Growing limes in containers

Even in hot Austin, our winters get too cold to leave lime trees outdoors when temperatures dip, so I’m growing both Mexican lime, Citrus aurantifolia, and Kaffir lime, Citrus x hystrix, in containers.   Then I can move them indoors when necessary.  Mexican limes are also known as key limes.  Kaffir limes, or makrut, are grown primarily for their leaves, which are used to flavor Lao and other Southeast Asian dishes.

I picked up both of these plants earlier this year, and this evening, after the sun goes down, I’ll re-pot both into larger containers.

Mexican Lime waiting to be re-potted.

Mexican Lime waiting to be re-potted.

Limes need to be well drained, so I have added a couple of inches of expanded shale to the bottom of each container.

Expanded shale in bottom of container

Expanded shale in bottom of container for drainage.

At the same time, given that our temperatures have already reached the upper nineties in Austin, I have to water these almost daily.  If you are growing these in another region, check the pots before watering and don’t water until the soil is slightly dry.

The frequent watering can flush out soil nutrients, so I’m also fertilizing every two weeks.  I use a mix of seaweed and liquid fish diluted in water.  Currently, I’m using a commercial mix made by Lady Bug Brand that also includes small amounts of magnesium sulfate, ferrous sulfate and zinc sulfate.  Citrus can develop chlorosis from a lack of any of these.

Kaffir lime leaf

Kaffir lime leaf

Key limes, almost ready to harvest.

Key limes, almost ready to harvest.

Both of these limes will be transplanted to an even larger container in a year or two.  After that, I may need to occasionally root prune them to keep them happy in a container of a manageable size.  I’ve already been enjoying my summertime treat: sparkling water with a twist of lime.

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4 Responses to “Growing limes in containers”

  1. stuart says:

    I assume you would not be able to grow these limes in New Hampshire. If I’m wrong, please let me know,

  2. Geoff says:


    We consulted with several garden writers in northern climates who grow citrus. Short answer, yes you can grow these if you bring them indoors once nighttime temps go below 40. They will most likely lose leaves during the winter and probably develop scale or mite problems, but they should survive. Artificial light is not absolutely necessary, but doesn’t hurt. Fertilizing with liquid kelp also helps.



  3. Thanks so much!! I wanted to grow Kaffir lime at home since a long time. I stay in a condo and I mostly grow some veggies in pots. I never tried lime as I assumed they need a lot of soil and space. I am going to pick one of this weekend and give it a try. Also, if I have a lime tree at home, I can pluck Kaffir lime leaves anytime I need them for my cooking.

  4. John Sanders says:

    This is perfect for my garden. I am planning to grow some limes. Thanks for the tips!