How to Grow a Finger Lime Tree: Planting, Propagation, Care for Citrus Australasica/Caviar Lime

Finger lime (Citrus australasica) is a native Australian citrus that produces elongated fruits with a juicy pulp that resembles caviar. The fruits come in various colors, such as green, yellow, pink, red, and black, and have a tangy flavor that can enhance salads, desserts, cocktails, and seafood dishes. Finger lime trees are evergreen and can grow up to 6 meters tall. They have thorny branches and small leaves that are aromatic when crushed. Finger lime trees are also known as caviar lime, microcitrus, or bush lime.

How to Grow a Finger Lime Tree

How to Grow a Finger Lime Tree

Finger Lime Growing Zone

Finger lime trees are hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11, where they can tolerate temperatures as low as -4 °C (25°F). They prefer a warm, humid climate with plenty of sunshine and rainfall. They can also grow in subtropical and tropical regions, but they may need some protection from frost and extreme heat. Finger lime trees can adapt to different soil types, but they prefer well-drained, sandy loam soils with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.

Ideal Soil and Location for Your Finger Lime Tree

The ideal soil for finger lime trees is rich in organic matter, well-aerated, and moist but not waterlogged. To improve soil quality for finger lime trees, add compost, or peat moss manure, before planting and mulch with straw, bark, or leaves. Choose place with 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, but plant in partial shade for fewer fruits. Avoid windy or exposed areas for leaf damage or fruit drop.

Step-by-step Guide to Planting Finger Lime Trees

To plant finger lime trees, you will need a healthy sapling from a nursery or a garden center. You can also propagate your finger lime trees from seeds or cuttings, but this may take longer and require more care.

  1. Choose a suitable site for your finger lime tree, considering the soil, sunlight, and space requirements.
  2. Make a hole that is twice as deep and twice as big as your sapling’s root ball.
  3. Loosen the soil at the bottom and sides of the hole and mix in some organic matter.
  4. Remove the sapling from its pot and gently loosen the roots.
  5. Place the sapling in the center of the hole and spread the roots evenly.
  6. Fill the hole with soil and press it firmly around the base of the sapling.
  7. Water the sapling thoroughly and apply some mulch around it.
  8. Stake the sapling if needed to support its growth and protect it from wind.
  9. Prune any damaged or diseased branches or leaves.

Watering Techniques for Healthy Finger Lime Growth

Finger limes are citrus plants that need regular watering to thrive. However, overwatering cause root rot, fungal diseases, so it is important to use well-draining soil and avoid waterlogging. The best way to water finger limes is to use a drip irrigation system that delivers water slowly and evenly to the roots.

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Heap of fresh raw green finger limes

Alternatively, you can water by hand, but make sure check the soil moisture before watering. Water deeply and thoroughly until the water drains out of the bottom of the pot or the planting hole. Avoid wetting foliage, can increase the risk of pests and diseases.

Best Fertilizer for Australian Finger Lime Tree

Finger limes are heavy feeders that need regular fertilization to produce abundant and flavorful fruits. The best fertilizer for finger limes is a balanced citrus fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients like iron, zinc, manganese, and copper. You can use either a granular or a liquid fertilizer, but make sure to follow the label instructions carefully.

A general guideline is to fertilize finger limes every six weeks from spring to summer when the plants are actively growing. Apply the fertilizer around root zone of plant, avoiding the trunk and the roots. Water well after fertilizing to prevent salt buildup and nutrient burn.

Homemade Fertilizers for Finger Lime Tree

Organic or homemade fertilizers for finger lime trees can be beneficial. Compost, made from kitchen scraps, garden waste, leaves, and grass clippings, can improve soil structure and fertility. Apply layer of compost around the tree’s base once or twice a year, preferably in spring and fall. 

Worm castings, the excreta of earthworms, are high in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and micronutrients that benefit finger lime trees. You can buy worm castings from garden centers or make your own by setting up a worm bin with red wigglers or composting worms. Sprinkle worm castings around the tree every month during the growing season.

