How to Grow and Care for Loquat Trees

Eriobotrya japonica

As prized for its beauty as it is for its tasty offerings, loquat is unusual in that it flowers in the fall and produces fruit in late winter to early spring.

Native to China, carefully cultivated in Japan for a thousand years or more, and beloved in the American South, Eriobotrya japonica is an evergreen tree that can grow to 25 feet tall and spread 15 to 20 wide.

Also known as Japanese plum or Japanese medlar, loquat produces large, dark green leaves that are often used in floral arrangements.

Younger leaves are downy, whereas older leaves become more leathery.

Yellow-orange loquat plums growing on the tree.

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The tree produces clusters of 1-inch delicate flowers that produce a sweet, far-traveling fragrance. The flowers give way to round or pear-shaped yellow-orange fruits that are one to two inches long.

The yellow, orange, or white flesh of the fruit can be sweet or slightly acidic. Their sweet-tart flavor has been described variously as being similar to plum, lemon, apricot, cherry, grape, or some combination thereof.

My kids think they taste like a slightly sour plum. I detect a hint of cherry in their flavor, too.

A close up vertical image of a loquat tree with small yellow fruits developing, surrounded by foliage.

The fruit is delicious fresh, and that’s how our family enjoys it – straight off the tree. We usually don’t have the patience to wait for it to be cooked up!

But they are often preserved in jellies or jams, and we have occasionally had the patience to make a cobbler. One of our neighbors sometimes makes a pie with the gifts of his tree.

E. japonica is a member of the pome family and is a cousin of pears, apples, and quinces. Its produce is firm and juicy, and contains two or three large, dark brown seeds.

This bushy, dense tree does well in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10. The tree can tolerate temperatures as low as 10°F, but freezes below 27°F can kill the flowers and fruit.

Are You Graft? Don’t Grow From Seed!

It’s unlikely you will be able to harvest a crop from a tree grown from a seed, at least not before about a decade of growth.

Your best bet is to purchase a grafted seedling, and you’ll see fruit after about three years.

Loquat Seedling

Paisley Farm and Crafts sells loose loquat seedlings with a full set of roots that are ready to be planted, available via Amazon.

You will receive thorough instructions with your purchase of the seedling, as well as contact information if you have further questions.

‘Big Jim’ is a well-liked cultivar for its generously sized produce.

‘Big Jim’ Loquat Grafted Tree, 3 Feet Tall

You can find this loquat variety from 9EzTropical, available via Amazon.

You’ll get a three-foot tree in a one-gallon pot. ‘Big Jim’ is known for having a mellow, less-acidic flavor.

Just About Anywhere Will Do

These trees grow best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. We have one that somehow ended up as an understory tree beneath a live oak.

It’s not setting any growth records, and it hasn’t given us any tasty bits, but it’s healthy and adds a nice tropical look to the garden.

A close up vertical image of the foliage of a loquat tree growing in a garden with a fence in the background, pictured in light sunshine.
Photo by Gretchen Heber.

The trees aren’t particularly picky about their soil, as long as it drains well and isn’t saline.

On the Texas A&M University website, Texas Cooperative Extension horticulturist Julian W. Sauls, Ph.D. writes, “Soil pH does not seem to matter, as the trees grow equally well in the acid soils of east Texas and the alkaline soils of north, central, and south Texas.”

Other growers report having trouble getting the trees to do well in alkaline soil.

E. japonica is drought tolerant but will be more productive when it gets regular water.

The same goes for fertilizer. You can feed it nothing and it will do fine, but an application of 6-6-6 (NPK) fertilizer three times over the growing season will enable the tree to be more fruitful.

A close up vertical image of the long, dark green leaves of the Eriobotrya japonica tree growing in the garden in front of a wooden fence surrounded by mulch.
Photo by Gretchen Heber.

Prune only as needed to fit in your landscape, and remove deadwood as necessary.

Loquats are fairly pest free, but can be bothered by black scale.

A close up vertical image of the packaging of Bonide Neem Oil pictured on a white background.

Bonide Neem Oil

Blast these invaders off with water, or treat with neem oil such as this one from Bonide, available from Arbico Organics.

Savor the Flavor

Loquat fruit needs to ripen fully on the tree before you harvest it. The fruits are mature about 90 days after the flower is fully open.

You’ll know it’s harvest time when the fruit up near the stem is yellow-orange, with no green, and when it’s soft, and easily pulls off the stem.

