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Macadamia as an Alternative Crop for Florida

Florida growers are constantly looking for alternative crops to diversity, and find new markets; however, that hunt is becoming more intense. A promising new central Florida crop in production includes Macadamia which has found success in south and central Florida.
Hawaii leads the nation of Macadamia production by 18,000 acres in 2017 and crop worth estimated at $42 million. California and Florida grow macadamias on a small scale. Overall, the United States ranks #2 in world production of macadamia behind Australia where the nut originated. Latin America, South Africa and Asia are other key producers that have entered the market and have found economic success. These rather hardy trees, tolerate temperatures as low as 24 degrees. Macadamias require at least four to five years before the trees begin to produce nuts and six years before the trees are in full production.Commercial macadamia nut orchards are planted with grafted seedlings. Trees are likely to bear a small crop in the fifth year after planting and will reach full production in 12 to 15 years. A good tree in good health can produce macadamia nuts for 40 years.
Trees prefer deep, well-drained soils that have a pH of 5.0 to 6.5, and require 60-120 inches of rainfall per year. They can be grown from sea level to an elevation of 2,500 feet. Due to low nut yields and harvesting expenses it requires a major capital investment.
The trees prefer subtropical climates, however, high humidity can increase the risk of blossom blights. Temperatures should not fall below 33°F or regularly rise above 95°F, since the low temperatures increase the risk of damage while the high temperatures reduce vegetative growth, increases premature nut drop, decreases nut growth and oil accumulation, and may cause leaf burn.
Mature trees are extending and can reach tall heights of 60 feet. They also are susceptible to many pests and diseases and need a lot of management for profit and good nut quality. Trees are spaced at 23 ft x 13 ft (or 125 trees/acre) at maturity, nut yields peak at 150 lbs of in-shell nuts/tree.
Florida production season runs from July through November. However, little information is available on recommended cultivars and rootstock. It is advised that planting at least two varieties within the grove blocks of macadamia trees improves yield through cross-pollination.
Although the tree is highly resistant to drought; supplemental irrigation is vital during flowering and fruit set in spring/summer months. Severe drought will result in significant nut drop.
Trees are pruned to a central leader with suckers and excessive lateral branches removed for a stronger shape allowing wind movement within the canopy. Painting exposed trunks with white water based paint helps to reduce risk of sunburn and heat stress.
Field soil conditions mandate good drainage. Monitor phosphorous in the orchard with yearly soil tests. Use a well-balanced fertilizer when the trees are young for best results. South Florida and coastal areas with calcareous soils tend to suffer from zinc, manganese, and iron deficiencies.
Despite the relative uncertainty of this crop, it looks hopeful as a new alternative crop for Florida growers. Macadamia nuts garner premium prices as the demand surpasses current production. For more information on Macadamia in Florida click on the UF link:  http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00003392/00001

43 Comments on “Macadamia as an Alternative Crop for Florida

  1. I live in Port Orange. Where can I bye Macadamia nut seedlings near here? Thanks.

    • Mark-
      There are a few limited sources for seeds and plants in Florida. This is not a complete list nor does UF endorse any particular nursery. Best of Luck!
      Macadamia integrifolia (smooth shell)
      Macadamia tetraphylla (rough shell)

      Anderson Macadamia Arboretum Nursery & Grove, LLC
      102 Wall Street
      Redington Shores, FL 33708
      George Anderson Owner
      (727) 392-8822
      (727) 643-1424

      Elson’s Exotics, Inc
      4077 W. Ridgeview Drive
      Davie, FL 33330
      (954)473-0831

      Excalibur Fruit Trees
      5200 Fearnley Road
      Lake Worth, FL 33467
      (561) 969-6988

      ONLINE ONLY
      Fast Growing Trees Nursery
      http://www.fast-growingtrees.com
      2621 Old Nation Road
      Fort Mill, SC 29715

      Florida Macadamia Growers Cooperative – FMGC
      FaceBook
      http://www.flmgcestore.com
      Polk County, FL

      Florida Nursery Mart
      10900 Griffin Road
      Cooper City, FL 33328
      (954) 689-0791
      flnurserymart@gmail.com
      http://www.flnurserymart.com

      Fruit Scapes, LLC
      12870 Stringfellow Road
      Bokeelia, FL 33922
      (239) 218-2848
      (239) 462-2341

      TopTropicals.com
      13890 Orange River Blvd.
      Ft. Myers, FL 33905
      Telephone: (866) 897-7957
      (239) 689-5745
      (239) 690-2666

      Louie’s Nursery & Garden
      16310 Porter Avenue
      Riverside, CA 92504
      Telephone: (877) 568-4425
      http://www.louiesnursery.com

      Australian Macadamia Society
      Link to Macadamia tree nurseries in Australia
      http://australian-macadamias.org/industry/industry-contacts/nurseries

      Alloway Macadamia
      Bundaberg, Australia

      • Hello Karen –
        Thanks so much for posting that resource list!