Pruning and Maintenance Tips for Finger Lime Trees

Pruning finger lime trees is not essential, but it can help to shape the plant, remove dead or diseased branches, improve air circulation, and encourage fruit production. The best time to prune finger lime trees is in late winter or early spring before the new growth starts. Use sharp and clean pruning tools to avoid spreading diseases or pests. 

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Raw Organic Green Finger Limes

Cut off any branches that are crossing, rubbing, damaged, diseased, or dead. Remove suckers or sprouts that grow from the base or the trunk of the tree. Thin out any crowded or dense branches to allow light, air to reach the inner parts of the tree. Trim back any long or leggy branches to maintain a compact and bushy shape.

Protecting Finger Lime Trees From Pests and Diseases

Finger lime trees are resistant to pests, diseases, but can still be affected by common citrus problems. Pests like mites, scales, lepidopterans, aphids, and Asian citrus psyllid can cause leaf curling, yellowing, wilting, stunting, honeydew secretion, sooty mold growth, fruit drop, and citrus greening. 

To control these pests, cultural methods like removing weeds, applying horticultural oil, introducing beneficial insects, or using organic or synthetic pesticides can be used. Diseases like phytophthora root rot, twig dieback, citrus canker, and HLB can cause root decay, branch dieback, leaf spots, fruit lesions, or tree death.

Climate Considerations: Growing Finger Limes in Different Regions

Finger limes are native to Australia, where they grow in subtropical and tropical rainforest climates. They can tolerate 23 to 113 °F (-5 to 45 °C), but they prefer warm and humid conditions. They are sensitive to frost and cold damage, so they need protection from freezing temperatures. If you live in a mild winter region, you can grow finger limes outdoors in the ground or containers.

Indoor Vs. Outdoor Growth: Adapting Care for Finger Lime Trees

Finger lime trees can thrive indoors and outdoors, but their care varies depending on their location. Outdoors require more frequent watering due to evaporation and transpiration and should be watered when the top 2 inches feel dry. Winter watering is less frequent, and the watering schedule should be adjusted based on weather and season. Indoors, finger lime trees require more frequent fertilization due to limited access to natural nutrients.

A balanced citrus fertilizer should be used every six weeks from spring to summer, with a reduced frequency in winter. Overfertilization can cause salt buildup and nutrient burn. Pruning is more frequent in indoor conditions, as finger lime trees tend to grow faster and leggier.  Prune in late winter or early spring and remove dead, diseased branches, improve air circulation, and encourage fruit production. Finger lime trees are more susceptible to pests and diseases indoors, so regular monitoring and use of cultural or chemical methods are essential.

How to Grow Finger Lime in Pots

  • Optimal pot selection: Choose a spacious pot with drainage holes (12 inches in diameter, 18 inches deep) for finger lime growth in limited spaces or cold climates.
  • Soil preparation: Fill the pot with well-draining mix containing sand, perlite, or vermiculite. Enhance fertility with compost or worm castings.
  • Planting process: Place the finger lime tree at the pot’s center, ensuring the root ball aligns with the soil surface. Firm soil and water adequately.
  • Sunlight requirements: Position the pot in a sunny or partially shaded area, receiving at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Artificial lights can supplement natural light.
  • Watering regimen: Maintain regular watering, ensuring soil moisture without sogginess. Check and water deeply as needed.
  • Fertilization routine: Apply balanced citrus fertilizer every six weeks in spring to summer per label instructions; reduce in winter.
  • Pruning guidelines: Trim the finger lime tree in late winter or early spring for shaping, removing dead/diseased branches, improving air circulation, and encouraging fruiting.
  • Frost protection: Shield from frost by relocating indoors or to a sheltered area when temperatures fall below 40 °F (4 °C), ensuring proper lighting, air circulation, and humidity.

