Growing kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix) from seed?

Discussion in 'Citrus' started by munroc, Jun 26, 2005.

  1. munroc

    munroc Member

    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Burnaby, BC
    Hi -

    As a good Vancouverite, I love Thai food and cooking, so have tried to start growing the offensively-named kaffir lime from seed (purchased at a market on Granville Island). To my delight, the seeds germinated under a grow lamp and heated pad after a few weeks back in February.

    As soon as the temperatures stopped dropping below 10C, I put the survivers in 4" pots and sat them outside where they receive full sun only until mid-morning; then light shade for the rest of the day. I've been watering them so that they never dry out (they're babies only an inch tall). They mostly look okay, but one had all its leaves turn brown, so I pulled it out to see how much root had formed. It had a tap root about as long as the stem (approx. 1.25"), but I can't say the plantlets are overly robust; but neither are they sickly - I just don't know what to expect.

    I don't want to lose any more (six survivors), so if anyone is growing this citrus, especially in the PNW, I'd appreciate any advice.

    Specifically:
    1. Am I trying to rush them by potting up and moving them outside too soon?
    2. Am I giving too much water? Not enough sun?
    3. Fruit would be lovely for the peel, but it's mainly the fragrant leaves I'm after. Will they be as pungent if the plants don't produce fruit?
    4. I've been rubbing the little leaves, but they don't yet have the unmistakable pungency of the mature leaves we can buy. When can I expect that?
    5. Should I just forget the whole thing, and go out for dinner, or buy the leaves from an import market?

    I see from other posts that many are trying citrus from seed. I hope some are trying Citrus hystrix as well.

    Christine
     
  2. Megami

    Megami Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    172
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    New Westminster, BC
    Hi Christine,

    I successfully germinated a kaffir lime from a seed I took from a fruit (also from granville island) but when I moved it to a lower shelf in my grow lights it died. I would keep them inside, they seem to be quite sensitive to changes in lighting and temperature.

    Good luck, and let me know how you go with them!
     
  3. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    All the recent postings on this lime piqued my interest so I bought one from Granville Island. It had many seeds but a large number were under-developed and the rest were rather skinny. Now comes the wait to see how many actually germinate. Let's see...seven-year juvenile period, that makes fruit by 2012 if I'm very lucky.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2005
  4. Megami

    Megami Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    172
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    New Westminster, BC
    Junglekeeper the plant will be useful for you before it fruits if you make thai food -- the leaves are essential to a lot of thai curries! :)

    I noticed the same thing too regarding the seeds... lots of them but a lot of them underdeveloped.
     
  5. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Hi, Megami. The leaves would be most useful if not for my unfortunate lack of cooking skills. In any case I wouldn't have the heart to harvest the leaves. The plants will be grown purely as ornamentals. I find the brainy-look of the fruits both interesting and attractive.
     
  6. Megami

    Megami Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    172
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    New Westminster, BC
    They are interesting looking fruits! There are some weird citrus plants out there... the "buddha's hand" is a really funny one.
     
  7. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    I agree. Also, the citron fruit is supposed to be particularly fragrant which is why I considered growing one of these but decided to go with the Etrog citron because of its smaller size. Hope I can get one.

    Are the lime leaves always sold without the stems? I'm thinking potential source for cuttings as it would be nice to be able to reduce the time to fruit production.
     
  8. Megami

    Megami Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    172
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    New Westminster, BC
    Nope you can often by the leaves on the branches, but they always seem so dried out. I've tried rooting the cuttings several times with no success... :(

    A good place to go for them if you want to try is T&T market, they sell them with their fresh herbs in the produce section.

    Good luck if you try it, let me know how it goes!
     
  9. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Thanks for the tip.
     
  10. munroc

    munroc Member

    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Burnaby, BC
    Thanks you two for keeping a lively discussion going.

    Megami, since I took your advice and moved the seedlings back inside over heat and under light, I swear they have started to grow again. Maybe they were ready anyway, but I have a new set of leaflets appearing on about half the plants.

    Here is my experience so far. I haven't been very scientific about it, not even keeping notes, so this is from memory.

