Lime trees are cold-sensitive citrus trees known for their sour fruit used in foods and beverages. These amazing trees can be grown outdoors in warm climates or indoors. No matter where you have your lime tree, you’ll want to be sure to give it lots of sunlight!
Lime trees grown in full sun will grow faster, have higher fruit production, and produce bigger fruit. Full sun conditions help prevent overly wet soil which is something lime trees cannot tolerate. Full sun will also help increase pollination and help dry the limes, making them easier to harvest.
Whether your lime tree is grown outdoors or in your home, we’ll cover all the reasons why they grow the BEST in full sun.
What Does A Lime Tree Need To Grow?
There’s nothing quite like growing and harvesting your own fruit. It feels good, tastes good, and the tree makes your yard and home look good!
If you’re growing a lime tree, you probably want to invest some time into taking care of it and making sure it grows under the right conditions.
There are three main things to consider when planting a lime tree:
Lime Trees Like Well-Drained Soil
Lime trees are tolerant of most soil conditions as long as they are well-drained.
Heavy clay soils that retain water will cause lime trees to decline over time and reach an earlier end. Preferably, lime trees love well-drained sandy soils.
Lime Trees Love Warm Temperatures
When it comes to temperature, lime trees LOVE the warmth.
According to a publication from the University of California, lime trees are considered to have a high sensitivity to frost. These cold-sensitive trees cannot tolerate freezing temperatures without protection and are typically only grown in the warmest parts of Florida and California.
As for sunlight, lime trees prefer full sun conditions, meaning at least 6 hours of sun per day. 8 to10 hours is even better and will promote better overall health.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of why lime trees prefer full sun.
Lime Trees Grow Faster In Full Sun
Sunlight is important for plant growth in a variety of ways. However, the most important role that the sun plays in plant growth is by starting the process of photosynthesis.
Lime trees use photosynthesis to produce new growth including shoots, buds, fruit, and roots. While there are a few things that have to come together for photosynthesis to work, it definitely can’t work without sunlight!
Photosynthesis converts water and carbon dioxide into sugars that the tree uses as food. This ‘food’ helps the tree grow.
Full Sun Gives The Lime Tree Energy To Grow
When lime trees are planted in full sun, they will have more access to sunlight which helps the process of photosynthesis, which therefore helps the tree grow. The more sun, the more photosynthesis. The more photosynthesis, the more growth!
Lime trees have to be careful about where they put their food to use. If there’s not enough sunlight, they cannot divert as much energy to growing tall, establishing roots, or producing flowers and fruit.
If planted in a shady area, lime trees will experience stunted growth as well as several other unwanted problems.
Full Sun Conditions Promote Bigger Fruits
Limes are typically small when compared to other fruits like oranges or lemons. The limes found in grocery stores, the Tahiti lime, are one of the largest lime varieties besides the giant key lime and they still only measure about 2.5-3 inches long.
With such small fruits, you’ll want all the help you can get to make the fruits as big as possible at harvest time.
Growing your lime tree in full sun helps encourage larger, heavier fruit that gives you a little more bang for your buck.
Energy From Photosynthesis Lets The Fruits Grow Larger
The reason that full sun promotes larger fruits has a lot to do with the energy obtained from photosynthesis.
When lime trees are struggling due to a lack of water, lack of nutrients, or lack of sunlight, they have to go into survival mode. This means diverting all of their energy into staying alive as opposed to new growth, flower production, or fruit production.
If there is adequate water, nutrients, and sunlight, lime trees can be a little laxer about where they divert their energy. When excess energy is available, it goes into fruit production, meaning the fruits will not only be more plentiful, but they will be larger and heavier than if the tree was grown in shade.
Lime Trees Produce More Fruit When Grown In Full Sun
Not only do full sun conditions promote heavier fruit, but it also helps your lime tree produce MORE fruit, giving you a higher yield at harvest time.
Mexican lime and Tahiti lime trees will usually produce more fruit than one family can use. Depending on where your lime tree lives, you may be able to harvest year-round. Other areas experience two harvesting seasons in summer and early winter.
If your lime tree isn’t growing in the right conditions, the fruit production can suffer and you may only get a few limes here and there, if any.
More Sun Equals More Limes
Lime trees that are grown in full sun have enough energy to divert to fruit production, meaning you will have more fruits on your lime tree than if it were grown in partial shade.
When placed in partial shade, lime trees will not produce as many fruits. If there is too much shade, you may have to write your lime tree off as an ornamental tree instead of a fruit tree!
Sunny Conditions Help Dry Out The Soil
Every tree has a preference for where it likes to grow. Some trees prefer mountainous slopes while others grow best in lowland swamps. Lime trees have their own set of favorite locations and prefer to be planted in well-drained soil.
Planting your lime tree in a place where it can receive maximum sunlight will help keep the soil from remaining wet after heavy rain. The sun works by encouraging water evaporation from the soil, sucking up water particles and drying the soil out.
