Alternative Fruit for Citrus in Northeast Florida
While dooryard citrus will always be popular in Northeast Florida, the prospect of citrus greening has many homeowners wondering if there are other options for dooryard fruit that can be just as fulfilling as citrus. The answer is yes, there are many fruit alternatives to citrus that can be planted in our NE Florida landscapes. Here are just a few that you can choose from.
Oriental Persimmon is an easy fruit to grow in NE Florida. The trees are relatively maintenance free although some pruning may be required. They do not require a pollinator so you don’t have to plant different varieties in order to get fruit. The fruit attractive orange fruit is typically ripe in the fall. Oriental persimmon varieties are listed as either astringent or non-astringent. It is very important that you note this when choosing a variety. Astringent varieties must be ripe to the point of being soft before they are eaten. They are very unsavory if eaten too soon. Non- astringent varieties on the other hand can be eaten when they have a crisp texture or when they are soft. More about Oriental Persimmon
The loquat or Japanese Plum is often seen as an evergreen ornamental tree in Florida although it is grown commercially for its fruit in Mediterranean climates. Most folks are unaware of the wonderful flavor of the fruit and typically let the fruit fall from the tree without tasting it. The small orange fruit have a sweet juicy pulp inside. They usually have a few large seeds in them so be aware of that when you are trying them. Some nurseries may have commercial varieties that will have better quality fruit. However, the taste is just as good in non-commercial varieties. Loquat trees are very cold tolerant and may withstand temperatures down to 8° to 10°F. More on Loquat
Mayhaws are hawthorns that produce small fruit that are used for jelly, sauces and wine. They are native to Southeast Georgia and grow wild in more poorly drained areas but grow best in moist, well-drained soil. The small apple like fruit ripen during late April and early May. The University of Georgia has developed several cultivars that are suitable for NE Florida. It is recommended that more than one variety be planted for adequate pollination. More on Mayhaw
Oriental hybrid pears
Oriental pears have been popular in NE Florida for a long time. Older trees can be found on rural homesteads throughout the area. Oriental pears are also called hard pears or sand pears because of their firm texture and the high number of grit cells in the fruit. This should not discourage one from growing them. They are popular for canning, preserving, and cooking as well eaten fresh when they are ripened properly. Pears are self pollinating but produce more fruit when planted with another variety. They can develop poor structure if not routinely pruned especially as young trees. More on Pears
Low chill peaches and plums
In NE Florida we get between 400 and 600 chilling units per year. A chilling unit is estimated as the accumulation of hours at an air temperature of 45°F or less during the dormant season. Peach cultivars grown in NE Florida should be selected that are able to produce quality fruit at those chilling hours. If the variety needs more chilling hours, they will not produce very well and if they need less chilling hours they may produce flowers early and be damaged by late frosts. In addition to chilling unit concerns, peaches need to be planted in full sun and in moist well drained soil. Peaches are self fruiting and do not need a pollinator. As with peaches, plums grown in NE Florida should also be varieties that require low chilling units. In addition, plums require a pollinator to produce well. Peaches and plums also require a little more maintenance in the form of pruning and pest control. However they are usually worth it. More on Peaches and Plums
Figs are technically not fruit. They are actually modified stems that are hollow and fleshy. However for the purpose of this article we will call them a fruit. Figs are relatively easy to grow as long as the proper variety is used. The type of fig that does well in NE Florida is called a common type fig. Typically in Florida with our wet summers a variety with a closed “eye” or ostiole ( located at the end of the fig) is best. Fig varieties with open ostioles tend to rot due to insects and humidity. Figs also do well when mulch is used to keep soil temperatures down and conserve water. More on Figs
With the onslaught of citrus greening, all is not lost for homeowners wanting to grow fresh fruit in NE Florida. For further information in these and other fruit trees, you can go HERE.