Growing lychee in container

Emperor Lychee Tree

Rules the Garden

Why get the Emperor Lychee?

  • Giant, juicy Lychees that hold well to the tree
  • Slow growth makes it perfect for containers
  • Convenient compact size that’s great for growing indoors

Transform your Garden into an Oriental Paradise

With a mix of island and Asian flair, the Emperor Lychee Tree will help create a relaxed and inviting retreat, whether planted in your garden, in the yard or on the patio. A slow, compact grower, the Emperor won’t exceed heights of 10 feet, so the design possibilities are limitless wherever you choose to locate it. Clusters of giant-sized Lychees surrounded by green, pointed leaves put on an awesome display of tropical beauty. Aside from the trees good looks, one trip to the produce section and you’ll know why this highly coveted fruit is in such high demand. Lychees can sell commercially for as much as $10 per pound. That means you’ll save tons of money by harvesting your own fresh, delicious Emperor Lychees by the bushel right from your own tree.
Emperor Lychees taste Divine

It is said that angels eat Lychees in heaven. The fruit’s soft, velvety texture and milky, sweet flavor is that good. And as the largest Lychees available anywhere, there’s that much more to love with the Emperor. Lychees the size of golf balls emerge in large numbers throughout the tree. With great staying power, your fruit will hold firm until they’re ready to be picked. Compared to a mix of passion fruit and grapes, the Lychee’s flavor is perfect for fresh, chilled eating alone, added to tropical fruit drinks or sliced and topped on your favorite desserts. You can even leave the skin on and freeze them for up to 3 months!

With incredible flavor and a multitude of planting options, the Emperor Lychee is a tree fit for royalty.

Order yours today.

Planting & Care

The Emperor Lychee Tree (Litchi chinensis ‘Emperor’) is a beautiful tropical dwarf tree that produces large, juicy fruit larger than that of the regular Lychee tree. This slow growing dwarf variety makes them easy to grow in small spaces or in containers as they only mature to a height of 8-10 feet tall and 5-8 feet wide. They are commonly planted in USDA growing zones 9-11 but can be brought indoors during the colder seasons. The Emperor will give you a touch of the Orient while also producing some of the most expensive, velvety textured fruit you can find in your local produce section. The full to partial sun loving Lychee has great staying power with its fruit that can even be frozen and enjoyed months later!

Choosing a location: Young lychee trees are sometimes difficult to establish in windy sites, and exposure to constant winds may result in tattered leaves, stunted shoot growth, and stem dieback. If possible, trees should be planted in wind-protected sites or protected from wind by surrounding trees with light shade cloth which has been attached to wire fencing. Avoid areas that may retain excess moisture.

Planting directions (in ground): Select an area of the landscape that does not flood, lychees grow best in well-draining soils. Sandy soils with low organic matter content are suitable if sufficient fertilizers are supplied.

1) Your planting area should receive full sun for the best tree growth and fruit production.
2) Make your hole three times the size of the root ball and just as deep. A large hole loosens the soil making it easy for the roots to expand into the adjacent soil.
3) Gently comb the root ball to free up the feeder roots and position them downward into the hole. Try to mimic the natural soil habitat for the tree for the back filling. Amend the soil with some organic matter/compost at a 50-50 ratio of dirt removed from the hole.
Tip: Mycorrhizal fungi (available for purchase in our Root Rocket) is highly recommended as a soil additive when back filling your planting site.
4) Keep the tree as straight as possible and begin to backfill the hole. Put several shovels of amended soil in and gently pat down with your hands. Add a few more scoops repeating the procedure until the hole is filled.

Planting directions (potted): There are a couple of basic steps to follow when keeping your lychee tree containerized. This will help maintain the health and integrity of the tree.

