List of fruits that grow in Florida. The historical state of Florida has a tropical sub-tropical climate. You will find that in many regions of the State, there are several locations where mangoes, litchis and oranges, for example, are grown commercially. We provide a list of fruits that grow in Florida, and tell you how to grow each fruit variety.
Florida is a great place to live and make a living. The weather is beautiful and you can grow all kinds of fruits there. It’s a great place to raise a family too because it’s so safe for children. Some of the best fruits in Florida are oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, limes, lemons and strawberries.
Florida is home to many different types of fruit trees. While many people think that orange is the only type of fruit tree in Florida, they are wrong! Orange is just one type of citrus fruit that grows in this state. There are also grapefruits, lemons, limes and tangerines that grow here as well. In addition to these citrus fruits, there are also many other types of fruit trees that can be found throughout this region.
List Of Fruits That Grow In Florida
The list of fruits that grow in Florida is extensive. You can find a wide variety of fruits, including citrus fruits, berries, melons and more. Florida is a great place to grow fruit, but it’s important to keep in mind that the climate is different in each region. For example, citrus and avocados grow best in the southern part of the state, while strawberries do better in northern Florida
Florida has a unique climate that makes it a great place to grow a number of different varieties of fruit trees.
What fruit trees grow well in Florida? Apples, Avocado, Bananas, Carambola (Star Fruit), Citrus, Figs, Guava, Jackfruit, Japanese Persimmon, Longan, Loquats, Lychee, Mamey Sapote, Mangoes, Meyer Lemon, Mulberries, Papaya, Peaches, Pineapples, Pomegranates, Tamarind all grow well in Florida.
Florida has a range of growing climates from tropical in the South to sub tropical and temperate in the North. South Florida is mostly warm and humid all year round while North Florida has many chilly and cool nights with some frosts.
This makes it possible to grow a wide and diverse number of fruit trees in Florida. With the different climates, some will be easier to grow in the South while others will be easier in the North.
Fruit Trees That Grow Well in Florida
Fruit Trees That Grow Well in Florida,Florida is known for its warm, tropical climate, which makes it a great place to grow fruit trees. One of the most popular fruits to grow in Florida is citrus fruit. Citrus trees are easy to grow, and they can provide you with delicious fruit year after year. There are many types of citrus trees that work well in Florida’s environment, including: Lemons.Oranges,Tangerines,Grapefruit, Kumquats, Limes
Different fruit trees require different chill hours in order to bear fruit in the Summer. Temperate fruit trees such as apples and peaches require a period of cold weather in order to develop cold hardiness and produce a good crop of fruit. This period of cold weather is called chill hours and is counted only when the temperature drops between 32°F and 45°F.
Low-chill plums, peaches and nectarines need just 100 to 525 chilling hours per year, making them better suited for mild winters.
Check the image below to see how many chilling hours your area gets, to determine what fruit trees will grow best. Many fruits will have varieties that will need different chilling hours. So, one variety of apple that will do well in North Florida, might not do well in South Florida and vice versa.
For example, the yearly average chill hour accumulation in Northwest Florida is between 660 and 700 hours.
Apples do well in Northern and Central Florida as they require a high number of chill hours.
Some of the best varieties to grow in Northern and Central Florida are the Anna, Dorsett Golden, and TropicSweet with 300 to 400 chill hours.
Apples need to be planted in a well-draining soil that is fertile and it is best to plant them between December and early February. They will need plenty of water and fertilizer regularly and once established should begin bearing fruit after a few years.
It is best to buy a few different varieties that will bloom at the same time as cross pollination is required for fruit to set. The Anna, Dorsett Golden and Tropic Sweet all bloom around the same time so are a good choice for cross pollination.
These varieties of Apple trees should bear fruit during the months of June and July.
Avocados prefer warmer temperatures and don’t do well in cooler climates. However, there are many varieties that have been developed with a high cold tolerance that will allow them to grow in North and Central Florida.
The varieties of Avocado best suited to Florida are the Hardee, Pollock, Simmonds, Nadir, Russell, Brogdon, Miguel, Nesbitt, Beta, Loretta, Waldin, Tonnage, Lula, Marcus, Choquette, Hall, Monroe, Kampong, Meya, Reed and Brookslate
There are a few varieties that do well in the colder temperatures having a high cold tolerance of between 20°F – 30°F (-7°C to -1°C)
The avocados that can be grown in North Florida with a high cold tolerance are the Hardee, Brogdon, Tonnage, Lula, Marcus, Hall, Kampong, Meya and Brookslate.
