Growing Guavas in a Subtropical Climate

Posted by admin in Garden Flowers

For centuries now, guava trees have been gracing the tropical regions of Mexico and Central and South America with their robust charm and spice. With their thick limbs outstretched, they have long provided shade for the inhabitants of the Amazon, as well as exotic colors and some of the finest tropical fruits you can imagine. The tropical guava (Psidium guajava), native to southern Mexico and Brazil, became a favorite among early explorers who transported guava trees to countries like Asia, Africa, Egypt, Guam, and Palestine. It was not until 1847 though, that the first guava made its debut in the United States, where it quickly set root in the southern tip of Florida. Although guava fruit is considered minor in terms of commercial trade—India remains the largest producer—it continues to be one of the main sources of nutrients in the tropics. Thought by some to be the “poor man’s apple tree,” the guava tree can be found growing outside the back door of almost any home in Central and South America, where its fruit grows in abundance to enrich the diets of hundreds of millions of people.

Tropical guava trees, belonging to the Myrtaceae family, are close relatives of pineapple guavas and strawberry guavas (both of which are grown in Louisiana), and share distant ties to more familiar shrubs like bottlebrush, Mexican myrtle, and eucalyptus. Tropical guavas are small shade trees that reach up to 30 feet in height, producing a lush arching canopy, perfect for lemon-size fruit to hang during the summers. The rich coppery-hued bark flakes off throughout the year, revealing an intense bright green underneath. Small single white flowers are borne in the spring, and are followed months later by lemon colored fruits with tropical pink flesh. Packing more punch with vitamin C than any citrus, guavas are both nutritious and sweet, as their juicy pulp exudes some of the freshest sugars produced by fruit.

If the extraordinary fruits of the guava have aroused your taste buds beyond query, try growing one of the many guava trees cultivated for our area. Pineapple guavas (Feijoa sellowiana) are surefire evergreen trees in Louisiana and are hardy to 15 degrees F. Named after the Brazilian botanist de Silva Feijo, pineapple guavas take their origins from southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and northern Argentina. These slow growing trees reach up to 20 feet in height, and show off gorgeous grey-green leaves with silvery undersides.

Similar to their tropical cousins, pineapple guavas bear showy blossoms in the spring as well, usually beginning in April, and continuing on through May. The flowers of the pineapple guava are a bit more colorful, with the pure white undersides of the petals making a splendid contrast against the purplish red interiors. Bright red stamens protrude proudly from the wine-hued petals, each of them seemingly dipped into a bowl of iridescent yellow powder. The petals have a mildly sweet aroma and can be used as refreshing additions to your spring salads.

In late autumn in Louisiana, dull blue-green fruits blushed with orange are produced, and range from one to three and a half inches long. Well before the fruit is actually ripe, these pear-shaped guavas tempt your senses when they begin to emit a powerfully sweet perfume. The fruit’s thick white pulp tastes strongly of pineapple and guava or pineapple and strawberry, usually laden with overtones of wintergreen or spearmint. For best flowering and fruit production, plant two or more varieties; poor yields are usually the result of inadequate pollination. Bred for their fruit and their attractive landscape features, feijoas can be utilized as accent shrubs, small trees, fruiting screens, or windbreaks. Plant varieties like ‘Apollo’, ‘Gemini’, ‘Nazemetz’, and ‘Trask’ together for premium fruit quality and production.

If you are on the hunt for smaller fruit that holds all the spice of feijoas, plant strawberry guavas. Strawberry guavas (Psidium cattleianum) are native to Brazil as well, and are hardy to 24 degrees F. These subtropical evergreens retain much of the grandeur as the pineapple guavas, but can be kept at a height of 10 to 15 feet. Similar to the tropical guavas, the silvery bronze mottled bark brilliantly reflects the jade green leaves of the cattleianum. Strawberry guavas bloom clear white flowers in the spring, and produce deep red to purple fruit through July and August. Tasting much like the tropical guavas, but with a hint of strawberry, the strawberry guavas mature at a size of one inch in diameter, making them somewhat larger than blueberries. Both the strawberry guavas and the pineapple guavas can be enjoyed when eaten fresh or when preserved as jams or jellies.

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