Also known as a cocktail tree, the lemon lime tree is an incredible plant: it grows both lemons and limes!
Through grafting or planting two trees in the same pot, the Meyer lemon and the classic key lime combine into one tree, and one single delicious fruit.
You might think it’s a complicated plant to take care of, but it’s actually incredibly easy to grow indoors. Read on to learn all there is to know about the lemon lime tree and its fruit!
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History of the Lemon Lime Tree
The exact origin of citrus trees is unknown, but experts believe that humans first started cultivating citrus trees in South-east Asia thousands of years ago. From there, they spread everywhere from Italy to California. By the second half of the sixteenth century, we know that both lemon and lime trees were already well established on the southern east coast of North America.
The lemon lime tree was developed by horticulturalists to be a wondrous combination of Meyer lemons and key limes. These trees are happy to grow side-by-side in the same pot or be grafted together to form hybrids.
Lemon Lime Tree Characteristics
These trees have some pretty unique characteristics in that they are a combination of lemons and limes.
They typically grow to eight feet, and then are pruned to maintain that height. Like many fruit trees, it grows as wide as it is tall.
The fruits are a combination of sweet meyer lemons and versatile key limes. These are either grown side-by-side in the same pot or combined through grafting one onto the other. The trees retain their individual characteristics even when combined through grafting.
These trees are restricted to planting zones eight to 11 when grown outside. That limits them to southern and some coastal regions in the United States. Luckily, these trees do great indoors and on patios.
This extends their planting zones to four to 11 when grown indoors or on patios. The lemon lime tree is a great choice for people looking for an indoor fruit tree that is hardy and can handle a variety of climates.
Size and Spacing
These are small trees inherently. While they can grow to the full size of either a Meyer lemon or a key lime, they are usually kept pruned down to a comfortable eight feet. The width of these trees, also when kept pruned, hovers between six and eight feet.
When it comes to spacing, you’ll want to keep them around four feet apart. They do much better in close quarters than other fruit trees thanks to their small size.
The lemon lime tree is a self-pollinating fruit tree.
This makes it a great choice for the home gardener and even growing indoors. It’s important to remember that you can help this tree pollinate by either moving it outdoors when it’s flowering or by doing it manually. This is done by cutting off a mature flower and rubbing the pollen onto all the other flowers on the tree.
Caring for your lemon lime tree is very easy. These are hardy fruiting trees that are very easy for beginners to grow indoors. One thing to keep in mind is that they require lots of nutrients. Make sure to keep some fertilizer on hand if you want consistent fruiting.
Here are some other steps you should keep in mind.
These are full sun fruit trees. You’ll want to plant them outdoors on a southern-facing spot of land to maximize their sunlight and keep them warm.
If they’re indoors, try to get them time outside on a balcony or patio during warmer months. When indoors, the lemon lime tree should be parked in a room that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day.
Watering your lemon lime tree couldn’t be more simple. While other fruiting trees have complicated schedules or moisture content requirements, the lemon lime has a sure-fire way to check to see if it’s getting a little thirsty.
Simply check the soil three inches down. If it’s dry there, then it’s time to water.
You’ll want to prune your lemon lime trees early in the spring.
Besides the basic pruning for size and shape, you’ll want to pay close attention to any grafted areas if you have the grafted version of the lemon lime tree.
Sometimes grafted sections can grow faster than their host plant. This can then pull nutrients away from the entire tree, causing serious health problems. Simply make sure that grafted sections remain a similar size to their neighbors and you’ll be good to go.
Diseases & Care
Molds, pests, and bacterial conditions are all potential threats to your lemon lime tree. The best way to prevent these diseases is to educate yourself on them, and make sure your tree is well watered, has the appropriate fertilizer, and gets all the sunlight that it needs.
Common Uses For The Lemon Lime
Now that you’re growing your own lemon lime trees, you’ll want to make use of all that citrus! Here are some of the best ways to use lemon and limes.
What Does The Lemon Lime Taste like?
These trees create two fruits and each has a unique taste.
The meyer lemon is sweet with a tangy, sour bite. This makes it great for countless desserts from pudding to lemon bars.
The key lime is well known for its strong taste that can border on very sour with that citrus bite. This is why it’s typically used in very sweet desserts like pies.
Citrus fruits are the cornerstone of countless culinary styles.
Whether you are getting ready to cook a delicious pie or you’re making a savory dinner, having a lemon lime tree in your home is a brilliant culinary idea.
Here’s just a sample of what you can do with the fruit of lemon lime trees.
How brave are you feeling?
Technically, the entirety of both meyer lemons and key limes are edible. You could just bite into one if you really wanted, but they are very tart.
There are recipes that use raw key limes such as my personal favorite, key lime pie. Meyer lemon wedges are a great raw choice for adding as garnishes to drinks and savory dishes alike.
So many refreshing drinks can be made with lemon and lime of course. We love a tangy cherry limeade made with lime juice and cherries!
Canning / Freezing / Drying
These fruits handle being preserved extremely well. Whether you are canning them, turning them into preserves, or freezing these fruits, you’ll be sure to have a long-lasting and delicious flavor.
One thing to keep in mind is that these fruits have so many different ways that they can be preserved. They have zests, candied peels, juices, and much more. You can take these just about anywhere when it comes to long-term storage.
Recipes Using the Lemon Lime
There are plenty of ways to cook both the meyer lemon and the key lime. These fruits can be used in cakes, bars, and a variety of desserts like these key lime cookies. There are also savory recipes found in Mexican cuisine, traditional Tuscan dishes, and plenty of other options for using these fruits for more than desert!
Health Benefits of the Lemon Lime
Lemons and limes are full of health benefits. These trees come packed with vitamin C as well as other nutrients. They can help improve skin health as well as benefit the immune system. Read more about the health benefits of lemons for more in depth information on this topic.
Where to Buy Lemon Lime Fruit
Meyer lemons and key limes are some of the most common citrus fruits on the market today.
You’ll be able to get these fruits from your local grocery store both when they are in season and all year long. Just as with most fruits, these lemons and limes taste best when they are fresh off the branch!
Wrapping Up the Lemon Lime Tree
Now you know all about lemon time trees. They have a refreshing smell, delicious fruit, and hold up well indoors or on patios. Get a lemon lime tree for yourself, and soon enough you’ll be picking lemons and limes fresh in your own home.
Ready for more lemon content? Next, visit our lemon trees page to discover more useful and fun information on lemon planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and more!