HOME FRUIT PRODUCTION-LOQUAT
Julian W. Sauls, Ph. D.
Professor & Extension Horticulturist
Texas Cooperative Extension
Loquat (Japanese plum or Japanese medlar) is probably one of the more familiar of all tropical fruit plants in Texas, although few people outside of south Texas have only rarely grown the fruit. The plant is extremely cold hardy and is commonly grown as an ornamental from north Texas to the Valley.
Native to China, the loquat tree is an evergreen with large, stiff leaves. Growing alone in the open, the tree is very symmetrical, with a compact, dense crown, and can attain a height of 25 feet and a spread of 15 to 20 feet. The leaves are glossy, dark green above and whitish to rusty tomentose beneath. These characteristics of the tree have made the loquat an excellent specimen or accent in the home landscape.
The mature loquat tree can withstand temperatures of 10 degrees without serious injury, but both flowers and fruit are killed at temperatures below about 27. Unfortunately, loquat blooms in late fall to early winter and must mature its fruit during the winter months. Thus, fruiting rarely occurs except in south Texas or following mild winters in south central or southeast Texas.
SOIL AND SITE SELECTION
Loquat is very well adapted to virtually all soils that have good internal drainage and are relatively non-saline. Soil pH does not seem to matter, as the trees grow equally well in the acid soils of east Texas and the alkaline soils of north, central and south Texas.
If fruit production is a consideration, loquats should be planted on the south or southeast side of the residence to obtain maximum cold protection from the house itself. Otherwise, plant it wherever in the landscape that is desired.
Quite a large number of selections have been named over the years, several of which are grown in south Florida. Because the fruit has never achieved commercial status in the U.S., nurserymen tend to propagate the trees as loquats rather than as a particular variety of loquat. In Texas, it is likely that most of the loquats are from seed or were vegetatively propagated from seedlings. Consequently, fruit quality is highly variable among loquats in Texas.
Loquat is readily propagated from seed, although seedlings are frequently self-infertile and do not come true from seed. Veneer grafting and shield budding onto seedling rootstocks are both fairly successful. Air layering is a good way to propagate from a tree that bears particularly good fruit.
PLANTING AND ESTABLISHMENT
A loquat tree obtained from the local nursery will undoubtedly be container-grown in soilless media. Because soilless media forms an interface with the soil of a planting site, across which neither roots, air nor water move readily, one cannot simply take the plant from the pot and put it into a planting hole intact--as growth will be extremely slow. To assure survival and immediate growth, some of the medium should be removed from the sides and top of the root ball to expose some of the roots. This is best accomplished with a gentle stream of water from the garden hose, removing about an inch of the medium all around the ball. Upon planting, the outer roots in the ball are thereby placed into direct contact with the soil of the planting site, so survival and growth are assured, given proper watering.
Water thoroughly at planting and again every three or four days for the first week. Afterwards, lengthen the interval between waterings over the next several months until the tree is well established. For ease of watering, construct a water ring several inches high and thick, and a couple of feet across, atop the soil around the newly planted tree. Then, simply fill the ring with water as needed. In time, the ring will melt into the surrounding soil, at which time the plant will have become established.
Fertilize only after new growth commences. Use the same fertilizer as you use on the lawn grass (except do not use a fertilizer that contains a weed killer) or use ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) or whatever general fertilizer is recommended by the County Extension Agent in your area.
Based on ammonium sulfate, the young tree should receive about one cup during its first year, two cups in the second and three cups in its third year. For optimal results, the fertilizer should be split into three or more applications annually. Just scatter it on the ground and water it in.
Because a young tree cannot compete well with weeds and turfgrass, an area 2 to 3 feet in diameter, centered on the tree, should be kept free of all other vegetation. The unwanted vegetation can be killed out with a systemic herbicide, then a thick layer of organic mulch will keep it out.
MATURE TREE CARE
Continue to care for the tree as during establishment as regards water, mulching and weed control. As for nutrition, a pound per inch of trunk diameter annually is adequate, with split applications in March and June or March, June and September.
Loquat trees normally do not require pruning, as the tree establishes its natural shape without pruning, assuming that it has adequate space into which to develop.
PRODUCTION, MATURITY AND USE
Loquats should begin to bear in 2 to 3 years, with a well-developed older tree easily producing 100 pounds of fruit. A particularly heavy crop will usually be of smaller fruit size.
The flower panicles normally appear in the late fall on the ends of the branches; the flowers are fragrant, though small and not especially showy. The fruit matures in late winter to spring. Typically, the fruit is about 1.5 inches long and perhaps an inch wide, globose to pear-shaped and pale yellow to golden orange at maturity. It is firm and juicy, and contains two or three large, smooth, dark brown seeds. The flavor varies from sweet to tangy, depending upon the variety or selection.
The fruit can be eaten fresh from the tree or frozen intact for later use. It also can be made into excellent jelly, jam, preserves, cobbler or pies.
Loquat has few natural pests. The most serious problem is that of fire blight, the same disease which affects pear and pyracantha. While antibiotic treatment for fire blight is effective, probably the simplest course of action is to prune out the affected branches and destroy them.
Tipburn of the leaves frequently appears during a hot, dry summer as a consequence of soil and water salinity. Tipburn is not particularly deleterious to the tree and there is nothing you can do about it anyway.
Loquat fruit in the Valley can be an alternate host for Mexican fruit fly, but the sterile fly program pretty well keeps Mexfly in check.
Home | Texas Citrus Industry | Citriculture | Pest Management | Harvest and Handling | Marketing
Orchard Economics | Resources | Urban Citrus and Subtropical Fruits
This page revised July 26, 2005