If you're not familiar with guava, we'd recommend finding a tropical fruit vendor and giving one a try (plus you can keep the seeds). They are a delectable, sweet fruit that is grown around the world in tropical regions. Guava is eaten raw or used as an ingredient in drinks, desserts, and candies. In many parts of the world, guava is eaten with a little sprinkling of salt, which brings out its sweet flavor.
The fruits, which are about 5 inches in diameter, are borne on small shrubs that are not terribly difficult to grow, provided you can give them enough warmth. Guava plants are highly susceptible to cold temperatures and will drop leaves at the slightest suggestion of winter. Along with other tropical fruits, it can be great fun to sprout guava seeds from a grocery store fruit and grow the little tropical tree. It's highly unlikely you'll ever get fruit, and if you do it will not likely resemble the parent plant, but it's still fun.
- Light: Full sun. Move your sprouted guava to a very sunny place as soon as possible. During summer, move outside to a sunny patio. In the winter, move inside to the brightest location possible.
- Water: Provide regular water during the growing season, and reduce watering during the winter.
- Soil: A rich typical potting mix will do fine. Good drainage is important to protect the roots.
- Fertilizer: Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.
Guava can be propagated a number of ways, including by seed, grafting, and air layering. In commercial cultivation, most guava is grafted onto an established rootstock, which helps the plant thrive and flower. If you are growing guava from seed, the plant might not produce fruit true to the parent. To increase the chances of germination (and reduce the time), let the seeds sit in a little water for two weeks, or boil them for five minutes, then plant. Germination will take between 2 and 8 weeks.
Guava trees naturally grow to approximately 30 feet in height, but much smaller plants will flower and fruit. In the right conditions, a young tree will begin to flower and fruit at about 4 or 5 years of age (although this can vary). Repot your young guava every spring into a larger pot. You can keep the plant smaller with careful pruning in the early summer, thus increasing the chances of getting fruit.
Varieties to Grow
The typical guava is the Psidium guajava. This plant has been in cultivation so long, it's not exactly known where it originated, and in the intervening centuries, dozens of named cultivars have been introduced. Named cultivars include "Redland," named for a growing region in South Florida, "Supreme," with white flesh, and "Ruby," with light pink flesh. Unless you're growing from the grafted rootstock, it's unlikely your homegrown guava will reproduce true to seed.
The guava tree is a highly attractive little tree, with bronze bark that peels away to let greenish patches peek through. Over time, very old trees take on a gnarled and twisted appearance, making them look much older than they are. The leaves and flowers are both mildly fragrant and attractive, making this a prized ornamental tropical fruit plant.
The key with guava is to provide the right temperature window. They have very little tolerance for cold, but also cannot withstand harsh, desert-like heat. Young guava is vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and whitefly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat with the least toxic option.