Growing loquat from seed

How to grow loquat trees in New Zealand – PLUS uses for loquat wood

The humble loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is one of those trees you may remember if you had a Granny who lived in Northland: climbing the tree, gorging on yellow soft fruit and spitting the pips down onto your brother or sister. Granny probably pickled them, an acquired taste which adults probably enjoyed with wine, cheese and salads.

Words: Ben Gaia

GROWING

Loquat seedlings will grow in most areas of New Zealand, and despite their big tropical-looking leaves, they are surprisingly hardy. They are a sort-of Indo-Chinese mountain apple, and make a great conversation piece, adding jungle-like foliage to your orchard.

They will eventually get quite big so pop them at the back where they won’t shade out the other fruit trees as they’re definitely more of a tree than a shrub.

Loquats are prone to peacock spot and will drop yellow leaves everywhere, something you might see as a problem, something others might call “making soil.”

The leaves can be collected and added to the compost heap, although splotchy leaves and caterpillar damage can be removed to improve a tree’s health. Feed them annually as you would an apple, and as for an apple or pear, prune to shape, removing awkward branches or double trunks to avoid splitting.

GOOD EATING

Seedlings are slow to produce. After the stipulated 20 years, my loquat trees have grown well but seldom borne fruit until this past summer when I got several kilos of juicy loquats.

Admittedly they have a “large stone” but for noisy sucking-and-spitting-out-seeds in the manner of tropical fruit-lovers the world over, they are just fine. The spring flowers smell sweet, too.

VARIETIES

You can splash out on some fancy-named varieties. The best of these will be grafted selections for commercial orchards, with ‘Mogi’ the most popular Japanese variety. ‘Wiki Gold’ is a NZ variety with bigger fruit.

In cooler and harsher areas, these grafted specimens will suffer pathetically and sprout quince trees from the rootstock, so you may as well plant a quince tree and a hardy seedling loquat instead.

In protected warm areas (you know who you are), all the varieties will thrive in sheltered, steamy hollows.

They seem to be a feature of the Auckland Harbour shoreline where they were probably introduced by Asian gardeners (their Chinese name is Pi Pa).

TIMBER USES

In Japan, lengths of loquat timber are used as practice samurai swords in fencing training. It is a light, hard and shock-resistant wood, naturally pink in colour. As light, strong hardwoods go, loquat is a rival to any.

Like other fruit woods of the rose tribe, the attraction is its fine grain, smooth finish, strength and durability. Because it grows so well except in the snowy mountains, it’s possibly a good idea to try growing more and pruning them for hardwood timber.

I’m sure all sorts of uses could be found for it, and it should produce hardwood post-size trunks after 15 years or so, possibly less if fed and pruned well.

It’s certainly faster growing and hardier than teak or ebony so I’m going to enhance my timber lot with a row of edible hardwood trees, high pruned, which leaves room in the orchard for smaller and more temperate-minded plants.

LOQUAT RECIPE IDEAS:

How to make the most of loquat season in New Zealand (PLUS loquat cobbler and loquat jam recipes)

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This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine. Discuss This Article

Guide to growing loquat

  • Lifestyle

The loquat, originally from China is a fruiting tree, often grown for ornamental purposes with large green leaves and small yellow or orange fruit. Loquat trees are generally drought tolerant and effectively grow in a wide range of climates thus contributing to their spread across the globe.
With the potential to grow to around ten metres tall, large loquat trees can be quite spectacular and add a tropical touch to the garden.

Fruit

Comparable in flavour to guava and passionfruit, the loquat tastes both sweet and sometimes acidic.
Loquats are usually yellow or orange, teardrop shaped and around 4cm long.
Loquat trees can produce fruit at the age of between 2 – 8 years depending on the tree’s health, cultivar and original propagation method (grafted plants fruit earlier).
As fragrant white flowers can be spotted on loquat trees as early as Autumn, fruit tends to be completely ripened around Spring. Ripe loquats tend to be orange in colour and are softer than unripened fruit.

Soil

Surprisingly, loquat trees can tolerate a wide range of soils from sandy to dense clay.
Provided that the soil is well drained and nutrient rich, loquats will thrive however they do prefer soils rich in organic matter with a slightly acidic PH balance.
If your soil is lacking in organic matter, a mixture of compost and cattle manure can be dug in to improve it. Loquat trees have a relatively shallow root system, therefore, preparing soil is only required at a shallow level.

