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Tropic like it’s hot

Turn your backyard into a tropical paradise with these fantastic fruits.

By Addy Codispoti

If you’ve ever wanted to experiment with growing bananas, now is your chance! Living in the Lowcountry gives us the benefit of being able to grow fruits those up north can’t. Tropical plants thrive in hot and humid weather, making them the perfect addition to your summer gardening lineup. Although it’s a bit harder to grow tropical fruits here than in Florida or the Caribbean, it’s still possible. Here are a few fruits to strive for. 


Guavas

Though it’s possible to grow guavas in the Lowcountry, they should be protected from cold weather during the winter months. Guava saplings need to be planted in full sun in well-drained soil with added compost. Guavas require a regular watering schedule, especially when the soil is dry. You’ll want to fertilize your guava trees every one to two months while they are young and then three to four times per year as they mature. When guavas are planted from seeds, they take almost eight years to produce fruit. When they are planted from seedlings, you’ll have ready-to-eat fruit in three to five years. Ripe guava will be completely colored and smell sweet. 

How to use: Guava Jam, smoothies, guava and cream pastries


Peaches

When choosing your tree from a local nursery, pick one that is at least one year old with healthy roots. Peaches should be planted in either late winter or early spring. The tree should be planted in an area that receives full sun, especially in the morning. Like the fruits above, peach trees need well-drained soil. Peaches are harvested when they are fully ripe, which will be from late June through July and August. When peaches are completely ripe, their color changes from green to yellow.

How to use: Peach pie, peach jam, peach butter, peach cobbler


Grapefruit

Grapefruit trees should be planted in either spring or fall in an area that receives full sun and protection from wind. Water them every couple of days for the first few weeks. After a month or so you can get by with watering them once a week, except when the weather is hot and dry. These plants don’t require much maintenance except for watering once or twice a week. Harvesting grapefruit is in the fall once the fruits turn yellow or gold. However, newly planted grapefruit trees won’t produce quality fruit for at least three years.

How to use: Grapefruit yogurt cake, cinnamon sugar boiled grapefruit, marmalade


Bananas

Plant your banana plants in the spring or summer. Bananas love humidity, so be sure to water them two to three times a day to lock in humidity around the plants. Ideally, you need to plant them in full sun, but they can tolerate some shade. The plant tends to prefer moist, but not saturated soil. You can feed bananas with fertilizer once a month. Most banana varieties need three to four months from the time the fruit stems emerge until they reach maturity. Banana plants will die if the temperature drops below freezing. You can wrap a blanket around the trunk or the entire plant to protect it from the cold. Banana plants will be ready to harvest 15 to 18 months after planting.

How to use: Banana bread, banana cream pie, banana pudding, smoothies


Limes

You can either purchase a lime tree from a local nursery or start from scratch with some seeds. Make sure wherever you plant future limes, they will get plenty of sun and protection from wind. Make sure the soil is well-draining, and water the tree just often enough to keep the soil slightly wet. Limes turn yellow once they are ripe, but have the most flavor when they are green and developing a slight yellowish tint.

How to Use: Key lime pie, lime bars, margaritas, cilantro lime salad dressing


Figs

Fig trees should be planted in either early spring or late fall. The trees need full sun and well-drained soil. Young fig trees should be watered at least once a week. Figs will be ready to harvest once they are fully colored and a bit soft. Wear gloves while you harvest them because the sap could irritate your skin. Figs are extremely perishable and have a fridge shelf life of two to three days.

How to use: Fig jam, fig bruschetta, homemade fig newtons


Kumquats

Buy a kumquat sapling from your local nursery and plant it in early spring. Make sure you pick a spot where there is full sun and well-drained soil. Kumquats need to stay hydrated, so water the plant a few times a week, especially when you notice the soil becoming dry. You can start fertilizing the plant after one month. Harvesting is usually from November to April, depending on the plant’s growth. Use scissors or pruning shears to pick the fruit without damaging the plant.

How to use: Chutney, marmalade, cocktails


Meyer Lemons

Meyer lemons are a hybrid variety of fruit that is a little bit sweeter than normal lemons and easier for a home gardener to grow. The ideal time to plant a Meyer lemon tree is in late winter or early spring. These trees will need full sun and well-draining soil. You should water your plant once every two weeks; however, you shouldn’t let the soil dry out. Giving your tree two tablespoons of fertilizer a couple of times a year will give it an extra boost. Harvest your lemons once their skin color changes from green to dark yellow.

How to use: Meyer lemon vinaigrette, pound cake


Satsuma Oranges

Plant satsuma in early spring once the cold weather has passed. Make sure the tree is planted in an area with well-drained soil and where it will get eight to ten hours of direct sunlight. Satsuma trees need regular watering throughout the season. At first, they need to be watered every two to three days, but once they have grown a bit, you can water them once every week to ten days. Satsumas will be ready for harvesting between November and January.

How to use: Jam, muffins, salad add-In