Lime Tree Leaves: Everything You Wanted to Know

Most people are familiar with the zesty, tangy flavor of limes and their many uses. Did you know that the leaves are equally as useful? What would you like to know about lime tree leaves? We have the answers here!

Lime trees have distinctive leaves, branches, and fruit. Their leaves can add flavor to many dishes, treat insect bites, and even keep oral bacteria at bay. To keep this plant healthy, regularly monitor the water and fertilizer, drainage, and check for insects or signs of disease.

Let’s talk more in-depth about lime trees, their leaves, and how you can utilize them!

An image of Lime tree in garden after watering

How Do I Identify a Lime Tree?

Lime trees have several identifying factors that include clustered white blossoms, needle-like spines, and thin long branches. One of the more obvious ways to identify a lime tree is to check the fruit! Limes are one of the smaller citrus fruits: greener and more oval-shaped.

Many citrus fruit trees look alike so it can be difficult to identify a lime tree from a lemon or orange tree. Lime trees are flower-bearing plants with off-white blossoms.

These flowers grow at the end of thin, long branches and are purple in color. These slender branches also have very sharp needle-like spines sticking out of them, so be careful when handling the branches.

What Are Lime Tree Leaves Good For?

Fresh lime leaves make a great addition to salads, southeast Asian curries, and soups! They also have a myriad of health benefits. The essential oils extracted from the leaves have excellent cosmetic benefits.

If you’re looking for a natural way to improve oral health, chewing on some fresh lime leaves can help. The leaves can also be rubbed onto the gums to remove any harmful bacteria. Additionally, the leaves can be steeped like tea to make a homemade remedy for constipation.

It’s possible to extract the oil from lime tree leaves, and this oil is particularly useful. Industrially, it’s used in many cosmetic products such as shampoos, conditioners, and lotions.

When added to a body moisturizer, lime oil can help repel insects and even out the skin tone. There are a few ways to extract lime oil, but the most effective is steam distillation.

Are Lime Tree Leaves Edible?

Lime tree leaves are edible! Ideally, the main rib is removed, then the leaves are stored in the fridge or freezer before using them.

Fresh lime leaves are popular in many Southeast Asian dishes including Thai hot and sour soup, Tom Yum soup, and beef rendang.

Like adding lemon or cucumber slices to your water, lime leaves can be added to a jug of water and then left to cool in the fridge overnight. This adds a wonderful citrus flavor to the water.

Personal fact: lime water is my favorite drink. Lime trees don’t grow well in Utah, so I typically use freeze-dried powdered lime juice. If I can get fresh lime leaves, I’ll use those, too. The Asian market is the best place to get those, though it’s a bit of a drive.

Is My Tree Lemon or Lime?

There are four main components of a tree that determine if it’s a lime or lemon tree: namely the leaves, the bark, and the fruit. Lime tree leaves reach a length of two inches and are smaller than lemon tree leaves.

While it’s not recommended to break off the bark from the tree, it can be particularly useful in determining the type. The bark of a lemon tree does not have any scent while bark from a lime tree smells citrusy. 

An obvious visual clue is the fruit! Limes are much smaller and more oval-shaped. Lemons are larger and not as round in shape. Additionally, limes are green in color while lemons are yellow.

What to Do to Stop Something Eating My Lime Tree Leaves

For aphids, citrus mites, and scales, liberally spraying the tree with neem oil helps get rid of infestations. With leaf miners, remove any badly affected leaves before spraying neem oil or an insecticide. Aphids, scale, leaf miners, and citrus mites love to eat away at citrus fruit tree leaves.

Depending on the severity of the infestation there are several home remedies to treat pests. The best remedies for pesky pests are natural: neem oil and citrus sprays. Pesticides are often too harsh and may cause more harm than good.

Why Are the Leaves on My Lime Tree Curling?

