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Lemon Guava tree care

Lemon Guava

AKA

Yellow Strawberry Guava

(Psidium cattleianum subsp. lucidum)

   

 

The lemon guava tree overview:

  • Lemon guava trees are beautiful, drought tolerant, disease resistant plants that produce a lot of tasty fruit.

 

Lemon guava fruit appearance:

  • As you might have guessed, the ripe lemon guava fruit is yellow.  However, when the fruit is developing it is green.  On that note, the fruit is usually ready to pick when completely yellow or nearly completely yellow.  The fruit should also easily detach from the tree with a light pull when it is ready.
  • The flesh is very light yellow in color and somewhat translucent.  The flesh is dotted with numerous yellow seeds.
  • The ovoid shaped fruit ranges in size from about 1 – 1 1/2 in (2.5-4 cm) in diameter.
Unripe green lemon guava fruit

Unripe green lemon guava fruit

Ripe lemon guava fruit which is ready to pick.

Ripe lemon guava fruit which is ready to pick.

 

Lemon guava fruit taste:

  • The whole lemon guava fruit can be eaten.  The skin is very thin and hardly noticeable.  Because the skin is so thin, it can be easily damaged and difficult to successfully transport.  Therefore this fruit is is rarely found in markets or grocery stores.
  • The lemon guava fruit flavor is well balanced; sweet and tropical with a subtle sub-acid touch of tang.  Some have described it as tasting like passion fruit mixed with strawberry.  However, in my opinion, the fruit is nowhere as bright and tangy as passion fruit and does not taste like strawberries at all.
  • Perhaps most importantly, the lemon guava fruit lacks the astringency of its cousin the red strawberry guava. For more info about the red strawberry guava, check out my earlier article about the red strawberry guava tree.
  • The seeds of the lemon guava are crunchy, but not nearly as hard as the red strawberry guava (or other guavas for that matter).  The seeds are just a tad harder than grape seeds but without the bitter taste of grape seeds.
Left: Lemon guava cut open to show flesh and seeds.  Right: Yellow, and yellow with a bit of green ready to eat.

Left: Lemon guava cut open to show flesh and seeds.
Right: Yellow, and yellow with a bit of green ready to eat.

Cultivars:

  • I am not aware of any named lemon guava cultivars.  However, there is quite a variation in the size and taste of the red strawberry guava fruit from tree to tree.  None the less, the variation of fruit quality between different trees seems to be less of an issue for the lemon guava.

 

Lemon guava fruit season: 

  • Lemon guava trees seem to produce whenever they want from summer to winter (August to March).  I have several lemon guava trees in the yard and they are definitely on their own schedule.  The only thing they agree upon is that they don’t tend to flower in the mid to late winter.
Lemon guava flower and flower buds

Lemon guava flower and flower buds

 

Lemon guava pollination: 

  • Bees are the major pollinator insect.  Hand pollination is not necessary at all.
  • You don’t need to get a separate pollinator guava tree to produce fruit from the lemon guava tree.

 

Landscaping use: 

  • Lemon guava trees are a beautiful evergreen tree/bush.  Their natural growth habit/pattern is more of a big bush, but they can be trained into more of a tree form pretty easily.  The lemon guava can be used as an ornamental hedge or tree.
  • The lemon guava tree has been reported to grow as tall as 40 ft (12 m), however, I have never seen one in California to be more than a quarter of that height.  The plants do grow slowly, and that may also be a contributing reason to why I haven’t seen any large ones in my area.
  • Their fluffy creamy white fragrant flowers look similar to common guava flowers.  The flowers are nice, but not a show stopper by any means and they are easily overlooked from a distance.  I notice their tropical aroma before I notice the flowers themselves.
  • The plant is evergreen, with leaves that are smooth, glossy and obovate in shape.  The leaves do shed a lot which is great for mulching and water conversation.  However all of those dropped leaves could be a pain if this plant lives by a sidewalk, porch, pool, etc.  Just something to keep in mind before planting.
  • As an added bonus, lemon guava trees are disease resistant and drought tolerant when established.
Dense foliage and numerous flowers of the lemon guava tree/bush

Dense foliage and numerous flowers of the lemon guava tree/bush

Soil:

  • Lemon guava are said to be able to tolerate a wide range of soil types.  When I heard that, I planted a tree directly into my native soil, which is basically decomposed granite and a bit of clay.  Needless to say, the results were not good and the poor plant struggled.  Before the sad thing died, I dug it up again and gave it the rich soil treatment I give to most of my plants now.  Basically I aggressively augmented the soil with grow mulch/compost, and inoculated with Micorriza.  Click here for the planting method that I have used with great success.
  • For this plant, well draining soil is an important component to your growing success.  That being said, some have reported that it will tolerate short periods of standing water.  Personally, I am not sure about the standing water idea and I would avoid that type of extra wet environment if possible.

