How to Grow and Use Your Own Kaffir Lime Tree

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Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir lime leaves are useful in many ways!

A few months ago I visited one of my favorite plant nurseries here in Ohio. As usual I was incredibly tempted to pack my car with as many plants as my wallet would allow. The plant that most attracted my attention was the kaffir lime plant.

Growing the kaffir lime leaves (Citrus hystrix)

The Kaffir Lime tree is a thorny tree, native to the tropics. For this Ohio girl, that presents a problem. Or does it?!

I love the idea of growing my own citrus, and I’ve tried with other varieties. Unfortunately, lemons and limes have been unsuccessful. This is predominantly because we grow them for their fruits and this makes them more of a challenge indoors. Our house does not have a sunroom and I don’t have a good way to maintain a constant temperature or guarantee light exposure. In the case of fruiting, light exposure really means day length. Even if we keep a plant from freezing in a temperate climate it doesn’t mean it will flower or fruit for us. In the past this has meant that while I can grow an orange tree in a pot, it’s really just a leafy companion and never a source of my morning OJ.

The kaffir lime is a bit of a different story. While the fruit is sometimes used in the natural cleaning and bodycare industries, it isn’t the focus of growing the tree. Most often we use the kaffir for its leaves. Hooray! Here in my sunny living room I excel at growing leafy citrus. What has been a disappointment in the past is now a plus.

Ways to Use Kaffir Lime Leaves

Adding Thai Flavor to Dishes

Kaffir lime leaves are that special something to add to your favorite thai dish. Just a leaf or two, added to a big pot of soup will do.

Dental Health

Dry a few leaves and put them through your coffee grinder (I have a dedicated one for grinding herbs). The powder can be added to a homemade toothpaste recipe to benefit teeth and gum health.

*To our DIY Whitening Tooth Powder recipe, add 1 tablespoon dried and finely powdered kaffir lime leaves.

Bath Time Pick-me-up

Infuse a handful of fresh or dried herbs into a light oil such as grapeseed, almond, or sesame, and add a few drops into your bath. The leaves are high in essential oils and you’ll enjoy a refreshing and invigorating bath as a result. It’s thought that kaffir lime encourages a positive mindset.

Wintertime Potpourri

Pick a few leaves and add them to a simmering pot of water on your stove. The essential oils will release from the leaves and fill your house with a delicious fresh lime scent.

Throughout the year, whether the kaffir lime is inside your house or in a pot on the deck, you can pick fresh leaves or preserve them for later. The leaves can be dried, powdered, frozen, or used immediately.

After I left the nursery I immediately regretted not picking up one of these little plants. My order is in and I’m looking forward to receiving my “Indonesian bay leaf” any day now!


About Dawn Combs

Dawn is a wife, mother, farmer, author, ethnobotanist, professional speaker, and educator. She has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a certified herbalist, and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows Farm. Her books include Conceiving Healthy Babies and Heal Local.

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  1. Diana says

    I love herbs so after reading and finding out the leaves of the plant have many uses I am now looking for one or two of my own….thanks so much for this useful info….

  2. Sabreena says

    This is a very misleading article headline. It implies you are going to tell us how to grow a lime tree. I really hate it when this type of article is written.

    • Dawn says

      It looks like the editors put kaffir lime in the title but accidentally left off the kaffir on the picture. Sorry you felt mislead and didn’t find anything useful in my article.

  3. Sushma says

    I loveee kaffir lime and have been paying a fortune for a few frozen leaves at a thai grocery! This is so useful!

    Where do i go looking for a plant or where do i get the seeds? I live in New Jersey!

    • Dawn says

      Try or maybe Logees. Both should have plants for sale. So glad you enjoyed the article!