by Matt Gibson
The loquat tree is an evergreen from the rose family and a native of Southeast China. Today, it can be found in warm regions throughout the world, especially in subtropical areas with temperate climates. Japan is the number one producer of loquat trees in the world, followed by Israel and Brazil. They are also popular in Spain and the Southeastern United States. Loquat is cultivated for both ornamental and culinary purposes.
Ornamentally, it’s coveted for both its large dark green foliage which is downy when leaves are young and leathery as leaves get older, as well as its clusters of white, delicate, highly-fragrant one-inch flowers. Loquat flowers bloom in fall and winter and attract lots of bees for pollination. Immature flowers have a wooly texture and appear in clusters at the end of branches in groups of five to 20.
Culinarily, loquat is cultivated for its fruit, which blossoms give way to as they fade. The fruit is one to two inches long, yellow-orange hued, and round or slightly pear-shaped, and ready to harvest 90 days after pollination of the flowers. The inner-flesh of the fruits vary in color from orange to yellow or white, and is similar in texture to apples.
Loquat is high in dietary fibers, vitamin A, B6, B9 and minerals potassium, copper, and iron. The fruit of the loquat has a complex flavor profile that draws comparisons to lemon, grape, cherry, plum, apricot, or some odd combo the aforementioned comparisons. Depending on the tree and the ripeness of the fruit in question its fruit can be slightly acidic to very sweet, sometimes it is both sweet and acidic simultaneously, like plums.
Loquat is eaten fresh or made into pie, jelly, jam, marmalade, chutney and syrups. The fruit is also used to make certain varieties of plum wine. The leaves of the loquat tree are dried and used to make herbal tea. The seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, a group of toxic compounds that can cause intoxication and mild sickness if ingested.
Varieties of Loquat Trees
There are over 800 different cultivars of loquat in Asia, though only around 20 are cultivated around the world. Among those 20 varieties, there are two distinct types, Chinese and Japanese loquats. Japanese loquats have smaller amounts of seeds, paler skin and fruit, and tend to mature early in the growing season. Chinese loquats have darker flesh and pulp, larger amounts of seeds, and are ready for harvest later in the growing season. Here are a few of the more popular cultivars that we recommend if you are growing loquat to harvest the fruit:
Emanuel – Emanuel loquat trees produce medium-sized pear-shaped fruit with a thin peel. Skin and pulp are both dark yellow and fruit flavor is mildly-sweet and very tasty.
Tanaka – Tanaka is the most popular variety in Spain and Portugal due to its extraordinary flavor. Its fruit is small and round with a thin, dark yellow peel and pinkish orange pulp.
Juda – The Juda loquat tree produces medium to large pear shaped fruit. The fruit has a thin pinkish orange peel and dark yellow pulp, with a flavor profile that is both sweet and mildly tart.
Mogi – Mogi are self-seeding loquat trees which produce medium sized pear-shaped fruit. The fruit has a thin orange peel and orange pulp and is mildly sweet and delicious.
Oliver – Oliver loquat trees produce medium to large pear-shaped fruit that is very sweet. The fruit has a thick orange peel and pinkish-orange pulp.
Thales – Thales loquat trees produce sweet pear shaped fruit. The loquats have thin dark yellow to orange peels and yellow to orange pulp with a sweet, lasting flavor.
Wolfe – Wolfe loquat trees produce huge pear-shaped fruit with a thin, light-yellow peel and white to pinkish-orange pulp. The complex and distinct flavor of wolfe loquats is sweet, tart, and spicy.
Gold Nugget – Gold Nugget loquat trees are early-maturing and self-seeding They produce round, medium to large, thick-skinned, orange-colored fruit that is semi-sweet and subtle in flavor. Often grown for ornamental purposes.
Growing Conditions for Loquat Trees
Loquat trees are only hardy in USDA zones eight and above (preferably eight through 10 and are very sensitive to cold weather. The trees will survive temperatures as low as 10 degrees F without much structural damage, but temperatures 27 degrees F and below will kill off the flowers and the fruit quickly. If you only have room for one tree, you can get a good yield from a single loquat tree but you will want to make sure you plant a self-pollinating variety such as the Gold Nugget or Mogi cultivars, as most varieties need multiple trees in order to pollinate.
Choosing Locations for Loquat Trees
Select a location with plenty of room for the tree to spread out without being crowded by other large trees, shrubs, buildings, electrical lines, or other large structures. A mature loquat tree will grow 25 feet tall with a canopy of 15 to 20 feet. Choose a bright, sunny location as loquat trees prefer full sunlight but will tolerate partial shade (though you may not see as much fruit production). Soil type and pH does not matter but they do seem to prefer acidic soil to alkaline soil.
How to Plant Loquat Trees From Seedlings
Growing loquat trees from seed is practically impossible. Instead, purchase seedlings with full sets of roots online from Amazon https://amzn.to/37hJKCh or from your local gardening center or nursery. You will receive a full set of instructions for how to plant your seedlings with your purchase.
Watering Requirements of Loquat Trees
Young loquat trees need to be watered every other day to keep the roots moist. After the first week, you can reduce the watering regimen to twice a week if it’s especially dry or hot, allowing the rain to handle the duties otherwise. Stick with this watering schedule for two to three months until the tree is firmly established and reduced to once per week during dry periods afterwards.
Soil Requirements of Loquat Trees
Loquat trees are not very particular about soil requirements as long as it’s not salinated. The pH level is not a concern, nor the amount of organic matter, as long as the soil is well draining and fertilizer needs are being met.