 

Water:

  • I water my lemon guava trees about 2 to 3 times a week in the summer.  For established trees, I back way off in the cool wet winters of Southern California.
  • When established, these plants will tolerate short periods of drought.  However, they will be happier, grow better and fruit more, with regular deep watering.  Regular deep watering during fruit development will also give you the best crop.
  • As with all trees, covering the ground around the base of the tree with a good layer of wood mulch will help to retain moisture in the summer.

 

Sun:

  • Full

 

Fertilization: 

  • I have not found a lot of useful information regarding the best way to fertilize the lemon guava tree.
  • Since they are slow growers, I have taken the strategy of applying small frequent applications of a balanced fertilizer.  More specifically; for a tree that is about 4 to 6 ft tall, I throw 2 handfuls of dry fertilizer (such as 15-15-15) around the root zone every 2 months (but skipping winter).  I then water the fertilizer in deeply.
  • I also use a rich soil mix at planting which likely helps a lot (see above section about soil).

 

Temp:  

  • Lemon guava are categorized as subtropical plants.  However, in the tropics, they are often found growing at the higher-cooler elevations.  I have read that the lemon guava has not grown well in extra-hot tropical climates such as the lowlands of Singapore.
  • Older plants are said to be able to survive temperatures as cold as 22º F (-5.56º C).  This is a lower temp than what the common guava can endure.  I have never seen cold damage to the lemon guava tree in Southern California.
  • Here is a link to article I recently wrote about finding out your specific growing climate zone.

 

Pests: 

  • Lemon guava trees seem to be very bug resistant.  In my many years of observation, I have not seen any sign of a parasitic insect infestation such as aphids or scale.
  • However, in the tropics, there are many reports of unattended trees being a refuge for fruit flies.  The Caribbean fruit fly has been a major problem for the lemon guava fruit in southern Florida.  I have not appreciated this problem in Southern California which I suspect is the result of the hot dry weather we have in California during the fruiting season.
  • Regardless of where you live, birds do love the fruit.  Therefore, it is not a bad idea to use some sort of scare method such as bird scare tape or a mylar pinwheel just before and at the harvest season.  As with any fruit, other animals such as raccoons and squirrels can get into your crop.  For more information on that, check out a recent article I wrote about how to deal with and get rid of squirrels.
  • Gophers, gophers, gophers…  Those freekin gophers will eat this plant and most other plants as well.  Therefore you really have to address that underground issue or you will loose your tree.  Cage-ing the roots of your trees is a must. Heres a link to a quick article I wrote on how to make a gopher cage.

 

Propagation: 

  • Propagation is usually achieved by seed, sometimes from cuttings, and rarely by grafting.  I have not tried propagating this plant yet, but apparently the seeds require 4 to 12 weeks to germinate. That’s quite a range.  From what I have read, best results are achieved when soils are constantly moist and kept at around 70 to 85 deg F.
  • Grafting is difficult because of this plants thin bark.

 

Fruit Use:

  • Lemon guava’s are very tasty right off the tree.  However, the fruit is also used to flavor drinks and desserts.
  • Because the fruit’s delicate thin skin, commercial growers usually skip retail stores and ship directly to processing factories.  At commercial factories, the fruit is also made into things such as jelly, jam, butter, paste and sherbet.

 

Misc:

  • The lemon guava is native to coastal areas of Eastern Brazil and adjacent regions.
  • The lemon guava grows very very well in other parts of the tropics.  As a result, this plant has become a highly invasive species in places like Hawaii.

 

AKA:

  • Yellow Strawberry Guava
  • Yellow-fruited Cherry Guava
  • Waiawī (Hawaii)
  • Araçá (Brazil)

 

About Thomas Osborne, MD

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

26 comments

  1. Do you grow mangoes?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Nate.
      Yea, I have a Manila Mango.
      From what I understand it should be the heartiest for Southern California.
      It is growing very well.
      It is only about 4 years old so I have been plucking the flowers off every year to help it put its effort into growth.
      Many suggest that you should do this till the tree is about 7years old in Southern California so the young tree can be strong for the winter.

