enough sunlight
Lime trees that do not get enough sun will not grow fruit. The flowers will grow and open when they are getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. The flowers will have a higher chance of being pollinated by insects to allow the fruit to set. Planting more than a single tree, will also encourage a higher rate of pollination. Other citrus varieties like lemon and orange trees will also help to encourage pollination as they attract bees.
Lime trees grown in sunny positions will grow more fruit and ripen quicker. Pick limes while the skin is still dark green for a true lime taste. Limes will eventually turn yellow and sweeter if left on the tree for longer.
4. Not enough water
Lime trees like regular water so if they get too dry this can stop them from fruiting. Lime trees should be given extra water in the warmer months to make sure their surface roots do not dry out. These can be easily damaged in warm weather as they grow close to the surface of the soil.
Place your finger in the soil 2 inches below the surface to see if it is dry. If the soil is dry give your lime tree a deep watering with your hose. Check your tree 3 times per week in warm weather and add water to the soil if it is needed.
Another great way to stop your lime tree from drying out is to add mulch to the top 2-4 inches of soil under the leaf canopy. Keep the mulch away from the tree stem to avoid rot.
5. Too much water
Giving lime trees too much water can cause them not to grow fruit as they do not like to have soggy roots. Test the soil with your finger 2 inches below the surface before watering. Free draining soil is best for limes to make sure their roots do not rot in too much water. This can also cause them to grow less or no fruit at all.
Lime trees that are getting too much water will have leaves with dark green veins that start to turn yellow. This is because the nutrients are being washed away from the lime tree. If this happens give the tree a liquid feed with fish emulsion, add pelleted chicken manure and test the ground before adding more water.
6. Heavy pruning
Lime trees can grow long stems which can be temping to trim off as they get too long. If you trim off all of the stem tips however you can cut off all of the stems that would produce flowers and fruit meaning three will not grow any fruit. Prune lime trees in early spring before their new growing buds appear.
It is best to prune lime trees by trimming branches that are crossing over each other and rubbing together. Do not remove too many stem tips of you want lots of fruit. Wait until you have picked the fruit and you can trim the branches back into shape.
7. Poor pollination
Lime trees that are not pollinated will not grow fruit. Lime flowers need to have pollen moved from the stamen to anther to produce fruit. This is usually done by insects or the wind. Indoor lime trees will need this done manually with a small paint brush or can be placed outside for short periods of time while flowering.
Encourage more insects into your garden by putting an insect house in your yard. For more information check out my previous article on the best place to put an insect hotel.
8. Too much nitrogen
Lime trees that are given too much nitrogen will develop lots of leaf growth but no fruit. The plant will put all of its energy in leaf and steam growth rather than flower and fruit production. If your lime tree has lots of healthy green leaves but no fruit, feed it with a fruit fertilizer which will increase the potassium levels to encourage fruiting.
How to encourage lime trees to grow more fruit
If you have a lime tree that is not producing fruit, there are several steps you can take to encourage fruit production. Here are some things you can do to help your lime tree bear fruit:
Lime trees require adequate nutrients to produce fruit. If your tree is not producing fruit, it may be due to a lack of nutrients in the soil. Use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as these are the nutrients that lime trees need most. Fertilize your lime tree in the spring, just before the growing season begins.
Apply fertilizer again in the summer, after the tree has finished blooming. If your tree has loads of leaf growth and no flowers by mid spring, apply a liquid feed of fruit promoting fertilizer.
Liquid fertilizers can be a great way to give your lime tree a quick dose of nutrients.
Pruning your lime tree can help to encourage fruit production. Prune your tree in late winter or early spring, when it is dormant. Remove any dead or diseased branches, as well as any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other.
Make clean cuts at a 45-degree angle just above a healthy bud or branch junction. Avoid heavy pruning during the growing season to prevent stress on the tree. Regularly remove suckers or low-hanging branches to encourage upward growth and maintain an open canopy.
When pruning take the time to remove excess branches to allow more light and air to reach the center of the tree. This will help to promote healthy growth and fruit production. Be sure to use sharp pruning shears and make clean cuts to avoid damaging the tree.
Lime trees require pollination to produce fruit. If your tree is not producing fruit, it may be due to a lack of pollination. You can enhance pollination by attracting pollinating insects to your garden.
Plant flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators near your lime tree like daisies, pansies, phlox, borage and lupine. You can also use a paintbrush to transfer pollen from one flower to another. Gently brush the stamens of one flower and then brush the pistil of another flower to transfer the pollen.
