Louisiana offers many fruit tree choices

Richard Bogren, Himelrick, David G.  |  1/4/2011 1:13:58 AM

News Release Distributed 02/25/10

A significant number of fruit trees and similar plants do well in Louisiana, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist David Himelrick. They include fig, citrus, blueberry, pawpaw, pomegranate and persimmon.

“Most of these can be grown easily if you select the correct variety and follow the recommended cultural practices,” Himelrick says.

Figs are one of the most popular fruit in Louisiana. The main varieties available are Celeste, LSU Purple, LSU Gold and Brown Turkey along with three new LSU AgCenter varieties – O’Rourke, Champagne and Tiger.

Figs are one of our most adapted fruit to the Gulf States region and are low-maintenance plants, Himelrick says. They prefer a well-drained site but adapt to a wide range of soil conditions.

Full sun is the best planting location, he says. Partial sun to partial shade is okay, but fruit production will not be as good.

“Mulch trees to insulate the root system during the winter and conserve soil moisture in the summer,” Himelrick says. “Fertilize only when needed. Figs should be pruned occasionally to keep them at a manageable height.”

Himelrick says citrus is becoming more popular in Louisiana.

“Satsumas, kumquats and oranges have made a comeback all over the state in the past ten years because of our mild winters,” he says. “Our past winter did damage to some citrus trees, but many made it through the cold weather much better than expected.”

He said popular satsuma varieties include Owari and Brown Select, which mature in November. Kumquats mature in late November and early to mid-December, and Meiwa is a common kumquat variety. The Washington variety of naval orange popular in south Louisiana matures in December.

“Citrus need full to partial sun for best fruit production,” Himelrick says. “They are adapted to many soil types and adapt well to container culture also.”

Blueberries, a low-maintenance, bush-type fruit, need acid soil, Himelrick says. And their shallow, fibrous root system benefits from mulch.

Blueberries prefer a full-sun planting location. Himelrick says varieties recommended for Louisiana include Premier, Tifblue, Climax and Brightwell.

“Plant two or more varieties to guarantee cross pollination and good fruit development,” the horticulturist says. “Most blueberry plants will produce a good fruit crop by the third year after planting.”

Persimmons for Louisiana include native and oriental varieties, with the oriental being preferred.

“Oriental persimmon fruit is 7-10 times larger than native persimmon fruit,” Himelrick says. “Oriental fruit has few to no seed 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. Himelrick says they prefer cool winters and hot, dry summers. Soil moisture needs to be kept even, and sandy or silty soil is better than clay.

“Full sun is best,” he says. “Shade is okay, but fruit production will be 25-50 percent less.”

Pomegranates ripen in the fall, and the most-popular variety for Louisiana is Wonderful.

“This plant makes a 15-foot shrub,” Himelrick says. “There are a few ornamental varieties of pomegranates that have double flower forms.”

Himelrick says most retail garden centers have good availability of fruit trees in late winter through late spring. He says the LSU AgCenter reference guide “Louisiana Home Orchard’ is available on the Internet. It may be downloaded by going to www.lsuagcenter.com and putting Louisiana Home Orchard in the search box.

Rick Bogren

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