Name: loquat, Japanese medlar, Eriobotrya japonica.
Plant type: evergreen.
Height: usually 5–7m, but can be 10m if left unpruned. Smaller varieties are available on grafted rootstocks.
Climate: prefers the subtropics but can be grown successfully in arid/semi-arid and warm temperate climates. Fruiting is greatly reduced in the tropics due to humidity and areas where temperatures drop below –2° Celsius.
Soil: prefers a well-drained soil enriched with organic matter such as compost and well-aged manure.
Position: full sun, protected from strong winds.
Foliage: long, narrow leaves, green on the upper side and downy underneath.
Flowering and fruiting: white flowers appearing in late autumn and winter, followed by yellow-orange round to oval shaped fruit in early spring.
Feeding: do not fertilise for the first couple of years, but once established, apply citrus fertiliser monthly, especially if you are hoping to harvest an abundant crop of fruit.
Watering: drought-resistant once established; water during fruit production.
An ornamental tree with a rounded habit and striking foliage, loquats are grown for their aesthetic value as much as their fruit. The foliage is long and narrow, green on the upper side and downy underneath. Panicles of white fluffy flowers are produced in autumn and winter, followed by yellow-orange round to oval shaped fruit in early spring. The fruit tastes like a mix of pineapple, passionfruit and guava.
Loquats can be planted as shade trees, screens or for their unusual fruit. The fruit is best eaten fresh from the tree, but can also be preserved, stewed or dried. There are many recipes that call for loquat fruit. The seeds can be roasted, ground and consumed infused with hot water, like coffee, while the leaves can be dried and used as a herbal tea. Select cultivars for improved fruiting and flavour.
Water during dry weather in autumn and winter during flowering and fruiting. Spring water should be continued until after harvest.
Do not fertilise for the first few years as trees have shallow, sensitive roots. Instead, apply a mulch of compost annually for 2–3 years. After this, fertilise monthly with citrus food or follow the directions on the packet.
When training young trees, remove side branching up to 1m to improve overall shape. Once established, prune if required after harvest to maintain a compact habit.
Queensland fruit fly is a real problem in some areas, especially as loquats start fruiting, so a loquat tree can become a host plant for fruit fly. Be vigilant and check your fruit. If fruit fly is found, remove fruit, gather fallen fruit and place all infected fruit in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and either freeze for two days or place in the sun for 7 days to kill the fruit fly maggots before disposing of the sealed bag and fruit in the rubbish bin. If you are in a fruit fly area, hang fruit fly traps around your garden and net developing fruit to prevent infection. Netting also helps with the other most common pests – birds!
Loquats can be propagated by seed, but only if fruit is not required. If fruit is a desirable feature, buy a grafted loquat of a recognized fruiting cultivar.
Oranges: wonderful fruiting hedges for cold and warm climates.
Lemon verbena: a versatile perennial hedge and wonderful herbal infusion.
Lychee: another highly aromatic fruit tree suited to arid and semi-arid areas.
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