Limequat Tree: A Key Lime Kumquat Cross | Growing Guide

Hybrids and cultivars serve as a solution to the flaws of nature.

If you don’t like seeds in your watermelons, limes, or oranges, you’ll find a cultivar that gives you juicier fruits without the inconvenience of the seeds, but not all cultivars outdo the work of nature. Some shine while others stumble.

So where does the limequat fall on this spectrum?

What is a limequat? Limequat is the product of key lime and kumquat parents. It’s a small and compact tree with citrus-like leaves and greenish-yellow fruits that look like limes. The skin and flesh are both edible, and the fruits are bittersweet and packed with flavors. The limequat is highly acidic and rich in Vitamin C.

Unlike natural species, cultivars can be a little tricky to grow. Read more to find out how to grow and care for the limequat hybrid.

Why Were Limequat Trees Created?

Limequat trees were created out of necessity. When frigid temperatures hit Florida in 1894 and again in 1895, most of the citrus trees were destroyed.

Two botanists, Walter Swingle and Frank Meyer, set out to find a citrus species that can handle cold temperatures and doesn’t die in the frost or freezes.

In 1909, Swingle was hand-pollinating key lime flowers with the pollen of kumquat flowers, and the new hybrid was limequat.

It proved to be highly resistant to many citrus diseases as well as temperature fluctuations and unpredictable weather conditions.

What Does a Limequat Tree Look Like?

The limequat tree is a compact tree that you can grow in a container or a small corner of the yard.

The leaves are similar to those on other citrus trees. They’re oval and pointy with smooth edges and thick dark-green skin.

The tree is quick to produce even before it reaches maturity, and the yield is quite abundant.

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How Big Does a Limequat Tree Get?

The average limequat tree doesn’t grow above 5 feet tall. However, if you plant it in a container, the tree won’t exceed 3 feet at maturity.

The canopy is quite compact, so you won’t need a lot of space to accommodate it. 

Do Limequat Trees Lose Their Leaves?

A healthy limequat tree won’t lose its leaves as true deciduous species do. However, some leaf drop is a normal part of the tree’s life cycle, especially during cold periods.

Some factors can cause the shedding of leaves, such as overwatering, drought, and harsh weather conditions.

Do Limequat Trees Have Thorns?

Spikes and thorns cover the branches of the limequat trees, so you’ll need gloves to handle the tree, prune it, water it, and harvest the fruits.

The spikes are quite sharp, and children and pets are also at risk, so you’ll need to keep the tree out of reach to protect them.

Are Limequat Trees Self-Pollinating?

Each limequat tree produces both male and female flowers that open around the same time. That means that a single limequat tree is all you need to harvest a lot of fruits every season.

Ensure that pollinators visit the tree during bloom time; otherwise, you will have to hand-pollinate each female flower with the pollen from the male flower using a small brush.

A healthy limequat tree with many fruits.

Do Limequats Grow True From Seed?

Limequats have seeds, and you can use these seeds to grow new trees. However, as with many cultivars, the results are not always predictable.

The new tree might have more key lime features than kumquat or vice versa, or the tree might not reach maturity. Other problems could include a sterile tree or fruits that drop before they ripen. 

How Long Does a Limequat Take To Grow?

Limequats have a fairly fast growth rate despite their small size. On average, the tree will mature within 5 to 7 months and start flowering and bearing fruits.

However, the growing conditions must be ideal for the tree to produce fruits within the first 7 months of its life. The limequat will rest for another 5 to 7 months and then resume flowering and fruiting again.

Can You Grow Limequats Indoors?

You can grow limequats indoors in a container, but for the tree to grow at a normal pace and flower and fruit, you’ll need to provide it with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.

Place the container near a window facing west or south to get the most sun during the growing season.

Also, pay attention to the moisture in the soil as the soil in a container tends to dry out faster than the soil in a garden.