When selecting your Avocado tree to grow in your backyard, you need know if your avacado tree is self pollinating, meaning you will only need one tree, or cross pollinating, meaning you will need to have two different avocado trees.
The self pollinating varieties include Taylor, Waldin and Lula wheras the cross pollinating varieties incluse Booth 8 and Pollock.
Avocado trees can be sprouted from an avacado seed you might obtain from a fresh avocado you buy in the local store, but be prepared to wait at least four to ten years to bear fruit.
You will need to ripen your avocado after you pick it from the tree as they will not ripen on the tree. It usually takes 4 days for a picked avocado to ripen. To know when they are ready to pick, check the ground for any that have fallen.
*Lula can be susceptible to Scab, however, this may not be a problem for home growers.
So looking at the above table, if you are a home grower and would like a crop of Avacados all year round you could try planting Simmonds, Donnie, Booth 7 and Monroe varieties for Low Temperature hardiness and Brogden, Lula and Brookslate for High Temperature Hardiness.
Bananas can be grown in all most all areas of Florida.
For example, the Dwarf Cavendish is easily acquired from many nurseries and can produce tasty fruit if it doesn’t freeze in the winter.
The best Florida friendly bananas are Blue Java, Apple, Dwarf Cavendish, Gold Finger, Dwarf Orinoco, Dwarf Red, Ice Cream, Mysore, Lady Finger and Williams.
The best banana variety to grow in North Florida is the Japanese fiber banana, which can survive in areas that receive sub-zero temperatures due to its high tolerance to cold. However, this is more of an ornamental banana and not so good for eating.
The best eating bananas are the ‘Lady Finger’, ‘Apple’, and ‘Ice Cream’. To find out if Bananas can be grown from seeds check out the article: Can Bananas Be Grown From Seeds
Ice Cream is the best eating banana to grow in North Florida. In South Florida you will have no problem growing most varieties of bananas. An interesting question that crops up from time to time is: Are Bananas Man Made or Natural. Check the article to find the answer, you might be surprised.
Bananas will grow and produce best when they’re planted in fertile, moist soil and in a location that is protected from that receives full sun. Bananas need to be fertilized frequently as most soils in Florida are sandy with low fertility. Ever wondered: Do Bananas Grow On Trees. Read the article and see.
Bananas like plenty of water, about 1.5 inches of water per week to grow and fruit well, but don’t overwater as this can damage the plant. Did you know what a Banana is? Are Bananas a Berry a Herb or a Fruit & Why Are Bananas Curved? Find out by reading the article.
4. Carambola (Star Fruit)
Star fruit is an exciting exotic fruit to grow. It has been grown in Florida for over 100 years. Original varieties were tart but newer varieties are very sweet. They are best kept pruned as unpruned trees can grow as tall as 20 to 30 feet.
Best Star Fruit to grow in Florida are the sweet Golden Star, Fwang Tung, Arkin and Kary.
When it is ripe the star fruit is crisp and sweet. Slices of star fruit look like stars and so aptly names star fruit.
If you are wanting to grow star fruit from the seeds you gather in the fruit you will need to plant them within a few days. Any longer and the seeds will not germinate. However, the fruit coming from trees that are started with seeds tend to be tart and will take a few years to produce fruit. If you are wanting the sweeter fruits you will need to purchase a tree from a nursery.
Star fruit prefers the warmer temperatures and is best grown in South Florida. Star fruit is best panted in full sun and well-drained soil.
Fruits are ready around June to February and are sweetest when allowed to fully ripen on the tree.
If you are looking for the best variety to grow then check out the table below – Carambola (Star Fruit) varieties under South Florida conditions.
Star Fruit Varieties for Florida
Citrus trees grow well in Florida but, because they are a subtropical fruit, will need protection or covering in areas that experience regular freezing.
Among the best citrus fruits to grow in Florida are Oranges, Tangelos, Lemons and Limes, Key Lime, Grapefruit and Kumquat.
There are a number of varieties of Oranges that do well in Florida such as the Navel, Hamlin, Valencia, Hamlin, Ambersweet and Pineapple. The Navel is the most popular, however the Valencia is considered the ‘King of Juice Oranges’ because it has a bright orange sweet juice.
For those of you in North Florida the Hamlin and Navel Oranges are the most cold hardy, but may need some protection if temperatures get too low.
