Tips for Tropical Fruits

Treehouse Nursery in Bokeelia grows or has tried out nearly every tropical fruit you can imagine.  It is ideally located on the northern end of Pine Island where the land is warmed by winds blowing off the shallow waters of Charlotte Harbor.  Surprisingly, the north end of the island is more favorable for tropical fruit production than the south end, though both have been hit hard these past two winters.

Here are a few tips and tidbits from nursery manager Steve Cucura:

Don’t bother propagating fruits from seed.  They will take a long time to fruit and probably won’t come true to the original.  Lychee nuts are easily propagated by air layering.   Mangos and avocadoes must be grafted onto seedling rootstock because air layering produces weak roots.

Mulch is a must in sandy soils.  It moderates temperatures in the upper soils where feeder roots are active and helps keep competing weeds at bay.  Do not, however, amend the planting hole with compost, topsoil or fertilizer – use only native soil.

Sri Lanka weevil

Sri Lanka weevils are their #1 pest problem, especially on young trees.  Treehouse uses organic methods to produce their edible crop so hard sprays with water and handpicking are employed.  They also educate customers that nibbled leaves do not necessarily mean an unhealthy tree.

If a variety isn’t selling try changing the name.  ‘Hak Ip’, a lovely variety of lychee, didn’t catch on very well because people couldn’t remember or pronounce the name.  When someone tried ‘Sweetheart’, it flew off the shelves!

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.  Ever wonder why Florida avocadoes are waterier than those from California or Mexico?  In drier climates water evaporates readily from the avocado, producing a rich creamy flesh.  That just doesn’t happen in our sultry summers.

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About Kathy

Program Assistant with UF/IFAS Manatee County Extension Service, specializing in Integrated Pest Management for ornamental nurseries.
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