On the flip side of this, you certainly don’t want your lime tree to experience water stress. While the sun will help your lime tree from having wet roots, it will also dry out the soil quicker than if placed in the shade.
This also makes a big difference during winter – as lime trees are actually evergreen!
Limes Are Better At Harvest Time When Grown In Full Sun
The whole reason that most homeowners plant a lime tree is to eventually harvest the delicious fruits. It goes without saying that you’ll want all the care and hard work to pay off at harvest time with fruits that are in good condition and edible.
One problem with lime trees is that the fruits can develop something called stylar end breakdown if the fruits remain wet for too long. According to Texas A&M University, the juice inside the fruit will concentrate on one end of the fruit. Because the juices are so acidic, they will break down the rind and the juices will escape the fruit.
One way to prevent this from happening is to only harvest the fruit when it is completely dry. A lime tree planted in a sunny spot will be able to dry off its fruit faster than one planted in the shade.
Lime Trees Are Pollinated More Successfully When Planted In Full Sun
We’ve said a few times now that lime trees grown in full sun will have more energy to divert to growth, fruit production, and blooming.
Lime trees are self-fruitful, meaning they do not require a second tree to bear fruit. Pollen can be exchanged on the same flower and it will produce fruit. Flowers are extremely important in fruit trees. After all, it’s the flowers that eventually turn into fruits!
However, if there are only a few flowers on the lime tree you will notice significantly less fruit. Lime trees planted in full sun will blossom a larger amount of flowers, meaning there will be more pollinators to make sure that fruit can set and eventually form into limes.
Limes Taste Better When Grown In Sunny Conditions
Limes may not be one of those fruits that you bite into on a hot summer day and enjoy. Yuck! However, they’re still used in a ton of beverages and food dishes that we love.
Sunlight can have a significant effect on how the fruit forms on a tree. Not only does sunlight increase fruit size and yield, but it also alters the chemicals inside the fruit.
According to Penn State University, fruit trees that receive high amounts of sunlight have an increased flavor and color.
Interestingly, this is the same for lemon trees as well!
Sunlight Helps Ripen The Fruit
Another thing that sunlight does for fruits is help ripen them. Fruits have a natural way of deterring animals (and us!) from eating them before they are fully developed.
Have you ever bitten into an underripe fruit? Bitter, right?
As the fruit matures, the sun helps break down the chemicals inside the fruit into sugar molecules that sweeten the fruit, making it appetizing.
In this way, fruits are not eaten by animals until the seeds for the next generation are fully developed. The fruit and seeds are then eaten and animals help disperse the seeds so that a new tree might grow.
How To Give Your Indoor Lime Trees Enough Sunlight
So far, we’ve geared this article as if talking about outdoor lime trees, but not all of us live in a warm enough climate to grow lime trees outside.
Instead, we have to grow them in containers and bring them inside when Jack Frost begins nipping at our toes! For those who grow their lime tree indoors, you may be wondering if it’s possible to give your lime tree enough sun.
It is definitely possible!
The Best Ways To Grow Lime Trees Indoors
There are a few things you can do to maximize the amount of sunlight your indoor lime tree gets:
- Pick a good spot: You can’t exactly place your lime tree in a windowless bathroom and expect it to prosper. Put your lime tree in a south-facing window to give it the maximum amount of indoor sun.
- Take it outside: When the threat of all frost is gone, slowly acclimate your lime tree to the outdoors and let it soak up some natural, direct sunlight during the summer.
- Use grow lights: indoor grow lights will help your lime tree get enough sun, especially on hazy or cloudy days. GooingTop’s LED Grow Lights provide full spectrum light and have multiple different settings so you can give your lime tree exactly what it needs.
- Choose the right variety: Some varieties of lime trees are specifically suited for indoor life. Choosing one of these can make it easier for the lime tree to survive indoors with lower light levels.
Any dwarf variety of lime will be suited for indoor conditions. In general, Mexican and Tahiti lime trees perform the best indoors.
How To Properly Move Your Lime Tree Outdoors
When spring rolls around and the birds are chirping, it can feel like a new beginning! For your lime tree, it means getting some real outside time and some direct sunlight.
It’s not recommended to put your lime tree outside in full sun as soon as it gets warm enough. You’ll want to slowly acclimate your lime tree to the outdoors for about two weeks.
If you need help moving your lime tree, or are unsure how to – it’s always best to check in with a professional to ensure the health of the tree.
Steps To Take To Move The Lime Tree
The below steps will help guide you on moving your lime tree outside:
Step 1: Use partial shade first: The best way to introduce your lime tree to direct outdoor sunlight is by placing it outside in partial shade first. This will help slowly adapt your lime tree to direct sunlight without scalding it.
Step 2: Take it slow: Your lime tree won’t adjust to outdoor sunlight in a single day. Take about two weeks for the entire process. Taking it slow will also help your lime tree adjust to outdoor temperatures which fluctuate far more than the temperature inside your home.
