Seminole County Residential Horticulturist
The loquat is a rapidly growing evergreen tree belonging to the rose family and native to China. Usually planted as a shade tree in central Florida, it can be used as a residential street tree or median strip tree. The large dark green leaves are a splendid background for the yellow to orange clusters of edible fruits that develop late in the winter.
The plant: The loquat grows about 15 feet high and 15 to 25 feet wide in sunny locations, but grows a little taller in shaded areas. The leaves are simple, alternate, wrinkled, oval-shaped and large, about 8 to 12 inches long, with dark green glossy color on top and a hairy, rust-colored beneath. Leaves have short petioles, with sunken veins running to sharp teeth located at the border of the leaves. Fragrant clusters of creamy white flowers measuring about 6 inches are produced in the fall, followed by the formation of the pear shaped, about 1 ? to 2 inches long, yellow to orange fruits in the winter. The fruits contain one or more seeds and attract birds, squirrels, and other mammals, including men.
Culture: The tree prefers moist loam soils but grows well in most well drained types of soils, preferably acidic, but can tolerate some alkalinity. It grows well in full sun but can also grow in partial shade, but blooms and bears fruit best in full sun. After established, it is moderately to high drought tolerant. Water moderately until established. Fertilize at least once or twice a year with a complete fertilizer. Fertilize mature trees in February, June and early October. A mulch over the root zone is recommended to control weeds and maintain adequate humidity around the roots. Sprouts along the trunk can be a maintenance problem. Well-tended trees will produce heavy crops with large fruits. To grow big, plump fruits, remove up to one third of the fruit in each cluster after it sets. Trees begin to produce fruits when they are about 5 years old. Fruit ripens in about 120 days after petal drop. Fruits ripened in the tree taste best, harvest them when they feel slightly soft. : Propagation of loquat trees is by seed, cuttings, or grafting of selected varieties. Many seedlings can be found growing under trees in the landscape. Recommended varieties are Oliver, Tanaka, Gold Nugget, MacBeth and Wolf.
Use: The compact growth of this tree makes it ideal for use as specimen or patio shade tree. It can be used as a residential street tree or median strip tree in areas where overhead space is limited. It is not suited for planting next to the street if trucks pass close to the tree since adequate clearance is not possible but is successfully in wide median strips. It blends well into informal shrubbery borders and the fruit is attractive to wildlife. The fruit can be eaten fresh or used in jelly, jam or preserves.
Pests and diseases: Occasional damage by caterpillars and scale insects may occur, but the most troublesome insect pest is the larvae (maggot) of the Caribbean fruit fly that feeds on the fruits. Control of this insect pest is difficult because it requires the use of insecticides during the development of the fruit. A severe winter greatly reduces the damage caused by this insect. Fireblight, a serious bacterial disease, which occurs mostly in pear trees, is also a serious disease of loquat. Symptoms of this disease appear as blackening of leaves and stems from the top downward. To control this problem, prune back the affected branch one-foot or more into healthy wood. Sterilize shears with a 10 % bleach solution between cuts. To reduce fireblight problems provide good air circulation to the tree. Don?t over fertilize since this could increase sensitivity to the fire blight disease. Root rot occurs on wet soils.
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