Planting Lychee Seeds: A Guide To Lychee Seed Propagation
Lychees are a beloved Southeast Asian fruit that are steadily becoming more popular worldwide. If you’ve ever bought fresh lychees at the store, you’ve probably been tempted to plant those big, satisfying seeds and see what happens. Keep reading to learn more about lychee seed germination and growing lychee from seed.
Can You Grow Lychee from Seed?
The good news is that lychee seed germination is usually very reliable. The bad news is that you may never get a lychee fruit out of it. The lychee fruit you buy in the store is often hybridized, and the likelihood that the resulting tree will match its parent is very low.
Also, the trees are slow to mature, and it could take as long as 20 years for your sapling to produce fruit, if it ever does. In other words, if you want a fruit bearing tree any time soon, you should buy one from a nursery.
If you just want to plant a seed for the fun of it, however, that’s a different story.
Growing Lychee from Seed
Lychee seed propagation works best with mature fruit. Select several lychees that are plump, red, and fragrant. Peel your fruit and remove its single seed from the flesh. The seed should be large, smooth, and round. Sometimes, seeds are oblong and shriveled – these are rarely viable and shouldn’t be planted.
Lychee seeds dry out and lose their viability in a matter of days and should be planted as soon as possible. Fill a 6-inch pot with moist, rich growing medium and sow a single seed at a depth of 1 inch (2.5 cm.). Keep the pot moist and warm (between 75 and 90 F., or 24 and 32 C.).
Lychee seed germination usually takes between one and four weeks. Once the seedling has emerged, move it to a spot that receives partial sun. Over the course of the first year, the plant will grow vigorously to 7 or 8 inches (18-20 cm.) in height. After this, however, growth will slow down. Transplant it to a larger pot and be patient – growth should pick up again in a couple of years.
How to Grow Lychee Fruits From Seed
Wanna know how to grow lychee fruit? We’ve got the answer for you! The lychee tree provides for a very ornamental tree, but their fruit is the star of the show! The white, fleshy inside is sweet and tart, and can be used in a number of desserts, drinks, or all on their own. The white, fleshy part covers a big seed which can be used for planting lychee trees. Today we’ll show you how to grow lychee fruits from seed so you can enjoy your own lychee fruits right at home!
Lychee, litchi chinensis, is a part of the Soapberry family and is a tropical tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China. The tree itself is an evergreen that can grow over 40 feet in height, and sometimes reaching as high as 90 feet. They require a tropical climate that never goes below -4C, so they are best grown in tropical or subtropical climates.
Alternatively, you can also try growing lychee fruit in pots or containers provided they are given enough sun and warmth. If you live in a cooler climate, you’ll need to grow the trees in a greenhouse.
How to Grow Lychees From Seed
- Purchase yourself some lychee fruit, eat them, and save a few of the large seeds. Wash the seeds of any remaining pulp and dry them.
- Soak the seeds in water for 3 days, making sure to replace the water every single day.
- During this time at some point, the seed will start to split. This means that the seed is ready to germinate.
- Fill seedling trays, small paper cups, citrus rinds, or even eggshells with potting soil.
- Place one lychee seed in each cup or container about 3-4 inches deep, and cover up with soil.
- Keep the soil moist at all times.
- After 3-4 weeks, the shoot will grow to about 3-4 inches in height and start developing green leaves.
- After 3-6 weeks, once the lychee seed has germinated, it’s time to transplant to a bigger pot.
- Choose a 3-gallon pot or container that has good drainage holes.
- Fill the pot with slightly acidic potting soil and plant your seedlings.
- Water regularly, and keep the soil moist.
- After about a year, replant your lychee tree into a 7-gallon pot.
- The following year, move your tree to a 15-gallon pot.
- The year after that, replant in a 25-gallon pot.
- After that, you may plant the lychee tree directly in the ground.
- During the lychee tree’s first year or two, it needs to protected from the wind and needs to be introduced to the sun slowly.
- Water regularly, making sure the soil is moist.
- Do not fertilize in the tree’s first year.
- Once the tree is ready to be planted in the ground, choose a spot that has full sun.
- Only fertilize using organic matter, as lychees are susceptible to root burn.
- Your lychee fruits will be ready to produce fruits anywhere from 5-25 years depending on a number of different factors such as tree variety, climate, soil quality, amount of sun, and seed quality.
- Although they are slowing growing, be patient and you will be reward with deliciously sweet exotic fruit!
So now that you know how to grow lychee, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to planting!
Growing Lychee Trees
COLIN CAMPBELL: Look at this. Delightfully textured pinkish red skin and inside, the delicious glossy white fruit. It’s beautiful. They’re the lychee of course and although they came from southern China originally, they’ve been in Australia for more than 100 years having been imported by the Chinese goldminers in the 19th Century.
You can grow them in northern New South Wales, but they are a tropical fruit, so most are grown in Queensland, and that’s where Chris Curling and her husband John have their nine hectare fruit farm, 75 kilometres north of Brisbane.
CHRIS CURLING: We’ve been here 15 years. We have 600 Lychee trees.
COLIN CAMPBELL: I believe there are over 40 varieties of lychees in Australia. Which ones do you grow Chris?
CHRIS CURLING: We’ve got Tai So, Bengal, Wai Chee and Kwai Mai Pink. The Kwai Mai Pink, they produce just about every year. They have lovely fruit for the home gardener. They’ve got a smaller seed.
COLIN CAMPBELL: And in your hand you’ve got….
CHRIS CURLING: I’ve got Bengal here. They’ve got a larger seed. They’re probably the sweetest. Not quite as much flesh but the size of the fruit makes up for it. They’re a much bigger fruit. They’re a different flavour to the Kwai Mai Pink.
