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Lychee tree growing lychees.

Lychees are superb evergreen shade trees, offering a stunning display of fragrant spring flowers, followed by deliciously aromatic fruit. So much tastier than the canned offerings, lychees eaten fresh from the tree are a true sub-tropical delight.


What you need to know about a lychee tree

Name: lychee, litchi, Litchi chinensis.

Height: up to 15m, but can be pruned to maintain overall size and height.

Foliage: evergreen.

Climate: lychees are climate specific, needing a protected spot in a frost-free, sub-tropical climate in order to set both male and female flowers.

Soil: prefers deep, free-draining soil enriched with organic matter such as compost or decomposed manure.

Position: part-shade to full sun, protected from strong winds and frost.

Flowering and fruiting: panicles of small white, yellow and green flowers are produced in profusion in early spring, followed by aromatic, fleshy white fruits encased in a red pimply shell.

Feeding: do not fertilise for the first few years.

Watering: water regularly, especially during establishment and fruit development.

Appearance and characteristics of a lychee tree 

A large spreading evergreen tree with a showy display of fragrant flowers in early spring, the lychee is also highly productive, although patience is required, as trees don’t usually start cropping for 5–10 years.

Their shallow root system and fragility demands a protected position in the garden, but once established, they are incredibly rewarding.

Lychee tree growing lychees.

Uses for a lychee tree

A striking ornamental shade tree with the added benefit of delicious aromatic fruits.

How to plant and grow a lychee tree

Growing lychee in pots

  • Lychee does best grown in a pot until it is large enough to cope with wind and sun.
  • Re-pot into progressively larger pots until the tree reaches at least 1.5m.
  • Always use a premium potting mix that meets all New Zealand standards.

Growing lychee in the garden

  • In the garden, find a position protected from strong winds in a frost-free environment.
  • Lychee needs to be acclimatised, especially to full sun.

If you buy an advanced tree, protect it with shade cloth for the first few years, otherwise train potted plants towards their final position.

Caring for your lychee tree

Sensitive to climate, protect your lychee tree from full sun with shade cloth, or grow in a pot in part shade for the first few years, slowly introducing it to full sunlight. Lychee is a fragile plant, so protect it from strong winds and also from frost.

Lychee produces its optimal harvest during a dry spring, as rain, as well as overhead watering, can damage the flowers, reducing your harvest.

Although slow to get growing, you will start to harvest a small crop after 5 years, with full production within around 10 years.

How often should you water and feed your lychee tree?

Potted lychees will require daily watering. Once planted into the garden, water regularly during spring to ensure good fruit development, and to prevent fruit splitting.

How to prune your lychee tree

Train your lychee while young, removing any side shoots up to 1m to encourage a strong central leader.

Diseases and pests that could affect your lychee

Lychee is commonly raided by birds, bats and flying foxes, so it is essential to net developing fruit. Fruit fly can be an issue in some areas, so hang baits to reduce any infestation. Erinose mites can damage foliage and fruit. If found, treat with wettable sulphur.

How to propagate a lychee tree

How to grow lychee from seed

To grow from seed, soak the seed in water for 3–4 days until it starts to split. Plant in a small jiffy or peat pot in a premium seed-raising mix, placing one seed sideways in each pot to minimise root disturbance. Place in a warm, sunny position, and keep moist but not wet. The seed will germinate and grow in 4–6 weeks, at which time it can be transplanted into a larger pot.

Lychee aerial propagation

To propagate via aerial layering, cut a ring or band of bark about 1cm wide off a 2cm thick branch to expose the wood underneath. Cover the wound with seed-raising mix and peat moss and seal with plastic top and bottom. Leave for several months to develop roots. Once roots are visible, the branch can be severed and carefully potted up.

Safety tip

If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.

If you like this then try

Pineapples: highly productive, sweetly scented, sub-tropical fruits.

Bananas: a sub-tropical favourite that grows well in warm temperate climates.

Noni fruit: a tropical superfood with supposed magical powers, noni fruit is easy to grow in its native climate.

Start planting today

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.