Orange Varieties and Season
Tangelos are an especially good grower in both North Florida and South Florida. The best Tangelo varieties suited to Florida are the Minneola and the Orlando. The flavor is not as sweet as an Orange as they are a cross between a Grapefruit and a Tangerine.
The Minneola variety are also known as Honeybell. Because Tangelos are not very self-fertile its best to grow them with other citrus trees such as Sunburst and Temple to ensure pollination.
Orlando Tangelos fruits are ready from November through to January and the Minneola fruits are ready from December to February.
- Lemons and Limes
Lemons are an acid fruit and prefer the warmer climate of South and Central Florida.
There is a variety called the Meyer Lemon which is cold hardy and can be grown also in North Florida. It ripens from November to March. It can also be easily grown in containers.
Lemons do best in a moist sandy loam soil. Being self-pollinating you do not need to have multiple plants.
- Key Limes
The Key lime does not tolerate cold very well and should only be grown in Southern Florida.
It has a more tart and bitter flavor than other Limes.
The Kumquat is a unique citrus fruit in that the whole fruit including the skin can be eaten. Its taste is either sweet or tart depending on the variety, and can be grown throughout most of Florida as it tolerates cold very well.
The best varieties to grow are the Nagami and Meiwa.
Figs grow very well in North and Central Florida. The best Figs to grow in Florida are the Common Figs as they do not require pollination.
There are four varieties of Figs, Common, Caprifigs, Smyrna, and San Pedro. However, Caprifigs, Smyrna and San Pedro Figs all require a special wasp not found in Florida for cross pollination. So best to stick with Common Fig.
Of the Common Fig, the three best cultivars are the Celeste, Brown Turkey, and Ischia.
If you choose to grow Figs, then make sure you plant the tree in a location that gets full sun all day. Don’t overwater as they do not like excessively wet soil, however, they will need plenty of water during the fruit season which is between July and October.
You will find a great deal more information on growing figs in Florida in the article: How To Grow Fig Trees In Florida. In this article you will learn the best varieties of Figs to grow and tips on how to grow in the Florida landscape.
Guava trees grow very well in Southern and Central Florida, but the colder temperatures of Northern Florida will kill this tree.
There are two basic types of Guavas grown in Florida, red or pink flesh types which are eaten when ripe and white flesh types which are eaten unripe when they are crispy and green.
Pink types that are available in Florida include Homestead (Ruby x Supreme), Blitch, Barbi Pink, Hong Kong Pink, and Patillo.
Green types include Lotus, Crystal, Supreme and Webber.
Guava trees like the warm tropical and sub-tropical conditions and the ideal temperatures for growth will range between 73°F to 82°F. Temperatures below 60°F will cause growth to cease.
Young guava trees may be killed when temperatures drop to 27°F to 28°F.
You can grow guava trees from seeds, but expect to wait 3 to 8 years for fruit if grown this way. Its faster to get a young plant from a nursery as fruit production will begin 3 to 4 years after planting.
You should plant your Guava trees in full sunlight. Shade will slow down growth. Guava trees will grow in most types of soils including sandy soils so common in Florida.
Check out the table below for the Guava varieties that grow well in Florida.
Guava Varieties in Florida
The Pink or red guava variety are usually eaten fresh and are generally picked when the peel turns light green to yellow. The fruit is then placed at room temperature and allowed to soften and ripen before consumption.
The White guava if eaten fresh is usually picked when full-sized and green to light green in color and consumed before the peel turns yellow and soft.
Both green and ripe guava may be stored in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.
Best Fruit Trees To Grow In Florida
Best Fruit Trees To Grow In Floridaare a great addition to any garden. While they may require some special care and attention, it’s well worth the effort when you taste the sweet fruit from your own tree! Here are some of our favorite fruit trees to grow in Florida: Apples, Citrus trees, Peaches, Plum trees
Florida has a unique climate and can grow a wide range of fruit trees.
What fruit trees grow well in Florida? Apples, Avocado, Bananas, Citrus, Figs, Guava, Jackfruit, Japanese Persimmons, Loquats, Lychee, Mangoes, Mulberries, Papayas, Peaches, and Tamarind all grow well in Florida.
We have a tropical, subtropical and temperate climate here in Florida. North Florida sees plenty of chilly nights while south Florida sees a warm humid climate most of the year.
