The Bearer of Unusual Fruit: How to Grow Loquat

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/early spring.

Yellow-orange loquat plums growing on the tree.

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 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.

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 1 to 2 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 get a hint of cherry in their flavor, too.

Want to grow your own loquats? We'll teach you how! Read more now, or Pin It for later: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/fruit/grow-loquat/ #loquats #fruit #gardening #fruittrees

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 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 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 get 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. Snyder & Sons Nursery sells a collection of four live 5- to 8-inch tall seedlings in 2- to 3-inch starter plugs, available via Amazon.

4 Live Loquat/Japanese Plum Trees with Pots

The trees are fully rooted and ready to be planted in supplied 4-inch pots. The shipment also includes general care instructions.

‘Big Jim’ is a well-liked cultivar for its generously sized produce. You can find this loquat variety from 9EzTropical, available via Amazon.

‘Big Jim’ Loquat Grafted Tree, 3 Feet Tall

You’ll get a 3-foot tree in a 1-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.

The loquat tree adds beauty to the landscape, plus an interesting fruit that you can enjoy at home. Check out our tips for propagation: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/fruit/grow-loquat/ #loquat
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 fertilizer three times over the growing season will enable the tree to be more fruitful.

Eriobotrya japonica, commonly known as loquat, is an attractive tree that produces delicious fruit, perfect for use in jams, pickles, and baked goods. We share our tips for growing it at home: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/fruit/grow-loquat/ #loquats
Photo by Gretchen Heber.

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

Garden Safe Neem Oil Extract Concentrate, 2 Pack of 16 fl. oz.

Loquats are fairly pest free, but can be bothered by black scale. Blast these invaders off with water, or treat with neem oil such as this one from Garden Safe, available via Amazon.

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.

Learn to Grow Loquats, An Unusual Fruit | GardenersPath.com

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 are 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.

Make Homemade Loquat Freezer Jam | GardenersPath.com
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.

Loquat Apple Crumble | GardenersPath.com
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!

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

Loquat Dressing | GardenersPath.com
Photo © Paleo Scaleo

Get 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.

The Bearer of Unusual Fruit- How to Grow Loquat | GardenersPath.com

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 other fruit trees, check out our articles about growing avocados and figs.


Don’t forget to Pin It!

A collage of photos showing different views of loquat trees bearing fruit.

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

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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.

6 thoughts on “The Bearer of Unusual Fruit: How to Grow Loquat”

  1. 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?

  2. Hi Eric and almost-neighbor! I’m so sorry I missed your comment until now. We don’t have a deer problem, but I spoke to an expert who said your loquat should recover. Has it started to releaf yet?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    • 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 of adequate light and watering are not likely culprits. You only mention the leaves, though- does this tree produce healthy and plentiful flowers in season? And do you know what cultivar you are growing?

      It sounds like the problem may lie with whether or not your tree is self-fertile or not. Some cultivars have both male and female flowers and may self-pollinate, while others do not. And even for those that are able to pollinate themselves, planting another tree of the same species nearby will help to increase yields. The presence of pollinators are also key to fruit production. We recommend planting flowers native or naturalized to your area that are known for attracting pollinating bees. In southern Florida, gaillardia, marigolds, coral honeysuckle, cannas, passion flowers, and salvia are a few favorites.

      If your tree is not flowering, it may be planted in the wrong location or in inadequate soil. Ensure adequate sunlight, well-draining non-alkaline soil, and provide weekly watering to promote fruit setting in season. Mulch around the tree to retain moisture (but apply it a good distance from the trunk itself, to prevent rot). Lush green leaves with few or no buds or fruit may mean your soil is too high in nitrogen, and/or lacking in phosphorus. Check out our articles on soil testing and plant nutrients for more information. And be sure to avoid overfertilizing as well- if you regularly fertilize without testing the soil, you may not be meeting the needs of your tree, and this can result in few blooms as well. Moving a tree of this size may not be an option, but testing and amending the soil may provide the fix that you’re looking for!

      Wishing you the best of luck- please get back in touch to let us know how it goes!

  5. 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 and also I 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?

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