      • I live in very dry area, so I was wondering; can you grow jackfruit, mamey sapote, and papaya to write a page on them? I want to grow these, so could you try growing these for me? I can grow papaya, but it would be fun since they grow so fast.
        http://www.crfg.org/pubs/frtfacts.html
        You can find most of these are Ong Nursery.

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hi Nate
          Great thinking.
          You and I are on the same page.

          As it turns out, I am also growing jackfruit, mamey sapote, Lychee, Longan, pineapple, June plum, JuJube, persimmon, pomegranate, star apple, passion fruit, ice cream bean, finger lime, banana, all sorts of guava, and many more fruiting plants that I have yet to write about.

          My two major limitations to writing the articles are time and that some of these plants have not reached fruiting age yet.
          As a personal rule, I dont want to write about a plant-and give advice about it until I have proven that I can get it to reliably produce fruit on my own.

          Thanks!

        • Jackfruit typically takes 3-5 years from seed to fruit. If you don’t know, jackfruit/jakfruit is the largest tree born fruit and comes from Southeast Asia. It is like Juicy Fruit gum (its how the gum was inspired), but without that artificial flavor. It does well with frost protection and grows fast. Mamey is the longest – about 7-9 years, 3 yrs with grafted. It comes from Central America and bears a large fruit with sweet creamy pumpkin like texture. Papaya grows from seed to fruit in 1-2 years from seed to fruit. Will you topwork your mango? Manila is rather a bland variety, so many people graft individual branches on it. This makes the fruit that comes from those branches that variety. Some good varieties are ‘Coconut Cream’ and ‘Lemon Zest’. They literally taste like coconut and citrus. You can find these by going to any tropical fruit community with SoCal members and do some detective work. If you do this in the spring, them they’ll be happy to share. ‘Manila’ seedlings have fiber and not good taste. Your 4 years old can take it. You should also discover other tropical fruits and grow more mangoes. Nothing an beat a good Atemoya though. Other good ones are banana, bamboo, lychee/longan.

  2. It’s be fun! You’re my favorite SoCal fruit grower.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Aww, thanks Nate
      That is awesome to hear.
      I will try to get some new articles out for you to check out before next week.
      Thanks!
      Tom

  3. I did mine from fresh seeds after eating the fruit. I sowed them in january in subtropical frost free climate. They germinated in little time with night temps about +10ºC. High germination rate! After 1 year they are 40cm tall. I do them for hedge, along with the red variety (which I guess has more antocyanine….).
    I think the rythm of watering can help have different flowering periods, for different periods of harvest.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks Xisca
      I have also noticed that watering has a significant impact on the season of flowering and fruiting.
      Thanks,
      Tom

  4. Hello,

    I would love to have a guava tree in my yard, but I’ve heard that it smells funny when the fruit is ripening. Is there a type of guava that has less of a smell?

    Thanks

    Erika

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Erika

      Great question.
      There are about 100 species of guava trees/fruit.
      Each guava tree has a different combination of characteristics, needs, flavors, tastes, and smells.
      There are also some plants that have the common name of guava that are actually in a different scientific classification and not a true guava (such as the “pineapple guava”).

      Some guava smell strongly as they ripen, and others not as much.
      However, many people love the smell of a ripe guava.. so I guess the idea that they could small “funny” would be subjective to the individual doing the smelling. For example, guavas always smell great to me. Since I am in the camp of liking the smell of all guavas.. I am not sure my opinion would be the best for your decision process.

      In general, since smell and taste is so closely aligned, this could be a big issue.
      Basically, if you dont like the smell of a ripe guava, you may also not like the taste of that particular guava. Therefore, it might be a good idea for you to check out some fruiting guava trees at a nursery before you buy… Or… perhaps going with a variety of guava that you know you like the taste of.

      Best,
      Tom

      • Hello Tom,

        Thank you for the suggestion, it makes sense. I am not familiar with the fruit, but actually came across it once, I think it was lemon guava, – it looked like small yellow-green lemons – and I liked the flavor and the smell. I don’t know how easy it is to find a tree with fruit, but I will be on the look-out.

        Thank you

        Erika

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Erika
          Thanks for the note.

          It can be hard to track down specific fruit in season…
          But that is the best way to know for sure if you like it.