This unique climate range gives us a wide variety of fruit trees to grow. some will be easier to grow in the north while others will be easy to grow in the south.
Fruit Trees That Grow Well In Florida
Some fruit trees on this list will need a certain amount of cold weather in order to begin to set fruit. These are called chill hours.
A chill hour counts when the temperature is between 32-45°F. Those in the deep south Florida will have a really hard time getting these hours and will not be able to grow some of these trees.
Don’t worry though, south Florida has no shortage of fruit that trees it an grow.
Take a look at this chart to get an idea of how many chill hours your area gets
Apples are a fruit tree that need a certain number of chill hours in order to set fruit. These will only grow well in north and northern central Florida.
Growing apples is relatively new to Florida. A low chill hour variety of apple right now is about 300-400 chill hours. This isn’t a possibility for lower central and south Florida.
Florida Friendly Apple Varieties: Anna, Dorsett Golden, and Tropic Sweet.
I order for apple trees to set fruit they need to be cross pollinated. This means you will have to have more than one apple tree in order to get fruit.
If growing from seed your tree will take some time in order to produce fruit. It usually takes seed grown trees anywhere from 6-10 years to begin producing fruit. If you have a grafted tree they will produce at a much younger age. Usually between 3-5 years old.
Apples normally ripen in Florida around June or July.
Avocados are like the opposite of apples. They prefer warm weather and don’t really like the cold. However, there are new cold tolerant varieties being made that allow north Florida gardeners the chance to grow them.
Florida Friendly Avocado Varieties: Bernicker, Brogdon, Choquette, Day, Hall, Lula, Marcu Pumpkin, Mexicola, Monroe, Pollack, Russel, Simmonds, Winter.
Brogdon, Choquette, Day, Mexicola, and Winter all have a high cold tolerance. This means that they can withstand temperatures in between 20-30°F.
The trees must be mature in order to withstand these temps. It’s a good idea to give young Avocado trees plenty of cover when cold weather rolls in.
Avocado trees can grow up to 60 feet tall depending on the variety but it becomes rather hard to pick the fruit when trees are that tall. Keeping them at a manageable size with pruning is a good idea.
The fruits actually don’t ripen on the tree. The best avocado will ripen in about 4 days after picking. If your avocado rots before it feels ready for eating that means that the fruit needs to stay on the tree a little longer.
The time at which they ripen will depending on the variety of avocado tree. You can get multiple varieties of avocado so that you can have a continuous harvest of this great fruit.
Bananas are not only great for their fruit but they are also beautiful plants. They are another plant that prefers the warm weather. Central and South Florida will have no problems growing bananas year round. but Cold temperatures do knock the banana plant to the ground, but it should grow back when the temperatures rise
Banana plants enjoy our warm and moist summer. They are a tropical plant. The best to time plant a new banana tree in Florida is mid to late spring when the weather warms up and afternoon storms become regular
There are lots of different varieties of banana. The ones in the supermarket are usually just one or two different kinds. Bananas come in lots of different colors and sizes.
Florida Friendly Banana Varieties: Apple, Blue Java, Dwarf Cavendish, Dwarf Orinoco, Dwarf Red, Gold Finger, Ice Cream, Lady Finger, Mysore, Williams.
Ice cream bananas are really y cold resistant, Those in north Florida will probably have the best luck with those.
Different varieties will grow to different heights. the dwarf varieties will usually grow between 6-9 feet while the other varieties can get up to 14 feet tall.
All bananas enjoy full sun and well draining soil. If their roots stay soaked they will die.
Citrus is probably the first fruit tree that comes to mind when you think of Florida. Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Grapefruits, Key limes and Tangelos. Florida’s climate can support all of these fruits.
However, there has been a serious issue affecting commercial citrus production and that is a disease called citrus greening. It is spread by infected bugs, soil, and equipment. It is a huge issue and it has the industry struggling.
However, this does not mean that we can not grow our own citrus trees in the backyard. Citrus is a subtropical fruit and is damaged by freezing weather. Those in north Florida will have to provide protection for your plant on the colder nights of the year.
Navel oranges are probably the most popular variety of organge we can grow in Florida. Tangelos are a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. Popular varieties are Orlando and Honey bells. Tangelos are actually cold hardy.
Myer lemons are another example of cold hardy citrus that north Floridians can grow. Key limes on the other hand can not tolerate any frost and should only be grown in the southern parts of the state.
