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Can You Grow a Kaffir Lime Tree by Air Layering?

Citrus trees create attractive evergreen landscape trees, and also the partial little kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix) includes distinctive fiddle-shaped leaves. The shiny green leaves cover a tree that grows to 10 feet tall in containers and also to 16 feet or more outside in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. Because they aren’t self-fruiting, a pollinator in a neighbor’s tree may be started from seed or cutting.

Kaffir Lime Facts

Kaffir lime is a native of Southeast Asia. Its leaves flavor Thai soups as well as its rind provides body to curry pastes. The juice — what there is of it — is bitter and its divisions bear spines. The tiny tree with its thick leaves and small yellow-green berries prefers tropical states, but tolerates a dry Mediterranean climate when given additional irrigation. In places where winter temperatures fall below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, plants must be grown in containers so they can be moved inside. Drought or chilly encourage the plant to stop production of its fragrant white blooms. Though some citrus blossoms smell unpleasant, the blossoms of the bitter kaffir lime smell sweet.

Vegetative Reproduction

Several propagation procedures use components of an present plant to grow a new plant. These vegetative reproduction procedures guarantee that the plant will have the exact genetic makeup of the parent. Kaffir limes start easily from stem cuttings and grafts. Growers typically propagate kaffir limes by grafting; a grass inserted in a slice or green cutting wedged to the rootstock trunk promotes growth as a tree rather than as a shrubby bush or tree. New plants will even begin from air-layered cuttings, but the additional time and effort that go into nicking, wrap and maintaining the division moist is much more trouble than simply cutting a couple of green branches and placing them in a potful of sterile soil until they begin sprouting roots. The wrap used in air purifier additionally supplies an incubator for almost any pathogens currently present on the division.


The kaffir lime demands pollination in an unrelated plant to be able to produce fruit and new plants grow easily from seed. Plants started from seed take several years to grow large enough to flower, but may not accurately reproduce the parent plant, depending on how the original blooms were pollinated. Plants reproduced by seed also often produce more spiny thorns compared to those propagated using grass grafts.


Each propagation method has its drawbacks. Any propagation strategy must involve unrelated trees or the offspring won’t set fruit. Air-layered and green cuttings may carry pathogens in the parent plant to the new plant. Of particular concern is that the presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, which carries the pathogen huanglongbing or HLB, a greening diseases for which no cure exists. Although air liners might function like a propagation method for a kaffir lime, the better methods might be to start plants from grass grafts in disease-resistant rootstock or to start plants from seed.

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