Often grown as an evergreen ornamental tree, the loquat is included in a home orchard for its apricot-hued fruit. Eriobotrya japonica, commonly known as loquat or Japanese plum, has a distinctive taste, slightly tangy, suggestive of apricots and pineapple with texture similar to peach. Because fruits soften at maturity, they do not keep well enough to be included in most commercial produce markets. Similar evergreen Eriobotrya deflexa does not produce edible fruit.
Loquat Fruit and Foliage
- Fruiting is often produced more heavily in alternate years.
- Fall and winter flowering and spring fruiting may be damaged by extended cold spells. Fruit ripens about 90 days after bloom, usually late May through July.
- Sweetness or tartness varies with each variety; all exude a floral aroma.
- Fragrant white blossoms appear in clusters followed by sweet-to-tart fruits, 1-2 in. round or slightly pear-shaped, each with 1-4 large seeds.
- Thickened, deeply veined leaves 6-12 in. long, 1-4 in. wide create a dense canopy.
- Tea can be made from dried leaves once the wooly, thickly coated undersides are scraped clean.
- Harvest fruit when soft-firm and in vibrant color. Fruit may be eaten fresh or cooked, peeled or unpeeled right off the tree or refrigerated and eaten within a day or two.
- Birds may be attracted to fruits.
- Grafted varieties are best to ensure good fruit production. ‘Champagne’ flourishes in warm areas; ‘Gold Nugget’ is more successful in cooler regions; ‘MacBeth’ has exceptionally large fruit. Fruit produced on unnamed varieties is generally of lesser quality.
Loquat Culture and Care
- Loquats thrive in full sun in well-drained soil where there is adequate space.
- Trees grow 15–30 ft. in height and width, narrower in light shade.
- Moderate pruning is needed to reduce or thin the canopy size and allow light and air to circulate.
- Somewhat drought-tolerant when established, trees benefit from moderate water for optimal fruit production.
- Pruning after harvest is recommended, in late summer and early autumn, well before autumn rains and winter bloom.
- Container culture is possible but trees will be considerably smaller.
- Trees are not always available in nurseries but may be ordered or purchased online.
- As a member of the rose family, loquats are susceptible to fire blight, especially if there are late spring/summer rains. Remove, bag up, and discard any scorched, blackened twigs and branches.