COLIN CAMPBELL: Lychees are self pollinating, producing both male and female flowers on the same panicle, so you only need one tree to get fruit. But to be productive, they do need cool temperatures, below 20 degrees Celsius at night for about a week before flowering. If the temperatures aren’t right, you’ll get a predominance of male flowers.
What’s the best way to propagate lychees?
CHRIS CURLING: Marcotting is the best way. You select a branch on the tree, you ringbark it, or cincture it. You have a plastic bag filled with peat moss and a seed raising mix. You put a slit in the bag and you wrap the bag around the cinctured area, tie it off tightly. Very tightly, squeezing out all the moisture out of the bag and tie it off at the base and then within a few months, you will have the root system showing in the bag and it’s ready to cut off the tree and be potted. And very important that you don’t disturb the roots of lychees at any time.
COLIN CAMPBELL: When it comes to potting up the marcott, it’s quite simple. Remembering what Chris said earlier, don’t disturb the roots of a lychee because they don’t like it. I’m putting them into a potting mix that I know has a pH of 6.5 which is perfect for lychees. If it wasn’t, I’d have to put some dolomite in the mix. Just fill the potting mix up so that it’s level with the top of your marcott, because if you make it too high, it then causes collar rot. Once it’s firmly in place, give it a drink.
No remember, lychees don’t like much wind, so put it in a spot where there’s no wind, plenty of sun and it’ll do brilliantly.
How long do the trees take to produce?
CHRIS CURLING: The trees stay dormant for about the first three years, then at about four or five years, you’ll get a small amount of fruit. The ten year is usually the time they’re fully productive and a fully productive tree can produce up to 200 kilos of lychees.
COLIN CAMPBELL: What about pests?
CHRIS CURLING: The main pests are the lorikeets and the fruit bats – the flying foxes. They can decimate an orchard like this in three days. For that reason, we have exclusion netting which keeps them all out.
COLIN CAMPBELL: What about insect pests?
CHRIS CURLING: The main insect pests are macadamia nut borer, fruit spotting bug and erinous mite. Now this is erinous mite that I have here. It makes the leaves distorted, puts a brown mite under the leaf and it puts little black pimples on the fruit. Now this fruit is perfectly alright to eat. When you open it up, it’s no different to a perfectly formed piece of fruit. So erinous mite can be treated with a little bit of sulphate of potash for the home gardener will help it go away. But over a few years, it just goes away.
COLIN CAMPBELL: If you live in north-eastern Australia, and you want a good looking productive, evergreen tree, the lychee could be just right for you. In China, the lychee is a symbol of romance and I reckon, that’s pretty logical, because when most people taste a lychee for the first time, they fall completely in love with it. And I can’t think of a better reason to plant one of these fabulous trees.
STEPHEN RYAN: If like Colin, you have a love of the lychee tree or in fact a craving for any of those other tropical fruit, there’s a terrific article in the April issue of the Gardening Australia Magazine.
Well, that was a jam packed program and next week will be no exception. Here’s what we’ve got in store for you.
John Patrick has some fantastic design advice for creating a garden bed, no matter what your garden size or budget.
And Jerry has found a way to control a microscopic pest that can reek havoc in the garden.
See, it’s going to be a great show. So until then, take some of Sophie’s advice and use the cooler months to get all those essential jobs done. I know I’m going to.
See you then.
Sapindaceae is a large plant family that includes many common and economically important genera and species, including maple trees, rambutan, longan and lychee. Lychee fruit comes from the Litchi chinensis tree and is in the monotypic genus Litchi, meaning it is the only species in the genus. Despite this, it is very similar in appearance to its relatives, the rambutan and longan. The lychee comes from China where it is a well-liked fruit and for the most part commercial cultivation is limited to south east Asia. The lychee tree can grow quite tall, and yields large bunches of bright (reddish) colored fruits.
Lychee trees can be grown in tropical and sub-tropical climates, requiring warm and wet summers as well as mild winters. Although they can handle short periods of frost, they are rather sensitive. Despite this they have been cultivated in many parts of the world including in the lower states of the U.S.
Lychee fruit can be purchased easily during the correct season (May – July) and often at a reasonable price. The fruits have three main components, a thin tough rind, thick sugary flesh and a hard dark seed. The flesh is delicious fresh, it is juicy with a somewhat floral flavor, and is stored well in the freezer for later use.
Growing lychee from seed:
Lychee seeds are quite easy to germinate through a variety of methods. Choose seeds that are from freshly eaten fruit, as they will have a much higher germination rate. Be sure to clean off any excess fruit from the seeds.
Firstly, the seeds should be soaked in water for about three days, each day the water should be changed. You will notice that the dark shell of the seed will begin to split, this is when you may begin the next step of germination. I have tested germination directly in soil and using a wet paper towel in a plastic bag and they are both comparable. So follow the method that is easiest for you. The seeds should be planted in well draining potting soil, ideally one with vermiculite and perlite, but most commercial potting soils will do just fine. Plant at a depth of about 3/4 inches.
Lychee seedlings may be grown inside near a window that receives a lot of natural light, or alternatively they can be planted in pots and kept outside until winter. Of course, lychees will do much better in sub-tropical and tropical climates, they can also be brought to flower and fruit in greenhouses.
Avoid fertilizing lychee seedlings for the first year, and only light applications until growth becomes large and woody.
Upon germinating, the lychee seed will provide the necessary nutrients to support the growth of a main root and shoot. As the shoot emerges from the soil the cotyledons will begin to develop. Initially the leaves will be slightly discolored, often yellow or purplish, but as the leaves begin to generate chlorophyll the leaves will turn a dark green. At this point the seedling is capable of conducting photosynthesis and true leaf growth will begin.