Nourishing Loquat Trees With Fertilizer
Loquat trees need a 6-6-6 fertilizer throughout their lifespan. For the first year, they need one fourth of a pound of it applied every two months. Once it begins to bear fruit, loquat trees require one pound of 6-6-6 fertilizer for every eight feet of height applied just after flowering in early March or in the beginning of summer.
For organic gardens, substitute two tablespoons of greensand, one tablespoon of rock phosphate and two to three pounds of aged manure during the first year of growth and eight tablespoons of greensand, four tablespoons of rock phosphate and 12 pounds of aged manure just after flowering in March or the first week of summer.
Harvesting Loquats From Trees
Allow loquats to ripen fully while on the tree before harvesting. They should be ready for picking 90 days after the flowers have fully opened. You will notice the fruit near the stem turning yellow to orange with no green, which will signal that your loquats are ready to harvest. They will be soft to the touch and will detach easily from the stem with a gentle tug.
Pruning Loquat Trees
Prune the top and sides of loquat trees regularly so that it fits the allotted space you have provided for them better. Cut off each branch that you deem too long just above a new bud or a branch that you want to keep making sure to make a clean cut so that the wound is quick to callus. Don’t allow the trees to grow too tall if you don’t want to have to pull out (or purchase) a ladder in order to harvest.
Garden Pests and Common Diseases of Loquat Trees
Loquat trees are sometimes bothered by insects such as codling moths, green apple aphids and scale insects. Codling moths are the most troublesome of the three potential pests, especially if a colony is allowed to become well established. Insecticides may be necessary for severe infestations. Green apple aphids can be treated with insecticidal soap or releasing predatory insects such as ladybugs. Scale insects can be handled easily with regular applications of neem oil. Very occasionally, loquats can be affected by the presence of thrips and carpenter bees, but cases have been minimal and very manageable.
Fire blight is a very serious bacterial disease which can seriously damage the overall health of the loquat tree. To fight against fire blight, cut away all infected branches with sterile equipment and burn all infected material. In the case of out-of-control infestations, chemical controls should be considered to prevent future outbreaks.
Common Questions and Answers About Loquat Trees
Do you need two loquat trees to produce fruit?
For most varieties of loquat tree, you will need at least two trees in order to pollinate each other to produce fruit. There are a handful of cultivars, however, that are self-pollinating, such as the Gold Nugget and Mogi varieties.
What is loquat fruit called in English?
The loquat is called the Japan plum, or Japanese plum in English.
How tall do loquat trees grow?
Loquat trees can grow as large as 35 feet tall, and can expand from 25 to 30 feet wide. Most loquat trees, however, grow around 25 feet tall, with a 15 to 20 foot canopy.
What does loquat taste like?
Loquats taste most similar to plums, but have hints of cherry, lemon, grape, and apricot. They are similar to apples in texture but not in flavor.
Are loquat tree roots invasive?
The loquat tree does not have an invasive root system. The roots can grow beyond the canopy of the tree but do not grow into septic lines.
Do loquat trees grow fast?
A loquat tree grown from seed takes approximately eight to 10 years to reach maturity and begin to bear fruit. A loquat tree grown from grafting has a much shorter growing time needed to reach maturity and produce a crop of loquats. Grafted trees can start to see fruit in as little as two to three years time.
How much sunlight do loquat trees need?
Loquat trees prefer full sunlight exposure but will tolerate partial shade. Your loquat trees will perform better if they are exposed to full sunlight for as many hours per day as possible, Find a location that has excellent early morning and afternoon sun exposure
How much water does loquat trees need?
When you first plant your loquat tree, be it by seed or by grafting, water it every other day to keep the root system moist. After the first week, reduce watering to twice a week only in dry or hot weather conditions, letting the rain water it naturally otherwise. Keep this watering schedule for two to three months until the tree is established and afterwards reduce watering to once per week during dry periods only.
Do loquat trees need fertilizer?
Yes, loquat trees need fertilization to grow and thrive. For the first year of growth, feed young trees ¼ of a pound of 6-6-6 fertilizer every two months. For organic gardens, use two to three pounds of aged manure, a tablespoon of rock phosphate and two tablespoons of greensand.
Once your loquat tree begins to produce fruit, fertilize just before flowering in March or in the middle of the summer with 1 pound of 6-6-6 fertilizer for every eight feet of tree height. For organic gardens, use eight to 12 pounds of of aged manure, four tablespoons of rock phosphate and eight tablespoons of greensand for every eight feet of tree height. Spread either fertilizer evenly from about one foot from the trunk of the tree to one to two feet outside of the tree canopy, or width of the tree.
What is the botanical name for loquat tree?
The botanical name for the loquat tree is Eriobotrya japonica.
How do you propagate loquat trees?
It is next to impossible to propagate a loquat tree with a stem cutting, but it can be done. If you want to try it out yourself, take a six inch cutting from a stem tip and strip the lower leaves. Then dip the cut end into a rooting hormone liquid and place the cutting gently into a rooting hormone and plant it in a container of moist, loose potting soil.
Find a shady location in your garden to house the container and make the cutting feel at home with regular waterings. If it starts to develop roots, you are in luck, and the first sign will be the emergence of new growth at the tip of the cutting. If new growth is forming, plant the loquat tree in the ground directly and give thanks and praises.
Try your hand at propagating loquat trees by air layering for a higher chance of success at propagation.
What are the growing zones for loquat trees? When do loquat trees bloom?
Loquat trees are hardy to USDA zones eight through ten.
Want to learn more about growing loquat trees?
National Gardening Association covers Propagating a Loquat tree
Gardener’s Path covers How to Grow Loquat
Gardening Know How covers Growing Loquat Fruit
SFGate Homeguides covers Fertilizing a Loquat Tree
Soft Schools covers Loquat Facts