Propagation

In most cases, loquats are propagated by seed.
The seeds can be removed from ripened fruit and immediately planted directly into soft potting soil. Once planted, the seeds can be watered from above daily to ensure that the soil is kept constantly moist. Soon enough your seeds will sprout and slowly begin growing.
The seedlings can be re-potted or planted into the ground once they have reached a height of around 15cm tall. Grafting has its advantages when it comes to loquats. When grafted, loquat trees can bear fruit at as early as 2 years of age. Rootstocks used for grafting loquat include those from quince trees and loquat seedlings.

Pests

Loquats can in some areas be affected by fruit fly, becoming a host to the pests during cooler months when other fruits are unavailable. Symptoms of fruit fly infestation include tiny holes in fruit and small maggots throughout the flesh. Removal of fruit fly can be difficult if not impossible, many local councils provide information on this matter. Other pests include aphids and a range of caterpillars which can both be easily controlled using products like dipel, derris dust and pyrethrum. Hand removal of these pests is also an option although this can be quite tedious.

Pruning

Immediately after harvesting, your loquat tree will be ready for pruning. Although pruning is not always necessary, loquats respond very well to pruning and will send out as many new branches as possible to replace those that you removed. These new branches will result in a larger harvest next year. Often, pruning is used to keep smaller loquat trees from getting larger making harvest easier.
Cutting away branches just above a node causes the tree to send out multiple branches in its place creating a heavier harvest the following year.
If branches need to be completely removed, cut the as close to their own base as possible. Alternatively, small shoots at the tips of each branch can be pinched out to halt further extension.

Fertiliser

Loquat trees flourish when given nitrogen based fertiliser three times a year, producing better fruit and more foliage. Chicken manure is an excellent organic source of nitrogen and can be moderately sprinkled around the topsoil of the tree and watered in well. Otherwise nitrogen based fertiliser can be purchased from your local nursery and applied by following the instructions on the label.
Loquats also respond well to complete fertiliser when it is applied once a year in peak growing season.

Water

As mentioned above, the loquat is drought tolerant.
Although loquats do not require very much water, it can certainly help them to grow faster and produce more fruit of a higher quality.
Deep watering every month or so in warmer months is needed as well as during cooler months if rain is lacking.

Growing Loquat Seeds – Learn About Loquat Seed Germination

Loquat, also known as Japanese plum, is a fruiting tree native to Southeast Asia and very popular in California. Planting loquat from seeds is easy, although because of grafting you can’t expect to get a tree that produces the same fruit as the one you started with. If you’re growing loquat seeds for ornamental purposes, though, you should be fine. Keep reading to learn more about loquat seed germination and how to prepare loquat seeds for planting.

Planting Loquat from Seeds

Each loquat fruit contains between 1 and 3 seeds. Break the fruit open and wash the flesh away from the seeds. Loquat seed germination might not be possible if you let them dry out, so it’s best to plant them right away. Even if you’re waiting a day or two, store the seeds wrapped in a damp paper towel. It is possible to store them for up to six months in a vented container of moist sawdust or moss at 40 F. (4 C.).

Plant your seeds in well-draining soilless potting medium, covering the top with an inch more of medium. You can put more than one seed in the same pot.

Loquat seed germination works best in a bright, warm environment. Place your pot in a well-lit place at least 70 F. (21 C.), and keep it moist until the seeds sprout. When the seedlings are about 6 inches high, you can transplant them into their own pots.

When you transplant, leave some of the roots exposed. If you want to graft your loquat, wait until the base of its trunk is at least ½ an inch in diameter. If you don’t graft, it will probably take your tree between 6 and 8 years to start producing fruit.

LOQUAT TREE

Description

This popular evergreen fruit tree has been under cultivation for over a century throughout many parts of Australia. It has beautiful downy foliage, fragrant flowers, delicious fruit, and it’s easy to grow! The golden-yellow fruit has a pear-like flavour with a touch of apricot and pineapple. It is delicious eaten raw, stewed, preserved, dried and the roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute.

Loquat – Seedling

Seedling of the popular Nagasakiwase variety. Quick growing and hardy, bearing after 4-5years. Loquats are suitable for growing in a range of climates as they do well in the subtropics but are also ideal for temperate gardens.