1) Sunlight is a major requirement for a healthy potted lychee so be sure you have a good full sun location indoors while the cold season is present.
2) Select a pot 1-2 sizes larger than what the lychee came in (Example: Came in a 1 gallon pot, go up to a 3 gallon).
3) Lychees tend to like a more moistened soil so use a good moisture controlled soil or even an automatic watering pot to keep a steady flow of water going to the roots. Avoid over saturating the soil. (Some of the best results with potting were from a mixture of equal parts compost and topsoil with partially decomposed mulch).
4) Container grown lychees need to have the nutrients in their soil replenished, adding Mycorrhizal fungi will increase the root growth and their ability to distribute/absorb nutrients and water.
Tip: Remove your lychee from its container once a year and trim back the roots a little. You can also do this when it is time for the tree to be re-potted into a larger container. Uncontrolled root growth can be very unhealthy for the tree since they cannot absorb water or take in oxygen as needed.
5) If your tree is indoors during the flowering time you may need to assist the tree with spreading the pollen around. Nature typically takes care of this for you with bees and other insects providing the flowers emerge during the warmer seasons. If the tree is indoors you can mimic the pollinating by using a small, fine tipped paint brush or cotton swab. Just collect the pollen from each flower and go back and forth to all of the blooms. Do not rinse the brush off! This defeats the purpose of collecting the pollen.

Watering: Lychee trees are moderately drought tolerant. However, newly planted lychee trees should be irrigated regularly during establishment. In the home landscape, trees will perform well without supplemental irrigation after the trees are established. For more consistent cropping of mature trees, withholding irrigation during the fall and winter until bloom may enhance the amount of flowering. Water a container grown lychee every day. In the summer, missing even a single day of watering can cause major leaf drop on the tree.

Tip: Applying a thin layer of well cured compost from the drip-line to within 6 inches of the trunk may be beneficial for the fibrous roots of lychee trees. In addition, mulching lychee trees in the home landscape helps retain soil moisture, reduces weed problems adjacent to the tree trunk, and improves the soil near the surface. Mulch with a 2 to 6 inch (5-15 cm) layer of bark, wood chips, or similar mulch material. Keep mulch 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) from the trunk to prevent rotting of the base of the trunk.

Pruning: Occasional thinning/pruning of the lychee is encouraged for protection from wind damage and builds a strong structure. The density of the lychee makes it susceptible to powerful wind gusts which might cause it to blow over. Younger lychees need to maintain a round shape so be sure to thin them out annually. This will also help with the sunlight exposure and better air circulation for the canopy. When the tree gets to about 4-5 years old it should be near its full maturity and a yearly trimming of the fruit should be sufficient in terms of pruning the tree.

A potted lychee will not require any pruning for at least 2-3 years and even then, it’s a minor thinning to open crotch angles.

Fertilizing: After the first flush of growth hardens, when the leaves start to turn a darker green and the shoots harden off is when you will want to feed your tree. Refrain from using any type of artificial fertilizers, these can kill many beneficial organisms in your soil’s ecosystem. Use organic fertilizers to feed your lychee tree such as kelp, compost extracts or seaweed. Using fertilizer formulas containing Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium can easily lead to burning of the tree’s roots.

Cease fertilizing in the third year to get the tree fully prepared to enter its fruit bearing stage. After the harvest of fruit, fertilize with half the amount and do not feed again until fruit has set for the second harvest.

Container grown lychees do not require fertilizer but will benefit greatly by spraying liquid phosphorous on the leaves. Do this during times of transplantation and annually around September or October. This will promote flowering and the fruiting of your tree, pollinated flowers are after all what brings that delicious fruit!

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Tips for Selecting a 3-7 Gallon Lychee Tree

By Krystal Folino and Bill Mee

CONTAINER SIZE
Ideally you want a 3 or 7 gallon container size lychee tree. At this size your lychee tree will grow rapidly, should begin fruiting the 1st season and are easy to transplant and transport. If you can obtain a lychee tree in a 10-15-25 gallon container this is even better because you are several years ahead on the growing curve with a larger more mature tree. A larger lychee tree is hardier and more resistant to freezes, floods, hurricanes, droughts, pests etc.; however, 10 – 25 gallon containers may require special transportation or delivery charges.

Lychee trees in 1 gallon containers are just too small to be practical and will take a few years to start producing fruit. Avoid 1 gallon lychee trees unless you don’t care about the fruit or unless you are a wholesale nursery buying hundreds of trees and have the facility to take care of the trees until they are mature enough to resell.

ROOT SYSTEM
One of the most important parts of a lychee tree is the root system. Buy a tree with a well developed root system that you can pick up by holding the trunk and, if possible, one that has been inoculated or grown or even air layered with mycorrhizal fungi.

