Evergreen Fruit Trees
Many deciduous fruit trees in North America, like the apple and the pear, shed their leaves every fall. But others, most of them tropical imports, are fruit-bearing evergreens. They provide year-around foliage and edible treats in locations that have warm summers and cool, but not frosty, winters.
Native to Central America, the avocado (Persea Americana), is an evergreen that grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 10 to 12. The tree typically grows between 30 and 60 feet tall with a spread of 20 to 30 feet. Avocados prefer full sun and are intolerant of frost. They prefer soil that is well drained, evenly moist and organically rich. The leaves are dark green, glossy and between 4 and 8 inches long. Clusters of greenish-yellow flowers appear, later producing fruits that are large, green skinned and round or pear shaped. Flowering season depends on the variety. In the United States, avocados are commercially grown mostly in California and southern Florida.
A Mango tree (Mangifera indica), USDA zones 10B to 11, is another tropical import that does well in hot climates. These trees grow between 30 and 45 feet tall and up to 50 feet wide, needing plenty of growing space. Fruits are oval, between 3 and 6 inches long, fleshy and covered with green, red and yellow skins. Whitish gray flowers emerge between March and early April. Mangoes prefer full sun and tolerate various well-drained soils.
The foliage needs pruning to keep it from getting out of hand. Branches have thorns, so wear gloves, a hat, protective eye wear, long-sleeved shirt and pants and closed-toe shoes when pruning. In central and south Florida, mango is considered to be potentially invasive because of its fast growth.
Mango trees need to be strategically placed because the fruit often falls off the tree. Twigs, leaves and flowers often litter lawns. Placing the tree in a garden bed among other plants will help hide the mess.
The lychee tree (Litchi chinensis), USDA zones 10 to 11, is an import from Southern China. It grows to between 15 and 30 feet tall and has a spread of 15 to 25 feet. Lychee prefers full sun and well-drained, but consistently moist, organically rich, acidic soils. Panicles, elongated clusters of yellow flowers, bloom between April and May, with the fruits maturing usually from June to July. Occasionally, the tree will fruit until September. When ripe, the ovoid fruits have a red skin and translucent white flesh. It may be eaten fresh or processed by drying, pickling or freezing. A common alternate spelling is litchi.
The olive tree (Olea europaea) USDA zones 8 to 10, is a Mediterranean import that prefers full sun and well-drained, moderately moist, fertile soils. The tree does best in locations with hot dry summers and mild, but wet, winters. Without at least two months of temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, olive trees don't flower. Bloom time is from June to July, when clusters of tiny white, fragrant flowers blossom. Fruits appear as oval green drupes up to 1 1/2 inches long. When ripe, they turn black. Trees grow between 20 and 30 feet tall and between 15 and 25 feet wide.
The loquat tree (Eriobotrya japonica), USDA zones 8 to 10, is a native of China and Japan. It grows from 10 to 25 feet tall with a spread of 10 to 25 feet. Loquat trees prefer full sun to partial shade and well-drained, organically rich, evenly moist, loamy soils. Leaves are lance-like, up to 12 inches long and are dark green on the upper side and lighter green on the lower. White, fragrant flowers appear in long clusters, or panicles, up to 6 inches long. The pear-shaped to spherically shaped fruits, roughly 1 to 2 inches long, have a downy, yellow-to-orange skin. The fleshy inside has one or more large seeds. Fruits are eaten fresh or turned into preserves or other edibles.
In colder climates, the loquat may be grown as a houseplant but it may not flower. The plant does best when placed in a sunny window and when the house temperature is between 50 to 70 degrees F. In summer, the container may be moved outside.
Lemon trees (Citrus limon), USDA zones 9 to 11, are part of the citrus family. They grow between 10 and 20 feet tall and have a spread of 10 to 15 feet. Young trees have reddish leaves, which turn green when mature: darker green on top with a lighter green below. This seasonal bloomer produces fragrant white and purple flowers, either as single blooms or in small groups. The resulting fruit is oval, yellow skinned and fragrant. Oil glands on the skin's surface give the fruit a pebbly appearance. Lemon trees love full sun, wind-protected areas and well-drained fertile soils. When fruiting, they need lots of water.
Lemon trees may be grown indoors in containers as long as they are placed in well-lit locations that aren't too hot. Pinching and pruning controls the size. They need to be pulled outside in May so the flowers may be pollinated. In the fall, bring the trees back inside. It takes longer for the fruit of indoor lemon trees to mature, sometimes as much as a year.