        As I indicated in a reply to Peter – another poster below – I am located on the No./Central California Coast south of San Francisco and I’ve long been searching for a Mac Nut cultivar known as ‘Waimanalo’ that the CA Rare Fruit Growers Assoc. seems to recommend highly for my more temperate setting.

        Trouble is – none the most reputable subtropicals nurserymen here seem to know the name!
        But I AM encouraged to find it recommended to North Florida gardeners in a few articles online. Is this cultivar a name you recognize from your experience with retailers in your area?

        I realize the publication date of your original posting is a couple of years old – if there’s a public
        Cooperative Ag Education Extension office that might have more info – or a newer arrival on the FL nursery scene that could help, I’d appreciate it very much. Thanks!

  2. We farm macadamias and I have a commercial macadamia nursery in South Africa. I think there is major potential for macadamia as an alternative crop in Florida and the Southwest. Please contact me for more information.

    • Hi Colin,

      My wife & I plan to move to Southwest Florida & I am interested in the possibility of starting a Macadamia Farm if at all possible. I know absolutely nothing about it except the fact that I Love Macadamia Nuts… If there is an upside opportunity I am interested in taking a hard look at the possibility!

      Your input would be helpful!

      Thanks!

      Dave
      Minnesota

      • Hi Dave!
        Congratulations on your arrival to Florida! OK, there are a lot of unknowns in the commercial production of Macadamia. It is slow to get started as growers are still determining which cultivars to use in their groves. In addition, the ability to get plant material is limiting. You will need to consider getting material from online international sources if local is not available. You will be an ‘explorer’ of sorts. Since it is such a new venture for Florida, we will be learning from you. I would hesitate growing this commodity if you plan on using your retirement funds. This is extremely risky if you have never produced a commercial crop. A big learning curve. If you should have further questions, don’t hesitate to contact me in my office (386)822-5778 or email me at (kstauderman@ufl.edu). Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

    • Hi Colin-
      My name is Rebecca Robson. I have started working with 120 Mac trees on a few acres in Sarasota Florida. They are about 4 years old and came from George Anderson I believe.
      I am very interested in more info and resources for caring for this orchard.
      They are a little neglected but some are huge and beautiful.
      Can you help me get started evaluating and build a plan?
      Thank you sincerely!
      Rebecca

  3. Are all varieties of macadamia nut trees able to eat raw or are some poisonous?

    • Jason-
      None of the varieties of Macadamia nuts are poisonous to humans when raw. There has been a report that if dogs eat too many raw nuts that it could compromise their health. Hope this helps!

  4. Have Wanamala Macadamia cutting going into 3rd spring 2019. Transplanting to bigger 6 gal. pot. will Miracle Grow mixed w/
    composted manure be a good growing medium? Live Cape Canaveral 200 yds from
    ocean & macadamia protected from wind.

    • Peter-
      use caution when adding manure. You already have well drained soil which is what Macadamia like. You did not mention what type of manure you are adding. This makes a big difference. Manure from fowl is very hot which may burn your plants as opposed to plant based compost. Start off slowly not exceeding 1 part manure to 3 parts soil. keep the soil well drained and moist during establishment. Hope this helps!

    • Hello Peter –
      I just stumbled upon this thread belatedly in my search for the Macadamia cultivar known as ‘Waimanalo.’ Could this be the variety to which you are referring?

      I ask because I am in California – on the coast south of San Francisco – and ‘Waimanalo’ is mentioned on the Calif. Rare Fruit Growers website as being a variety well adapted to the cooler maritime conditions we get here. Unfortunately – none of the nurserymen here seem to know of it – even down in subtropical San Diego where I’d be able to find many of the most popular commercial types.