Image Price Avail. Propagation Size Buy Options
$14.90 42 Seedling Pot: 0.75L
Height: 40-50cm
$14.90 0 Seedling Pot: 0.5L
Height: 20-30cm
Seeking Propagation Material

Loquat – Nagasakiwase

The best Japanese variety so far, it has deep orange flesh, high flesh/seed ratio and very sweet flavour. Earliest variety to ripen. Thinning fruit will enhance fruit size. The Nagasakiwase often has 2 crops a year in the subtropics. The first crop in April / May then again in August. We have found by cincturing in summer, the August crop has a much larger crop and better fruit size.

Loquat – Bessell Brown

Large to very large fruit with large seed. Thick, orange skin resistant to bruising with firm golden coloured flesh. Pleasant mild flavour. The tree is hardy and well suited to a range of climates.

Image Price Avail. Propagation Size Buy Options
$34.00 18 Grafted Pot: 2.5L
Height: 50-60cm

Dwarf Loquat Nagasakiwase

Grafted onto quince C creating a small and compact tree. Nagasakiwase has a superior flavour with deep orange, sweet juicy fruit. Dwarf loquats are perfect for pots, patios and small backyards. Early to ripen and produces a huge crop. Thinning the fruit will increase fruit size.

Image Price Avail. Propagation Size Buy Options
$59.00 0 Grafted Pot: 4L
Height: 40-50cm
In Production

Plant Information or Specifications

Max Height (when in the ground with good conditions)

2-5m

Plants required to Pollinate

1 (Self Pollinating)
Learn about Pollination

Can it Handle Frosts?

Yes

Amount of leaves in Winter?

All Leaves (Evergreen)

Fruiting/Harvest Months

September, October, November

Question & Answer

I am wondering if there are any evergreen, edible trees that will grow in a cooler climate, I live in Budnanoon 2578 and sometimes have frost during winter. Thanks. From: Bundanoon NSW

I would suggest Feijoa, Loquat, Cherry Guava and Pine Nut as possible edible evergreen trees for a cold climate #CategoryFeijoa1331 #GuavaStrawberry1040 #CategoryLoquat1998 #CategoryPine2188

Customer Comments on Loquat Tree

Tree Information on growing, planting, pruning, maintenance, ripening, taste, pick or bonsai tips. But mainly how to grow a Loquat Tree Share Your Advice or ask questions on our Forum

Loquat Tree

As some varieties fruit early spring , these are naturaly free of fruit fly | Suman – Perth, WA 22-Dec-2007 Nothing can CURE diabetes but any fruit that is low GI can assist in the control of blood sugar levels. No food should be eaten in excess and each person must consider their overall kilojoule intake when deciding what and when to eat. | Roz Zimmerman – Tamworth, NSW 09-Jun-2008 Warning! The Young Leaves and the seeds contain what we commonly know as cyanide! So, only the flesh of the fruit can be eaten! see wikipedia for more info | Tara – Lismore, NSW 10-Jun-2008 Warning! I was told that if I grow loquat, by law I will have to prevent fruit flies for getting to the fruits using products like “eco-lure”. This is because loquat fruits really attract fruit flies because of its juiciness. | Pauline Lee – Chatswood, NSW 02-Jul-2008 It gets attacked by fruit fly. I tried spraying with rogor when the fruit first turns yellow and that stopped the phenomenon of rotting due to bacterial infection introduced by the fruit fly. What is the best tasting variety? | Neil – Panania, NSW 11-Jul-2008 Yes, the loquat seed does contain what is called basically…sugar cyanide.. as do apple seeds, peach apricot, and any of the “rose” family fruits.. although, you would have to eat large amounts of these seeds to have any kind of toxic effect. | Sharon Rockwell – Phoenix, AZ 24-Apr-2009 Actually, as long as you don’t chew the seeds, you should be okay. The same is true for apple. The unchewed seeds pass through the system without being digested. Chewing will release the toxin. | Laurie – Www.naturalhealingtalk.com – Lunenburg County, NS 16-Aug-2009 The cyanide is the same kind that is present in almonds & apricot seeds which eaten in small amounts are relatively harmless and are linked to cancer prevention & cure, do a search. | K G – Melbourne, VIC 26-Oct-2009 A chinese friend told me that the fruit helps your heart and lungs and that you can make a very healthy soup with the leaves if you’re hungry. i have not tried this! xxx | Jess Ovenden – Mitcham, VIC 05-Apr-2010 Http://middlepath.com.au/plant/Loquat_Eriobotrya-japonica_Rosaceae_Amygdalin_B17_Laetrile.php The above site has info on the herbal use of the leaves & the seeds. For me, the wine is one of the best ways to enjoy this delicious fruit. | Anne Heinrich – Adelaide, SA 29-Apr-2010 A seedling tree grows on my street. Birds love it and best eaten when ripe: you could get addicted to it. Propagation from seed is easy, no scarification or chilling required. | Carl Ramirez – Kensington, NSW 15-Feb-2011 They,re delicious | Terry – Granville, NSW 08-Feb-2012 They make a chinese cough syrup out of it, which works wonders. The fruit is called Pipa | Chloe – Melbourne, VIC 18-Oct-2012 The native budgies in this part of Victoria nibbled their way through the entire tree of ripe fruit in one morning , so even though you keep watch they can still beat you. | Susan Taylor – Boort, VIC 02-Nov-2013 My tree has fruited well in a dryish part of my garden. Rosellas love the fruit and beat me to the best. I am experimenting with eating the seeds which may be mildly toxic (like bitter almonds) | Mary Ess – Dapto, NSW 17-Aug-2019