Step 3: Introduce more sun: Each day you can introduce your lime tree to direct sun for longer and longer periods.
Step 4: Let your lime tree soak up the sun: After two weeks, your lime tree should be well suited for a spot with direct sun. Leave it outdoors all summer.
Step 5: Bring it back inside: As fall rolls around, bring your lime tree back inside and place it in a south-facing window.
You May Need A Sunscreen Mesh
If space is limited and you only have room on an apartment balcony, there may not be any partial shade available. If this is the case, you can use sunscreen mesh to create some shade for your lime tree throughout the day.
Milky House Store’s Sun Shade Cloth is 10ft X 3.4ft and comes with grommets to help hang it up to give your lime tree some artificial shade!
Will Your Lime Tree Be Okay On Cloudy Days?
We’ve talked a lot about how lime trees need full sun. What happens to lime trees on cloudy days and will they be okay?
Lime trees will be okay on cloudy days. They may not get as much sun as they’d like, but they will not be harmed or have significant problems if they experience a cloudy day here and there.
That being said, there’s a reason why fruit production is high in sunny California and Florida.
Lime Trees May Experience Stunted Growth If There Are Too Many Cloudy Days
While cloudy days will not be detrimental to a lime tree, over the years it will eventually cause stunted growth and lower fruit yields when compared to trees that experience more sunny days.
Cloudy days can be especially hard for indoor lime trees. According to a study in the Journal of Dermato-Endocrinology, the sun passing through a glass window contains less UV than that obtained directly outdoors.
That is why it’s super important to give your lime tree outdoor time in the summer. During the dreary winter, the use of grow lights can have a significantly positive impact on the overall longevity of your lime tree.
However, don’t fret too much if your lime tree is outdoors and cloudy days are happening naturally. Everything should work itself out!
Wait, Can Lime Trees Get Too Much Sun?
By now we can safely say that lime trees will perform best when planted in full sun. If your lime tree is planted outside, that means you live in an area that is warm all year round.
These types of environments can sometimes experience heat waves and droughts, which begs the question: is it possible for lime trees to get too much sun?
When temperatures are higher than usual and there is a lack of rainfall, lime trees can experience negative effects from getting too much sun.
Some signs of too much sun on your lime tree include:
- Yellowing or browning of the leaves
- Raised brown spots on the bark (sunburn)
- Rotting fruit
If you’re experiencing a drought or excess heat, it’s important to keep an eye out for these symptoms, especially sunburn. If your lime tree is repeatedly sunburned summer after summer, the spots will grow larger and open the tree up to pests.
Protecting Your Lime Tree From Too Much Sun
Those who live in warm climates know that checking the weather in the summer is important.
There are times when it is too hot to safely go outside except for small periods. Now, imagine being a lime tree who has to weather the weather (pun intended) all day long!
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to protect your lime tree from getting too much sun and withering away!
- Provide shade on hot days: You can use a bed sheet, burlap, or sun shade mesh and cover your tree during the hottest parts of the day. If you have to choose, pick the west and south-facing parts of the tree to cover!
- Provide lots of water: Hot days mean the soil is going to dry out far quicker than on cloudy days. This isn’t usually a problem, but during droughts, you’ll want to provide your lime tree with enough water so that it doesn’t become water stressed.
- Don’t forget to fertilize: Lime trees are heavy feeders that need a good source of nitrogen. When your lime tree is stressed from heat, it’s important to provide plenty of water and nutrients to keep your lime tree healthy.
Down to Earth’s Organic Citrus, Fertilizer Mix has an NPK ratio of 6-3-3, meaning 6% nitrogen, 3% phosphorous, and 3% potassium. It comes in a 5lb bag but is also available in 1lb bags if you only have 1 lime tree to take care of.
That’s All For Now!
Whether you live in balmy California or the cold northeast, you can grow a lime tree one way or another. These amazing trees boast beautiful flowers and delicious fruit that can be used in a variety of dishes and beverages.
To make sure your lime tree thrives, you’ll want to provide it with enough sun. Lime trees require full sun, meaning at least 6 hours per day. They thrive even more with 8-10 hours of daily sunlight. Now for a quick recap.
The reasons why lime trees grow best in full sun include:
- Faster growth
- Higher fruit production
- Larger fruits
- Prevents overly wet soil
- Helps dry the fruit for harvesting
- Encourages more pollinators
- Better-tasting fruit
If you’re unsure about which lime tree variety to purchase or where to get one, talk to your local arborist to see what’s best for you!
Geisel, P. M., & Unruh, C. L. (2003, April 01). Frost Protection for Citrus and Other Subtropicals [Publication 8100]. University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Hollosy, F. (2002). Effects of ultraviolet radiation on plant cells. Micron, 33(2), 179-197.
El‐Kassas, S. E. (1984). Effect of iron nutrition on the growth, yield, fruit quality, and leaf composition of seeded Balady lime tress grown on sandy calcareous soils. Journal of plant nutrition, 7(1-5), 301-311.
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