      Strangely though, in my search I found a few articles on Florida’s Mac Nut growers and ‘Waimanalo’ is mentioned as a hardier variety that is suitable for north and central Florida gardeners.

      Are we talking about the same tree? I know that you’ve written that yours is cutting grown, but have you come across a grafted one anywhere in your area?

      I’d be very grateful for any help in tracking this down – Thanks!

    • Hello Peter,
      I just finished replying to your post regarding your cutting grown plant, but my message seems to have disappeared from the board. My apologies if there’s any duplication.

      I was writing to ask if the tree you mentioned might be ‘Waimanalo’? I’m asking because that’s the name of a variety that seems to be highly recommended for cooler coastal settings like mine here on the No.Central California coast south of San Francisco. Unfortunately, all of the best subtropical nurserymen I would ordinarily visit to find it have never heard the name!

      I DID manage to find Waimanalo mentioned in a couple of articles that recommend it to gardeners thinking about attempting Mac Nut trees in North and Central Florida. I’m not sure we’re talking about the same plant, but if you think we are – is there any chance you’ve come across other trees of this variety in any of the nurseries you visit? Thanks for any info you might be able to provide.

      Chris Coughlin

  5. Karen,
    Is Pomona Park ,Fl to far north to grow macadamia’s?

    • They have been found in a few pockets in North Central Florida and are fairly hardy tolerating temperatures as low as 25 F, however, flowers and young fruit will damage at 28 F and reduce production.

  6. Karen
    I bought a tree at the St Petersburg Saturday morning market from a Macadamia grower here in Fl- (whose name I can’t remember)about 4 years ago. The tree is quite tall now (>10feet) and looks healthy but I have never seen any flowers. Would it bloom in the spring? Do I have a dud?

    • Lisa-
      be patient. I may take up to 5-7 years before flowers appear and fruit begins to set. Macadamias can self-pollinate, although varieties vary from being totally self-compatible to being almost self-sterile. Bees are major pollinators in pollination. You did not mention when the tree was pruned. This can impact flower production significantly. The later the tree is pruned in the spring (i.e. May), the higher reduction of flower raceme production you will have. The key is to prune the tree for shape in late winter-early spring to allow for more flower set and fruit. Let’s wait just a little bit longer for the tree.

      • Hello Karen,
        You stated: “The key is to prune the tree for shape in late winter-early spring to allow for more flower set and fruit..”

        Depending on variety macadamia trees in Central FL bloom starting in December through about the end of March and sometimes into April. Nut drop begins in mid August through March of the following year depending on variety.

        Pruning on young non bearing trees can be done at most any time of the year. Pruning on bearing trees should be done immediately after nut drop, so timing when to prune is variety dependent.

        There are some varieties that bloom prior to finishing up with nut drop such as 344 and H-10 which seem to be common varieties in FL because their provenance seems to go back to George Anderson. The best time to prune them, if they are bearing trees, is about half way through nut drop, prior to bloom. Nuts from the pruned branches can easily be removed and processed because as usual because they are mature nuts at that point.

        • Wow! Great Information Glenn. I’d like to see your trees sometime! Unfortunately, our current information on growing macadamia trees in Florida is pretty limited. We are ALWAYS eager to learn more from the growers that are in the field first hand. Thank you for sharing! Future Commercial Grower Macadamia field day at your farm? LOL!
          Karen

          • “Future Commercial Grower Macadamia field day at your farm?”

            That may be possible. I’m just not ready yet. Unlike some others I’ve taken on the task more as a research project than hurriedly trying to create a cash cow. I believe macadamia will soon be a viable alternative tree crop in Florida, but there’s a lot of research needed to overcome more of the hurdles innately presented by growing a tropical tree in a subtropical climate.

  7. I have a 20 acre Mac farm in Arcadia in its 7th year with production. Are there any Mac nut processors in Florida?

    • Hi Art-
      As of now, there are not Mac processors. Most of the markets are to local or regional specialty candy suppliers, wholesale raw and other alternative outlets. Asia has a high demand but they need it in quantity of tons. Sorry, you are the first to the table and will have to lay the groundwork. Let me know how its progressing and if I can be of any further help- Much success! Karen

    • Hi Art
      I am very interested in Mac farming in Florida and would love to come visit your operation . I am in Naples so not too bad a ride. Please let me know as I am fascinated w Mac farming, Thanks and hope to hear back from you.
      Patrick Lyons patlyons11@gmail.com

    • Hello Art-
      My name is Rebecca Robson. i live in Sarasota and have just started caring for a little Mac orchard here.
      I need help getting my bearings, evaluating the trees and making a plan.
      I am hoping to visit some growers, Arcadia is not far! Would you be open to a visit some time?
      Thank you sincerely,
      Rebecca

    • Art, I’m working on putting together a cooperative for processing macadamia nuts and hope to be up and running by the end of 2022.

