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The Finger Lime is an extraordinary native Australian citrus that can provide you with many years of bountiful fruit production for your edible garden. Their unique, finger-shaped fruit is bursting with zesty citrus pearls that resemble caviar, which is why it is often referred to as “citrus caviar”. These little flavour bombs provide a vibrant burst of citrus flavour with hints of lemon, lime and grapefruit. It’s a delightful combination of tangy and tart, making it a versatile ingredient in both savoury and sweet dishes.

Live in the city or only have a small garden? Finger Limes grow well in pots and can be grown as a shrub or small tree, making them a great choice for inner city or suburban dwellers.

In this comprehensive guide on how to grow and care for your Finger Lime tree, we will cover:

  • A quick guide on Finger Limes.
  • What to do when my plant arrives.
  • I’m ready to plant, what do I need?
  • Repotting and planting steps.
  • Ongoing care of your Finger Lime tree.

By following these care instructions, you'll be able to enjoy the fascinating Finger Lime tree and its delightful citrus caviar. Happy gardening!

CLICK HERE to grow your own Finger Lime fruit!

1. Quick Guide - Plant Info

Botanical Name: Citrus australasica

Plant Type: Small thorny tree or large shrub.

Climate: Warm temperate, sub-tropical and tropical.

Mature Height: 1 – 5m and can be kept compact with regular light pruning. 

Position: Full sun to part shade with protection from strong winds. Needs full sun to bear fruit.

Water: Moderate

Soil: Well-drained

Fertiliser: Slow-release citrus fertiliser during the growing season. Avoid over-fertilising.

Frost Tolerance: Tolerant of light frost once established.

Drought Tolerance: Tolerant once established.

Fruiting: Grafted varieties start to bear fruit after 2 to 3 years. Depending on climatic conditions and cultivar, fruit matures between December and May, with the main harvest period occurring between March and May.

Harvest: Fruit is ready to harvest when they have reached full size and colour and fall easily from the branch. Do not pick unripe fruit as it will not ripen off the tree. 

Storage: Depending on variety, fruit can be stored for 2 – 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

Pots:Grows well in pots and containers.

2. What to do when my new Finger Lime baby arrives.

After transit, plants become extremely stressed. It’s important to allow your Finger Lime tree to adjust to its new environment before you repot or plant in the ground.

  • Remove the packaging around your tree, but keep it in its original pot.
  • Place your Finger Lime in a position that is lightly shaded and sheltered from the wind.
  • Water your tree extremely well.
  • Allow to acclimatise in its original pot for at least two weeks before repotting or planting.
3. I'm ready to plant, what do I need?

Repotting:

  • A pot that is at least double the size of the original pot.
  • Premium, well-draining potting mix.
  • Seaweed solution.
  • Organic mulch (e.g. pine bark, sugar cane or pea straw).
  • Slow-release citrus fertiliser.
  • Long rose pruning gloves (Finger Limes are very thorny!).

Planting in Ground:

  • Compost and well-rotted manure.
  • Seaweed solution.
  • Organic mulch (e.g. pine bark, sugar cane or pea straw).
  • Long rose pruning gloves (Finger Limes are very thorny!). 
4. Re-potting & planting steps

Position: Place your Finger Lime tree in a spot that receives full to partial sunlight with protection from the wind. Finger limes thrive in warm, subtropical climates. They will tolerate light frosts once established. If you're in a cooler climate, consider growing it in a pot that can be moved indoors during colder months.

