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The Loquat tree: a golden gem

Loquat

(Eriobotrya japonica)

 

Loquat tree overview:

The Loquat tree is a wonderful addition to the Southern California garden because it can deal with our poor soil, it is drought tolerant, and it has a great tropical appearance.

Ripe Loquat, ready to pick

Ripe Loquat

Fruit Appearance: 

Yellow ovoid fruit with very thin skin that is easy to peel.  Each fruit is 1-2 inches long.  However, thinning of flowers and young fruits will enhance fruit size.  Thinning of growing fruit will also augment the tendency of the plant for alternate-year bearing pattern.

 

Loquat pulled apart to show flesh and seed

Loquat pulled apart to show flesh and seed

Fruit Taste:   

Tasty succulent pulp is sweet and somewhat tart/acid.  It is a really wonderful and refreshing flavor.  The 1-8 dark seeds in the center are not edible but are easily removed.  Fruits are best if allowed to ripen on the tree fully before harvesting (However, this can be a challenge with hungry birds in the neighborhood).

 

Fruit Season: 

The Loquat fruit season starts around March, which is a time that few other fruits are available.  The season in California lasts until June depending on the variety.

 

Landscaping use:

  • The Loquat tree is a very tropical looking plant which is surprising drought tolerant.
  • The tree is also wind tolerant, but may need staking to help a young tree hold the weight of the fruit.
  • Moderate sized tree which can be 10 feet to 30 feet tall.
  • The tree flowers in the fall and fruits in late winter/early spring.
  • Its shallow roots are prone to damage from nearby digging.
  • Judicious pruning should be done just after harvest; remove crossing branches and thin dense growth to let light into the center of the tree.

 

Soil: 

It is said that Loquat trees are able to grow in just about any soil type as long as it drains well.  That being said, I always add organic material to the planting of any fruit tree.

Click here to see my 6/9/13 post on the best planting technique to avoid transplantation shock. 

 

Water:

Although drought tolerant, fruiting is better with regular irrigation.

 

Sun:

Full to part.

 

Fertilization:

Different sources have different opinions about how to fertilize a Loquat tree.  I have read recommendations for a balanced fertilizer 3 times a year during growth the phase and I have also read recommendations to fertilize 1 time a year in mid winter.

When faced with this type of information, I split the difference.  I know it is not particularly scientific but it is a place to start. I have started to fertilize 2x a year and it seems to be fine so far.

 

Temp:

  • The tree is adapted to a mild-temperate climate but can tolerate temperatures down to 12 F.  Extreme heat and dry hot winds cause leaf scorch.
  • For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”

 

Tree Pruning:

 

Pests:

  • Despite what I have been told; gophers do eat Loquat trees.  I know this from personal experience.  Please cage your trees roots at planting.
  • For a list of gopher resistant and nonresistant plants, check out my post from 8/28/13.
  • Birds peck at the ripe fruit and I have heard that deer will browse on the foliage.
    • I use Holographic Bird Scare Tape that works rather well at keeping the birds away (might even keep the dear away).  If you are going to use glitter tape, it is best to only use it during the fruit season so that the birds don’t get use to it.  A very similar product is Flash Tape but I haven’t tried that.
  • Other than the assault from the air and underground, I have not had any issues with pests.
  • I have not noticed any bugs attacking the tree so far.  This is not surprising because in California there are few bugs that bother loquats.
  • The major problem bugs I have read about in California are:  Fire blight (Erwinia amylovora),  Codlin moth (Cydia pomonella), green apple aphis (Aphis pomi), scale, Pear blight (Bacillus amylovorus), crown rot (Phytophthor), and cankers (Pseudomonas eriobotryae).
Mean Gopher ate Loquat to the stump

A Gopher killed this young Loquat tree. The stump looks like a beaver got to it.

Food Use:

I like to just eat them fresh out of hand.  It’s hard to stop eating them.  Loquats are also used to make pies, sauces, jams, jellies, and even chutney.

 

Misc:

The loquat has been cultivated in Asia for over 1000 years and there are over 800 varieties.

 

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.

14 comments

  1. Tom:

    I have many of the fruit tree on your list. A couple things.

    Loquat
    I have several trees and thought the fruit was okay unit I figured out how to prepare them! Pick, wash, peel and remove seeds. For about 8 cups of loquats: In a heavy large pot add 1/2 cup of the unrefined cane sugar (not white or brown sugar) and a tablespoon water. Cook till syrup and stop just before caramel or recrystalization. Throw in the loquats and stir for a few minutes on medium heat-high till they turn deep orange..don’t stop stirring. Then stop and throw in clean mason jars. Let cool and you never tasked anything so good.

    Persian Mulberrys
    Put through a juicer which has centrifuge and drink.
    If using for anything you heat them like preserves you must remove the central stem by crushing fruit and then remove the stem. The stem when cooked changes fruit flavor to vegetable like.