          BTW: Lemon guava are tasty. Better when they are all yellow and have lost the green tint.
          So many to choose from though.

          I sometimes just take a chance with something that sounds interesting… mostly b/c I tend to like all fruit. So no big risk for me. And it is kindof fun to wait and see what you got. But this view of mine is def not a shared one so I tend to recommend a more surefire way for other people to get what they know they will like.

          Best,
          Tom
          The more variety the better in my eyes.

  5. I am growing a lemon guava. It’s doing really well but I’m wondering if I should be trimming it to encourage outward growth. It’s currently about 2′ tall and just keeps producing leaves at the very top. The stem, however, is very thin and will not support the plant so I’ve had to add support. Should I just let it be or should I trim it? If the latter, do I just snip off the tip or cut down lower to the base? Any advice would be appreciated.

    Rick

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Rick
      Great question about a wonderful plant.

      If left to its on devices, the Lemon Guava seems to be more of a big lanky bush than a tree.
      The two Lemon Guavas I have tend to naturally grow in a haphazard way.

      As you know, early on, most trees need support (stake) so they dont topple over.
      For the Lemon Guava, this seems to be true for a longer than average amount of time because of its lanky growth habit.

      Pruning/trimming can help to create a shape that is more structurally sound.
      Fortunately, the plant is very adaptable to training and pruning to make it look like whatever you want.

      I am also all in favor of keeping your home trees at a manageable size for ease of harvest.
      My general strategy for my guavas is to remove the low branches so small mammals have a harder time getting to the fruit and keeping the total height in range for me to easily reach the top fruit.

      Thanks!
      Tom

      • Thanks for the reply Tom.

        As of right now, there is only one long stem about 24″ tall full of leaves beginning at the very bottom. If I were to cut a couple of inches off the top, are you saying it would begin branching out? And would this “branching” happen right at the cut or near the ground?

        I don’t mind it growing tall but it would be nice to see it begin to fill out a bit into more of a bush shape.

        There’s really nothing out there about pruning this specific type of plant (at least not for the early stages of development) and I don’t want to do anything that is going hurt my chances of it surviving.

        Thanks so much.
        Rick

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Rick

          You bring up a good point, different species of trees may have different responses to trimming.
          However, in my experience, the lemon guava is pretty haphazard. Branches pop out wherever they want regardless of the trimming.
          It really behaves more like a bush than a tree.

          However, I try to train a central-primary trunk to support the mass of the tree.
          Little branch will try to come out of the trunk but I snip them off to encourage the growth that I want… to look more like a tree.

          For you specifically…
          When you say 24′ tall, do you mean 24 feet tall?
          Cuz that is a very tall lemon guava tree.
          I dont think I have seen one that tall before.
          If your tree is 24 feet tall, you can basically do whatever you want.

          If on the other hand, you tree is 24 inches tall, I would make sure it is very well established before starting the shaping process. If it is young I would err on doing nothing for a while. If I was to do anything on a 2 foot tall tree, I would remove the lowest branches to encourage upward growth… but basically best bet at the young age is to do nothing till it starts showing significant growth.

          Overall, these guys naturally tend to get bushy so you dont need to worry about encouraging that. Just give it some time to fill out.

  6. i’m in canada toronto can i grow guava in my house can i buy them

    and how can i get them

  7. Hi Tom,
    I just purchased a lemon guava via online nursery and it came as a long 5′ whip in a 4″x6″ container. It has a few tufts of leaves here and there, but mostly stem material – Tall and lanky. Would you recommend giving it support and letting it be, or pruning it down to a shorter length. If pruning, do you recommend a certain height? Does it put out more branches from the ground or from the main trunk? PS I loved discovering your site – very helpful information! Thank you!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Kris
      Thanks for the note, and happy to hear you like the site.

      I would recommend support for your little lanky lemon guava tree.
      The branches seem to pop out from all over on these plants and they tend to be a but more bushy if you dont train them to look more like a tree.
      You can train/trim them however you want depending on the desired final goal.
      I personally prefer a tree shape to make it harder for the rodents to get up in there.

