Growth Habit: Loquat are small, tropical-looking evergreen trees. They grow to about 4-6m high depending on variety.
Foliage/Flowers: Loquat leaves are large and slender, and on top are coloured a glossy dark green while the underside is covered with fine whitish or rusty coloured hairs. Small, white, sweetly fragrant flowers blossom in early winter in groups at the ends of the branches.
Fruit: Loquat fruits are yellow, egg shaped and about the size of a small aprioct. The succulent, tangy flesh is white or yellow, and sweet to subacid in flavour.
Adaptation: This hardy tree is adapted to a subtropical to mild-temperature climate. Its ideally suited to Wollongong's climate, and often invades the native bushland mainly on open or disturbed areas. It's recommended that the fruits are netted to prevent fruit dispersal by birds. Loquats are wind tolerant and grow best in full sun, but also do well in partial shade.
Soils: Loquats grow well on a variety of soils of moderate fertility, but need good drainage. Fertilise once in midwinter with compost. as the fruits are forming.
Irrigation: Loquat trees are drought tolerant, but they will produce higher quality fruit with regular, deep watering.
Pruning: Prune once established after harvest by removing crossing branches and thinning dense growth to let light into the centre of the tree. Older fruiting branches can gradually be removed to reduce tree size to a manageable height.
Propagation: Grow from seed or graft onto seedling or quince rootstock.
Pests and diseases: Rarely troubled by pest or diseases, except for birds that love the fruit. Despite popular belief, the loquat is rarely attacked by fruit fly in our climate, especially if early-ripening varieties are planted. Choose an early fruiting variety and consider enclosing each fruit cluster in a paper bag.
Harvest: Loquat fruits should be allowed to ripen fully before harvesting. They reach maturity in about 90 days from full flower opening. When ripe the fruit develops a distinctive colour, depending on the cultivar, and begins to soften. Unripe fruits do not ripen properly off the tree and are excessively acid. Harvest time is from Jun-Sep. Shelf-life is only a week or two at most at room temperature.
Recommended Varieties: Bessel Brown, Nagasakiwase – earliest to ripen, before the fruit fly.