The Best Fruit Trees for Subtropics

A good selection of fruits can be grown in subtropical regions, those warmer than the chilly winter areas of the temperate zones but also slightly drier and cooler than the humid, sultry tropics. Selecting plants that either tolerate light frosts or seasonal droughts or are fast growing in summer is key to finding a low-maintenance and productive fruit tree. Here are more popular fruiting plants for the subtropics.

Citrus

Citrus trees (Citrus spp.), especially tangerines and oranges, can handle the seasonally cool and dry and sometimes light frosty winters of subtropical regions. Not all citrus are well-adapted, however. Lemons and limes do not tolerate chilly winters as well as oranges and thus are planted in protected areas of the garden or brought indoors when frost threatens.

Litchee

The litchee (Litchi chinensis) is a broadleaf evergreen tree that produces most abundantly when winters are chilly, below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but not succumbing to frost. More flowers appear in late winter after a chilly winter dormancy, followed by fruits in mid- to late spring.

Banana

Although not a tree but a large herb, banana (Musa spp.) is hardy in the subtropics and will prosper and fruit if the growing season is long enough, usually over 8 months. Fertile soil, adequate moisture and heat is also needed for banana plants to produce hands of fruit.

Jaboticaba

Often producing two crops of black, grape-like fruits on its trunk each year, jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora), also called Brazilian grape, is an attractive tree for regions that rarely endure winter temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

Date

As long as the winter months are not overly wet and the soil fast draining of moisture, date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) will survive in regions that can get as cold as 15 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Ample sunlight and warm growing seasons promote flowering and eventual production of date fruits for harvest in late summer.

Pomegranate

The pomegranate (Punica granatum) tolerates winter chill down into the mid-20 degree Fahrenheit range and sprouts new growth in spring, soon to produce the vivid and attractive orange-red flowers in summer. If the growing season is very warm and long, the flowers will have ample time to develop into large ripe fruits.

Avocado

The fast-growing avocado (Persea americana) can be grown in regions that rarely endure freezing winter temperatures, and tall mature trees are much better able to survive freezes. A frost-free climate with a long, warm and humid growing season are particularly well-suited for production of avocados.

Fig

The common fig (Ficus carica) becomes a small, rounded tree or large shrub that tolerates winter cold as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. A long growing season permits this plant to flower and ripen fruits on its branches before any threat of autumn or winter frost.

Papaya

Although much better suited to the hot, humid tropics, papaya (Carica papaya) is such a fast-growing herbaceous plant that it can easily be grown in subtropical areas when there is no threat of frost, from spring to early winter. Ample sunshine and heat promotes flowering and maturation of fruits.

Keywords: cold hardy tropical fruits, subtropical fruit trees, selecting warm climate fruits

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for The Public Garden, Docent Educator, numerous non-profit newsletters and for Learn2Grow.com's comprehensive plant database. He holds a Master's degree in Public Horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne's Burnley College.