How to Grow Loquat Trees

Japanese plum/loquat fruits growing in a tree with the blue sky above

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In This Article

The loquat tree (Eriobotrya japonica) is a beautiful ornamental tree with stunning, sweet-scented white flowers. It is known for its winter hardiness, evergreen foliage, and delicious fruit.

Originally a native of China, the adaptable tree has spread profusely around the world where it now has naturalized in almost 30 countries, including the United States. How wide the loquat has spread is a testament to how hardy and adaptable it is. The commonality of the tree, condition-wise, is that it prefers temperate climates.

While this tree is common across many parts of North America, many won't get to enjoy a harvest. That is because it will not produce fruit in colder, more temperate local zones. In these instances, it is sold for ornamental horticulture only. With the right conditions, grafted trees planted in spring can produce a harvest in as little as two years.

Botanical Name Eriobotrya japonica
Common Name Loquat tree, Japanese plum, medlar, misbelief
Plant Type  Fruit tree
Mature Size 10–25 ft. tall, 10–25 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Loamy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Late fall, early winter
Flower Color White, blush
Hardiness Zones 8–10 (USDA)
Native Area  China and Japan
Toxicity Fruit: no; seed: yes
Eriobotrya japonica flowers covered in snow in in the winter.
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Loquats on a table
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Loquat Tree Care

Planting the loquat tree is done as you would do for any other tree. If in a zone where the temperature is borderline, locating in an area that could create a microclimate is a good idea. You could look for an area with lots of concrete or a rock feature that will absorb daytime heat and release that heat at night. Locating near a wall will also help to produce and retain heat while acting as a windscreen.

Light

Producing the most fruit and flower in full sun, the loquat tree will also tolerate partial shade but it will be less productive.

Soil

The loquat prefers a well-draining loamy soil that does not have high salinity or high acidity.

Water

The loquat tree is drought-tolerant but will be more productive when it gets regular water. Newly planted loquat trees should be watered every second day. Keeping the roots moist during this stage is crucial. From around six months to three years of age, the tree will benefit from being watered once a week during the dry season. Once fully established, watering can be less frequent.

Temperature and Humidity

The recommended zones for loquat trees are USDA 8 to 10, but it is known for its winter hardiness and late flowering blooms. It is not uncommon to see photographs of the tree in bloom with snow-covered flowers

One note to remember is that the tree does not fruit in temperatures lower than 28 degrees Fahrenheit, though there are some cultivars that bend that rule.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer is not normally needed, but an application of 5-5-5 fertilizer four times over the growing season will help produce more fruit.

Harvesting

If the growing conditions do not drop below 28 degrees Fahrenheit, the tree has the possibility of producing fruits.

It's important that any fruit is fully ripened on the tree in advance of harvesting. It takes around three months to see mature fruit after you see fully open flowers. You can tell your loquats are ready because the stem turns a yellow-orange color and it will pull away easily.

Loquats are best eaten soon after harvesting as they don't have a long shelf life. Stored in the fridge, they may last up to one week.

The fruit is a mixture of tart and sweet and has a flavor profile between apricot, lemon, and plum. The delicious fruit is often used in preserves, compotes, jellies, and pastries—if you can resist eating them fresh!

Pruning

Loquat trees do not require a lot of heavy pruning. It will only be to remove any dead branches.

Propagating Loquat Trees

When looking to buy loquat trees for fruiting, it is advised to buy a grafted seedling rather than growing it from seed. A seedling that was grown from seed will most likely not produce fruit for at least 10 years. Grafted plant material will take a much shorter time—perhaps as little as two to three years. This is often the case for all fruit-bearing trees. Trees being used solely for ornamental horticulture can be selected from those grown from seed.