The exotically sweet guava fruits sold in larger grocery stores and fruit vendors comes from a tropical evergreen shrub or small tree that can be grown as an unusual potted plant. And it many regions, that's the only way to grow it, as this plant is very sensitive to cold and will succumb to the smallest hint of frost, especially when the plants are young.
Guava is a shrub or small tree with a single or multi-stemmed trunk. It has mottled green bark and long, 3- to 7-inch serrated leaves that sit atop a wide, short canopy. The white flowers produce oval or pear-shaped fruits 2 to 5 inches in size. The taste and color of the fruit differ based on the variety.
In the landscape, these plants can grow to 20 feet or more in height, but as an indoor container plant, it is kept much smaller. Getting indoor guava plants to flower and produce fruit is a hit-or-miss proposition, at best, so the plants are generally grown as novelty specimens, much the way an indoor orange or fig tree is grown.
As is done with other tropical fruits, it can be great fun to collect guava seeds from a grocery store fruit and grow a little tropical tree. But be aware Guava grows very, very slowly when young before hitting a growth spurt. It can take four to eight years before a plant sprouted from seed will reach fruiting maturity—if it sets fruit at all.
|Botanical Name||Psidium guajava|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf evergreen shrub or tree|
|Mature Size||4–20 feet (indoor plants will be smaller)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Rich, well-draining soil|
|Soil pH||4.5 to 7.0 (acidic to neutral)|
|Bloom Time||Usually spring|
|Hardiness Zones||9–11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Caribbean, Central and South America|
Guava plants are native to the tropical and subtropical Americas and will do best in conditions that mimic those regions. They like moderately warm, humid conditions and react badly to any hint of cold or to desert-like heat. Potted plants can grow well on a warm patio or deck during the warmer months, then moved indoors for the winter.
When grown indoors, guavas like a bit more heat and humidity than the typical indoor home environment, so you may find that it's best to grow them in a sunroom or greenhouse, where temperatures and humidity can be controlled. A room dedicated to heat-loving plants can also be a good option, provided it has enough sunlight.
Guava plants want as much full sun as you can give them. Move your sprouted guava to a very sunny place as soon as possible. During summer, move them outside to a sunny patio. In the winter, move inside to the brightest location possible.
A rich typical potting mix will do fine for guava plants. Good drainage is important to prevent the roots from rotting.
Provide guava plants with regular water during the growing season, and reduce watering somewhat during the winter.
Temperature and Humidity
Guavas are warm-weather plants that don't react well to cold. Young plants may succumb to even the hint of frost, so make sure to move patio plants indoors before well before the weather turns chilly. Mature plants may survive a touch of frost now and then, but only in the warmest climates can these plants remain on a patio year-round.
Guava plants like relatively humid conditions and don't grow well in desert-like environments, such as that found in outdoor Arizona. At the same time, extremely humid, jungle-like conditions can foster rust fungus on the leaves.
Feed guava with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season, but withhold feeding during the winter months.
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.
True Guava vs. Pineapple Guava
The plant that goes by the common name pineapple guava is not a true guava at all, but is instead Feijoa sellowiana or Acca sellowiana, a member of the myrtle family. The fruit has a similar taste to true guava, but this plant is rarely, if ever, grown as an indoor potted plant.
Growing Guava From Seed
Guava can be propagated in 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, but the plant can still make a lovely potted specimen.
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 in a pot filled with soilless seed-starting mix. Cover the seed with just a small amount of seed-starter mix. Place the pot in a warm place (above 65 degrees Fahrenheit), and keep it moist by misting it whenever the top of the soil surface feels dry. Germination will take two to eight weeks.
When the young plant becomes vigorous (it can take a couple of months), it can be transplanted into its adult pot, where it will be best grown in a location with temperatures of 75 degrees or above. Young guava plants are very slow-growing at first, so don't be surprised if it takes a couple of years for it to achieve an attractive stature. If your plant is destined to flower and set fruit, it can take as much as eight years.
Potting and Repotting
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.
Propagating Guava Plants
In addition to growing from seed, guavas can be propagated through softwood cuttings. Cut a 4- to 6-inch length of young, flexible stem, then remove all but the top two leaves. Dip the cut end into rooting hormone, then plant it in moistened potting mix.
Cover the pot with clear plastic, propping it up, if necessary, to keep the plastic above the leaves. Place the pot in a sunny location where temperatures remain between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When new growth begins to appear on the cutting (it can take two to three weeks), it means that roots have begun to form. Remove the plastic at this time, and water regularly as the cutting begins to grow.
As the young plant outgrows its pot, transplant it into a large container, as needed. Guava plants will do best if you grow them in a warm location, but not in blistering heat. It can be moved outdoors to a patio when the heat of summer arrives and temperatures remain steadily above 75 degrees.
Common Pests/ Diseases
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.