A close up horizontal image of a large E. japonica tree laden with bright yellow fruit against a gray sky background.

You’ll want to harvest them as quickly as they are ready, because if they fall, they can be quite messy.

However, if your yard is home to squirrels or other critters, they’ll help you with cleanup.

Unfortunately, they’ll also help themselves to a good portion of on-the-tree produce, too. But E. japonica is so bountiful, there’s generally enough to go around.

They are most delicious when eaten or prepared right away, which is what happens in our house.

They’re gone within about 24 hours of harvest! Other gardeners have had success storing the ripe fruit in the refrigerator for up to a week.

The fruit doesn’t travel well or have a long shelf life, which is why it has not become a grocery store staple. Lucky Californians can sometimes find the yellow orbs in Asian groceries.

When you’ve made your harvest, it’s time to cook! Enjoy these recipes.

Loquat Freezer Jam

Loquats are high in natural pectin, so they are easy to preserve. You’ll store Gena Bell’s Loquat Freezer Jam in the freezer to keep it tasty.

A few simple ingredients, cold storage, and you’ll be able to enjoy loquats any time of year.

A close up horizontal image of glass jars filled with freshly prepared jam set on a wooden chopping board.
Photo © Live Love Laugh Food

Get the recipe from Live Love Laugh Food.

Loquat Apple Crumble

For a tasty and unusual dessert, consider this Delicious Loquat Apple Crumble recipe from Peter’s Food Adventures.

A close up horizontal image of a ceramic baking dish with a freshly prepared loquat apple crumble.
Photo © Peter’s Food Adventures

As members of the same family, apples and loquats get along well and pair perfectly in this easy-to-make dish.

Amy Finley’s Pickled Loquats

Amy Finley, winner of the third season of Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star” cooking competition, shared this recipe with her friend Caron Golden of the website San Diego Foodstuff, and Golden shared it with us!

A close up horizontal image of two jars filled with pickled loquats set on a white surface.
Photo © San Diego Foodstuff

After you make the pickles, you’ll have to let them sit in the refrigerator for at least five days before digging in — seven if you can stand it!

Loquat Vinaigrette Dressing

This tasty dressing comes from a Charleston, South Carolina-based food blogger who specializes in paleo cooking.

A close up vertical image of a jar of salad dressing with salad greens and loquats scattered to the side and in the background.
Photo © Paleo Scaleo

Jessica recommends you use a high-quality olive oil in this dressing, which includes dijon mustard and oregano in addition to loquats.

Find the recipe from Paleo Scaleo.

Tropical Delight

If you live in a region where you can grow this spectacular tree, you’ll be rewarded with not only a lovely touch of the tropics, but also with an uncommon and delicious fruit.

A little sun or a lot of sun, pretty much any dirt, a little water or a lot of water — this tree is fairly easygoing. It just doesn’t like really cold temperatures. But really, who does?

Do you have E. japonica in your landscape? We’d love to hear your experiences — please share in the comments section below.

If you’re interested in more information about growing fruit trees, check out these guides next:

Photos by Gretchen Heber, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product images via Paisley Farm and Crafts, 9EzTropical, and Garden Safe. Recipes photos used with permission. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

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Eric
Eric (@guest_1119)
3 years ago

I live in the hill country, near Wimberley/Blanco and have two loquats that are about 5 feet tall and were completely munched by deer! One tree had all the leaves eaten, only a few stubs left. The other tree has only a few, small leaves remaining, as well as the first few blooms. Do you know if they will recover this spring?

Rachel
Rachel (@guest_12065)
Reply to  Eric
1 month ago

I live is south Texas and have one loquat in a planter. It has yet to produce any fruit. It’s about 5 feet tall. Do I need a second one for pollination?

Olive Oil
Olive Oil (@guest_2744)
2 years ago

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.

