Like many citrus trees, a lime tree grown from seed may take up to 15 years to mature to the point that it can produce fruit. By contrast, a grafted lime tree can produce fruit in two or three short years. Due to this, many lime tree growers prefer to purchase grafted limes from nurseries rather than plant and grow a lime tree from seed. Limes are among the tenderest of all citrus fruits and will not often survive killing frosts in zones colder than USDA hardiness zone 9. Because of this, many lime growers must purchase limes by mail from nurseries to grow in containers.
Determine which lime cultivator you wish to grow. The most common lime trees that you can purchase are Mexican limes and Persian limes. Mexican Lime trees are small and bushy with thorns and produce a smaller, tarter fruit. It is a good specimen for container growing. Giant key limes are a hybrid of Mexican limes that produce larger fruits. Persian limes are the type of lime sold commercially in most supermarkets. The tree can reach 20 feet in size and may or may not have thorns. Other varieties such as rangpur and Palestine are primarily used as rootstock onto which Mexican or Persian lime trees are grafted.
Locate a nursery that specializes in lime trees. Most lime nurseries are based in Florida, Texas or California, where USDA Hardiness zones 9, 10 and 11 allow lime trees to thrive. Trees are usually shipped bare root due to laws restricting the shipment of soil as well as the price of shipping soil.
Speak with the clerk at the nursery so that you are clear about any return policy on the lime trees before you purchase. Do not purchase plants from a nursery that has no clear return policy.
Inspect lime trees when you receive them for signs of damage before planting them. Signs of damage include scars in the trunk of the tree, cracked or peeling bark, broken or dead limbs that have turned brown, tree leaves that are yellowing or drooping and roots that are brown and woody instead of white and succulent.
Pick a leaf and examine it for signs of cupping, curling, serpentine trails, black sooty stains or other discoloration. This is a sign of disease or damage from insects such as aphids or thrips, or diseases such as mold.
Return any tree that shows signs of damage.