Lots of times you can find cocktail plants at your local nurseries. These are root stock plants that have had a couple of different kinds of citrus grafted on to them.
Citrus trees prefer full sun with a well draining soil. They can grow up to 15 feet tall and wide so give them plenty of space to spread. If you are growing your trees in containers they will still grow just fine but their mature size will be much smaller.
Really good fresh figs are hard to get at your supermarket, the fruits don’t do well with all the logistics.
For this reason a homegrown fig might be the tastiest fig you will ever eat.
Figs are an easy fruit to grow in Florida. They prefer full sun and Plenty of room to grow. Figs can get 12-15 feet tall and the same wide.
The best variety of fig that you can grow in Florida is ‘Celeste’. ‘Brown Turkey’ is another popular variety in Florida as well.
I think Celeste is better because the fruit is formed with a closed end. Brown Turkey figs, on the other hand have a hole in the bottom of them. This gives a nice home for bugs to grow in.
It’s not the end of the world, Brown Turkey figs grow fantastic in Florida, but it’s just an extra thing to be aware of and I would rather not worry about whether or not I washed this fruit good enough before eating.
If you are planting from a tiny cutting or seed the best time to plant figs in Florida is March.
The early springtime will give your tree the best conditions to thrive. However, if you have a mature tree you can plant it at almost any time of year. But I would avoid the hottest and coldest months of the year.
Figs take a few years of growth before they start producing. Both varieties will start to ripen around July and continue to ripen for the next few months.
There seems to be some debate as to whether fig trees need chill hours or not to ripen. There are some sites that say they do and others that say they don’t. I’m in central Florida and I see fig trees with lots of fruits all around me.
If you’re in south Florida and are growing figs just fine join in on the discussion in the comments below. What varieties are you growing and how are they doing?
Guava might not be the most desired fruit on this list but a freshly grownn, freshly picked guava fruit tastes like a sweetened pear. It does not have a texture of a pear, the texture is much more dense and creamy.
Guava is native to tropical America, so it grows well in south Florida and central Florida. North Florida’s cold weather will kill this tree. Temperatures lower than 27F will kill a mature guava.
Fruit production and plant growth stops at 60F. Guava trees can grow up to 12-15 tall and wide.
There are two types of guava fruits, pink/red and white guava. White varieties are a little more tart than pink guava. Pink guava is sweet and extremely fragrant when ripe.
Florida Friendly Guava Varieties:
- Pink/Red Guava – Barbi Pink, Hong Kong Pink, Patillo, and Homestead(Most popular)
- White Guava – Crystal, Lotus, Supreme, Webber
Guava trees need a well draining soil, especially for our wet Florida summers. Guava trees do not like their roots to be wet for very long. It is a plant that tolerates drought very well.
You should also pick a spot where your guava gets plenty of sun. Guava trees do not do well in part shade, you will get much more fruit from a tree that is grown with plenty of sunshine.
Pick fruits that are firm but have a little give when you squeeze them. As the fruits ripen they change from a green color to a yellow color.
Jackfruit trees are definitely for south Florida gardeners.
Temperatures at 32F will start damaging this tree. Anything lower than 28F will kill a jackfruit tree. This tree would not be an option for those in north Florida unless you can provide adequate protection, like a large greenhouse.
The jackfruit tree can make fruits up to 60lbs! This doesn’t mean that all of your fruit will be massive. They more commonly weight in the 10 – 20 lbs range. The variety will affect the size of the fruit as well.
Florida Friendly Jackfruit Varieties:
- Black Gold
- Chompa Gob
- Dang Rasimi
- Golden Nugget
- Honey Gold
- Lemon Gold
The tree itself can grow between will grow between 18-40 feet tall. It is best to prune your jackfruit tree in order to make harvesting easier and to keep them at a manageable size.
Varieties Black Gold, Cheena, Chompa Gob, and Gold Nugget can be pruned and still happily produce when they are kept at around 8 feet tall.
Jackfruit doesn’t really mind our Florida soil. Sandy soil doesn’t seem to bother them but beefing up the soil will make them happier.
Plant jackfruit trees in Full sun.
It’s always much quicker to get fruit when you buy a nursery grown plant but if you plan on planting from seed you should expect fruit in years 3-4 of growing.
Loquat trees can be grown across all part of the state. These trees can take south Florida’s tropical climate but they can also take freezing temperatures. Loquats really are an amazing tree.
