Late fall through winter in Louisiana is a great season for planting fruit trees, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings. The horticulturist says several kinds of fruit trees and similar plants work well in backyard landscapes.
Options include fig, citrus, blueberry, pawpaw, pomegranate and persimmon. "Most of these can be easily grown, are low-maintenance, have nice landscape form, texture and color and provide wildlife benefits," Owings remarks.
Figs are one of the most popular fruits in Louisiana. Besides being low-maintenance, they also are one of the fruits most adapted to the Gulf States. They prefer a well-drained site but adapt to a wide range of soil conditions. The main varieties are Celeste, LSU Purple, LSU Gold and Brown Turkey.
Figs prefer full sun, but partial sun to partial shade is OK. Fruit production, however, will not be as good. Add mulch to insulate the root system during the winter and conserve soil moisture in the summer. Fertilize the trees only when they need extra nutrients. Prune the trees occasionally to keep them at a manageable height.
Citrus is becoming more and more popular, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Charles Johnson. "With the lack of cold winters in recent years, satsumas, kumquats and oranges have made a comeback all over the state," the horticulturist explains.
Popular satsuma varieties include Owari and Brown Select, which mature in November. Kumquats mature in late November and early to mid-December. Meiwa is a common kumquat variety. Washington naval orange is popular in South Louisiana and matures in December.
Citrus need full to partial sun for best fruit production. They adapt to many soil types and to container gardening as well.
Blueberries are a low-maintenance, bush-type fruit species. These plants need acid soil, and their shallow, fibrous root systems benefit from mulch. They prefer full sun.
Recommended blueberry varieties for Louisiana include Premier, Tifblue, Climax and Brightwell. Plant two or more varieties to guarantee cross-pollination and good fruit development. Most blueberry plants will produce a good fruit crop by the third year after planting.
A popular native fruit tree that is sometimes hard to locate at garden centers is the pawpaw. This tree needs some shade to get established but can tolerate full sun after the first couple years. Flowers are maroon and appear in mid-March in South Louisiana. Fruit ripens in August to early September and is a tannish yellow with white, creamy flesh that has custard-like texture.
Persimmons for Louisiana include native and oriental varieties with the oriental being preferred. Oriental persimmon fruit is seven to10 times larger than native persimmon fruit. Oriental fruit has few to no seeds while native fruit is very seedy. Persimmons are best adapted to partial sun or partial shade. Hana Fuyu and Fuyu are popular varieties.
Pomegranates are found in old landscapes in Louisiana. They prefer cool winters and hot, dry summers. Soil moisture needs to be even. A sandy or silty soil is better than clay. Full sun is best. Shade is OK, but fruit production will be 25 percent to 50 percent less. Fruit ripens in the fall.
The most popular variety of pomegranates for Louisiana is Wonderful. This plant makes a 15-foot shrub. A few ornamental varieties of pomegranates have double flower forms.
Most retail garden centers have good availability of fruit trees from November through February. "Take advantage of this time of year to add some fruit varieties to your backyard plantings," Owings recommends.
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