This fruit-bearing plant is interesting because it can be grown as a tall tree or a short shrub. The carambola, or star fruit, is a tropical fruit that tastes like a blend of peaches, citrus and mango, with a honey note.
Most people have not tasted this unusual fruit and are not aware of the lush tropical tree it grows on.
We’re going to improve that now, because loquats are delicious, nutritious, and quite fun to grow if you’re in the right environment to do it. Not only are these trees a pretty addition to any garden, but they also produce fresh fruit.
All About The Japanese Plum Tree
The average top height for this evergreen tree is 30 feet. Although it can grow up to 30 feet tall, it is more commonly kept at 10 to 15 feet by commercial growers for ease in maintenance and harvesting. The plant is treated more like a dense, tree-like shrub when it reaches 10 feet in height.
Although there are up to 800 different types of this plant available, they are all clones of the same original plant. In China, the tree and its fruit are called Pipa. It is sometimes referred to as the Japanese plum, Chinese plum, or Japanese medlar.
There are white-fleshed or orange-fleshed varieties. Some popular-to-grow cultivars in the United States include:
- Vista White: a round variety with white flesh and pale yellow skin, small to medium fruit size, needs a second tree to cross-pollinate
- Gold Nugget: a firm orange-fleshed round to oblong variety with yellowish-orange skin, large fruit, self-fertile
- Early Red: an orange-fleshed pear-shaped variety with orange-red skin dotted in white, medium to large fruit, self-fertile
- Champagne: a white to yellow-fleshed pear-shaped variety with pale yellow-orange skin, medium to large fruit, self-fertile
- Big Jim: an orange-fleshed round variety with pale orange-yellow skin, large fruit, self-fertile
The fruit and leaves of the loquat plum fruit tree are traditionally used for multiple different purposes in Japanese and Chinese medicine.
The Chinese use the fruit to make a syrup that helps with coughs. The leaves of the plant are used in Japan to make a beverage called biwa cha. It is believed that this drink can help improve skin conditions and also relieve bronchitis or other respiratory illnesses.
The leaves and seeds contain small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides that when digested release cyanide. Although these compounds are present in small amounts, they rarely have any effect. Even though the seeds and leaves are not poisonous, it is still best to avoid eating them. Also, keep them away from children and pets.
How to Grow a Loquat Tree
All of these trees are perfect for a small backyard or patio because they can all grow in pots.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to grow a loquat tree in a container:
- Choose a container at least 24 inches wide and position it under full sun.
- Fill the pot with quality potting soil mix.
- Carefully remove the shrub from the container, keeping the root ball intact.
- Position your shrub in the pot and backfill with potting mix, firming it down gently.
- Only fill with new soil to the top of the root ball. Do not cover the top of the root ball with additional soil.
- Slowly water around the plant. Try to soak the root ball without watering the trunk.
- In the first year, water daily or every other day, preferably in the evening. Once established, water deeply once a week.
Some loquat cultivars are able to pollinate themselves, as they contain both female and male flower parts. This means they can produce fruit without assistance from another plant.
However, most loquat trees are partially self-pollinating. These trees are most productive when they are paired with another tree.
Planting two trees near each other will give you the best possible yield. That way, you’re assured of pollination. The next year, you may decide to add more.
The flowers of Loquat trees blooming towards the end of summer. Frost flowers form on the tips of branches younger than six months. Other insects, like bees, help with pollination by transferring pollen from the male organ or stamen of a flower to the female organ or pistil. This process eventually leads to the formation of fruits on the flower.
It takes90 days for loquat fruits to mature after the flower opens fully.
This fruit tree is strong and can tolerate cold temperatures. Although these trees can withstand temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, a cold snap at the beginning or end of fall can cause young fruit to fall off.
Make sure to cover the trees when the temperature is expected to drop below 27 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fall is the time to cover your tree with a burlap net. Extend your mulch or burlap coverage to the ground around the base of your tree to insulate its roots from the cold.
One reason a loquat tree may not bear fruit is improper planting.
If you live in a windy area, it is best to protect your young tree by putting up a windbreak. After a few years, the tree will be firmly rooted and won’t need the windbreak anymore.
Here’s how to care for a loquat tree:
This tree does best in an environment with full sun to part shade, and is best suited for zones 8-10. This implies that California grows a lot of small sweet tart fruits, as well as other southeastern states.
Loquats are often grown as a shade cover for patios, and they can be espaliered into patterns. You can improve the growth of your Japanese plum tree by giving it a little shade during the hottest parts of summer.
Temperature and Humidity
Despite being surprising sensitive to temperature, they can still be grown as ornamentals in places where it gets as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Fallen fruits and flowers at temperatures below 30 degrees prevent the tree from bearing fruit.
Hot weather also becomes a problem. When temperatures exceed 95 degrees, these plants experience leaf-scorch and may have difficulty growing. It is necessary to give extra watering during the hot summer months to help with these issues.