Dealing with pests and diseases in lime trees
Lime trees are susceptible to pests that can cause damage to the tree and affect fruit production. Some common pests that affect lime trees include aphids, spider mites, and citrus leaf miners.
Aphids are small insects that suck sap from the leaves and stems of the tree. They can cause yellowing of the leaves and stunted growth. Spider mites are tiny pests that create webs on the leaves and can cause yellowing and curling of the leaves. Citrus leaf miners are small moths that lay eggs on the leaves. The larvae tunnel through the leaves and create winding trails, which can lead to leaf drop.
How to prevent pest attack
Preventing pests is the best way to ensure that your lime tree stays healthy and produces fruit. Here are some preventive measures you can take:
- Keep the area around the tree clean and free of debris.
- Use a high-pressure hose to wash off any pests on the leaves.
- Use insecticidal soap or Neem oil to control pests.
- Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree to prevent weeds and retain moisture.
- Use sticky traps to catch flying insects like leaf miners.
In addition to pests, lime trees can also be affected by diseases like citrus canker and citrus greening. These diseases can cause leaf drop and affect fruit quality. If you suspect that your tree is affected by a disease, it is important to contact a professional.
Best fertilizer for lime trees to grow more fruit
To grow more fruit on lime trees give a fruit promoting fertilizer in early spring. The tree will be preparing to grow flowers and then fruit and a high potassium fertilizer can grow more fruit on your tree quicker.
Fertilizers with a higher potassium ratio like a 3 – 5 – 5 will encourage your tree to grow more limes.
Best mulch for lime trees to encourage more fruit
To grow more fruit on lime trees mulch under your tree with bark or tree mulch. Tree mulch contains a mix of green and brown materials as it is made from mulching tree trimming including the leaves, stems and branches. This mix of material will add organic matter to your soil, encourage worms, stop weeds and keep the soil moisture in.
Laying tree mulch 2 inches thick under your lime tree will help to regulate the soil moisture levels and help your tree to put energy into growing flowers and limes.
Lime tree fruit FAQ
How long before a lime tree grows fruit?
Lime trees can take anywhere from 2-5 years to start growing fruit. Most lime trees bought from nurseries will be 2 years old so it will usually take until the next season for them to start growing fruit. After the lime tree has grown flowers, it can take around 2-3 months for the fruit to grow into its full size and be ready to pick. Fruit can be ready faster if limes are planted in a sunny spot, are given regular water and given a fruit promoting fertilizer in spring.
Are coffee grounds good for lime trees?
Coffee grounds can be added to lime tree top soil after breaking them down in your compost. Mix used coffee grounds with other compost ingredients like fall leaves, food scraps and straw and let it break down for around 100 days. This will break down any chemicals and neutralize the pH making it a perfect addition to the topsoil of your lime tree.
Do not dig compost in around your tree roots as you do not want to damage them. Instead, rake back any mulch, sprinkle compost on top of the soil and cover it again with tree mulch. Nutrients and organic matter will be washed down to your lime tree roots when you water or when it rains.
Is Epsom salt good for lime trees?
Epsom salts add magnesium to your lime trees and can be dissolved in water and added around the root zone. Magnesium deficiency can be seen in lime trees where the leaves turn yellow at the top and the yellowing spreads down the leaves. The veins will stay dark green but the yellowing will spread.
How do I get my lime tree to flower?
Encourage lime trees to flower by planting them in a sunny spot, removing any overhanging branches nearby that may be blocking the sun. Give them a fruit promoting fertilizer which has a high potassium to nitrogen level will prompt your lime tree to grow flowers and then fruit.
How do you fertilize a lime tree?
Fertilize lime trees with a balanced fertilizer when you first plant them out. I like to use pelleted chicken manure which is an organic, high nitrogen fertilizer. This will allow your young lime tree to add lots of stem and leaf growth and avoid nitrogen deficiency. Water the tree in with fish emulsion to get the roots and stems established.
Once your lime tree has grown for a year, add a fruit promoting fertilizer in spring before the flowers appear. This will help the lime tree to grow more flowers and fruit.
Do all lime trees bear fruit?
All lime trees will bear fruit if they are fed with organic matter, watered well and placed in a sunny position. Makrut lime trees are grown for their leaves but their fruit zest can be used in cooking. Lime types including Tahitian, Mexican and Persian lime grow delicious large fruit and are common in the United States.
Lime trees can take up to 5 years from seedling to growing lime fruit so if you are in a hurry for limes in your yard buy the biggest tree you can afford and choose a grafted tree. Set your tree up well by planting it in good soil full of organic matter and water it regularly. A sunny spot will give you a happy tree and lots of fruit.
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.