Chinese fruit trees can grow in certain parts of the United States, providing both landscaping and fruit for you during spring and summer. These fruit are becoming more common in grocery stores across the United States, but they can be expensive. Having a tree or two of your own, once they begin to produce fruit, can allow you to eat more fruit than you might otherwise buy.
The lychee (Litchi chinensis), also spelled litchi, is native to southern and southeastern China, near Guangdong and Fujian. It is a tall tree, reaching almost 40 feet with a full, lush canopy. The tree can handle a number of different soils, but it doesn’t do well right at sea level or in elevations where it might encounter frost in the winter. Lychee trees grow in small coastal portions of southern Florida; some areas of California; and Hawaii, although they aren’t considered a commercial crop in Hawaii. The University of Florida says anthracnose is the biggest disease threat, along with injury from lawnmowers and weed cutters. The trees are somewhat able to handle drought, but not to the point of it becoming water stress. Lychee fruits have a red to brown peel that can vary in how rough and bumpy it is, white pulp, and a central, inedible seed.
The longan (Dimocarpus longan) is in the same Sapindaceae family as the lychee. The longan tree is also native to Guangdong and Fujian, as well as Szechuan and Guangxi. Longans can grow at slightly higher elevations than lychees without becoming sour, although they aren’t any more resistant to frost. The trees also reach about 40 feet with a wide canopy, and they aren’t as widely cultivated as lychees. Longan fruits are compact and round, with a brown skin, white flesh and large seed. The tree does best in sandy and loamy soils and produces fruit later than the lychee. Another closely related tree is the rambutan, although this is native to Malaysia and not China.
The jujube tree (Ziziphus jujuba), also called Chinese date, can grow in Florida and the southwestern United States from Texas to California. This is a hardy, drought-tolerant tree that Texas A&M; says has few pest issues. In contrast to the humid environment needed for lychees and longans, jujubes do better in hot, dry climates with well-drained soil. The trees can grow to 40 feet and produce small fruits with edible skin and a stone pit. Eat jujubes fresh, preserve them or include them in baked goods.
Loquat trees (Eriobotrya spp.) have become a part of the landscape in the United States in cities such as San Diego and Fountain Valley, which list Eriobotrya deflexa as an approved street landscaping tree. Eriobotrya japonica is another common loquat species, and despite the name, they are native to southeastern China. The trees reach about 30 feet in height and have long, oval, deep green leaves. The fruits are oval and orange-to-yellow, with up to 10 seeds inside. Loquats can grow at much higher elevations than lychees or longans, in some cases up to 7,000 feet, and it is more frost-resistant. The fruits can be eaten when peeled, or cooked and preserved. U.S. production of the loquat includes California and Florida. Scale insects, aphids, birds and the Caribbean fruit fly are the major threats.