    I bought four limes last winter and planted all seeds, weak or not in a seed tray sitting on a heating pad and under grow lamps, with a cover to keep them moist. I watered them with damp-off to prevent fungus. Many sprouted, beginning at about 3 weeks; more than I expected, but by the time I thought I could put them outside, there were seven left with pretty strong stems. They weren't doing much, although they did still grow, and on Megami's suggestion, I brought them back in this week. One has white spots on a couple of leaves, and one or two others are browning a bit, but otherwise they look fine. The one that I pulled out to check the root had its leaves brown-off completely.

    Two things from reading that I think I did wrong: potted them up too soon in pots that are too big, and (at least while outside) watered them too often. I've read that citrus must dry out before watering.

    What I find disappointing so far is that there is no aroma from the leaves, but they are just babies (I'm an impatient gardener hoping gardening will teach me patience). Junglekeeper, now that you have the scent of kaffir lime, I'm sure you find it irrestible. I didn't know about the seven years to maturity. Maybe that is also a factor in the leaf scent.

    I've read that the rind is also used in cooking, but not the juice because there is not much and it is bitter, but I like the juice too.

    Does anyone else have more info?

    Thanks.
     
  11. Megami

    Megami Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    172
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    New Westminster, BC
    I use the rind in green curry paste :) I'm sure you could use the juice for something... I'm just not sure what. Probably anything that calls for lime juice. I think it would be hard to get a lot though, considering they don't seem to have a lot of juice in them.
     
  12. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Hi, Christine. Nice to meet another citrus enthusiast. I've always liked these plants but only recently decided to take it up another level by building a collection.
    I had to rub the peel to get a fragrance (guess it had been at the market for awhile). The smell was quite pleasant and perhaps stronger than that of other citrus. Nice.
    Seven years is an approximate figure for citrus and would vary according to other factors; give or take, it's still a long time. As for the pungency of the leaves, I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out mature leaves are more pungent than juvenile ones since some vegetables behave that way. Did you do the smell test using the first set of leaves? I'm thinking maybe the true leaves, besides being older, smell differently as well.
    I'm not sure potting the seedlings into 4" pots was a mistake. I've always considered a pot that size to be the starter pot. The loss of a few seedlings is certainly not unusual; that's why nature gives us so many seeds. Then there are things like fungus gnat grubs that nibble on roots. I think you're on the right track: Citrus likes a large amount of light and I believe this species is more tropical than most so the heat will help. I have a number of kumquat seedlings going right now and their growth is rather slow as well but I'm sure they'll pick up once we get more sunshine and summer heat.
     
  13. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    I found this document on growing kaffir lime from seed. Read it with a grain of salt though as I have not been able to substantiate some of the claims with information from other sources.
     
  14. munroc

    munroc Member

    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Burnaby, BC
    Hi Junglekeeper -

    Thanks for your response and the link. I haven't thought of myself as a citrus enthusiast, but after seeing lemons growing in North Van, and the huge assortment of citrus available in the States, maybe I'll pay a little more attention. I remember once tasting a type of blood orange grown in the highlands of Jamaica, and not grown commercially, at least not for export. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever tasted.

    By the way, my little kaffir limes are doing much better since I brought them in under grow lights. Maybe my little grove of six will be able to pollinate each other if they ever get to flowering stage?

    Christine
     
  15. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Christine,

    Don't get your hopes up on getting plants in from the States - it can be a difficult and frustrating proposition (see the thread Citrus growing discussion - a few questions. | UBC Botanical Garden Forums). The selection of citrus in our area is not bad unless you're looking for more exotic varieties like Kaffir Lime.

    A few of my seeds have germinated and have been placed into 4" pots. I assume all your seeds came from one fruit. If that's the case it may be better to get plants from fruit from another tree for cross-pollination. Maybe we can do an exchange when the seedlings are bigger. I believe this plant is self-fertile but cross-pollination may result in a higher rate of fertilization.

    I'm still looking for an established plant as I don't really want that long wait for flower and fruit. Are you interested in getting a mature plant if they become available?
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2015
  16. munroc

    munroc Member

    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Burnaby, BC
    Yes, I might be interested in a mature kaffir lime.

    My own seedlings come from four different limes, but being sold together, there's no way of knowing if they come from the same or different trees.

