Growing a kaffir lime tree can be tricky. You could try starting one from a seed or cutting but you may have to wait YEARS, and even then the plant still might not bear any fruit.
Luckily, there is another way.
To increase your chances of successful propagation, it’s best to graft a kaffir lime scion onto another citrus tree, or rootstock. From there, all you need to do is wrap it with grafting tape and keep it dry.
That said, it’s still possible to grow a fruitful kaffir lime from other methods. Let’s compare them and see why grafting might be the best choice for you.
How to propagate kaffir lime from seeds or cuttings
While growing from seeds or cutting is possible, you might not have a mature kaffir lime tree until years to come. Even then, you’ll likely have to pollinate it with another tree, and one that is unrelated to the cutting you took.
However, if you prefer to propagate from seed or cutting, here’s what to do.
- Prepare soil
- Get a cutting
- Root the cutting
First off, when you prepare the soil for the cutting, you’re going to want to aim for a sandy or standard potting soil. Like most citrus, kaffir lime trees prefer slightly acidic soil, so a sandy-type can work here. Just make sure it’s well-draining.
To get your cutting, you’ll need to take a stem from the main, or terminal, part of the tree. Choose a cutting before the kaffir lime tree flowers, preferably in January. Make sure to get a cutting at least 4 inches in length.
To root the cutting, remove all but the upper two to three leaves and place the end of it into the soil. Make sure it’s placed in the same direction as it was originally growing (not upside down). Bury half of the stem, lightly pack the soil around it and keep the soil and air humidity high. This can easily be done by placing a clear plastic bag around the cutting. Keep in the shade.
After 1.5 to 2 months, roots should be growing. At this point you can start to introduce the kaffir lime cutting back into the sunlight, starting with a few hours a day. Increase gradually and once it can take full sun again, usually after a couple weeks, transplant it into the garden. For best results, grow outdoors in zones 9 to 11. If you’re growing indoors, provide the kaffir lime tree access to plenty of light.
How to propagate kaffir lime from a graft
Grafting is an interesting science, but one that can accelerate the growth and maturity of a tree, as well as increase its resistance to certain diseases. You can also propagate multiple varieties of fruit onto ONE tree!
The basics of grafting involve using a rootstock (or base plant) and inserting a scion (or stem) from the plant of your choice (in this case, a kaffir lime).
Rootstocks commonly used for grafting include Troyer citrange and Carrizo citrange. These vigorous plants are great choices for grafting kaffir lime trees because of their resistance to disease, nematodes, and cold weather.
Even if you’re growing your kaffir lime indoors, consider using one of these rootstocks.
Here’s how to graft your kaffir lime tree.
- Cut the main stem of the rootstock by making an angled cut (45º is standard) that is two inches long, and several inches above the soil
- Select a kaffir lime stem (about 1.5 to 2 inches long) that’s under a year old with at least two buds on it.
- Cut the kaffir lime stem and, on the bottom half, make the same type of cut as the rootstock
- Match the two cuttings together and wrap tightly with grafting tape
- Seal with a grafting wax (optional)
While the graft is bonding, protect it from excess moisture and direct sunlight. You should see leaves starting to grow on the kaffir lime cutting after the first couple weeks. If the leaves are yellow, you might want to consider adding more fertilizer.
After the first year, prune off the remaining branches from the rootstock.
From there, your kaffir lime graft should have taken and produced new branches, leaves, and fruit.
What time of year is best for grafting?
The best time of year for grafting is early spring. This will give the graft enough time to grow with the plant. You can start the graft 1 to 2 months before this if you’d like to increase the growth period.
How to tell if a graft took?
If the graft was successful, you should see the scion green and plump. If it’s flat and brown, then it probably didn’t take. You’ll be able to tell if it took within a couple of weeks of making the graft.
How long does a graft take to heal?
Grafts can take several weeks to several months to heal. Grafting in spring will have a quicker healing time, often half compared to other seasons. Make sure to provide the proper nutrients so the tree can have the resources to heal correctly. To see my recommendations for kaffir lime fertilizer, check out my post on the best citrus fertilizers you can buy.