They are also beautiful and used for landscaping purposes. They have large attractive foliage and bright little bursts of white flowers with orangish fruits that give this tree an appealing look.
When I learned about loquat trees and started looking around I noticed them all over the place near me. Lots of them on the side of the road and in plenty of yards. They are so easy to grow here in Florida that they don’t really require any extra irrigation or care once established.
If you start to notice some loquat trees around you and get the smart idea of picking a fruit and planting a seed you should know that the tree doesn’t grow true from seed. This means you may get a different variety of loquat than the mother plant. One that may produce less fruit or different tasting fruit or no fruit at all.
This is not a big deal if you plan to only use this tree as an ornamental but I say why not get the best of both worlds? If you are buying a loquat from a nursery make sure that it has been grafted.
Florida Friendly Loquat Varieties:
- Golden Nugget
If you’ve never heard of lychee you aren’t alone. This is a lesser known fruit on this list. It is a bright red fruit that is shaped kind of like a strawberry. It has a thick bumpy skin and the edible part is reached by peeling this skin off.
The edible part is sweet and clear. the texture is like that of a firm jello.
The fruits are grown in clusters on the tree and can be anywhere form 3 – 50 fruit large.
Lychee is a plant that will thrive in Central and South Florida. It is a tropical to subtropical plant. Temperatures at 24F will severely damage or even kill a mature tree. Tree damage starts at 32F.
The two most popular varieties in Florida are Brewster and Mauritius. Mauritius produces more fruit than the brewster variety.
Lychee is a plant that loves full sun and well draining soil. It will not tolerate its roots being in water for very long. It is a semi drought tolerant but young plants enjoy regular watering.
Lychees do not grow true from seed. The most common commercial way of making new lychee trees is by air layering. I’d never heard of this before and it’s a really interesting way of propagating plants that don’t do well from cuttings.
Mangoes are another central and south Florida loving tree. Much like the loquat tree, mangoes are a beautiful tree that could be grown just for how attractive it is in the garden.
You can still grow a mango tree in north Florida if you plant in a large container are diligent enough to bring it into a greenhouse or protected area when nights get cold.
You can also try protecting your mango by planting it in an area close to the south side of a building and by planting a nice layer of plants around it to protect it.
Mature trees can take temperatures down to 25F but younger trees will be killed by temperatures lower than 30F.
Avoid planting mangoes during the coldest time of the year.
Florida Friendly Mango Varieties: Carrie Atkins, Dunkin, Edward, Keitt, Parvin, Floridian, and Van Dyke
Mango trees begin to flower in December and go through April. They need insects in order to pollinate.
Mango trees need full sun and once mature don’t really need regular watering.
You can grow a mango tree from seed but this plant can also be grown from a cutting or by being grafted.
5 Fruit Trees You Can Grow in Your Backyard in South Florida
There are a lot of fruit trees you can grow in your backyard in South Florida. Fruit trees are a great addition to any yard, and they can be easily managed by a homeowner who is willing to put in some effort. The following is a list of some of the most popular fruit trees for growing in South Florida: Avocado, Banana Tree, Mango Trees.
Why buy what you can grow freely and continuously at home? South Florida’s subtropical climate offers the ideal environment to raise these unique and tasty fruits right from your backyard. By becoming the caretaker for these fruit trees, it is guaranteed that nothing harmful can be introduced during their development – you are in control of the entire growing process. Peace of mind with a piece of fruit!
South Florida falls into the hardiness zones of 10 and 11, meaning certain plants thrive in this region of the state and can only be grown here, with few exceptions – some of these plants could potentially grow a bit closer to the southern tip of Central Florida. With that in mind, let us look at some fruit trees that you could grow comfortably in South Florida.
1. Banana (Dwarf Cavendish)
Harvest Season: Year-round
Bananas are one of the most popular fruits that comes to mind – possibly due to the infectious children’s song about Apples and Bananas taking root in our mind from a young age. Regardless, several types of bananas can be grown in Florida, but the Dwarf Cavendish, or Musa Acuminata, is the most reliable type for homeowners to cultivate due to its disease resistance and cold-weather tolerance. Going outside in South Florida may feel like walking through a humid oven, but sometimes there is a break at the end of the year, and some plants cannot tolerate temperatures dropping too low.
Banana trees are actually a giant herbaceous plant (an herb), but for simplicities sake, I will refer to Them as trees.