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Whole and half lime fingers

Finger Lime Tree Growth Stages/Life Cycle and Timeline

Finger lime trees, native to Australia, are evergreen plants with a slow growth rate, taking up to 8-12 years to reach maturity. Their life cycle is divided into four stages: seed, seedling, juvenile, and adult. Seeds are small, round, and dark brown, found inside the fruit. Seedlings are delicate and require protection from sunlight, frost, and pests. Juveniles are young plants that have not flowered or fruited and can grow up to 6 feet tall in 5 years. Adults, which can reach up to 25 feet tall, are mature and require pruning and moderate watering.

Harvesting Finger Limes: Timing and Techniques

Finger limes are harvested annually from March to May, depending on the climate and variety. They are firm, glossy, and brightly colored, green to yellow to red to purple to brown. Harvesting is done using sharp scissors or pruners, preventing damage to the fruit and tree. Handling is gentle, and finger limes can be stored in a cool, dry place in the refrigerator. They can also be frozen for up to 6 months without losing flavor or texture.

Troubleshooting Common Issues in Finger Lime Cultivation

Finger lime trees face several health and productivity issues. Pests like mites, scales, lepidopterans, aphids, and Asian citrus psyllids can damage the tree’s leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit. To control pests, use organic methods like horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, neem oil, or beneficial insects. Diseases like phytophthora root rot, twig dieback, citrus canker, citrus greening, or anthracnose can cause symptoms like yellowing or wilting of leaves, dieback of branches, lesions, or reduced fruit quality.

To prevent diseases, use disease-resistant varieties, avoid overwatering or poor drainage, prune diseased branches promptly, sanitize tools between cuts, and avoid spreading infected plant material. Nutrient deficiencies can cause symptoms like yellowing leaves, stunted growth, poor flowering, or leaf curling. Correct nutrient deficiencies with balanced citrus fertilizer every six weeks and soil pH adjustment with lime or sulfur.

Organic Methods for Australian Growing Finger Lime Trees

Finger lime trees are native to Australia and thrive in rainforests. They prefer warm, humid conditions with partial to full sun exposure and are tolerant of drought and salt spray. To grow finger lime trees organically, choose a suitable site with well-draining soil, at least 6 hours of sun per day, and protection from frost and strong winds. 

Prepare a planting hole by digging twice deep as the root ball and mixing organic matter like compost or manure. Remove the finger lime tree from its pot, loosen its roots, and place it in the center of the hole. Water the tree thoroughly and mulch it with organic materials to retain moisture and add nutrients. 

Fertilize the tree every six weeks with organic citrus fertilizer. Prune the tree lightly after harvesting to remove dead or diseased branches and maintain air circulation. Monitor the tree for pests and diseases using organic methods like horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, neem oil, or beneficial insects. Use disease-resistant varieties, avoid overwatering or poor drainage, prune diseased branches promptly, sanitize tools, and avoid spreading infected plant material.

Winter Care for Finger Lime Trees in Cold Climates

Finger lime trees are tropical plants that cannot tolerate frost or freezing temperatures. In cold climates, they require winter care to protect them from damage. Two options are bringing them indoors or covering them outdoors. If in a container, bring it indoors in a sunny spot, gradually acclimating to avoid shock. 

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lime fingers

Move it to a shaded spot outdoors for a few days before bringing it indoors. Water sparingly and fertilize only in spring. If in the ground, cover it with a frost cloth or blanket, remove it during the day, wrap the trunk and branches with burlap or bubble wrap, and add mulch to protect the roots from the cold.

Propagating Finger Lime Trees

Finger lime trees can be propagated through seeds or cuttings. Seeds are found inside the fruit and can germinate in cell trays with well-draining soil. Cuttings are taken from healthy branches with at least two pairs of leaves, about 6 inches long, and clean cut at an angle below a leaf node.

