Semi-tropical or subtropical climates are those with hot, sultry summers and mild winters, such as in the southeastern United States. Depending on the region, several semi-tropical fruits are well-suited to landscape cultivation and provide plentiful crops useful for eating fresh, in jams or jellies, or in other recipes. Choose healthy plants with tags clearly indicating the cultivar and where it is best suited for growing. If in doubt, contact the local county extension office for advice on planting semi-tropical fruits in your location.
Avocados (Persea americana), also known as alligator pears, are low-branching evergreen trees with an open canopy, reaching 60 feet tall, but usually seen around 35 to 40 feet. Avocado trees, native to tropical America, produce pear-shaped, fleshy fruits, called drupes, up to 10 inches long. Avocado trees, cold hardy to USDA zone 9b, prefer full sun to partial shade sites and variable, well-drained soils.
Pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana), or feijoa, is an evergreen shrub or low-branched tree with a dense canopy, growing to 18 feet tall. Pineapple guavas produce 3-inch berries often used for juicing, jellies and purees. Cold hardy to USDA zone 8b, pineapple guavas prefer full sun to partial shade conditions and various soils. In the warmest semi-tropical climates, such as in South Florida, guava is not recommended because of its invasive tendencies.
Figs (Ficus carica) are small, deciduous trees or shrubs with a low-branching, irregular canopy, reaching up to 30 feet, but commonly seen 10 to 15 feet tall. Fig trees produce irregularly shaped, rounded or pear-shaped fleshy fruits that grow 3 inches long, turning from green to yellow or brown at maturity. Figs, cold hardy to USDA zone 7, prefer full sun locations on various, well-drained soils.
Kumquats (Fortunella sp. Swingle), in the Citrus family, Rutaceae, are compact shrubs growing 8 to 15 feet tall that produce small, oval-oblong or round, yellow to orange fleshy fruits. Some types have sweet rinds and sour pulp, and others have sour skins and sweet interiors. Kumquats, hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10, prefer full sun for best performance but can tolerate partial shade, and well-drained soils.
Citrus (Citrus spp.) includes evergreen shrubs or small to medium trees with low-branching oval canopies. Common citrus fruits are sweet oranges, lemons and limes, grapefruit, satsumas, tangerines and sour oranges. Geographical location as well as species and cultivar selection is very important when choosing citrus plants. Citrus species, hardy to USDA zone 9, are often successful in colder climates depending on the species grown, which type of rootstock it is grafted on and whether it is planted in a protected location. Citrus prefers full sun conditions and fertile, well-drained soils.