Limes are fantastic when it comes to growing your own to save a few dollars at the supermarket. Once established you will be rewarded with boxes of juicy fruit. They are attractive small evergreen trees that will grow in full sun to part-shade. All limes are self-fertile and great for hedging, espaliering and as specimen trees. Dwarf limes are also available which are a good choice for pots. They are great for drinks, cooking, desserts, with seafood and as a garnish.
Australian Sweet Lime
This lime grows on a thornless, evergreen tree which reaches a height of 4.5m x 3m wide. It produces a heavy and continuous crop, with the main crop in winter/spring, and holding well on the tree. A rounded fruit that, if left on the tree, will change from a traditional lime taste to a sweeter flavour. The flesh has a slight orange tinge and is easy to peel and juicy.
Makrut (formerly Kaffir)
Also known as Kaffir limes, Makrut limes are easily distinguished from all other citrus due to their distinctive double leaf. The tree itself grows to 3m x 2m. Watch out for its large and very sharp thorns. The leaves of this lime are used in cooking rather than the fruit. The fruit are small and lack juiciness, but the zest can be used. Used heavily as flavouring for Thai cooking. The leaves are delicious when used in stirfries, curries or with seafood.
Tahitian (also called Persian Lime)
Citrus x latifolia
A highly regarded hybrid lime, regarded as a new species and as such has an ‘x’ before the species name. The correct botanical name is Citrus x latifolia. Generally believed to be a cross between the key lime (Citrus x aurantiifolia) and a lemon (Citrus x limon).
The Tahitian Lime is a vigorous and hardy small tree, growing to 4.5m x 3m. It is nearly thorn-free. This is a cold tolerant variety, but you will need to protect it from frosts. Fruits from autumn to winter. The Tahitian produces delicious, juicy, seedless limes that are often picked small and green when they are stronger in flavour. Alternatively they can be left to ripen on the tree to a light yellow colour… this is when they are juiciest.
West Indian Lime (also called Lime, Key Lime or Mexican Lime)
Citrus x aurantiifolia
Similar to the Tahitian lime with smaller, seedier, stronger flavoured and more aromatic. Integral in the famous Key Lime Pie from Florida Keys, hence sometimes referred to as Key Lime.Turns from green to a light yellow colour when fully ripe. A small growing tree, reaching around 2+m x 2m. It can be susceptible to frosts when young, so trees must be protected in winter for at least the first three years. Fruits intermittently through summer and autumn. Watch out for sharp thorns.
Citrus japonica x Citrus x aurantiifolia
A 1909 cross between the West Indian Lime and a cumquat. Hardy, cold tolerant and very, very productive. Grows into a small evergreen tree (up to 3m tall by 3m wide). Continuous cropping which peaks in spring to summer. Produces small, very juicy, cumquat sized fruit with a light orange skin and with the flavour of a lime. Used when you require a sweet lime flavour. Can be eaten whole from the tree or used in preserves and as glace fruit.
Citrus x limonia
A hybrid between a mandarin and a lemon.
If you can overlook a lime fruit being orange in colour, then this is a fantastic choice. The tree is very vigorous and is sometimes used as rootstock because of the strong growing trait. It is more cold tolerant than all other limes. Produces an abundance of fruit from late autumn through to spring. The Rangpur is often mistaken for a mandarin as the fruit looks much more like a mandarin than a lime. It is easily peeled and can be broken into segments like a mandarin, but it has a distinct, strong, acidic lime flavour.
Unknown botanical name
This lime is only a recent introduction to Australia and currently grown by Engalls in NSW. It produces a small flat fruit, turning from green to yellow / orange when fully ripe, mainly in winter. They are incredibly juicy and the tree is only small, but very dense and bushy. Fruit has conventionally been used in cooking, especially as a marinade for meat.
There are quite a few cultivars of this Australian native lime, but generally they all produce the most unusual finger like shaped fruit. When sliced open they have flesh that resembles caviar. The fruit ripens in autumn. The tree is tall growing and can be grown in semi-shade. They now have their own fingerlime factsheet.