Loquats do best in a humid environment, which is different from the dry environment of desert California or the southwestern United States. Some plants have been bred to do well in dry conditions.
The loquat should be planted in a place where it will be easy to water it every day, and then once a week once it is established. Try to set up the irrigation with a timer if possible. Water them slowly once a day in the evening until they are established.
The loquat tree is drought-resistant. Assuming you are talking about a plant: Watering it regularly will make it more productive and the fruits will be juicier. Make sure you don’t water the plant too much, because if the soil is always wet it will kill the plant. The soil should be evenly moist, not wet throughout.
Remember to also water during harvest time.
The loquat tree is not very particular about the type of soil it grows in, as long as the soil drains well and is not salty. The soil’s pH level is not a significant concern for loquat growth, as the trees thrive in both acidic and alkaline soils.
Poor drainage can cause your tree’s roots to struggle. If your soil has too much clay in it, you may need to improve drainage over a larger area to prevent runoff problems. If you leave your loquat plant in standing water, it will not be happy.
When caring for a loquat tree, consider mulching. You may want to spread organic mulch, such as sugarcane or pea straw, or bark chips, around the base. Apply this lightly as the weather gets hot. Do not apply it thickly.
Mulching will help retain moisture in the soil and keep the roots cooler during hot months. It can keep the roots warm in the cold months.
If you add mulch, make sure none of it touches the trunk. Apply the fertilizer around the tree’s base, keeping it about 6-10 inches away from the trunk, and make the ring about 3 inches wide.
Watch for signs of rotting. If so, remove it. Let it area dry out.
If the tree is hardy, it may not need fertilizer to help it grow. Even though a newly planted shrub doesn’t need to be fertilized right away, it is best to wait a month before giving it any fertilizer.
Fertilizing the tree three times a year during the growing season (spring, winter, and autumn) will make it more fruitful.
Choose a fertilizer with a low nitrogen content to encourage flowering. You should also be aware of any signs of rapid growth and should only fertilize once a year, preferably during the winter.
Loquats that are grown in the ground only need to be trimmed once a year in April to help ensure that light can reach the center of the tree. Cosmetic pruning is an option to keep the plant in a desired shape.
It is also important to remove dead branches from the tree to keep it healthy.
When to Harvest Loquat
Make sure to harvest the fruit when it is ripe and still on the tree. How do you know it’s ripe enough for harvesting? The fruit will appear yellow-orange and feels soft. It’ll also be easy to pull off the stem.
Loquat fruits mature three months after the flower blooms.
Bear in mind fallen loquat fruits are messy. They also drop leaves. Avoid having a big mess by picking them as soon as they’re ripe. It will also mean you will attract less pests.
Mature loquat trees yield a lot of fruit. You can expect over 30 pounds of fruit. Some will bear one hundred pounds or more.
Loquats are tart with a citrusy taste. They are small like kumquats. You can eat loquats raw, including their skin.
As far as loquat recipes, loquat jam is popular. You can also eat loquats right off the tree. Just be sure to spit out the seeds.
Do not eat loquat seeds. They are hard, large, and bitter.
The fruits are a good source of vitamin A, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. They’re also low in sodium and saturated fats. This text explains how to harvest and store fruit properly.
Ripe loquats are usually slightly bigger than unripe loquats and will yield slightly when gently squeezed. You can tell that they are ripe when their skin is darker than unripe ones. If you wait too long to pick them, they will fall off the tree but will be overripe.
To harvest the fruit, it is easiest to trim off the branch tip to which the fruit is attached, and taking down entire clumps of fruit all at once. Choose clusters of berries that appear to be mostly ripe to reduce the amount of fruit you throw away.
You can happily freeze whole fruit by placing it on a cookie sheet and storing it in a freezer bag. It will be soft and mushy when thawed, but makes an excellent syrup or jam.
You can also keep your loquats by making jams, jellies, and syrups. Because it is low in acid, you may need to add more acid to properly can it.
Some people say that the fruit tastes good when pickled. It is also possible to make wines and liqueurs from the fruit. It can also be used to add flavor to beer during secondary fermentation.
Loquat Tree Lifespan
Loquat trees mature over 20 to 30 years, reaching a height of 15 to 30 feet. After 10 years, the tree will be approximately 12-15 feet tall.
Dwarf cultivars are the ideal type of tree to plant in a pot because they only grow to half the size of a regular tree.
Now that you understand more about the loquat tree, including where to grow it, how to care for it, fruiting, harvesting, and eating, you can make the most of this delicious fruit. If you live in a climate that is conducive to the growth of loquats, you will be rewarded with ripe and delicious fruits.
Adding this tree to a backyard orchard or garden is a great way to grow fruits at home. This will enable you to be more sustainable. Picking and eating the fruits is enjoyable and these fruits have numerous health advantages.
The loquat tree will produce delicious fruits. You can grow a loquat tree in the ground or in a container. Pansies are well-suited for growth on patios or in small backyards.