Skip to content

SOUTHERN GARDENING: Easy loquat trees offer winter fruit

Easy-to-grow loquat trees are beautiful additions to Mississippi landscapes. They can be pruned or allowed to grow up to 25 feet tall and 10 feet wide. (Photo by MSU Extension/Eddie Smith)

By Eddie Smith, MSU Extension Service

Did you know there is a tree that produces fruit in late winter and early spring?

That tree is the loquat and as I drive around Mississippi on these cold winter days, I have noticed many of them in gardens and landscapes. With their evergreen elegance and delectable fruit, loquat trees add a bit of subtropical charm.

Native to southeastern China, these members of the rose family – Rosaceae – have found a home in various climates. They can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 10 but because the fruit must go through the winter, a bountiful harvest is much more likely to occur in central and south Mississippi.

These trees are a visual delight, boasting leathery, lance-shaped leaves, tapering from a rounded base toward the apex. These large leaves are 4-10 inches long and 2-4 inches wide, growing in clusters at the ends of gracefully arching branches.

The dark green upper surfaces of the leaves contrast with the lighter hues on the undersides to create a vibrant tapestry of green.

As the seasons unfold, delicate blooms emerge in late fall to early winter. These fragrant clusters of white or off-white flowers measure about 1 inch in diameter and have five petals arranged in a star-shaped pattern.

Loquat fruit are sweet and tangy, tasting like a combination of peach, apricot and mango. They are a culinary treasure that can be eaten fresh or used in a variety of foods. (Photo by MSU Extension/Eddie Smith)

The highly-scented flowers can be smelled from a distance, filling the air with their sweet, citrusy scent. This fragrance attracts bees and other pollinators, ensuring that the flowers are adequately pollinated, and the tree will produce a good crop of fruit.

The true allure of loquat trees lies in their delectable fruit.

The loquat’s small, round, or oval-shaped fruit measures about 1-2 inches in diameter and has a thin, fuzzy skin that that is yellow or orange. The fruit is juicy, sweet, and tangy, tasting like a combination of peach, apricot, and mango.

When fully ripe, the soft fruit can be eaten fresh or used in various food applications, including jams, jellies, and desserts. It is a favorite among those who appreciate nature’s culinary treasures.

Loquat trees thrive in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. These trees prefer locations sheltered from harsh winds. Once established, they are surprisingly low maintenance, adding to their appeal for both seasoned gardeners and novices.

When planting a loquat tree, keep in mind that they can grow up to 25 feet tall and 10 feet wide. You can prune them to maintain a height that makes it easy to harvest fruit.

If you are looking for an easy-to-grow fruit tree to provide you with a tasty treat in late winter and early spring, I recommend you consider planting a loquat tree.

Dr. Eddie Smith is a gardening specialist and Pearl River County coordinator with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.