Loquat (Japanese plum or Japanese medlar) is probably one of the most familiar of all tropical fruit plants in Texas, although few people outside of south Texas have only rarely grown the fruit. The plant is extremely cold hardy and is commonly grown as an ornamental from north Texas to the Valley.
Native to China, the loquat tree is an evergreen with large, stiff leaves. Growing alone in the open, the tree is very symmetrical, with a compact, dense crown, and can attain a height of 25 feet and a spread of 15 to 20 feet. The leaves are glossy, dark green above and whitish to rusty tomentose beneath. These characteristics of the tree have made the loquat an excellent specimen or accent in the home landscape.
The mature loquat tree can withstand temperatures of 10 degrees without serious injury, but both flowers and fruit are killed at temperatures below about 27. Unfortunately, loquat blooms in late fall to early winter and must mature its fruit during the winter months. Thus, fruiting rarely occurs except in south Texas or following mild winters in south central or southeast Texas.
SOIL AND SITE SELECTION
Loquat is very well adapted to virtually all soils that have good internal drainage and are relatively non-saline. Soil pH does not seem to matter, as the trees grow equally well in the acid soils of east Texas and the alkaline soils of north, central and south Texas.
If fruit production is a consideration, loquats should be planted on the south or southeast side of the residence to obtain maximum cold protection from the house itself. Otherwise, plant it wherever in the landscape that is desired.
PLANTING AND ESTABLISHMENT
A loquat tree obtained from the local nursery will undoubtedly be container-grown in soilless media. Because soilless media forms an interface with the soil of a planting site, across which neither roots, air nor water move readily, one cannot simply take the plant from the pot and put it into a planting hole intact--as growth will be extremely slow. To assure survival and immediate growth, some of the medium should be removed from the sides and top of the root ball to expose some of the roots. This is best accomplished with a gentle stream of water from the garden hose, removing about an inch of the medium all around the ball. Upon planting, the outer roots in the ball are thereby placed into direct contact with the soil of the planting site, so survival and growth are assured, given proper watering.
Water thoroughly at planting and again every three or four days for the first week. Afterwards, lengthen the interval between watering’s over the next several months until the tree is well established. For ease of watering, construct a water ring several inches high and thick, and a couple of feet across, atop the soil around the newly planted tree. Then, simply fill the ring with water as needed. In time, the ring will melt into the surrounding soil, at which time the plant will have become established.