    Cherimoya
    I live near coast in South Bay and this plant needs to be kept cool so I grow in filtered shade. This also saves water as growers in Santa Barbara told me they need 30-50 gal/day with trees in full sun. You must hand pollinate this and leave what is male and female flower. Also pick when you think has reached maximum size and then pick and bring inside to finish ripening.

    Sapote
    I did not see here but does excellent but also good in filtered shade. I have two kinds of white sapote. One does well to turn green to yellow on the tree and pick fully ripe. The others only grow to near softball size and are picked when reach maximum size and then pick in basket on porch out of sun to finish ripening. They do not ripen well on the tree but end up tasting better than the fruit which ripens on the tree.

    Dragon Fruit
    Still not flowers on 4 plants I have. They are grow well but no flowers.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Mike

      Thanks!:
      Thanks for the awesome list of suggestions!

      Cherimoya:
      I have several Cherimoya and Atemoya.
      I have them in full sun and I def dont water them 30-50 gal/day. Perhaps those Santa Barbara growers can afford that water bill, but that seems like an awful lot of water!

      Cherimoya watering:
      I water my cherymoya’s and atemoya’s about 2-3 time a week in the summer. I would est that each watering is about 1 gallon of water.
      How do I explain the watering difference..? Well, I keep the trees to a size that I can reach the fruit (6-8 feet), I planted them with lots of well draining organic soil (see my tips for planting), the trees root zone is covered with a thick layer of mulch and I use a drip line irrigation system.

      Cherymoya Pollination:
      I also don’t hand pollinate my cherymoya’s. Sure I think about it, but I am usually too busy doing other things when the flowers are ready, and then I miss them and it is too late.
      However, I have intentionally planted trees close to each other so they can pollinate each other.
      I have read from many respected authors that you must hand pollinate them. But I havent needed to.
      Perhaps I would get more fruit if I did, but I have more fruit than I can eat, so it is not a problem for me.

      Sapote:
      I also have a Sapote that I recently planted.
      Its growing well, but too early to fruit so I havent written about it yet.

      More fruit trees:
      I have also have literally hundreds of other trees here that I planted. They are on my list to write about… just trying to find the time to do them justice and take the photos at the right time.

      Thanks for the cool suggestions,

      Best,
      Tom

  2. I had a gopher do the same thing as your picture above to my young loquat. I stuck the sawed off tree back in the soil and watered it every day, it grew back and has produced a small amount of fruit. I did the same with a similarly eaten banana plant and it too came back. Unfortunately the 5 year old avocado, year old cherry and a couple of almond trees didn’t make the comeback. Now everything gets caged.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Those freekin evil gophers!

      That is an interesting experience that you had with your loquat.
      I recently had a very similar experience.

      After that first loquat was killed, I made plans to protect-cage my other loquats… but then I got busy with other things.
      However, recently, I noticed that one of the unprotected loquats was wilting. At this point it was clear to me that there was trouble below.

      As a result, I knew I had to transplant and protect this wilting loquat from the subterranean demons.

      I dug around the wilting loquat to make sure I had a big root-ball. I was very careful and worked at it for a long time.
      Then, when I was about to gently extract the root-ball, it all fell apart.
      There were no roots left to hold to root-ball together.
      Basically, I was trying to dig up roots that were already long gone and eaten by the vermin.

      The tree just toppled over and there were just a few tiny rootlets left on the end of the gnarled trunk.

      I thought for sure that this loquat was a goner… but I caged and planted what was left of it anyways… and watered it a lot.
      Like yourself, I figured what the heck.
      To my total surprise, it survived and is now growing.

      Those amazing loquats are very resilient.

  3. I’m SO glad to have found this website! Thanks for all of your insights, tips, and tricks. I will DEFINITELY be sharing this with all of my friends and nurserymen. 😀

  4. I think loquat is there best alternative to any citrus, though white sapotes and passionfruits are pretty good.

  5. Did you know that loquats can graft onto quince root stock and with pear (with less successful – ness, but works)?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Interesting Nate.
      I had no idea. I would have thought that they are too different to graft successfully.
      Have you tried this yourself?

      • Loquats and quinces are in the same family and it has been tested. I’ve never tried it before, but I have some pear root stock, so I could attempt it.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          That would be a interesting looking tree.. esp because the different fruiting season and the fact that loguats are evergreen and pears loose their leaves.

  6. hello dear teacher
    excuse me I have many loquat seeds , I want to store them in a long time, do you know haw I can sterile them? with low effect of germination…
    and I must use what kind of media to putting seeds on?
    sterile and humid cotton ?
    sand?
    or piece of cloth ?
    really thank you for your help

    • please help me

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Marzieh
      In my experience, Loquat seeds will sprout readily in many soil types.
      I would think that sand would be less optimal of an option.
      I dont think you need cotton although I havent tried that.
      I wouldnt try to sterilize them. I would just plant them in some nice soil in a container… then plant them in the ground after they get a few feet tall.

      However, I have not tried to store them over a long time, so I am not sure how long they would be viable.

      Best of luck.
      Tom

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