Growing Jackfruit in Florida
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.) also known as Jak, is a tropical plant native to India. Jackfruits have been cultivated in many tropical and subtropical areas such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Australia, Kenya, Uganda, Mauritius, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. In the US, jackfruit is not widely cultivated but it has been grown as a hobby.
Interestingly, jackfruit is a multiple fruit composed of many flowers. The fruit is large, weighing from 10 to 60 pounds. However, some varieties produce smaller fruits weighing 3 to 10 pounds. Jackfruit has a rough and thick skin. The fruit flesh consists of many edible aromatic and soft pulps that surrounds seeds. The time between flowering to maturing fruits ranges from 150 to 180 days. The fruiting season is summer and fall, however, some fruits may ripen later.
Jackfruit is a tropical plant, and it likes hot humid tropics. It can be grown well in the humid subtropical climate of south Florida and the coastal areas where freezing occurs occasionally. Jackfruit grow and produce fruit optimally when it is continuously warm. Low temperature of 32°F may damage leaves. The whole tree may be killed at 28°F.
Jackfruit likes full sun for best growth and fruit production. Jackfruit is a large tree and for home landscape it should be planted 25 to 30 feet from other trees and buildings. Trees that are close to each other or building may not grow normally or produce much fruit due to shading. If water is provided, the tree can be planted at any time of the year. The best time to plant is in late spring or early summer or in the rainy season.
There are various cultivars of jack fruit that may be available for homeowners. It is important that homeowners first evaluate their preferences prior to selecting a tree for their landscape. You can find some evaluated varieties in this EDIS article.
Young trees should be watered frequently especially during dry periods. For mature trees, watering is recommended from bloom through fruit development and dry period as well. Jackfruit tolerates drought very well. However, irrigation regularly will increase tree growth and fruit production. Jackfruit may not tolerate flooding for a long time. Trees may decline after 2 to 3 days of wet soil condition.
Soil and Fertilizer requirements
Jackfruit like well-drained soils. Trees tolerate sandy, sandy-loam, and high pH soils of southern Florida. For new and young trees, apply ¼ lb. of fertilizer, such as 6-6-6 with minor elements and 30% of the nitrogen from organic sources, per tree. For the first year, apply the fertilizer every 8 weeks. Then gradually increase the amount of fertilizer as the trees grow. For mature trees, apply fertilizer 2 to 3 times from May to September.
Jackfruit can be propagated by seed, cuttings, and grafting. Trees propagated by seed may start producing fruit after 3 to 4 years. Grafting usually is a preferred method for propagating jackfruit. You should use vigorous and healthy rootstock. Side veneer grafting is most popular among growers, but cleft grafting and chip budding can be used as well. Cuttings can be used, but it is not common method for jackfruit. For cutting, semi-hardwood shoots with 3 leaves dipped in 5,000 to 1,0000 ppm IBA (1H-indole-3-butanoic acid) and placed in an intermittent mist bed will root in about 60 to 70 days.
Pest and disease
Various woods boring insects, scales, and mealybugs may attack stems and fruit. Few diseases have been reported for jackfruit in south Florida. Among them, Rhizopus fruit rot and gray mold are most common disease that damage the fruits. Other disease that may damage the trees include root rot or leaf spot caused by fungi. For more information about the pest and disease of jackfruit, please read this article or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension agricultural agent for current control options.