Planting in Pots:

  1. Mix 5mL of seaweed solution in approximately 2L of water and soak the soil in the original pot. This will help prevent transplant shock, boost root regrowth and loosen the soil to make transplanting easier.
  2. Choose a pot that is at least double the size of the original pot.
  3. Fill half of the pot with premium, well-draining potting mix and sprinkle some slow-release citrus fertiliser. 
  4. Carefully grab the tree by the trunk with one hand while supporting the pot with the other. Gently remove the Finger Lime from the pot without disturbing the roots and place in the centre of the new pot. (Make sure you’re wearing gloves!)
  5. Fill the pot with the remaining potting mix, leaving a gap for a layer of mulch. Firm the soil around the plant using gentle pressure. 
  6. Sprinkle a large pinch of slow-release citrus fertiliser on top of the soil.
  7. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to help conserve water. Keep the mulch away from the trunk to prevent collar rot.
  8. Water in well.

Planting in Ground:

  1. For the best results, Finger Limes prefer well-draining, slightly acidic soil (5 – 7pH).
  2. Dig a hole at least as wide and as deep as the root ball. 
  3. Enrich the soil by digging in compost and well-rotted manure.
  4. Make sure the hole is adequately moist and water before planting if necessary.
  5. Gently remove the Finger Lime from the pot without disturbing the roots and place in the centre of the hole. (Make sure you’re wearing gloves!)
  6. Back fill, firm the soil around the plant and water in well with a 5mL seaweed solution to 2L of water mix.
  7. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to help conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Keep the mulch away from the trunk to prevent collar rot.
5. General Care

Soil: Use well-draining, slightly acidic soil (5 – 7pH). A well-draining, premium potting mix works well for container planting. Ensure good drainage to prevent root rot.

Watering: Water regularly after planting. Once established, keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Finger Limes prefer regular watering during its growing season (spring and summer) and slightly reduced watering in the cooler months (fall and winter). Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings.

Fertilisation: Finger Limes do not require as much fertilisation as other types of citrus. Feed your Finger Lime tree with a balanced, slow-release citrus fertiliser during the growing season. Follow the instructions on the fertiliser packaging for application amounts. When fertilising during the fruiting season, it is best to wait until fruit is at least 1cm long, as it may cause premature fruit to drop. Avoid fertilising during the dormant period. Seaweed solutions and fulvic acid applications (foliar) help with establishing healthy root systems and support trees during fruit set. 

Pruning: Prune your Finger Lime to maintain neat, healthy foliage and remove any dead or diseased branches. When young, lightly prune after flowering to encourage a open shape with four to six main branches. Remove any suckers from the rootstock. Once fruiting, lightly prune after harvest to encourage healthy growth and fruit production.

Pests and Diseases: Finger Limes are susceptible to most common citrus pests, including scale, bronze orange bug, aphids, mealybugs, citrus leaf miner and caterpillars. Regularly inspect your tree's leaves and stems for signs of infestation and treat with insecticidal soap if necessary. Melanose is a fungal disease that can affect the stems, foliage and fruit. It causes dark brown to black spots to form on plant parts, spoiling fruit and decreasing the overall health and vigour of the citrus tree. Proper spacing, good air circulation, and maintaining healthy cultural practices will help prevent diseases.

Pollination: Finger Lime trees are self-fertile, but cross-pollination can improve fruit production. If growing more than one Finger Lime tree, bees and other pollinators will assist in transferring pollen between flowers.

Harvesting: Grafted varieties start to bear fruit after three years and are fully bearing by six years. Fruit will appear approximately five months from flowering. Depending on climatic conditions and cultivar, fruit matures between December and May, with the main harvest period occurring between March and May. Finger Lime fruit is ready to harvest when they've reached their full size and colour. You will know fruit is ready for harvest when they fall easily from the branch. Gently twist the fruit from the stem. Do not pick unripe fruit, as it will not ripen off the tree. Avoid picking fruit when it is wet or early in the morning to avoid rind damage. The vesicles inside the fruit (‘caviar’) can be gently squeezed out and used in various dishes, desserts, beverages, sauces and preserves. 

Winter Care (for cooler climates): If you're growing your Finger Lime in a colder climate, move the potted tree indoors before the first frost. Place it in a sunny location and reduce watering. Monitor for pests that might be brought indoors.