How to Grow a Finger Lime Tree From Seed

Finger lime is a citrus fruit native to Australia that has a unique caviar-like texture and tangy flavor. It is also known as caviar lime or Australian finger lime. To grow a finger lime tree from seed, you need fresh seeds from ripe fruits. 

You can plant the seeds in a cell tray with well-draining soil and keep them moist and warm until they sprout. Then, you can transplant them to individual pots and gradually move them to larger containers as they grow. Finger lime trees are slow-growing and may take up to 15 years to produce fruits, so be patient and provide them with enough light, water, and fertilizer.

How to Grow a Finger Lime Tree From Cuttings

Another way to propagate finger lime trees is by using cuttings from healthy branches. Cuttings are faster and easier than seeds, and they ensure that the new plants have the same characteristics as the parent plant. To grow a finger lime tree from cuttings, you need to take 6-inch long cuttings from semi-hardwood stems in late winter or early spring. 

To propagate cuttings, remove lower leaves, dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and insert them in moist potting mix-filled pots. Cover with plastic bags to create a humid environment. Place in a bright spot but avoid direct sunlight. Water regularly and check for roots after six weeks. Transplant cuttings to larger pots or outdoors if suitable.

Finger Lime Tree Flowering and Pollination

Finger lime trees produce small, fragrant flowers that are pink or white. The flowers usually appear in spring or summer, depending on the variety and climate. Finger lime trees are self-fertile, which means they can produce fruits without cross-pollination from other trees. However, cross-pollination can increase fruit yield and quality, so it is beneficial to have more than one tree or different varieties of finger lime trees nearby. You can also hand-pollinate the flowers by transferring pollen with small brush or cotton swab.

Finger Lime Yield per Tree

The yield of finger lime trees depends on the age, size, health, variety, climate, and care of the tree. Generally, finger lime trees start bearing fruits after 3 to 5 years of planting, but they may take longer if grown from seeds. A mature finger lime tree can produce up to 10 kg of fruits per year, but this may vary depending on the growing conditions. 

Finger lime fruits are harvested when they are fully ripe, usually from March to May in Australia. The fruits are long, cylindrical, and often curved, resembling fingers. They come in different colors, such as green, yellow, red, purple, or brown.

Finger Lime Tree Price and Uses

Finger lime trees are rare and exotic plants that are not widely available in nurseries or online stores. The price of finger lime trees may vary depending on the size, quality, variety, and source of the plant. Finger lime plants, a type of citrus fruit, are typically sold for INR 1550, with a six-month-old plant costing around the same. Despite its sour taste, finger limes are commonly used as garnishes or flavor components in culinary creations. 

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Brown lime fingers

They are priced between 40 and 50 dollars per pound in the US domestic market and are best used for cooking, jams, garnishes, sauces, and drinks. Finger lime fruits are used as a garnish or ingredient in salads, desserts, drinks, sauces, and seafood dishes. They add a burst of refreshing acidity and flavor to any dish. They are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds that can boost immunity, skin health, digestion, and more.

Care and Tips for Finger Lime Tree

Indoor cultivation of finger lime trees involves container gardening. Proper pruning is crucial for healthy growth. The planting process should be followed carefully. Understanding the growth stages is essential. Consider the price of finger lime trees. Explore diverse culinary uses. Diligent care is required for these trees.

Address yellowing leaves promptly. Choose appropriate fertilizers. Grafting techniques can be employed. Guard against frost damage. Mulching supports tree health. Observe flowering patterns. Understand the pollination process. Assess fruit yield factors. Implement a consistent watering schedule. Provide winter care for optimal growth.