If the lychee tree appears floppy this implies that the tree has a weak root system. Sometimes trees grown in containers are planted in inadequate soil mixes that either do not drain properly or do not retain enough moisture. This can lead to root rot or inadequate root development. If you happen to obtain a “floppy” tree you should replant it in well draining organic soil, cover the top with mulch or sphagnum (except the root crown), apply MycoStim or other mycorrhizal fungi to the roots and stake the tree up until it can re-grow it’s root system.

SOIL
Healthy soil is one of the most important aspects of growing a lychees tree. Look for trees with dark brown, rich organic soil that appears to drain well. Woody, organic compost soil that drains well, but still absorbs and retains moisture is the preferred soil type for mycorrhizal fungi which live symbiotically in the soil around the lychee roots. Mycorrhizal fungi feeds on the excess “left overs” from photosynthesis that the lychee tree will not consume and in exchange both protects the roots from soil pathogens and increases the nutrient and water absorption of the lychee tree’s roots. . Avoid trees with gray soil or soil with perlite, vermiculite or other artificial components.

If you can get a lychee grown organically or semi organically the soil will be much better because traditional NPK fertilizer and non-organic pesticides kill beneficial micro-organisms and compromise nutrients necessary for healthy lychee tree growth and are major causes of barren hard pan soil.

TREE HEIGHT
Lychee trees in 3 gallon containers should generally be 3 – 4 feet tall and lychee trees in 7 gallon containers should be 5 – 6 feet tall, depending on the variety and desired use. Emperors or other slow growing varieties are usually 2 – 3 feet tall. After 7 to 10 years the tree, if properly cared for, will reach heights in excess of 12 feet. You do not want a tree that becomes too high as you cannot get to the fruit easily without either a grove ladder or cherry picker.

CANOPY
Select a tree with a canopy of at least 2 feet in width. When planted the canopy diameter is roughly equivalent to the root system diameter. Lychee trees develop a beautiful hemispherical shaped canopy over time, although some varieties such as the Hak-yip has more vertical branching and varieties such as the Mauritius have more lateral branching. Select trees whose upper branch structure is more likely to develop into this optimal dome shape.

TRUNK
Look for trees with 1 to 2 feet of solid trunk before a bifurcation or trifurcation. Trees with this amount of trunk are less likely to split in high winds. Select a tree for maximum trunk diameter. The trunk diameter should be as least ¾ inch for a 3 gallon container and 1 inch for a 7 gallon container. The larger the trunk diameter, the older the effective age of the tree.

If possible select an upright tree with a balanced canopy and not a lopsided one. Air layers, the primary propagation method for lychee trees, are inherently lopsided as they are derived from branches growing in the direction of sunlight. Lopsided lychee trees can be repotted and pruned to create a tree with a balanced habit of growth.

Try to avoid buying a tree with evidence of barkminer moth larvae; however it will not hurt or damage your tree. Branches infested with this barkminer become covered with rough, brownish lesions which range in size from six to 18 millimeters. The larval stage of the barkminer moth irritates the outer bark of stems, branches, and the trunk of lychee trees resulting in cork-like lesions. No apparent economic damage from this larvae has been observed, it is not contagious to other trees and control is not recommended.

AIR LAYERED OR GRAFTED
Buy lychee trees grown out from air layers or grafting. Air layered lychee trees grow and fruit more vigorously whereas grafted trees tend to grow very slowly and remain small. This makes grafted trees, when you can find them, good candidates for container growing or where size and space is an important consideration.

Don’t buy a lychee tree grown from a seed. While a seedling tree may look nice and is fun to grow it is unlikely that it will produce fruit for many years (as much as 15 or even 25 years) and the fruit may be inferior to the parent variety. There has quite a bit of trouble among horticulturalists and lychee growers at identifying lychee varieties even to the point of DNA testing. Seedlings confuse varieties and degrade the high quality fruit characteristics that lychee growers try to achieve and lychee enthusiasts come to expect.

EMERGENT BUDS
Lychee trees with new growth flushes suggest a healthy tree and established root system. Select a tree with newly emerging buds, growth flushes or bloom spikes if possible. Keep the tree’s tender new growth away from wind or chewing insects and apply Phyto-Fos or other foliar phosphorous to help promote healthy new growth.