Limequat Tree Care

While the limequat tree has a fast growth rate and it can start flowering and fruiting within the first 7 months after planting, a lot of that success depends on the maintenance and care you provide for the tree.

With adequate watering, feeding, and light, the tree will thrive and reward you with ample harvest. It can be the perfect addition to a small garden or a large backyard food forest!

Limequat Tree Cold Hardiness

The main reason the limequat tree was developed was to withstand cold temperatures. In that respect, the tree truly delivers.

It can handle temperatures as low as 22 degrees Fahrenheit, and in some cases, it can even survive temperatures as low as 10℉.

The limequat is suitable for Zones 8 to 11. Even though it’s cold hardy, it doesn’t match its kumquat parent in its tolerance for cold temperatures.

Limequat Tree Sun Requirements

The limequat tree requires full sun to partial shade, but full sun leads to more flowering and better yield than if the tree has partial shade.

Ensure the tree gets between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight during the growing season. If the tree gets sun all year round, it has a better chance of producing well.

Limequat Tree Watering

The limequat tree needs a lot of water and a lot of calcium in that water. That means you can water it with tap water. Just don’t let the soil dry out.

A good rule of thumb is to check the soil before watering. If the top inch is dry, then the tree needs watering. Water evenly and deeply, and aim for the roots.

The average limequat tree in the garden needs about 1 inch of water a week. If it’s growing in a container, it might need a little more than that to keep the soil moist.

Limequat Tree Fertilization

You’ll need to feed the limequat tree with a balanced fertilizer once a month. Between February and August, the tree needs a generous dose of nutrients.

You could either use a fast-release fertilizer for citrus trees, like this organic blend, or organic compost and aged manure. Test the soil regularly to make sure that all the micronutrients are available. 

Limequat Tree Pruning

Pruning is essential to keep the tree compact and productive. The best time to prune it is in the summer.

Trim any wayward branches, and trim to maintain the desired shape. You can also trim the tips of twigs at any time to encourage dense foliage.

What Does a Limequat Taste Like?

Limequat fruits taste bitter and sweet at the same time. They have the same flavors as key limes, but there’s a sweetness to the flesh of the fruit that you don’t find in limes.

Do You Eat the Skin of a Limequat?

You can eat the skin of limequat. It’s thin and tender, unlike other citrus fruits. Both the skin and flesh of the limequat are edible.

Limequat vs. Key Lime

The limequat and key lime have a lot in common. The fruit of the limequat is similar in size to the key lime fruit and has similar flavors, but the limequat is bittersweet while the key lime is just bitter. Acidity levels are almost the same.

Limequat vs. Kumquat

The limequat took the cold tolerance and edible fruit skin from its kumquat parent. Its fruits are also a little sweet thanks to the kumquat. 

While the kumquat skin has a sweet taste compared to the flesh’s tanginess, you’ll find that the limequat has a tangy taste throughout with sweet undertones.

When Do Limequats Fruit?

Limequats start fruiting between 5 and 7 months after planting. They usually take a break for 5 to 7 months as the tree fully matures, and then fruiting becomes more regular and stable throughout the years. 

How Do You Know When To Pick Limequats?

Limequats are picked green and left to ripen off the tree. When the fruit has reached its full size and the skin becomes shiny green, you can pick it.

Limequat Recipes

You can eat limequat fruits whole with skin and flesh or use the flesh to make desserts, garnish smoothies, and add a biting taste to certain cakes, ice creams, and pies.

Where To Buy a Limequat Tree

You might run across a limequat tree at your local nursery, but if not, check with these online sellers:

Closing Thoughts

The limequat tree is a cross between the key lime and the kumquat tree. It gets its tolerance for cold weather from the kumquat and the citrus flavors from the key lime. Both the skin and flesh of the ripe limequat are edible.

If you enjoy tangy fruit with sweet undertones, this unusual tree could be an excellent choice. Once you get the care down pat, you’ll have a productive, low-maintenance tree that very well might be the envy of the neighborhood.