While some degree of curling is natural, lime tree leaves may be curling due to diseases, heat stress, plant parasites, underwatering, or overwatering.

A clear sign that something is wrong is when the newer leaves on your lime tree begin to curl. It’s a good idea to inspect your lime tree, surrounding shrubbery, and soil to make an educated guess on why the leaves are curling.

Lime trees can fall victim to both fungal and bacterial diseases which can ruin the leaves of the plant. These diseases can be identified by inspecting the plant for spores or nasty lesions. Alternatively, if the plant is littered with silky threads or small insects, there may be a parasite issue.

If there is a hydration issue, there’s an easy way to tell if you’re underwatering or overwatering a lime tree. Underwatered lime trees have leaves that curl downwards and vice versa.

If you’re having trouble pinpointing the problem or finding the right remedy, it might be best to speak to an expert on plants. The local nursery may have a botanist or horticulturist that can answer any specific questions you may have.

Why Is My Lime Tree Losing Leaves?

The main reason that lime trees lose leaves is because of improper watering. Other reasons that lime trees lose their leaves include fertilizer imbalance and disease.

Lime trees are very climate specific; this means that they require a certain amount of water to grow optimally. When a lime tree is underwater or overwatered, it can begin to drop its leaves. Similarly, it’s not a good idea to over or under-fertilize lime trees.

The right amount of water and fertilizer could depend on the local climate, seasonal changes, the soil type, and the amount of drainage the tree has.

Depending on whether you’ve planted your lime tree straight into the ground or in a pot, the soil may have retained more or less water than necessary. Always check if the soil surrounding a lime tree is damp or unusually dry before watering.  

An image of lime or lime plant on the farm.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

There are many medicinal and culinary benefits to owning a lime tree. Fresh lime leaves can be used to promote overall oral health, repel mosquitoes, and can even be added to your beauty regime.

Of course, it’s best to use lime leaves from a healthy, thriving plant. Keeping lime trees healthy involves monitoring the water and fertilizer intake, drainage, and regularly checking for insects.

If you’re unsure about how to keep lime trees as healthy as possible, it’s best to talk to the horticulturist at the local nursery.

Both are great articles, so enjoy them both. Or just go enjoy some citrus from your backyard garden. They really are the best!

Cite this article as: “Lime Tree Leaves: Everything You Wanted to Know.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 16 February 2022, backyardhomesteadhq.com/lime-tree-leaves-everything-you-wanted-to-know/.

Resources

It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.

  • Brownfield, Elizabeth. “Everything You Need to Know About Cooking With Lime Leaves.” Allrecipes, 2 Nov. 2020, www.allrecipes.com/article/makrut-lime-leaves.
  • “How To Make Essential Oils Using Steam Distillation.” Clawhammer Supply, www.clawhammersupply.com/blogs/moonshine-still-blog/116582532-how-to-make-essential-oils. Accessed 4 Feb. 2022.
  • Jensen, Katie. “Lime Trees With Thorns.” Garden Guides, 3 Sept. 2020, www.gardenguides.com/126142-lime-trees-thorns.html.
  • Kasuan, Nurhani. “EXTRACTION OF CITRUS HYSTRIX D.C. (KAFFIR LIME) ESSENTIAL OIL USING AUTOMATED STEAM DISTILLATION PROCESS: ANALYSIS OF VOLATILE COMPOUNDS”. Malaysian Journal Analytical Sciences, vol 17, no. 3, 2013, p. 360., http://www.ukm.my/mjas/v17_n3/Nurhani.pdf. Accessed 25 Jan 2022.
  • Waterworth, Kristi. “Lime Leaves Are Curling Up – What To Do About Leaf Curl Lime Trees”. Gardening Know How, 2022, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/lime/curling-leaves-on-lime-trees.htm.

By Kimberly Starr

I'm a ginger who loves being outside, homesteading, and spending time with my family. I believe humor is the best medicine, followed very closely by chocolate and tacos.