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Ease the lime shortage by growing your own in containers

Grow your own limes or other citrus in containers.
Grow your own limes or other citrus in containers.
Photo by Quincy Benton for Friday Jones Publishing

If the lime shortage in the United States leaves you in a sour mood, you might be sweet on the idea of growing your own limes. The current lime shortage, linked to Mexican drug cartels, affects bars and restaurants as well as home kitchens. One can’t make an ideal margarita or guacamole or gin-and-tonic without a lime.

“It effects restaurants greatly when the prices spike so high,” said Lee Goodfriend, co-owner of Racines, a Denver restaurant popular for the past 30 years and touted for their margaritas. “We use limes in lots of drinks and food both as garnishes and as ingredients,” Goodfriend said. “The lime shortage costs thousands of extra dollars per month. We have to ‘eat’ the price hikes as we can't just immediately raise prices to compensate. It’s a real problem with the constant spikes in food and scary how things like California drought effects us all.”

After hurricanes wiped out lime orchards in Florida, the U.S. stopped growing limes commercially. Most limes were imported from Mexico. You don't need an orchard or an urban farm to grow limes. If you have a sunny spot in your garden, you can easily grow limes on a dwarf lime tree potted in a container. Potted dwarf citrus trees make wonderful patio plants.

Limes and other citrus plants including Meyer lemons are more popular, less expensive, and more widely available. Dwarf Bearss lime trees produce super juicy seedless limes. Bearss limes taste less acidic and not as bitter than many varieties. Bearss limes are idea for cooking and beverages.

Lime plants engage the senses. The evergreen dwarf trees have bright green, glossy, fragrant leaves. The flowers of the dwarf lime smell something like gardenia. Limes can bear fruits and flowers simultaneously. But beware when touching lime plants: Branches often have sharp thorns.

Dwarf lime trees need direct sunlight and plenty of it. One caveat: citrus scales. If you notice a clear, sticky substance on lime leaves, check for scales. These pests appear as small, dry, brown spots. Banish the bugs by spraying the lime plant with scalecide, a 100 percent petroleum oil sold at most garden centers.

If you have a sunny window, bring your potted lime inside for the winter. With enough sunlight, you can pick fresh limes even in the dead of winter. But be especially vigilant of lime trees grown inside. Without enough sunlight, the plants become more susceptible to scales.

To learn more about growing potted dwarf citrus trees, visit the Orangery at Denver Botanic Gardens. Designed for growing potted citrus, this charming glass corridor is connected to Marnie's Pavilion. In the Orangery, you’ll find not only potted dwarf limes, but also other citrus including grapefruits, oranges, kumquats and lemons. Potted dwarf citrus trees might not provide all the fruits you can eat, but picking your own citrus is sweet.