One really great subtropical fruit related to apples, pears, and peaches that grows well in our area is the Loquat. Also called Japanese Plum, this easy-to-grow evergreen tree with large dentate leaves is a popular ornamental for its tropical appearance.
Loquats make great trees where overhead space is limited or as a specimen tree or a patio shade tree. While able to tolerate partial shade, this tree will do best in full sun and accommodates nicely to Florida's higher pH soils. White fragrant flowers appear from October to February in Florida and bears clusters of small golden fruit of 1-2" in diameter in early spring. The fruit has a large seed and has a mild, flavorful flesh. Loquat fruits are excellent eaten fresh or made
into jelly, jam, preserves and pies. Fruit must be tree-ripened for the best flavor. A mature tree may bear from 35-300
pounds of fruit per tree per year. While loquats
are considered somewhat
short-lived trees living
only 20-30 years, I would recommend them for
every landscape. Loquats look tropical, are hardy and somewhat drought tolerant, and provide a tasty
crop of fruit on a yearly basis. Late February and
March starts the season for this fruit when few other
fruits are readily available. Fruit must be tree-ripened for the best flavor usually by March.
Loquats are hardy along the coasts as far north as North Carolina, but the flowers can be damaged by frosts. Our loquats are seedlings and can take up to 6 years to bear fruit. Be careful not to over-fertilize these trees as this can make them more open to attack by fire blight, a disease of plants related to pears. Loquats are a somewhat short-lived trees living
only 20-30 years, I would recommend them for every landscape.
Loquat trees are very cold tolerant and may withstand temperatures down
to 8° to 10°F. However, the flowers and fruit are killed by temperatures
below 27°F. Temperatures above 95°F may negatively affect loquat tree
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In general, loquat trees should be planted in full sun for best
growth and fruit production. Select a part of the landscape away from
other trees, buildings and structures, and power lines. Remember loquat
trees may become moderately large if not pruned to contain their size.
In areas where there is a chance of spring frost, select the warmest
area of the landscape. In locations where this is not a concern loquat
may be planted anywhere in the landscape. Loquat trees should be planted
in areas that do not flood (or remain wet) after typical summer
planting site selection should be well-drained, non-low lying area,
sandy loam soils with a pH between 5.5-7.0. Prepare the area by
removing any weeds prior to planting. This step is often overlooked but
is absolutely critical to any successful planting. Weeds and grass
steal light, water and nutrients from your trees.
Dig the hole twice as wide as the pot but no deeper than
the root-ball. Do not add amendments to the soil such as mulch or
organic matter, this acts like a sponge and increases root rot and robs
the trees of nitrogen from the fertilizer (microbes breaking down the
organic matter use nitrogen in the process).
If planting in heavy
clay soils, break up the ground under and around the hole, so that the
tree is not planted in a bath tub. Roots need oxygen to be able to
Carefully remove the tree from the pot keeping the soil
around the roots intact. It helps to tap the outside of the container
to loosen the edge. Do not yank the tree out of the container as this
can separate the roots from the tree. Carefully separate the roots if they are root bound.
Remove the pot stake that came with the tree. If the tree appears stable staking is not needed.
If staking is necessary, hold the trunk with one hand to find the
height at which the unsupported top can stand up on its own and will
spring back to a vertical position if lightly flexed. Allow trees a
slight amount of flex rather than holding them rigidly in place. Tree
straps should be made of material that will not injure the tree or girdle the tree.
Remove any ties, tags and labels from trees to prevent girdling trunks and branches.
the tree at the same height they were grow in the pot, not deeper.
in the planting hole with the native soil. Set the tree in the middle
of the hole. Avoid planting the tree too deep. Using some soil, secure
the tree in a straight position, then fill and firmly pack the hole with
the native soil.
We recommend creating a water-holding basin around the hole
and water the trees in thoroughly at planting. Remove the berm at the
end of the second growing season. Water slowly at the drip-line. Water
in thoroughly, making sure there are no air pockets around the roots.
Air pockets prevent roots from growing into the soil around it. After the water has soaked in, spread a protective layer of mulch 2-4" deep around the trunk pulling the mulch a few inches away from the trunk. Choices for mulch, leaf litter, hay, shredded or fine bark, pine needles.
The type of fertilizer you choose may be chemical or organic. Make sure that the
fertilizer contains iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, copper and boron. These
minor elements are very important to plants and most soils are low in these elements.
You can fertilize with 10-0-10
with minerals, or
Espoma Citrus Tone
(Organic). Application rates vary according to age of plant.
Spread the fertilizer evenly under the entire canopy of the plant avoiding a 5-inch area
around the trunk. Water or rake in. For Zones 8a-10, fertilize 3 times each year in late
February, late May and late July/early August. Never fertilize after August as this will
promote new growth late in the year which will be subject to freeze damage.
The first year is a critical time for the establishment of a new loquat. Water at planting and every other day for the first week or so then 1 to 2 times a week for the first few years. Water regularly, especially during dry periods. Fruit may drop prematurely if insufficiently watered during dry spell. Once the rainy season arrives, reduce or stop watering. Over watering may cause trees to decline.
loquat trees are 4 or more years old, water them during the fruit
development period and during prolonged dry periods.
Remove dead wood at any time. To control tree size prune during
the first 1 to 2 years after planting, prune young trees by tipping
shoots in excess of 2 to 3ft, tipping will increase branching. Trees
may be trained to a modified central leader or open center
configuration. Mature trees may be selectively pruned to maintain trees
at 6 to 12 ft in height. This will make care of the tree and harvest
To improve fruit size, you may wish to hand-thin flowers or fruit.
Allow anywhere from 4 to 10 fruits to develop per terminal. Thinning
will increase fruit size from 25% - 100%. In areas with insects and or
bird fruit pests, bag the fruit clusters. Bagging also hastens fruit
development and reduces fruit scaring.
Tree Form: Modified leader or mulit-trunk
Light requirements: Full sun, partial shade for cold protection
Soil type: Well-drained, pH 5.5-7.0
Pruning: Remove dead wood at any time.
Hardiness Zone: 8-10
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