The Most Cold-Hardy Tropical Fruit Trees
Tropical fruit trees tend to be delicate plants that wither at the first sign of cold wind. Not all species are this delicate; some will survive several degrees of frost. Grow them in a sheltered spot, exposed to as much sunshine as possible, to encourage flowering and fruiting. Protect young tropical fruit trees during cold winter nights by draping them with a blanket or frost cloth.
The evergreen feijoa or pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) is a South American native that is hardy to 10 degrees F. It grows as a rounded shrub or small tree up to 15 feet high with small, rounded leaves. Plant feijoas in a sunny spot with fertile, well-drained soil. They are drought tolerant and produce fruit during the summer. Both the pink flowers and green or yellow fruit are edible.
The Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora) grows up to 20 feet tall with small, delicate leaves that are red when young. Grow it as a specimen tree or prune into a hedge or windbreak. Surinam cherry trees are hardy to 25 degrees F. The fragrant, white flowers are followed by cherry-sized fruit with pronounced ribbing. They can be red or purple when ripe and are rich in vitamin C.
Guava trees (Psidium guajava) will survive temperatures below 25 degrees F, once they are mature. Even if they are killed down to the ground by a light frost, guava trees sometimes regrow once the winter is over. Plant guava trees close to a south-facing wall for maximum shelter and exposure to the sun.
The loquat or Japanese plum (Eriobotrya japonica) reaches 20 feet in height and forms a small, rounded tree. The large, oval leaves are leathery and slightly hairy with pronounced veins. White loquat flowers come in the spring in fragrant clusters, followed by edible yellow fruits. Jack Scheper reports on the Floridata website that Florida loquat trees have survived brief exposure to temperatures of 15 degrees F. Flowering and fruit set suffers below 28 degrees. Plant loquats in a sunny spot with free-draining soil.
The Central American white sapote (Casimiroa edulis) grows up to 50 feet in the wild. Prune slower-growing, grafted cultivars to between 15 and 20 feet. Robert Vieth of the University of California Cooperative Extension reports that mature trees survive to 22 degrees F, but young plants are damaged below 30 degrees. White sapote fruit are oval and up to 6 inches across. They have soft flesh when ripe that tastes something like a cross between a banana and a peach.
- Texas AgriLife Extension Service; Home Fruit Production -- Guava; Julian W. Sauls; December 1998
- Floridata; Eriobotrya Japonica; Jack Scheper; April 2004
- University of California Cooperative Extension; White Sapote; Robert Vieth
- The University of Arizona Extension; Frost Protection; Lucy Bradley; April 1998