Typically, Bananas will fruit 9 to 12 months after planting. Plant during the Spring if you have good irrigation or wait till the rainy month of June. They need full sun and space away from other plants – at least 10 feet, preferably to provide some wind protection as light wind can damage leaves and stronger winds could topple the entire tree. For the best continuous fruit production, fertilize during the first 3 to 4 months of development as this crucial period will determine its future fruit production.
The plant needs about 5 inches of water a month – keep an eye on weather conditions and how much rain pours during the rainy months, otherwise water them with about an inch weekly. Banana trees are NOT flood resistant. They will die quickly and thus should not be planted in flood-prone areas. Harvest when the bananas are plump but not completely yellow – about a week or two before they would ripen on the while growing on the plant. Try to keep harvested banana bunches in a cool, shady place to ripen for a better flavor!
2. Cherimoya (Annona Cherimola)
Harvest Season: Winter through Spring
Also known as the custard apple or, according to Mark Twain, “the most delicious fruit known to man.” The cherimoya has been described as tasting like the combination of bananas, mangoes, strawberries, pineapples, papayas, and coconuts! When ripe, the contents can be scooped out like its namesake, custard! Despite the odd appearance of the cherimoya’s skin, it is also safe to eat, but avoid consuming the seeds – they are toxic, especially if crushed.
Instead of tossing them in the trash, try placing the seeds in a bowl of water and press down till they sink. After a few days, send any floating seeds to the trash can and bury the remaining seeds in 6 inches of a pot of soil. After a few weeks, you can transplant them to your yard to begin the 3 to 5-year process of growing your Cherimoya tree from seedlings. For this reason, unless you can wait that long for fresh cherimoya, it’s best to buy a tree and transplant it to your yard from April to June.
The tree needs full sun, and from April to November, water every two weeks ensuring the soil stays moist. Pay attention to the weather as the Cherimoya tree cannot tolerate overwatering. Apply fertilizer four times a year – 1 pound the first year and one additional pound each year stopping at 5 pounds a year.
Experts are still unsure what insect pollinates the flowers as bees are too large to reach the female flowers and other insects have not been observed collecting pollen. Thus, Growers must rely on the wind to pollinate the flowers or take direct intervention and hand-pollinate the flowers by hand with a small brush.
Harvest the fruit when the Cherimoya looks like the picture above. If you want to go a bit further, perfectly ripened Cherimoya are almost entirely brown but can be a bit more difficult to determine whether they are ripe or spoiled. Squeeze the browned Cherimoya, and if you feel some pressure push back, then it is fine.
3. Dragon Fruit (Pitaya/Pitahaya)
Harvest Season: Early Summer through Mid-fall
Behold! What may appear to be scaly-pink dragon eggs is actually fruit containing sweet and crunchy flesh – described as a cross between a kiwi and a pear. When referring to Dragon Fruit, the name is commonly attributed to the pink-skin with white flesh Pitaya Blanca or Hylocereus Undatus. Dragon Fruit belongs to the cactus family and is a climbing plant. To properly grow, you will need to provide a structure to support its climb – the cactus that bares these vitamins and mineral-rich fruit can grow up to 20 feet high! You may want to prune some of the branches to avoid growing a giant cactus.
The cactus can be grown directly from the seeds of the Dragon Fruit, but it could take years – it is easy to grow but requires time. The best option for those who do not want to wait that long to eat is to buy a grown cactus and simply transplant it to your yard. The plant requires full sun and grows best in loamy soil – that which contains a mix of clay, sand, and silt.
Like a cactus, you need to water it carefully. Only water if the top of the soil is dry and only to the point where the soil is moist – do not let it sit in water. To ensure survivability, plant it in well-irrigated soil and an area of your yard not prone to flooding.
Harvest the Dragon Fruit about a month after the flowers on the tree bloom. However, an easier way to determine if it’s time to pick them would be to examine the leafy parts on the fruit – ripe Dragon Fruit will have brown, withered leaf tips!
Harvest Season: May through early July
A member of the Soapberry family, the Lychee has a hard, dimpled red shell with soft and sweet white flesh that has a light floral taste of grape, water, melon, or pear. The fruit is often used in alcoholic drinks such as wine and various cocktails. Its high sweetness also makes it an ingredient in candy and ice cream. DO NOT grow a Lychee tree from a seed – it will take 10 to 25 years for the tree to mature and produce fruit. Instead, buy a young tree from a nursery and transplant it into your yard. In South Florida, the Brewster variant is used commercially, but it may be a bit too large for your yard. Instead, look for the following variants: Bengal, Hak Ip, Sweet Heart, Kwai Mai Pink, and Mauritius.
