How to grow lychees in Western Australia
An expensive fruit to buy due to the fact they do not store well, lychees are native to the lowlands of southern China and were brought to Australia more than 100 years ago by Chinese gold miners. In China, the lychee is a symbol of romance which is fairly logical, because when most people taste a freshly picked lychee for the first time, they fall in love with it. Lychees prefer tropical conditions but can grow in Western Australia’s south-west given the right conditions.
Trees are attractive with dense foliage and grow slowly to be less than 8m with a 5m spread and can be kept in big pots. Both male and female flowers occur on the same tree but planting more than one tree will improve fruit set. To become productive trees however, they need a week of cool night temperatures below around 20°C before flowering. Kwai May Pink also known as Bosworth Number Three is probably the best variety for home gardens as it fruits most years and has a small seed. Trees have oval to round fruits about 3cm across with leathery, scaly skin which is pink to red. The semi-translucent flesh is firm and jelly-like and covers a shiny, inedible brown seed.
Plants prefer warm, humid summers and cool dry winters and need a position with full sun, or some afternoon shade in summer in a spot protected from the wind. You can erect wind barriers for the first few years but tress will not survive costal conditions. Young trees will not tolerate frost but mature trees are more robust, have some drought tolerance and can survive short periods of minus 4C. Lychees do not like waterlogging and soils must be improved with organic matter such as soil improver. Use a whole bag at planting time, improving the soil wider rather than deeper.
Tips for planting
- Plants are shallow rooted and must be mulched
- Young trees need regular moisture and grow quite slowly.
- Feed with slow-release fertiliser once a year.
- Older trees need fertiliser twice during their growing season.
It takes a bit of patience when growing a lychee tree because plants will remain dormant for about the first three years. Plants should bear a small amount of fruit in three or four years. Once a tree is around ten years old it is usually fully productive and can produce up to 200 kilos of lychees a season. Pick the scented, red-skinned fruits when fully ripe in autumn. Cut the fruits on a twig about 12cm from the fruits to give the tree a light prune. Once picked, the fruit does not continue to ripen and should be stored in the fridge where it will keep for up to a week.
If you have any tips on how to grow lychees please feel free to share them in the comments section below.
Category: Vegetable Garden