Loquat Fact Sheet
Ralph G. LaRue, UC Farm Advisor, Los Angeles Co.
The loquat, an ancient fruit grown in Japan for the past 1,000 years, is probably native to the cooler hill regions of China. For many years, loquats have been grown as ornamentals in California, especiallly along the southern coastal plains. They do well in a wide variety of soils and climates but are not grown commercially in California.
Loquats are normally bushy, rather dense trees. Their broad, leathery, dark-green leaves are often used in floral arrangements. Easily grown, attractive trees in the garden, they blossom and set fruit from October to February. Selected varieties produce clusters of excellent yellow fruit that mature in the spring and early summer.
- Most soils, except those that are alkaline, are suitable for loquats. Good growing conditions produce the best fruit and tree growth. Poor soil and a low water supply reduce tree growth; the tree usually produces fruit with good color and flavor, but with a large seed and little flesh.
- Classified as subtropical fruit, loquats are grown most successfully in citrus-producing areas. For ornamental purposes, they can be grown in areas too cold for citrus, but they need heat to mature a crop. Fruit grown along the central California coast rarely have good flavor or color and seldom develop enough sugar content to make them sweet.
- Unbudded trees grown from seed are satisfactory for ornamental use, but they seldom bear good fruit. For best results, plant one of the budded, named varieties, such as Early Red for February fruit, Champagne or Thales for March to April, Advance for April to June, or Victor for May to July.
- The best choice is a balled, 1-year-old, vigorously growing, grafted tree. Plant as you would any balled plant. Allow space so that the tree, when fully mature, will fit into your landscape. Trying to control tree growth is a tedious, continuing task. A 5-year-old tree is usually bushy with a spread and height of 6 to 8 feet. At 10 years, it should be 12 to 15 feet tall and wide.
- Athough the loquat is remarkably drought resistant for a broadleaved evergreen, it needs moisture at all times, particularly in the summer. After the tree is established, keep irrigation water away from the trunk. As the tree matures, do not irrigate closer than half the distance between the trunk and the outer reach of the branches. If the tree is 6 to 8 feet from a lawn or other irrigated area, it does not usually need special irrigation.
- Do not put fertilizer in the hole before you plant the tree. For a young tree, apply a shovelful of manure in the fall, plus a tablespoonful of nitrogenous fertilizer scattered around the tree every month or two. Fertilize mature trees once a year in early spring. Use a nitrogenous fertilizer, such as ammonium sulfate or calcium nitrate, at the rate of 1 pound per inch of trunk diameter, spread evenly over the irrigated area.
- Prune only enough to shape the tree to fit into your landscape. Remove deadwood at any time. Loquats do well as espaliered trees if continuously clipped to keep them in place. If a tree must be kept down to a certain size, clip it frequently to prevent the unsightly stubs and sucker growth that result form a single severe pruning.
Pest and Disease Control
- Loquats are quite resistant to most diseases and insect damage. Although fireblight often attacts the flower clusters and may kill a lim or tow, it seldom kills the entire tree. To control fireblight, immediately prune out dead or dying twigs, fruit , and flower clusters. Cut well into the live wood. Burn the pruning and disenfect the pruning tools.
- The California linnet and other fruit-feeding birds often do serious damage when the fruit begins to ripen. To prevent damage, form a cheescloth bag around the fruit before it colors.