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Grown either as a loquat tree or a shrub, this fruiting plant is an interesting one. A relative of the rose, it makes small fruits which taste like a blend of peaches, citrus and mango, and some describe it as having a honey note.

But most people have never tasted it and know virtually nothing about this unusual fruit or the lushly-tropical tree it grows on!

I’m going to fix that right now, because loquats are delicious, nutritious, and quite fun to grow if you’re in the right climate to do it. These evergreen trees are a beautiful ornamental species, but when you add on the perk of having fresh fruit, it’s definitely worth growing!

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Good Products For Loquat Tree Care:

  • Monterey Horticultural Oil
  • Monterey Liqui-Cop

Loquat Tree Overview

Loquat tree with fruit. Source: shandrew

Common Name Loquat, Japanese plum, Japanese medlar, Chinese plum, pipa fruit
Scientific Name Eriobotrya japonica
Family Rosaceae
Light Full sun to partial shade
Water 25-40 inches per year for rainfall with minimal additional water, or equivalent watering pattern
Temperature 45-85 degrees optimal. Fruit/flowers die off at 30 degrees, tree suffers lasting damage at temperatures around 10 degrees.
Humidity Tolerates humidity well but can develop fungal diseases if airflow is restricted
Soil Well-draining soil, can grow in both acidic and alkaline pH conditions
Fertilizer Fruit tree or grass fertilizer (no weed-blockers) applied multiple times per year depending on tree diameter/size
Pests Scale insects and fruit flies most common. Less common are aphids and caterpillars. Birds will eat fruit, deer will eat fruit and leaves.
Diseases Fire blight and pear blight possible. If the canopy is too densely packed with limited airflow, it can develop fungal leaf spot diseases.

All About The Japanese Plum Tree

Loquats ripening on tree. Source: lulun & kame

With an average top height of 30 feet, it can become a sizeable evergreen tree. However, it’s more commonly kept in the 10 to 15 foot range by commercial growers for ease in maintenance and harvesting. At the 10′ height, it is treated more like a dense, tree-like shrub.

While there are as many as 800 cultivars available, they are all the same base species. Sometimes referred to as the Japanese plum, Chinese plum, or Japanese medlar, the tree and its fruit are called Pipa in China.

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

In traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine, the fruit and the leaves of the loquat plum fruit tree are used for multiple different purposes.

The Chinese use the fruit to make a syrup to ease coughs. The leaves are used in Japan to make biwa cha, a beverage which is believed to help with skin conditions and help with bronchitis or other respiratory illnesses.

Both the leaves and the seeds have small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides that release cyanide when digested. However, small amounts of these compounds rarely have any effect. It’s still good to avoid eating the seeds or the leaves, and to keep them away from children and pets.

Fruit Development Cycle

Loquat plum fruit just forming on the tips of young branches. Source: sweetwater631

At the end of a warm summer, the loquat plum tree will begin to develop flowers as fall approaches. It forms its flowers on the tips of new growth branches that are younger than 6 months old, and the flowers are in pannicles or clusters.

These flowers often carry a sweet tropical scent around your yard during warm fall afternoons which is quite enjoyable!

As many as a hundred flowers can form on a single pannicle, but that doesn’t mean it’ll produce a hundred fruits from that cluster. Typically, there will be between forty and sixty flowers on a pannicle, with 10-12 fruits developing at that spot.

If you find your tree appears to be setting a lot of fruit, this is a good time to prune off some of the excess to ensure you have larger, healthy fruits instead of a bunch of tiny ones.

As individual blossoms begin to swell into fruit, it’s also important to keep your tree warm. A cold snap can cause the flowers or fruit to fall off the tree. Avoid temperatures dropping below 30 degrees if at all possible.

Fruit should be allowed to ripen on the tree, as it develops all of its sweetness and flavor during that ripening period. When it is ripe, the fruit softens up, and generally the entire tree will become ripe at or around the same period of time.

Post-harvest, the tree recovers during the rest of the spring, sending up new shoots and growth from spring into summer. Once fall comes back around, it’s time for flowering again.

Flowering may not be consistent from year to year, and fruit set may vary. Some years may have a heavy harvest where others are much smaller. It depends on the weather conditions as to how well your loquat tree will produce annually.

Loquat Tree Care

Loquat tree in an urban environment. Source: matsuyuki

Typically preferring tropical climates, loquat plum trees are easy to care for once established. If you keep them in the right temperature range, they will provide beautiful dark green foliage and shade year-round. Let’s go over the perfect conditions for growing your loquat tree!

Sun

This tree should be grown in a full sun to part shade environment, and does best in zones 8-10. This means that much of California is perfect for growing these tangy-sweet small fruits, as well as much of the south or southeastern part of the United States.

Often, loquats are grown as a shade cover for patios, and they can be shaped into espalier patterns. If placed in the right location, you may be able to get a little shade on your japanese plum during the hottest portions of summer, which can be beneficial to the tree’s growth.

It is possible to grow loquats in containers. These will remain small and compact, and can be placed outdoors when the weather is optimal and moved inside under a bright grow light when the temperatures are too cold.

Temperature and Humidity

Surprisingly sensitive to temperature, they can be grown as ornamentals in areas where it gets as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the fruit and flowers will fall off the tree at temperatures below 30 degrees, making it impossible for it to bear fruit.

If grown as a container plant in small form, you have the option of moving it indoors when the weather is too cold to protect the fruit and flowers.

Hot weather also becomes a problem. In temperatures of over 95 degrees, they suffer leaf-scorch and may have difficulties growing. It’s essential to provide supplemental watering during the hot summer months to alleviate these difficulties.

In their native Asian environments, loquats naturally thrive in a much more humid environment than they would in desert California or the southwestern half of the United States. Some cultivars have been developed which do well in lower-humidity conditions.

Water

In the first year after planting a new tree, it’s important to water more heavily than you would otherwise. Water 3-4 times a week for the first two weeks, and then gradually and slowly reduce the watering frequency until it’s become established.

As a general rule, loquat trees planted in the ground will do well if local rain totals are between 20-45 inches per year. At the lower end of that range, it can benefit from additional watering at certain periods of time.

When the blossoms begin to swell into fruit in the spring, give it a long, slow seeping of water. This can be done with a drip hose, allowing the moisture to slowly seep through the soil around the tree’s roots. Stop if the water begins to run off.

Repeat this process another few times as the fruit begins to ripen to ensure it’s sweet and juicy, but only if you’re not having regular rain then. If you’re getting plenty of rain, additional water will not help.

During the heat of the summer, a weekly deep and slow watering will help your tree withstand the scorching rays of the sun. This is most important during weather that is 95 degrees or hotter. Again, a drip hose is very useful for this purpose, as it avoids splashing water around.

Mulching around the base of your tree during the summer months is also beneficial, as it keeps the moisture in the ground where the tree makes use of it.

Soil

Plant a loquat tree in the ground with some leaf mulch to keep soil moist. Source: gnomicscience

Your loquat tree prefers a soil which drains well, but it is less picky than some plants are as to the soil makeup as long as it’s not salinated. The pH level of the soil is not much of a concern, as loquats grow well in both acidic and alkaline soils.

I recommend thoroughly loosening the soil in a four to five foot circle around where you’re planting your tree, going down at least 18″ below the soil surface. You can amend your soil with compost at this time if desired.

