Lychees on a healthy tree.
image by Tracy Hunter: Flickr.com
Lychee (Litchi chinensis) trees are native to southern China and grow prolifically in other parts of southeastern Asia. According to the California Rare Fruit Growers, lychees were introduced to Hawaii in 1873. Lychees grow well in southern California, southern Texas and Florida, which produces more lychees than any other state. The trees need full sun to flower and fruit. Although often called lychee nuts, the lychee is actually a soft, white, sweet fruit eaten raw and used to make sorbets, fruit salads and even the lychee martini.
Place organic mulch around your lychee tree to keep the soil moist. Lychees require regular watering during the growing season. Some soils have too much salt in them, especially in the Southwest. Regular watering will prevent salt build-up no matter where you are. Lychees should not be in standing water, as it will stunt their growth.
Apply a light amount of a balanced fertilizer for acid-loving plants when the trees are young. Established trees need regular feeding from spring to the end of summer.
Prune young lychee trees to help them grow strong. Prune mature trees to help control the size and shape. The University of Florida Extension office recommends not cutting branches that are larger than 1 inch, or you risk having less fruit production. Do not cut Vs in the tree; the wood is too brittle.
Cover a cold frame with heavy plastic sheets, or comforters to protect young trees from frost. Even though lychees grow best in areas without frost, a light frost will not hurt the trees if you protect them.
Apply insecticide and miticide to control scale, root weevils, lychee webworms and barkminers. Spot spray the pests to keep the pesticides from killing beneficial insects.
Apply fungicide to help prevent fungi and algae from killing your lychee trees. Check with your local nursery or home improvement store garden center to see what type of fungicide is appropriate for your state, as these products are under government control.