How to Grow Tropical Fruit Plants Anywhere
by Laurelynn & Byron Martin, Logee’s Owners
Tropical fruiting plants benefit from warm temperatures and full sun. When grown as container plants in the north, we recommend putting your plants outside during the summer to stimulate a flush of new growth and frequently bud formation for the coming season. With the long days, high light and some added fertilizer, plants expand by leaps and bounds. This is a great time to repot and depending on the plant, a light pruning may be done to reshape its size and form. So, move your plants outside in the summertime to let nature with its wind, rain, sun and beneficial insects help produce the tasty fruit they are known for.
Citrus is a great choice if you are new to growing tropical fruit. We recommend growing Citrus limon ‘Ponderosa’ also known as the “American Wonder Lemon.” Generally, when grown in a clay pot, in full sun with moderate fertilizer during the growing season you will have tremendous growth during the summer. Remember, lemons and limes are some of the fastest growing citrus.
We recommend pinching or pruning a young plant to create a multiple-branched specimen. This is particularly important with the Ponderosa Lemon because of the enormous size of the fruit. Expect fragrant flowers in spring, followed by tiny lemons that keep growing and growing. Some lemons get to be 5 pounds or more. If it is size you are hoping to attain, then on small plants thin off young fruit to leave only two to three lemons on the plant. On our tree in the greenhouse, which is 117 years old, it has had up to 50 lemons at once, all ranging between 3-5 pounds.
Avocado is another popular tropical fruit that can be grown and fruited in a pot. Many people try growing avocados from a pit, which is fun to do but it takes years to get fruit and people lose interest before they ever see an avocado.
We recommend grafted varieties, such as our ‘Day’ avocado (Persea americana) where they typically produce fruit once they reach 4-6’ in height and are 3-4 years old. The fruit from ‘Day’ avocado is one of the best tasting avocados around. It is a medium-sized, tapered-neck avocado that is easy to peel and has a delicious, buttery sweet taste. Remember once fruit appears on your tree, it will hold on for up to six months with ripening occurring from July to September. Give full sun and don’t let the temperatures get below 35 degrees. Pruning can be done after flowering but selectively because new buds form on the new wood that grows in summer.
Finally, a unique and fancy fruit worth growing is Starfruit. Starfruit gets its name from the star-shape created once the fruit is sliced. Starfruit, especially our ‘Dwarf Hawaiian’ (Averrhoa carambola), which is rare and hard to find, produces an abundance of fruit at only 2’ in height. The light colored yellow fruit on ‘Dwarf Hawaiian’ is sweeter with a higher sugar content than other varieties. Plus, whether grown inside or outside, the sweetness seems to be the same. When grown directly in the ground, Starfruit has been said to produce enough fruit for a village. However, if you have limited growing space or live in the north, and can only grow ‘Dwarf Hawaiian’ in a pot, it will produce enough fruit for a family and friends.
We recommend maintaining potted specimens at 3-4’ tall with an annual pruning done in late winter as they start their seasonal growth. Although they produce several time a year in the south, in the north they flower in late spring with fruit set during early summer and ripening in the fall. When grown outside, pollinating insects will increase the fruit set. They prefer full sun with warm temperatures between 65-80°F during the flowering period for best results.
We hope you have enjoyed learning a bit about how to grow tropical fruit plants, including a few of our favorites. Before you go, please be sure to explore our selection of fruiting, rare and tropical plants. And don’t forget to request your free Logee’s catalog while you’re here, too!
Learn more about the tropical fruit plants mentioned in this article: