Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on June 28, 1999. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Unusual Plants Offer Rare Fruit
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Some of my most enjoyable days as a horticulturist are those when my work is my hobby and I get to experience unusual plants. This column was borne out of those days.
Until they went out of business with the death of their leader, I was a member of the Indoor Citrus and Rare Fruit Society. I enjoyed seeing how gardeners went to extremes to grow different fruit. I guess I was a nut or fruit about these types of plants, just like daylily or iris enthusiasts are about theirs.
The pineapple guava and Japanese loquat are two plants I have had experience with that are not only pretty in the landscape, but open the possibilities for awesome fruit. If you live in a northern county, you may be surprised at how hardy these are.
The flowers of the pineapple guava are edible and among the most beautiful of any shrub. The flower petals are red in the center and white on the margins with long red stamens. Of course if you do not eat the flower, you may have wonderful fruit.
The pineapple guava is known botanically as Feijoa sellowiana and originates in South America. I have seen them available at nurseries in Mississippi but not by variety. The pineapple guava is a zone 8 and 9 plant. The variety Nazemetz is a superior variety that is self-fruitful and has taken 7 degrees in Athens, Ga., without any defoliation.
Michael Dirr with the University of Georgia reports that their shrubs on campus are now 6 feet high after being killed to the ground with a 3 degree freeze in 1983-84.
When I lived in Shreveport, the pineapple guavas regularly flowered and set fruit in late spring and ripened in late summer to fall. The fruit has a delicious pineapple taste with a hint of spearmint. I have had the opportunity to visit orchards in Israel and Texas and believe if the public ever tasted the fruit, they would want more of it.
In Mississippi, we can grow them as landscape plants through the southern two-thirds of the state. In the northern one third, we can grow them in containers and in the landscape on protected sides of the home knowing that we may have to protect them occasionally.
There are a lot of varieties available to our nurseries, so we will have to gently encourage them to get some of the superior varieties like the Nazemetz, Apollo and Evendale Improved Coolidge.
The other tree I mentioned is the Japanese loquat, known as eriobotrya japonica. This is another zone 8 and 9 (marginal 7) plant that can survive extremely cold temperatures when hardened off in the fall. This state has the most beautiful of these trees I have seen. It is a small tree that forms a broad canopy with large, lustrous, dark green leaves.
It is harder to get fruit from the loquat, but the past two years have brought fruit on some central Mississippi trees. The loquat flowers in late fall to early winter and ripens in the spring, making it difficult for the small fruit to survive the winter. These trees growing in the coastal counties may regularly set fruit. Celebrate the years of harvest and enjoy the tree for its exotic appearance.
Both of these plants need moist, well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight to thrive. Neither the loquat nor the pineapple guava has big fertilizer demands, so light applications are all that is necessary. We should not apply any fertilizer after mid-summer.