      The difficulty is the nuts need to be harvested from the ground about every two days and immediately husked. If the husk is left on too long it will ruin the nut. If the nut sits on the ground in FL sun for more than a few days the husk will begin to dry out, split and in another day or two the nut will dry out too fast and the shell will crack ruining the nut.

      As a result you will at the least need a macadamia nut husker and a way to start the drying process by spreading your nuts out (no more than one or two nuts deep) on wire racks protected from sun and rain. In FL they will dry down to 10% to 12% moisture on racks, but a properly dried macadamia nut needs to be dried down to 1.5% to 3% moisture remaining in the nut.

      Drying too slowly promotes mold growth in the nut. Drying too fast will result in cracks in the nut shell which leaves you open to insect intrusion and shorter storage life. Fast drying also results in a dark center in the kernel because the oils and sugars concentrate in the center of the kernel rather than equally distributed throughout the whole kernel.

  8. I have a Macadamia tree in my back garden in Melbourne. It had its first crop this year. I have taken about 20 of the nuts and planted them. So far, I have 6 seedlings. Growing from seeds seems to be rather easy, but waiting the years till they produce will take some patience.

    • You’re right Raymond, it will take some time before they produce again. Just remember, the seeds that you plant will not be identical to the mother plant as they are the offspring (f1 generation). In other words, they will have half of the mother’s genetics and half of the father’s genetics (pollen). You are in essence self pollinating the mother’s flowers with her own pollen. So you may get differing characteristics. If there is a nearby macadamia tree, theoretically, you could get the pollen from that tree. Let me know how they turn out! It’s fun to see other people’s success!
      Karen

      • Raymond, Karen is correct. I started my macadamia grove using over 1000 seedlings. 15 years later I’ve got a hand full of exceptional varieties, and a handful of good varieties. The rest are pretty much junk trees that produce nuts that certainly aren’t of commercial quality for one reason or another.

        I’ve had seedlings start to produce nuts in as little as 5 years. I’ve got some that are alternate bearers…only flower every other year. I have some that took 10 to 12 years to start producing nuts and I’ve got some 15 years old that have never flowered. Then there is one that produces a fantastic thin shelled nut the size of a golfball, but it only produces one raceme a year and gives me 4 or 5 nuts. I’m getting ready to clone it and see if the clones do any better. Who knows.

        That said, until some plant breeder/s decide working with macadamia growers in FL is a good thing to do planting seedlings is the only way to come up with new varieties. Hopefully we’ll get some help from a plant breeder or plant breeders in the future. I’ve certainly been pushing for it for years. It still hasn’t happened.

  9. Hi! So we discovered after living at our house for almost 4 years now that we have a macadamia tree, it is pretty big but it actually was damaged pretty bad a few years back during one of the hurricanes we had, and we lost a good portion of it during that time. It had produced some nuts the previous years but hasn’t since that hurricane until now. However it is definitely not producing many at all. I live in South Florida in the Ft. Lauderdale area, is there anything special we can do to help it start producing more? Thanks!

    • Yay! It survived!
      Your tree will need some time to recuperate from the damage that it has. It may take a few years to build it back up depending upon the amount and location of the damage. Apply a yearly application of a well balanced slow release fertilizer to the tree dripline and continue with your watering in the landscape. It obvious loved where it was living so you are doing something right! Enjoy the nuts and in time it should increase in yield as it ages. Fingers crossed and speedy recovery of your tree! Take some before and after photos as it recovers and share them with us.

  10. Karen, great info. thanks. I manage a small orchard in a community garden in St. Augustine Beach. Seems a macadamia tree may do well here. About what height and spread would one be once reaching nut producing age in favorable conditions?