    Let's keep in touch and see how our seedlings do. If you are planning to request a group import from one of our nurseries, please keep me in the loop.

    Christine
     
  17. Megami

    Megami Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    172
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    New Westminster, BC
    I would be very interested in importing a kaffir lime tree as well! I've asked at a lot of local nurseries and no one has been able to source one for me. :(

    Christine - did you get my email?
     
  18. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    I'll report back if I manage to find an affordable source. I'm looking for either a grafted or rooted cutting in a smaller sized container.

    Christine,
    You must have had quite a few seeds at one point. I extracted 30 seeds from my fruit and will probably pot up 10 and throw away the rest. These guys aren't going to get the heat lamp treatment. If they're going to grow they're going to have to do it without any extra help.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2005
  19. Thean

    Thean Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    185
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Howdy Folks,
    I see you folks are having a lively discussion over the kaffir lime. I have one growing in the house for over 10 years. It was started from seed. Dried leaves are available around this neck of the woods where I live (Brooks) but they are a far cry from the fresh stuff. That's why I grow my own. We use it mostly for Malaysian cooking. The fruit itself is very bitter and is not eaten. In Malaysia we use the fruit for cleaning; washing hair and cleaning cutlery, while the young leaves are used for cooking. Kaffir lime hates cold spell and low light. It is also sensitive to high pH. Here, our water is fairly 'sweet' and I water it with diluted 'Coca Cola' twice a year to bring down the pH. This plant is also very thorny and I overcome the problem by pinching the thorns off when they are still succulent. We get cheap thrill as the house smell nice while I'm pinching.
    Peace
    Thean
     
  20. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,424
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Many Citrus will want to have some cooling
    for the fruit to "sugar up". We gripe about the
    cold with our Washington Navels here, just
    prior to picking, as there is a fine line that
    separates what will help the trees produce
    more sugar and help "color up" the Oranges
    but at the same time too cool of weather can
    freeze the interior of the Orange as well.

    Bitter fruit sounds right to me when this Lime
    or any of the Limes for that matter are grown
    predominately indoors. Limes do require some
    cold chill to become sweeter.

    Over 10 years of growing this Lime, good going
    and congratulations is in order, Thean!

    Jim
     
  21. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Hi, Thean. Thanks for letting us know this plant can be grown successfully indoors. There are a few things I'd like to know:
    1. Do you take it outside in the summer?
    2. Do you use 'gro' lights while it's indoors?
    3. How big is your plant after 10 years and has it flowered and fruited for you?​
     
  22. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Christine and Megami, I'll PM you with some good news.
     
  23. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

    Messages:
    5,762
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Plants were located at Tiny Tom's Tangerine Farm at 6106 28th Ave, Delta (next to Bit o' Paradise)
    By Appointment Only
    Ph: 604-270-0677 Cell: 604-992-3817
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2006
  24. munroc

    munroc Member

    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Burnaby, BC
    Howdy Thean -

    Some of us in the Vancouver area have been able to purchase kaffir lime as a graft (potted, about 2 feet tall), and we also have some seedlings planted from limes purchased at a local Asian market (mine are approx. 1.5" above the soil). So, I'm really interested in your responses to Junglekeeper. My sister-in-law from Thailand claims it is very easy to keep and has one in her office in Toronto (I don't know if it is from seed or grafted).

    I've also taken a peek at your previous posts, and had never heard of Murraya koenigii before. I always thought curry didn't exist, and was an assortment of spices mixed together. Since you say it is easy to grow, I'll try to look for it here.

    By the way, your kitchen sounds wonderful with all those exotic home-grown ingredients.

    Christine

     
  25. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

    Messages:
    3,510
    Likes Received:
    233
    Location:
    sw USA
    Hey Munroc, curry is a mix of many spices. (I don't think there is a precise recipe - more like BBQ sauce with many versions.) Curry plant, Murraya koenegii, tastes amazingly like curry spice mix.

    Helichrysum italicum is also called curry plant, but you do not want to eat that one. It smells like curry, but is too bitter to eat and is used only very sparingly in food. It can be used in sachets to keep moths away. For culinary purposes M. koenegii is the one you want.
     

Share This Page