Ornamental loquats produce fruit too

Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.

Loquats flower in fall, and fruit matures in spring. (Photo by John Pyzner)

News Release Distributed 01/15/16

By Allen Owings

LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – Loquat, frequently called Japanese plum, is an attractive small tree or shrub that is frequently planted in landscapes as an ornamental in Louisiana. The tree has large thick evergreen leaves with a moderate rate of growth and does well in most well-drained soils. It can be used as an edible landscape plant.

The oval fruit is pale yellow to orange and usually about an inch long in ornamental types but may be up to 2 inches long in some named varieties. The flesh is similar to a peach and surrounds several seeds. Harvested as it starts to turn yellow, the fruit makes excellent jellies, jams and pies. Loquat pies have a flavor similar to cherry pies. Fruit that has fully ripened and is slightly soft is sweet and can be eaten fresh.

You may be able to locate named varieties of loquat, but most sold at garden centers are seedlings and vary in fruit quality. Fruit from seedling trees is sweet but may be small. Loquats can self-pollinate well, but having multiple trees and several varieties will enhance fruit set.

Loquats are adapted to most soil types as long as they have good drainage. They also are tolerant of dry conditions, although tip-burn of the leaves can occur during hot, dry periods.

Weed control is important; loquats do not compete well with weeds and turfgrass. Removing competing vegetation 2 or 3 feet from the base of the tree is beneficial.

Loquats produce fragrant white flowers in fall and early winter. The small green fruit hang on the trees until spring when they enlarge and ripen. Blossoms and fruits can be killed by temperatures in the 20s, but after a late freeze fruits may continue to develop although they will be smaller and the seeds will not be viable. The Big Jim variety has produced thumb-size fruit without a live seed.

Mild winters such as this year favor a good loquat crop statewide. A good fruit crop normally occurs about every three to four years in north Louisiana and typically each year in south Louisiana.

Planting trees in protected areas on the south side of buildings, near rivers and lakes and under tall pines where they can receive at least half a day of sun may increase the chances of fruit surviving the winter. Plants are normally hardy to 10 degrees, but the large leathery evergreen leaves can sometimes suffer significant cold damage at slightly higher temperatures.

Loquats are related to apples and pears and are generally basically low-maintenance plants that have little requirement for fertilizer, irrigation, pesticide and pruning. Fire blight is the most destructive disease and can sometimes be a significant problem. Pruning out diseased limbs often gives adequate control. Heavy fertilization can increase fire blight damage. An application of one pound of 8-8-8 fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter during March is adequate in most Louisiana soils. Fertilizer may be split into March and late May or early June applications in sandy soils or soils where severe runoff could occur.

Rick Bogren
1/15/2016 10:57:59 PM
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