Growing loquats in the Pacific Northwest

I am starting this thread to track loquats budding out, flowering and hopefully fruiting here in the PNW.

Unlike pretty much most fruit, loquats bud out in late summer/early fall and flower in winter. This means that your yard will stay perfumed all through winter and give you an incentive to go out in the cold.

While loquats are tropical/sub-tropical, they do surprisingly well far north of their ideal climactic region. They can handle very low temperatures with little to no damage. They are definitely hardier than figs in my experience. However snowfall can damage them rather badly as the large leaves tend to hold snow and the brittle branches can break if the snow load is too high. Cold weather below about 25F will damage open flowers. Unopened flowerbuds can tolerate even colder weather – down to about 22-23F. Young fruit will get destroyed around 27F.

So what we need up north are late blooming, late fruiting varieties. Ideally the blooms should not open until early/mid March. I am growing a lot of varieties to determine which ones will do well here for us.

In my experience, loquats do not need that many heat units to ripen. Or even much sunlight. This makes them unique among fruit trees.
I have loquat trees in almost full shade that are now budding out. They have also fruited successfully in shade. The sweetness levels are lower than that of trees grown in full sun however.

Would love to hear other folks’ experience growing these beautiful trees.

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I’d love to see pictures of the early stages of what will grow into flower buds and flowers.

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While that is one solution to the problem of cold winter temperatures, another one is selecting varieties that have a much lower temperature threshold where the fruitlets get damaged. For example, the large tree in the International District here in Seattle had already flowered before the freeze (upper teens) this last December, yet when I visited in mid-January it was still holding the fruitlets, and @Bradybb reported this summer that it had ripened nicely.

Two of the three seedlings of that tree that are in my yard suffered minor leaf damage in the same freeze, but one of them did not, and is still holding all of its leaves from last year. I would think using the International District tree as a source of breeding material for our climate would be a great idea!

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@murky, I posted several photos. Over a dozen varieties budding out now – including ones in complete shade.

@swincher, I am growing a grafted tree from the Chinatown tree as well. It has had flower buds for atleast 3 years now.

Couple of observations – when all my other loquat flower buds froze out last year, so did the Chinatown tree.

The China town tree is large. Parts of the tree that are exposed to full sun flower earlier. These are exactly the same flower buds that get destroyed by cold freeze. You can observe which were open flowers in December and notice which ones are producing fruit in April. They are not the same.

The flower buds that are protected under the canopy are the only ones that go on to make fruit. Every exposed flower bud gets frozen out. I have observed this on this and other fruiting loquat trees in the PNW over many years.
The other good thing for this tree is that there is a building right under it (restaurant?) That generates a lot of heat and creates a micro climate. I noticed this too at Bullock brothers property in Orcas where they have a couple of reliable fruiting loquats. Both of them were large and overhanging buildings that were creating a micro climate.

There is a smaller tree in the same compound as the giant chinatown tree. That rarely appears to produce any fruit.

It is good to use the chinatown tree as breeding material if you think it makes sense. But loquats in general have near zero problems surviving our temperatures. Getting fruit from a small tree is the real challenge.

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This is fun! I have a 3 year old gold nugget seedling, zone 9b extreme norcal coast, ( fog belt) protected (ish) by a phylon wall in a 25 gallon pot that is thriving. I was told fruiting was highly unlikely in my region but i like a challenge! Im excited to watch your progress and encouraged to give mine more time to grow to be more than just a pretty oddity.

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Good to know! I didn’t realize you’d grafted that variety and compared it to other varieties. I was just impressed that the fruitlets I saw in January (near the edge of the lower part of the canopy) looked healthy after those mid-teens temperatures, even with the microclimate there that seemed surprising to me. But maybe I’m just not giving enough weight to the microclimate effects!

Here are some photos of that tree that I’ve posted in another thread for anyone curious what we’re talking about:

and:

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It seems like the coldest part of winter always comes towards the end where I’m at. Is this generally the case throughout the PNW or just where I am? I’m wondering if late flowering will be enough in my location. “Day-neutral” traits with sporadic bloom through the year would seem very ideal.

ramv,

I’m wondering when the earliest one can distinguish whether emerging growth is vegetative or flowering.

Can you tell if any of mine are going to make flowers instead of leaves?

Your comment prompted me to take a look at the winter pattern of my low temps from 2017-2021. Quite variable!

2017:


2018:

2019:

2020:

2021:

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It seems to be the case mostly in your somewhat colder than normal zone. It is usually coldest here in Jan or Feb.

Hard to say right now. Give it about 2 weeks. You’ll know for sure then.

Your zone is perfect for loquats. 9b with foggy weather is ideal.

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Christine, your climate looks promising for loquats as long as you have a way to protect the fruit during 1-2 weeks each year.

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I have mine growing in a semi-covered enclosure. They are growing great …but I had some tip-burn this summer (!). I might have to cover with shade cloth for the occasional 85-90 degree days. All this for a piece of fruit - I am definitely nuts!

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I haven’t seen any sign of heat stress or sunburn in mine as long as I keep them thoroughly watered during hot weather. Even last summer with the 100+ heat wave, they drooped but perked up when I drenched them, and no signs of lingering damage. One of mine is in direct sun near a concrete wall with windows that reflects heat and light onto the tree.

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Mine were completely fried in the blast furnace 110+ temps we got in June 2020.
The fruit were cooked on the tree! Leaves were crisp.
90 degree temps seem to be no problem for them.

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My yard peaked around 106° during that heat wave, up to 10° cooler than on the east side of Seattle where you are. And I was out watering everything multiple times per day, which seems to help a lot both because it keeps the trees hydrated and the evaporative cooling effect.

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My uncovered in-ground loquats did fine even with only weekly watering - no burnt tips. The covered ones I’m sure got to 110+ for a few hours on the 90F days. Next year I’ll have them on a daily drip timer and shade them a bit.
Thanks @swincher and @ramv for sharing your conditions! It sure helps me to figure out what’s what.

I can only supply maybe 5 gallons per minute or so to my orchard hoses. That’s not enough to water everything once a day, let alone multiple times. I had to pick my battles during the heat wave, and that was gated by how much I could tolerate being outside to set the locations.

I wish I had irrigation set up for everything, but its a moving target as I plant more things, and time for the hobby is limited and irregular. Quick deployed irrigation is at odds with weed and pest management - mowing, hoses, cages, weeds - what helps with one often makes the others harder to deal with.

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