The loquat has been grown in Japan for centuries, it is believed to have its origins on the Asian mainland in China. In North America they are sometimes referred to as Japanese plums or Japanese medlars. Loquat trees are attractive as an ornamental and useful for their edible fruits. Many people who have these trees on their property are unaware that the fruit is edible.
Loquat trees can attain a height of up to 25 feet, but are generally in the ballpark of 10 to 15 feet. These broad leaved evergreens have a dense dark green leathery foliage and a large canopy . Clusters of peach colored stone fruits appear in late spring. These pear shaped loquats resemble a small apricot and even have the peach fuzz. The taste however is exotic and brings to mind flavors such as mango, guava and passion fruit with a pinch of acidity when ripe. The flesh varies in color among the several varieties and their level of maturity, it is generally similar to the peach family fruits.
They are delectable when devoured straight off the tree and also great for preserving as they have a high pectin content which is necessary for forming jelly. Avoid the pits which can be toxic.
Although the fruit tastes somewhat tropical, the tree itself is sub tropical and can tolerate temperatures down into the teens.It ain’t gonna grow at the arctic circle but will do just dandy in USDA zones 7 to 10. Elsewhere it makes a good potted tree. Temperatures at or below 25 F will kill of the fruit and foliage but the tree survives to produce again next year.
There are several varieties and most are self pollinating, a few however are not, so you would need more than one tree to get any reasonable amount of fruit. Be sure to research the variety you plan to buy to see if it requires pollen from another loquat tree in order to bear fruit.
Full Sun is a requirement, not partial shade but full sun.
Soil – Fertilizer
When planting do not add fertilizer. A modest amount of well rotted manure at the base of the tree in the fall, and a smidgen of high nitrogen fertilizer every other month will suffice. Once the tree matures, so long as the soil is reasonably fertile it shouldn’t need additional fertilizer but once a year in the early spring.
Loquat will thrive in most soil types and soil pH does not really matter all that much. High alkaline soils will lead to lower yields and at times substandard fruits with over sized seeds.
Although loquat will grow in a fairly large range for a subtropical tree, fruit quality is best in warmer regions. They require heat to ripen and concentrate their sugars. Cooler regions such as zone 7 can still get loquats, but not as high quality as warmer zones.
Loquat is drought resistant it will survive adverse weather conditions with very little water. However it does need moisture to produce quality fruits and to grow. The roots are shallow but wide spreading, when watering you do not want to concentrate the water at the base of a mature tree as it won’t get to the roots. The roots are equal or greater than the spread of the canopy so you would want to be watering a wide berth around the tree and away from the trunk.
Pruning is not necessary for fruit production, although some people like to thin out the fruits to get a higher quality in the same manner that peach trees are thinned. Prune only to remove dead wood, or, in the event you are using the tree for landscaping reasons as well as an edible, you may want to prune it to fit your landscape.