By: Heather Rhoades
Lime tree blossoms are lovely and fragrant. A happy lime tree can produce an abundance of flowers, all of which can potentially produce fruit, but lime blossoms falling off tree or lime tree dropping fruit can be alarming. Let’s look at the possible causes.
There are a few reasons for lime blossoms falling off tree or lime tree dropping fruit. Listed below are some of the most common:
Natural thinning – Lime tree fruit drop or blossom drop can be completely normal. Many times, a tree may produce more blossoms and fruit than it can support. The lime tree will abort some of the blossoms or fruit so that it is left with only the amount that it can support and be a healthy tree.
Uneven watering – While lime tree fruit drop is normal most of the time, there are a few problems that may cause lime tree blossoms or fruit to fall. One of these is uneven watering. If your lime tree has had a prolonged period of dryness followed by a sudden drenching, the tree may be stressed and will drop some or all of its fruit an blossoms.
Keeping the lime blossoms on the tree means that you should make sure that your tree gets an even amount of water. If rainfall has been light, supplement by watering the tree from a hose.
pH imbalance – Lime tree blossoms can also fall from the tree due to the soil being too alkaline or acidic. These conditions prevent the lime tree from properly taking in nutrients. Without the proper nutrients, the tree is unable to survive and grow fruit, so lime tree fruit drop occurs so that the tree can survive.
Chances are, a lime tree dropping fruit or lime blossoms falling off tree is perfectly normal. You should not worry about it unless your lime tree shows other signs of distress, such as leaf drop or discolored leaves or if your lime tree drops all of its fruit or blossoms. Keeping the lime blossoms on the tree as best you can is really just a matter of keeping your lime tree as healthy as possible.
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I have a kumquat and a Mexican (or Key) lime tree in pots right next to each other. The kumquat has been flowing and fruiting like a champ nearly as long as I've owned it. The lime hasn't yet produced a mature fruit. It has flowered many times and produced little fruit the size of a lime seed. But every time each fruit falls off the branches a few days later. Both trees are on the same watering and feeding schedule, get nearly the same sun, and are subject to the same weather.
Some (possibly crackpot) theories:
Recent weather changes in Southern California are spooking the lime. (We've had hot days followed shortly by cold days. I never know if I should take a light jacket to work or not.)
The lime just isn't happy with the climate. I gather they like lots of heat.
The flowers aren't getting pollinated or are pollinated from a "bad" tree. I've seen bees working over the flowers, but I don't know if my neighbors have limes. To be safe, I self-pollinated the tree once, but no joy.
I ought to increase the watering schedule when the fruit starts to grow. Both trees are one a strict once-a-week schedule.
I'm over fertilizing the lime, which is quite a bit smaller (as it's younger) than the kumquat at this point.
Critters and birds are vandalizing my lime.
I just got a bum lime tree.
Are any of these theories likely to be the source of my problem?
(This question is about these trees for what it's worth.)
I haven't had a chance to take photos, so here are the other requested details:
The kumquat is 2+ years old and I bought the lime 1/2 a year ago. I haven't pruned either tree. Both are roughly 2 feet tall, but the kumquat is sprawling out several feet on two sides while the lime looks like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. The dimensions of the pot are:
Outside diameter: 15"
Max. diameter inner pot: 12 ½"
Height: 12 ½"
Inside diameter: 13 ¾"
(I don't at all know what "Max. diameter inner pot" means.)
Lime trees are very irritable and several common conditions cause the tree to not bloom, including over-pruning, inadequate water drainage and lack of sunlight. Proper care is the most important key when forcing a lime tree to bloom. University of Florida reports that citrus trees generally flower freely, but can be induced to flower in low temperatures and when under water stress, however lime trees cannot survive in temperatures less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time.
Lime trees grown from seed will not produce fruit until three to six years after germination. Lime trees grown from cuttings may produce blooms the first year after germination, and then not bloom again for several years while the tree matures.
Sometimes there may be several factors causing increased fruit drop in citrus. How does the fruit drop mechanism work in fruit trees?
Fruit drop (also known as fruit abscission) is regulated by the balance of two endogenous (meaning from within) plant hormones, auxin and ethylene. When the ratio of ethylene to auxin is higher, it induces the enzymes which dissolve cell wall components in the abscission zone between the fruit and stem (peduncle) at the button, which separates the fruit from the tree.
Ethylene is produced in response to stress factors such as water stress, physical injuries, frost damage, and decay of the fruit. When the fruit is injured, ethylene gas production is triggered, which may cause fruit to drop.
If citrus trees are planted in poorly drained soil, extended hot, rainy weather in late late summer to early autumn may lead to root root and cause excessive fruit drop in mature trees
Additionally, if the lower branches of the tree canopy are shaded out and don’t receive adequate light, the fruit is quite likely to be shed from those branches. Prune citrus to an open vase shape to ensure good light penetration through the canopy, which is important for even fruit ripening.
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