    • Yes Steve,
      Macadamia are found in a few landscapes in our Florida Panhandle. They may indeed do well where you are. I have seen them get to heights of 9-10 feet before they begin to produce nuts. It will be about 5 years before a crop will be noticeable and about 7 years to full production. This will vary on the variety of Macadamia that you have, growing conditions, etc…..
      You will want to be careful to prune it to allow air circulation if you have strong winds from hurricanes. It is a hard wooded tree and breaks easily or can tip over in hurricane force winds. If that happens, immediately stand it up, irrigate it, and brace it until it flushes out new growth again. Do NOT leave the braces and stakes on the tree for longer than 3-4 months.
      Let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear of your success!

  11. Hi Karen,
    Is there a certain variety that grows better in Florida?
    Also, I’m in Jacksonville, am I too far north?

    • Hi Denise-
      Macadamia has been grown in household landscapes in the panhandle. One thing is to be aware is that it can tolerate temperatures down 25 degrees Fahrenheit but not for long (2 hours). You will need to frost protect it if your winters are this cold. If it gets too cold, you will have damage and may even lose the tree. Also, it is important to have foliage on the tree. Don’t over prune as exposed bark on the trunk has a tendency to sun scorch. It is really hard to determine what variety works yet for Florida. I’ve heard a few homeowners like the cultivar ‘Beaumont’. This one may be one of the varieties that are successful. You may even want to try a couple differing ones. It will take a good 7-8 years before you start to get a yield off your tree. Explore your options! This will be an adventure for you! Good luck! Send pictures!

  12. I’m in Palm Beach County. I ordered my Macadamia nut tree from Hawaii ten years ago. And in exactly 10 years (like the label said) it has finally flowered and produced nuts. In December I gave a little trim…put some of that Walmart Evergreen citrus fertilizer around it and it started to flower…not a ton of flowers maybe 10 to 20 I could see…Now in May I see nuts…Excited!!!

    • Woohoo!!! I’m excited too! Do you remember the cultivar of the tree? It should have the cultivar on the tag. We all want to know-
      Send pictures!! Congratulations!
      Kstauderman@ufl.edu

  13. I have a Macadamia in DeLand, Florida which I planted about 15 years ago. It did well for a few years planted beside our lake front and is about 30 feet tall. Lately it began to die back with gradual but significant loss of foliage and precipitously decreased nut output. This spring, after years of relative neglect, I began to fertilize it with PO4 poor fertilizer with added micronutrients and the tree began to sprout new growth and generally improved! I trimmed the dead wood (a lot) but I’m not sure how to proceed from here. Any thoughts would be appreciated.. Thanks

    • Thomas-
      You’ll need to start at the beginning. First take a sample of soil from 6-8 locations around the ‘drip line’ of the tree digging down 10-12 inches and getting a profile of the soil on the shovel. Place these samples in a plastic bucket and mix. Then send a sample off to the UF Soils Laboratory in Gainesville (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/SS/SS18700.pdf). You want TEST B. It will set you back $10 PER sample. Mail the sample and form off to the UF address on the form. Don’t forget to include your email address for faster results. Once you get the results, they may require you to apply lime or sulfur. Follow the directions on the recommendations. Continue as you are by applying a slow release fertilizer (citrus fertilizer will work) by following the label directions on the bag. The tree will slowly respond to the care. This is a slow comeback as the tree will need to begin building its canopy again. Monitor your tree for any damage such as splits in the trunk or oozing/cankers of any kind. Take it one year at a time and I look forward to seeing it coming back! Send me some pictures! Best of Luck!

  14. Karen, We have an 18 acre Mac tree farm in Arcadia,Florida in its eighth year. We are looking for a consultant to help us refine our farm as we are just entering our first real harvest. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks, art

    • Arthur-
      Wish I could find the perfect expert on growing Macadamia but the truth is, we don’t have one. I’m more than happy to help with any questions. If I don’t have the answer, I can direct you to our UF State specialist to help us. You are entering new territory with macadamia. We are learning from your success and failures. I equate it to our new ‘frontiersmen/women’ of this century. We here at UF have the experts in insects, disease, breeding, etc…… but we do not have any past history in growing Macadamias. They are growing in interest throughout Central Florida. Would love to see the grove. Send pictures of your success or failures and I can try to help…….or just be in awe of your endeavor! KStauderman@ufl.edu
      Keep me in your loop! Continued success!!!

    • Hey Arthur! Check out Korean Natural Farming videos on YouTube. Chris Trump is the master gardener and he runs a Macadamia farm in HI. Super informative and inspiring.

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