Growing Lime Leaf (Citrus hystrix) in terra-cotta pot

The leaves of Citrus hystrix are best used fresh, but they can also be stored in the freezer in resealable plastic bags. Use the leaves in sauces, stews, and marinades, adding whole leaves early in the process and removing them before serving the dish. The rind of the Lime Leaf fruit, rather than the flesh or juice, is also used in cooking. It has the same flavor found in the leaves. Simply zest the rind, and add it to dishes. For specific recipes, look in Indonesian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Thai cookbooks. Another common name for Lime Leaf is Kaffir Lime.

When you receive your plant, do not be alarmed if it begins to drop flowers, fruit, and/or foliage, as this is the plant’s reaction to being shipped. Citrus plants need at least 4–6 weeks to acclimate to a new location and this acclimation can take longer if the plant is receiving less than 6 hours of direct sun per day. During this time, DO NOT fertilize the plant, as this will cause further stress. Once the plant is acclimated—which means the plant is able to produce and maintain new growth—you can begin fertilizing according to our recommendations mentioned below.

In most of the United States, these plants must be grown indoors, at least during the winter. Fortunately, their rootstock will keep them a manageable size (to no more than 4-5ft in a container), so they can summer on the patio and spend the winter in a greenhouse, an enclosed porch, or near a sunny, south-facing window. Move the plant outdoors in late spring if you'd like, but wait until the weather is warm and settled.

Gardeners in Zone 10 and warmer can grow Lime Leaf outdoors. Set the pot outdoors in a sheltered, lightly shaded spot, increasing the exposure to sun and wind each day. Check the moisture of the potting mix and water thoroughly if it's dry. At the end of one week (give or take a day or two), your plant will be ready to go in the ground. Choose a spot for your plant that receives full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun each day) and is protected from drying winds. Planted in the ground, our Citrus will grow approximately 8ft tall.

Whether in the ground or in a container, Citrus need steady moisture. Water when the soil is dry to an inch deep. Don't let the tree dry out. If it does dry out, there's a good chance it will drop leaves, fruit, or both. If excessive drying is due to wind outside, move the tree to a more sheltered location. Mulch with bark chips or gravel around the base of the tree (keep it back a few inches from the trunk) to conserve moisture.

Citrus are also heavy feeders: After your plant has acclimated fully to its new home, feed lightly all year long with a fertilizer that has an N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) ratio of 3-1-1 plus micronutrients, including zinc, iron, and manganese. Miracid (30-10-10), which is widely available, works well (refer to the manufacturer's instructions for concentration). Leaf yellowing generally indicates insufficient fertilizer or poor drainage.

Prune Citrus at any time of the year except winter. Pinch growing tips and cut back leggy branches to help a spindly tree fill out. Suckers (shoots growing from below the graft or emerging from the soil) should be cut back as soon as they're noticed.