Becky
Becky (@guest_3105)
2 years ago

We live in Southwest Florida and our tree is about 15 feet tall, thick and lush with leaves. It has never produced fruit. What should we do? Thanks.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Admin
Noble Member
Reply to  Becky
2 years ago

Thanks for getting in touch, Becky. Many factors can contribute to whether or not your tree will produce fruit. Based on its size, this tree is presumably already more than 3 years old if you started with a grafted plant, or more than 10 years old if it was grown from seed. In SW Florida, cold temps overnight in winter should not be a significant factor- but keep in mind that extra cold and wet winters may result in little flowering and no fruit the following spring. Since the tree sounds healthy otherwise from your description, other conditions like availability… Read more »

Ellen
Ellen (@guest_3556)
2 years ago

I have grown three loquats from seed. They are in large pots and are about 5 feet tall now.
I put them outside in summer and so far keep inside next to a floor to ceiling glass door.
Question- Can they be planted outside in the Washington DC area? I also keep having small tears in leaves- not sure if it’s a bug (happens inside as well as outside) and if so, should I use anything beside insecticidal soap?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Admin
Noble Member
Reply to  Ellen
2 years ago

Loquats do best in warmer climates (USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10) and keeping them in pots is probably your best best in the DC area. Though they might survive temperatures below freezing in the winter, exposure to extreme cold will commonly cause a lack of flowers and fruit the next season. As for the tears- it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what this might be without more detail- do the tears result in the leaves turning brown and dropping off? When and where do you notice them? Any other issues with the plants? Please feel free to share more details and photos… Read more »

Antonio lopes
Antonio lopes (@guest_5572)
Reply to  Allison Sidhu
1 year ago

I am in Silver Spring, MD. Over the years I had loquats and they did produce fruit. I have one tree that has flowers. But it’s covered. Has a canvas tarp and then plastic, so gets water and sun from south. Last year it didn’t fruit but I didn’t lose any leaves either.

curlymir
curlymir (@guest_7645)
Reply to  Antonio lopes
1 year ago

Hi Antonio — I’m in Baltimore, and I have been dying to find a source for some loquat fruit. Is your tree going to bear fruit this year? If so, would you possibly be willing to sell any of it?

dave evans
dave evans (@guest_3692)
2 years ago

Hello! I live in central Florida and just bought a home with a very full tree. Unfortunately, we have not been able to use much of the fruit this year, so my question is what should be done wth the remaining fruit on the tree? Should it be picked clean? Or just leave it be and let nature take its course? I don’t want to jeopordize next years growth by leaving it on if that is a problem. If it needs to be removed, can the clusters be cut off or does the fruit need to be removed individually? We… Read more »

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Admin
Noble Member
Reply to  dave evans
2 years ago

Thanks for your question, Dave. Though letting nature take its course shouldn’t affect next year’s harvest, heavy fruit clusters can cause damage to the branches. In this way, this type of tree is actually “self pruning” and will maintain its own shape, but it’s advisable to remove heavy fruit clusters if you don’t want to risk breakage. Trimming off whole clusters of ripe fruit with clean clippers is the preferred harvesting method, and you will want to wait until the fruit is ripe because it will not continue to ripen after it’s been picked. If the remaining fruit is already… Read more »

Pam
Pam (@guest_4271)
2 years ago

We have 4 loquats planted about 6’ apart and are about 4 years old. Three of the 4 look great. One has always been a bit smaller and this Summer is looking pretty sad. Leaves look wilted and almost dried out. What could be the problem?

Elvia Cortez
Elvia Cortez (@guest_4285)
2 years ago

Aside from being a very good fruit; it is medicinal too. The fruit itself is great for your digestive system. I use the leaves to boil them and drink it like I would natural water or a hot tea. I prefer it hot like a tea and my husband drinks it cold like drinking water. However, it is a detoxifying drink for the liver and pancreas. So it does wonders for people who have diabetes. For myself I’ve notice it helped me with the inflammation I feel and see in my body. And my husband instead of taking the metaphormin… Read more »

MIchael amos
MIchael amos (@guest_4608)
1 year ago

I have two loquat trees here in Valencia Spain and full of fruit every year. When I was first here my neighbor
told me that to get the best fruit was to take off the fruit from each bunch when it starts to swell Leaving just two or three and the fruit will grow bigger.

Michael Mac Namara
Michael Mac Namara (@guest_4900)
1 year ago

About 30 years ago or maybe more, I grew a nispero/loquat from a seed i brought back from Spain. The tree grew well but that was it; no sign of flower or fruit. The summer of 2018 was wonderful and maybe that was the reason but in late autumn it flowered and over the winter fruit developed. It wasn’t a bountiful crop but they fully ripened. Was it the summer? Was it climate change? We will see in years to come. It survived the -15 winter of 2010 unscathed so it’s a hardy plant.