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Lychees are superb evergreen shade trees, offering a stunning display of fragrant spring flowers, followed by deliciously aromatic fruit. So much tastier than the canned offerings, lychees eaten fresh from the tree are a true sub-tropical delight.
Name: lychee, litchi, Litchi chinensis
Height: up to 15m, but can be pruned to maintain overall size and height
Climate: lychees are climate specific, needing a protected spot in a frost-free, sub-tropical climate in order to set both male and female flowers.
Soil: prefers deep, free-draining soil enriched with organic matter such as compost or decomposed manure.
Position: part-shade to full sun, protected from strong winds and frost.
Flowering and fruiting: panicles of small white, yellow and green flowers are produced in profusion in early spring, followed by aromatic, fleshy white fruits encased in a red pimply shell.
Feeding: do not fertilise for the first few years.
Watering: water regularly, especially during establishment and fruit development.
A large spreading evergreen tree with a showy display of fragrant flowers in early spring, the lychee is also highly productive, although patience is required, as trees don’t usually start cropping for 5–10 years.
Their shallow root system and fragility demands a protected position in the garden, but once established, they are incredibly rewarding.
A striking ornamental shade tree with the added benefit of delicious aromatic fruits.
Growing lychee in pots
Growing lychee in the garden
If you buy an advanced tree, protect it with shade cloth for the first few years, otherwise train potted plants towards their final position.
Sensitive to climate, protect your lychee tree from full sun with shade cloth, or grow in a pot in part shade for the first few years, slowly introducing it to full sunlight. Lychee is a fragile plant, so protect it from strong winds and also from frost.
Growing well down the east coast of Australia, from Cairns to Lismore, lychee produces its optimal harvest during a dry spring, as rain, as well as overhead watering, can damage the flowers, reducing your harvest.
Although slow to get growing, you will start to harvest a small crop after 5 years, with full production within around 10 years.
Potted lychees will require daily watering. Once planted into the garden, water regularly during spring to ensure good fruit development, and to prevent fruit splitting.
Train your lychee while young, removing any side shoots up to 1m to encourage a strong central leader.
Lychee is commonly raided by birds, bats and flying foxes, so it is essential to net developing fruit. Fruit fly can be an issue in some areas, so hang baits to reduce any infestation. Erinose mites can damage foliage and fruit. If found, treat with wettable sulphur.
How to grow lychee from seed
To grow from seed, soak the seed in water for 3–4 days until it starts to split. Plant in a small jiffy or peat pot in a premium seed-raising mix, placing one seed sideways in each pot to minimise root disturbance. Place in a warm, sunny position, and keep moist but not wet. The seed will germinate and grow in 4–6 weeks, at which time it can be transplanted into a larger pot.
Lychee aerial propagation
To propagate via aerial layering, cut a ring or band of bark about 1cm wide off a 2cm thick branch to expose the wood underneath. Cover the wound with seed-raising mix and peat moss and seal with plastic top and bottom. Leave for several months to develop roots. Once roots are visible, the branch can be severed and carefully potted up.
Pineapples: highly productive, sweetly scented, sub-tropical fruits.
Bananas: a sub-tropical favourite that grows well in warm temperate climates.
Longan: a close relative of lychee, but more cold-tolerant.
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