Growing a Finger Lime Tree in a Nutshell

Common QuestionsExpert Answers
What is a finger lime tree?A finger lime tree is a fruit-bearing tree, native to Australia, known for its unique caviar-like lime fruits.
What are other names of  finger lime?Caviar Lime, Citrus Caviar, Microcitrus Australasica, Australian Finger Lime, Rainforest Pearl , and Lime Caviar.
What are the varieties of finger lime?Pink Ice, Green Crystal, Yellow, Red Champagne, Blood Lime, Alstonville,Byron Sunriser, Rainforest Pearl, Jali Red and Wauchope.
How do I plant a finger lime tree?Plant in well-draining soil, in a sunny spot, and water regularly until established.
What type of soil is best for finger lime trees?Loamy, well-draining soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7 is ideal for finger lime trees.
How much sun does a finger lime tree need?Full sun is best, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
How often should I water a finger lime tree?Water regularly, keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged, reducing frequency in winter.
What is the best fertilizer for finger lime trees?Use a citrus-specific fertilizer or a balanced slow-release fertilizer in spring and summer.
When is the right time to prune finger lime trees?Prune in late winter or early spring to shape the tree and remove dead or diseased branches.
How do I protect my finger lime tree from pests?Regularly inspect for pests and treat with horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps as needed.
How big does a finger lime tree grow?A finger lime tree typically grows to a height of 6-10 feet (about 1.8 to 3 meters) tall and can spread just as wide, depending on the variety and growing conditions
Can I grow a finger lime tree in a pot?Yes, ensure the pot is large and has good drainage, and use high-quality potting mix.
How long until a finger lime tree bears fruit?It can take 3-6 years for a finger lime tree to start producing fruit.
What are common diseases of finger lime trees?Root rot, scale, and citrus gall wasp are common issues to monitor for.
How do I harvest finger limes?Harvest when fruits are firm and colored, gently twist and pull to remove.
Can finger lime trees tolerate frost?They are moderately frost-tolerant but may need protection in colder climates.
How tall do finger lime trees grow?They can reach 6-10 feet tall and wide, depending on the variety and conditions.
What is the lifespan of a finger lime tree?With proper care, finger lime trees can live and produce fruit for several decades.
Can finger lime trees grow in shade?They prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade, though fruit production may be reduced.
How do I transplant a finger lime tree?Transplant in the cooler months, ensuring minimal disturbance to the root system.
What is the best companion plant for finger lime trees?Companions like marigolds or lavender can deter pests and improve growing conditions.
How do I deal with yellowing leaves on my finger lime tree?Yellowing leaves can indicate over-watering, nutrient deficiency, or pests. Adjust care accordingly.
Is mulching beneficial for finger lime trees?Yes, mulching helps retain soil moisture and regulate temperature.
How can I increase fruit production in my finger lime tree?Ensure adequate sun, water, and nutrients, and consider pruning to improve air circulation.
Can I propagate finger lime trees from cuttings?Yes, propagate using semi-hardwood cuttings in a well-draining growing medium.
What signs indicate over-watering in finger lime trees?Soft, yellow leaves and a spongy trunk are common signs of overwatering.
How do I prepare a finger lime tree for winter?In colder areas, provide mulch for root protection and consider a frost cloth if needed.
Can finger lime trees be grown indoors?Yes, if they receive enough sunlight and are kept in a suitable indoor climate.
How do I control the size of my finger lime tree?Regular pruning can help maintain a manageable size and shape.
What should I do if my finger lime tree’s leaves are curling?Leaf curl can be a sign of water stress or pest infestation; inspect and treat as needed.
How do I know if my finger lime tree is healthy?A healthy tree has glossy, green leaves, new growth, and a sturdy trunk.
What is the ideal pot size for a finger lime tree?Start with a pot at least 18-24 inches in diameter and repot as the tree grows.
Can finger lime trees be grafted onto other citrus rootstocks?Yes, grafting onto compatible citrus rootstocks can improve growth and disease resistance.

Conclusion

Cultivating a Finger Lime Tree involves thoughtful steps. Select a suitable pot, employ well-draining soil, and ensure proper sunlight. Water and fertilize consistently, and employ pruning for optimal growth. Protect against frost. Following these guidelines ensures successful planting, propagation, and care for Citrus Australasica, commonly known as Caviar Lime.

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