The young tree will require full Sun but if the Lychee tree is not used to too much light, slowly acclimate it to the Sun as sudden exposure could overwhelm it. Overall, the young tree is sensitive to light frost and overwatering but does perfectly well in native Florida soil. The subtropical environment of South Florida is ideal for its development – the young tree needs a warm, humid summer and a slight chill during the winter.
Plant the Lychee tree on a mound to avoid destruction from flooding and water 2 to 3 times a week for the first few weeks and then water regularly when the soil is dry. If you live in the Western portion of South Florida, regular watering is vital to reduce the build-up of salt in the ground – the Lychee tree is not salt tolerant. When the Lychee fruit turns from green to bright red, then they are ripe, and it is time to harvest and consume! Once removed, the fruit has a shelf life of about five weeks when refrigerated.
Harvest Season: Year-round, peak harvest in Summer
Mangos are an aromatic tropical fruit that blankets coastal areas with its sweet perfume. Used in drinks and treats and readily consumed on the beach, tropical paradise is all that comes to mind when picturing a Mango. Fortunately for you, Florida is the largest producer of Mangos in the United States and is home to 16 varieties seeking to take root in your backyard. Typically, they are grown along the Eastern and Southern coasts of South Florida, and the South shore of Lake Okeechobee. Due to the many different variants of Mango, they can be harvested year-round.
For your backyard, the Carrie Mango is an excellent place to begin – extremely sweet with silky flesh and requires the least amount of care. Harvest starts in early Summer, allowing you to kick-off your South Florida summer the correct way with a tropical icon. The mango tree can take many years to grow from a seed to a mature specimen, and I advise purchasing a young tree from a nursery and transplant it into your yard.
The tree needs full sun and proper irrigation as standing water will damage it and affect fruit production in the best-case scenario. Ideally, plant it on a 7-foot mound away from other plants and structures. IMPORTANT – keep the tree away from power lines. Mango trees can grow up to 130 feet tall. It may not reach that height exactly, but residential power lines are 12 to 15-feet high.
A mango tree will produce fruit after the first year but remove the fruits as they appear – this will allow the tree to dedicate energy to grow strong roots that could resist the inevitable hurricane or tropical storm. The fruit can weigh up to five pounds, and many of them may not mature all at once, so no need to pick every single one during harvest. The easiest way to determine if they are ready to pick is to tug on the Mango lightly – if it comes off, then it’s ready! Afterward, wait a few days for it to ripen.
Get Health Benefits this Summer! Focus on Fruits and Vegetables
Want to get healthier this summer? As part of an overall healthy diet, eating fruits and vegetables, that are lower in calories, instead of some other higher-calorie food, may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake and lower body weight. Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce your risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. It may protect against certain types of cancers and other chronic diseases. We all want to prevent disease and maintain good health.
Did you know?
Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the MyPlate fruit group. Choose unsweetened fruit juice. Fruits may be eaten fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated, and may be whole, cut-up, pureed, or cooked. They also taste great in a smoothie. At least half of the recommended amount of fruit should come from whole fruit, rather than 100% fruit juice.
Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as part of the MyPlate vegetable group. Low sodium juice is of course lower in sodium. Vegetables may be eaten raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed. Fresh, crisp vegetables make great snacks. Based on their nutrient content, vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups: dark green, red and orange, beans, peas, and lentils, starchy, and other vegetables. We say, “Eat a rainbow of colorful foods for good health.”
How much fruits and vegetables are recommended daily?
The amount of fruits and/or vegetables you need to eat depends on your age, height, weight, gender, and level of physical activity. For women, the amount can also depend on whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Find the right amount for you by going to the MyPlate website for planning guidance. https://www.myplate.gov/myplate-plan
MyPlate is broken down into five food groups. This blog is emphasizing two of those groups: fruits and vegetables. The recommendation is to make one half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
Often, I hear my program participants say that they can’t eat that much fruit and/or vegetables. Note: Normal serving sizes are not that large. Remember fruits and vegetables are not zero calorie foods; they do contain calories. They need to be eaten wisely, by keeping portion control in mind. Fresh grapes vary in size. The recommended serving size for grapes is about 22 seedless grapes or 1 cup, not a pound of grapes at one sitting.