Tropical fruits appeal to temperate climate gardeners because of their challenges. It is a thrill to grow them successfully outside their environment.
A handsome tree of about 20 feet, with dark green, leathery foliage. The green, pear-shaped fruits, unlike other fruits, are filled with vegetable fat. Its flesh is a delicacy for savories and salads.
Avocados are often grown from their large seed, planted large end down, in moist, sandy, or peaty soil, preferably in spring or summer.
Or start one by supporting a seed with paper in the neck of a jar of water (broad base of the seed just touching the water). Kept in a warm room or cupboard, it usually makes root in three or four weeks. Carefully transfer then to potting soil.
A second variety is usually needed as a pollinator to set fruit. If growing for fruit, it is better to buy grafted, named varieties from Queensland nurserymen, as seedlings vary.
Avocados prefer a good soil with compost and occasional dressings of complete plant food, and tropical or semi-tropical conditions, but can succeed in temperate coastal areas in a sheltered, north-east aspect.
Bananas grow in many soils and conditions in tropical to temperate climates free from heavy frost. The clumps are decorative as long as old plants and dead leaves are removed.
Grown mainly for fruit, they are best on a warm, north-eastern slope with at least an annual dressing of complete fertilizer, and regular watering. Some types, sugar bananas especially, will grow in sedgy areas where few other plants survive.
Only the ornamental Abyssinian banana produces seed, after which the plant dies. The seedless fruiting varieties also die after bearing but are replaced by suckers from the base of the plant. By replanting these suckers, new clumps are propagated.
Thin out surplus suckers to avoid over-crowding. About six plants per clump is adequate. Old trees after fruiting are cut off at ground level.
3. Custard Apple
Custard apple or cherimoya (Annona cherimola). There are several types of custard apple, but this is one of the best and most likely to succeed in fringe areas. It makes a large shrub or small tree with green, nearly heart-shaped fruit to 4 pounds in weight. They may fall and crush if left to ripen on the tree, so pick them when the ridges in the skin turn a creamy color, and store until soft. The flesh then has a sweet, custard-like texture.
Custard apples will grow from seed and, in warm, moist climates, bear about five years. Budded plants from northern nurseries are the most reliable. All varieties survive without pruning, except perhaps to remove old, woody branches.
Decorative and easy to grow in tropical and fairly frost-free, temperate areas, they’ve become less popular because of the fruit fly.
The yellow guava, Psidium guajava has the largest fruits, but Psidium cattleyanum or strawberry guava is the most attractive tree, with smooth, decorative trunk and rounded head of shiny, dark foliage.
Feijoa or pineapple guava is a very adaptable tree, even in fairly frosty inland areas. Growth and flower are similar to its relative, the New Zealand Christmas bush, but more striking.
The large, greenish, guava-like fruit of the feijoa fall in early autumn before they are properly ripe. Store them in a dark, airy place until they develop a characteristic pineapple aroma. Very susceptible to the fruit fly.
A vigorous passion vine with large flowers and glossy yellow “passion fruit” almost the size and shape of a Rugby football. Rarely succeed outside the tropics.
Grown mainly for the decorative effect of their huge, leathery, green, perforated foliage. The long, green fruits take from 8 to 18 months to ripen, depending on climate and conditions. A definite pineapple aroma indicates ripeness. Also, the skin tends to lift at the bottom of the fruit, which may fall from the plant. It ripens an inch or two each day. If eaten above this point, it may irritate the mouth.
Monsteras grow best in a warm, sheltered position with plenty of water in summer. They are adaptable, but container-grown plants won’t tolerate continuously wet soil in cold weather.
An attractive evergreen tree of 20 to 30 feet, with slender, dark green, leathery foliage. Varieties are selected mainly for a combination of flavor and freedom from the fiber in the aromatic, pear-shaped fruits.
Mangoes grow and bear fruit in tropical to warm temperate coastal areas, but cropping can vary, especially among seedlings. Wet weather at a flowering time can cause crop failure. The fungus attacks the flower under these conditions.
Seeds will germinate in a mixture of moist sand and peat moss. Some growers remove the husk before planting. One seed may produce several seedlings, which are carefully separated when repotting. For best results, sow seeds soon after removal from the fruit.
The Queensland nut tree makes a handsome specimen 15 to 25 feet tall, with dark, glossy green, slightly serrated foliage. Flowers hang in slender feathery, cream clusters from inside the canopy of foliage. The nuts are the hardest shelled but among the world’s best.
Macadamias grow best in tropical and warm coastal temperate districts, but once established have some frost resistance. Propagate by seed. Most nurseries carry established plants.
Papaws are among the most decorative tropical fruit trees, carrying an umbrella of large hand-shaped foliage on a palm-like, slender trunk. They grow quickly from seed, and in a good moist and warm frost-free environment will flower and set fruit the first year.
Apart from a bisexual variety occasionally available, only the female papaw sets fruit and needs a nearby male plant for pollination – distinguishable only when flowering. Males have long sprays of orange blossom-like flowers; female flowers are larger, set close to the stem.
It is practical and decorative to set 4 or 5 plants about 5 feet apart in a clump, then to thin all males but one. Trees naturally die out after bearing for a couple of years, so add a few new plants to the colony each year.
Pineapples are best in warm districts with good, well-drained, light loamy soils. Plants propagate from suckers at the base of the old plant. They make one fruit per plant in one to two years. You can strike the top sliced from a pineapple, but this plant usually takes several years to fruit.
Other fruit trees adaptable to the tropics include all citrus, passion fruit, pomegranates, persimmon, fig, mulberry, to some extent peach, especially types such as Flat China, and a variety of apple known as Tropical Beauty.