Poor drainage can cause your tree’s roots to struggle. If your soil is too clay-like, you may have to amend a wider area to provide good runoff. Your loquat will not like being in standing water for very long!

Fertilizer

A slow-release granular fertilizer suitable for fruit trees will work just fine. Aim towards varieties intended to nourish apples, quinces, or pear trees, as these are closely related.

If you don’t have access to a fruit tree fertilizer, you can use a standard lawn fertilizer provided that it doesn’t have any weed preventative or weed killers mixed in.

The first year, three applications of fertilizer spread throughout the year should suffice, but wait until the tree has become somewhat established before doing the first fertilizing. You want the roots to penetrate the soil mass deeply before you start giving it additional nutrition.

In subsequent years, a good rule of thumb is to measure the diameter of the tree’s trunk. One pound of fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter is a good annual fertilizer rate, but space out feedings so it’s applied gradually over the course of the year and water it in well when applied.

When fertilizing, try to fertilize in a four-foot ring around the tree’s base. This allows the nutrients to penetrate to a wider area, and the roots are more easily able to absorb them as needed.

Propagation

A cluster of unripe loquats. Source: boxchain

Loquat trees can be propagated by seed or by grafting. However, ones grown from seed take much longer to become established and are not as reliable at producing fruit as grafted trees from established rootstock.

If planting from seed, the seeds need to be fresh.

Remove the seeds from the fruit and rinse them well to remove any residue from the inside of the fruit, and plant shortly thereafter. Do not allow them to dry out before planting, and if you must, keep them wrapped in moist paper towels until you can plant.

Grafted loquats are available from a number of nurseries, and I highly recommend going that route as you are guaranteed to have a much more viable fruit tree.

Transplanting

Transplanting loquats is fairly easy. Begin by preparing the soil where you wish the tree to be planted, working it to loosen the soil in at least a 4-foot circle around the area where you plan on planting.

Once the soil is loosened and a hole has been dug for the tree, remove it from its container. Rinse off some of the potting medium to expose its roots, although you don’t have to remove it all.

Place it in the hole at the same height it was originally planted, being careful to go no deeper. Make certain some of the new soil comes into contact with the roots, and fill the hole around it. Water it in well, and mulch to help prevent weeds from growing at its base.

A loquat tree planted in a container should be repotted annually to replenish its soil, to move it to a larger container if needed, and to carefully trim the tap root if trying to keep the tree in a dwarfing or small habit.

Be careful not to remove too much of the tap root so as to not greatly injure the tree, but light trimming will encourage your tree to remain small enough for its container and prevent the tree from becoming rootbound.

Pruning

Loquats grown in the ground need little more than an annual April trimming to help ensure light can penetrate into the center of the tree canopy. They can be cosmetically pruned to keep them in a particular shape if desired.

Dead branches should be removed to keep the tree healthy, as well.

It is quite possible to do the espalier fruit tree method. If doing espalier, pruning will be much more regular, but new growth tips will be carefully maintained to ensure that the tree can produce fruit.

Container-grown trees can grow up to 2 feet per year and may need to be pruned to train them to a smaller, more compact size.

Harvesting and Storing Loquats

A cluster of ripe fruit. Source: Halcyon

The fruits are rich in vitamin A, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. They’re also low in sodium and saturated fats. Here’s how to harvest the fruit properly as well as to store it for your personal use!

Harvesting

Ripe loquats tend to be slightly larger than unripe ones, and will give slightly when gently pressed. Their skin will be a bit darker than unripe ones, which gives you an indication of when to start checking. If left too long on the tree, they will fall off on their own but will be overripe.

It’s easiest to harvest by trimming off the branch tip which the fruit is attached, taking down entire clumps of fruit all at once. Try to pick clumps where most of the fruit appears to be ripe to avoid waste.

Slightly under-ripe fruit is still edible, but may be a bit less sweet and juicy. Overripe fruit is soft and mushy, and tends to be excessively sweet.

Storing

While loquats are delicious and well worth growing, they all seem to come ripe at once. And while they’re wonderful for fresh eating, they only last for a few days once they’re ready. There is a definite “eat me now” period for fresh-eating purposes, after which they’re no longer suitable.