      Good luck!
      Tom

  8. Hi, I really like your site and have learned a lot. I have a microclimate situation that the pros at the nursery are suggesting that I pick a pineapple guava since the site is pretty exposed to wind and morning and early afternoon sun ( I want an evergreen tree that gets to 10 to 15 feet high that had fruit.. and would grow in a cutout area among tile that is easy to grow and roots are not bad). It would replace an avocado tree that I had serious difficulty keeping alive and healthy looking. (I hear because the site is exposed and the tile cutout space was not good for avocados sensitive root). I want the tree to look very ornamental as its the centerpiece of the yard and also to have fruit. The theme is Mediterranean

    I am struggling between picking the yellow strawberry guava, and Mexican guava, or tropical guava. I know I like guavas but never tried Yellow strawberry or pineapple.. which do you like? I want a really nice shapely tree but I hear the strawberry guava is more of a bush on a stick when in tree form rather than a grand looking tree like the others. I also hear only strawberry and pineapple keep their leaves mostly the same throughout the year whereas Mexican and then worse off tropical get browning or semi deciduous. I like the leaves colors of the strawberry and Mexican more as it looks more lively.. the pineapple olice color looks dull. Could you compare and contrast your experience or do a post on the various guavas? Thank you in advance for your response!:)it’s awesome you love medicine and plants_ you are an inspiration

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Henry
      Thank you for the wonderful feedback and questions.
      Looks like you have done some great research and overall I agree with your assessment.

      Guava Tree Looks:
      There are hundreds of different guavas, but most of the ones that I know of have a tendency to grow like a big bush if left to their own devices. This includes pineapple guava, which is technically not a guava (at least not by scientific taxonomy), however, they look so much like guavas that… what the heck, lets call them guavas for sake of discussion.

      Anyhow, yea, guavas tend be bushy if not trained. But that’s no big deal IMO, because they respond so well to pruning etc. Trim them however you want, they tend to be durable.

      More Specifically:
      Since you want a consistent evergreen look… it sounds like you are leaning towards the pineapple and strawberry guava, ill elaborate a bit on those.

      First off let me define:
      I am going to call red strawberry guava = strawberry guava
      I am going to call yellow strawberry guava, or lemon strawberry guava = lemon guava

      Growth Overview:
      Pineapple guava tend to have a more open growth and less leaves compared to strawberry and lemon guavas. Strawberry and lemon guavas tend to have rather dense foliage, so they can look a bit look look a popsicle from a far if you just trim the trunk. And agree with your assessment, the pineapple guava tend to have a dull drab leaf compared to the others that are typically shinny.

      If your looking for a tall-ish tree (10-15 feet), might want to consider the future challenges of harvest. The pineapple guavas drop their fruit when ripe so not an issue for them.

      Maintenance:
      All of the ones discussed are surprisingly drought tolerant once established. Few bugs bother the trees themselves. However, the fruit of the strawberry/lemon guava does get infected with fruit fly larva in some areas (esp Florida) that makes them gross to eat. This can happen in dryer areas like AZ and CA too but usually only after the fruit has been hanging on the tree for longer than it needs to. Squirrels and birds have discovered the strawberry and lemon quavas, but they dont seem to know what to do with or notice the pineapple quavas.

      Taste:
      This is a hard one. As you know this is rather personal thing.

      However, the lemon, strawberry and pineapple guavas dont taste like your stereotypical guavas. You should really try them before you buy (if you can). Heck, what can I say? I do buy fruit trees before I try the fruit, I cant wait sometimes.

      Anyhow, I have noticed that two different strawberry guava trees growing right next to each other will have different tasting fruit. Furthermore, different fruit from the same strawberry tree will taste different. Its kindof “like a box of chocolates” -Forrest Gump reference. This happens with the lemon guava to a much less noticeable extent.

      Hard to describe the flavors. However, I would say of the three, the red strawberry is my least favorite. The Lemon guava (cousin of the red strawberry guava) is quite nice. The lemon one has much less (basically none) of the dry mouth sensation tannin on the skin, and the seeds are more crunchy than the rather hard strawberry guava. You can eat the skin of both. But I dont know anyone who eats the skin of the pineapple guava. There is a range in flavors for the pineapple guava too… however, there are some expected cultivars that will give you more of an expected result than the strawberry guava. The pineapple guava has seeds but you can barely tell; they are just little black dots in the flesh. Cool thing about the pineapple guava is that the flowers are edible; lightly sweet, tender and a bit spicy.

      Hope this helps,
      Tom

  9. Do we need to have 2 lemon guava tress to fertilize? Or is the lemon guava tree self-fertilizing?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Lyly
      You don’t need to get a separate pollinator guava tree to produce fruit from the lemon guava tree.
      However, some suggest that the corp will be bigger if you do have a separate pollinator.

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