LEAVES
Select a lychee tree with healthy dark green leaves. The dark green represents the hardened off dormant state of the leaves. Small light green or reddish leaves are characteristic of new growth flushes. Avoid selecting trees with yellow (chlorotic) leaves and leaves with as little tip browning as possible. Some varieties have large leaves like the Sweetheart and some have small, compact leaves like the No Mai Tze.

VARIETY/CULTIVAR
Brewster and Mauritius are the primary commercial varieties in Florida. Mauritius fruits earlier and more reliably and Brewster has superior fruit. Brewster trees have some of the strongest wood whereas Mauritius trees have softer wood and thinner branches that split easily in high winds or when subjected to climbing animals such as raccoons or worse, people (during lychee season).Brewster and Mautitius are commercial varieties and great starter landscape lychees. Emperor is the best container variety because it’s is slow growing, has a compact growth structure and does not require as much water as other varieties.

by Bill Mee & Krystal Folino – Lychees Online
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Potted Lychee Trees – Tips For Growing Lychee In A Container

Potted lychee trees are not something you see often, but for many gardeners this is the only way to grow the tropical fruit tree. Growing lychee indoors isn’t easy and takes a lot of special care, warmth, and sunlight.

Growing Lychee in a Container

Lychee is a flowering and fruiting tree that can grow as tall as 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 m.). It is native to southern China and needs a warm climate to grow; the lychee is only hardy to zones 10 and 11. The fruit, which is really a drupe, grows in clusters. Each one is a pink, bumpy shell encasing the edible part. The white, almost transparent interior is juicy and delicious.

Because lychee is a tropical tree, it isn’t an option for many gardens. However, although this tree can be quite large outdoors, it is possible to grow lychee in pots. You may be able to find a young tree at a nursery, but you can also start a tree from the seeds. Just save them from the fruit you eat and grow seedlings in a warm, moist location.

When ready, transfer your small tree to a larger container and provide all the right conditions to help it grow:

  • Lots of water. Lychee needs plenty of water to thrive. Don’t lapse on watering your tree either. There is no winter dormant period for lychee, so keep watering it regularly year round. Lychee also like humid air, so spritz the leaves often.
  • Ample sunlight. Make sure your lychee tree has a spot where it can get as much sunlight as possible. Rotate your container grown lychee to make sure it gets even light too.
  • Acidic soil. For the best results, your tree needs soil that is acidic. A pH of between 5.0 and 5.5 if best. The soil should also drain well.
  • Occasional fertilizer. Your tree will also benefit from occasional light fertilizing. Use a weak liquid fertilizer.
  • Warmth. Potted lychee trees really need to be kept warm. If you have a greenhouse, that is the best place for it in the colder months. If not, be sure you have a warm spot for it in the house.

Lychee is not the most ideal plant for an indoor container, and you may find that your tree never develops fruit. In order for fruiting to occur, it helps to allow the plant to spend spring and summer outdoors where proper pollination can take place. Just be sure to move the plant back inside prior to the return of cool temps.

Even if you don’t get fruit, as long as you give it the right conditions and take care of it, your container grown lychee will be a pretty indoor plant.

Sweet Heart

Keeping the tree compact for easy picking is the key to harvesting an abundance of these adored & delicious fruits. This particular fruit produces mostly “”chicken tongue”” lychees which contain fleshier fruit with smaller seeds.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11
Chill Hours: Some chill hours required for flowering, it is recommend to time new growth during a cold period
Deciduous/Evergreen: Evergreen
Plant Type: Perennial
Pollinator: Self-fertile
Blooming Season: Spring
Ripening Season: May-July
Years to Bear Fruit/Edible Qualities: Variety with more consistent production
Full Size: 40′ high, although small growing Lychee trees can grow much taller
Cold Tolerance: Not tolerable of cold weather or wind, protect during cooler temperatures. Consider planting near the house for radiate heat.
Light Requirements: Full Sun for more fruits
Drought Tolerance/Watering: Requires regular watering for the first two years.
Soil & Site Requirements: Grows best in sandy, slightly acidic soils with high amounts of organic matter. Should be protected from wind & cold. Mulch the tree heavily. Do not prune after August, vegetative growth is stimulated and reduces spring flowering.
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