Happily, whole fruit can be popped onto a cookie sheet in the freezer and frozen until solid, and then stored in a freezer bag until ready for use. When thawed, it will be soft and a bit mushy, but makes for an excellent syrup or jam material.

You can also preserve your loquats by making jams, jellies, and syrups. As it’s low-acid, you may need to add additional acid for proper canning purposes.

The fruit reputedly also tastes good when pickled, and it’s also suitable to make wines and liqueurs. It can be used in secondary fermentation for beer as a flavoring.

Loquat Tree Problems

Lots of loquats on a tree. Notice the caterpillar-damaged leaf on the left side of image. Source: tomosuke214

Surprisingly, these trees have very few problems that you’ll need to contend with. Still, let’s go over those problems so you know what to do if they should appear!

Growing Problems

The most common growing problem is leaf tip burn. This causes the tips of the leaves to brown and crisp up during hot periods of the year.

Unfortunately, there’s really no solution for this, as it’s generally caused by heat in excess of 95 degrees. Ensuring that your loquat tree has ample water during heatwaves is the only preventative measure, but even that doesn’t always work.

Tip-burned leaves will eventually drop off the tree on their own and be replaced with new leaves, so the problem will not last forever and is merely cosmetic.

Pests

The two most prevalent pests are scale insects (especially black scale), and fruit flies.

Scale insects can usually be treated by application of a horticultural mineral oil such as Monterey Horticultural Oil. The oil will coat the insects and smother them. This will work on any insects or larvae which are on the tree, but doesn’t prevent infect infestation once the oil wears off.

Regular applications of horticultural oil should prevent the buildup of any further scale, plus will act to kill off aphids and their eggs should they appear. While aphids are not as drawn to loquats as scale is, they are relatively common in California, but the oil will keep them at bay.

Fruit flies, the other major pest of loquats, are a bit trickier to deal with. The maggots of the fruit fly will burrow into the fruit and will cause it to rot and fall from the tree.

Cleaning up fallen fruit before the maggots can emerge will help keep the population low. However, the only real prevention methods are to use a fine-meshed bag over the fruit to protect it from fruit fly colonization, or spraying of chemicals which repel fruit flies. There are also lure traps available which have some effectiveness.

Some forms of caterpillar, particularly the larvae of the codling moth, may also try to infest your fruit. Exclusion bags (the fine-meshed bags I just mentioned) can help prevent them. Spraying of bacillus thurigiensis (BT) will also keep them at bay.

Finally, both birds and deer can become pests. Birds love the fruit, and will happily devour any which they can get to. Deer nibble on the foliage, finding the new growth and the fruit particularly tasty.

While exclusion bags will help protect your fruit from nibbling by the wildlife, it won’t protect the leaves. If you have a short tree, it might be wise to try to ensure that deer can’t reach it by other means (fences, etc).

Diseases

Birds may eat your ripening loquats if not protected. Source: Just Justin

While not susceptible to many diseases, your loquat tree is at risk of two different forms of blight: fire blight, and pear blight.

In areas which have late spring or early summer rain, or which have high humidity, fire blight is relatively common. Transmitted by bees, it turns young shoots brown and kills off the leaves.

There are some bactericides which are used to help prevent fire blight, but once the young shoots are infected, they need to be removed and destroyed. You will need to cut back infected material well into green and healthy wood to prevent its spread.

Pear blight acts similarly to fire blight, but is only particularly common in California. The same treatment applies, as both are bacterial infections.

Other than that, it can develop fungal leaf spots if airflow cannot easily penetrate the tree canopy. Keeping it pruned to allow light to the center of the tree can prevent most fungal diseases entirely. An application of Monterey Liqui-Cop will knock back outbreaks.

FAQs

Unripe fruits on a loquat branch. Source: larryjh1234

Q: Are loquat and kumquat trees the same species?

A: Nope! In fact, while the fruit appears somewhat similar, they’re entirely different species. Loquat is Eriobotrya japonica, part of the Rosaceae family and related to plums, apples and pears, whereas kumquat is Citrus japonica and a relative of the mandarin orange.

The loquat’s name actually derives from being mistaken for a kumquat. The term “lou qwat” in Chinese literally means “black orange”, and was a reference to unripe kumquats.

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Lorin Nielsen
Lifetime Gardener
Kevin Espiritu
Founder Did this article help you? × How can we improve it? × Thanks for your feedback!

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