No matter where you live, you can grow exotic tropical fruits right in your living room! You just need to follow a few basic growing tips. According to Tatiana Anderson of Top Tropicals Garden Center in Florida, these 6 are the easiest to grow:
Originally from South Asia and India, the mango tree is the oldest cultivated tree in the world and is available in more than 400 varieties. The fruits vary widely in color and flavor. The tree exhibits leafy green foliage and will begin producing fruit in the first year after grafting. It grows well in poor soils and doesn’t require a lot of watering.
This tropical American tree grows happily in containers and will still yield multiple fruits. The 3- to 5-inch diameter fruits bear a lumpy green skin, with varieties that turn red or white, even bluish, and have a sweet flesh that can be eaten fresh or used in ice cream or milkshakes.
Guanabana (a.k.a. Soursop)
This tropical fruit tree (American) is cold sensitive but does well in a pot and grows quickly. The outside of the guanabana fruit is green and spiny, yet inside there is sweet and tart flesh that can be eaten fresh or used in smoothies or milkshakes.
(Synsepalum dulcificum, Richardella dulcifica)
Originating in Ghana, the “miracle’’ of this small, sweet, red football-shaped fruit is that it masks the sour taste buds and makes sour fruits eaten afterward taste sweet, turning lemons into lemonade, for example. The effect lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, and the trait has made it a popular appetite stimulant for cancer patients taking chemotherapy. The compact miracle fruit bush should be planted in a mix of coconut coir (an alternative to peat moss, also called coco peat) and perlite to create an acidic environment and good drainage.
(Spondias cytherea, Spondias dulcis)
From the South Pacific, it comes in a dwarf variety popular for indoor growing and produces flowers and fruit at a young age. It resembles a mango in appearance, but when green, it can be eaten with or with out the skin or used in smoothies, chutneys, or salsas. When ripe, the golden fruit of the June plum can be eaten like an apple or made into applesauce.
This fast-growing tropical American fruit tree starts blooming and producing quickly, and responds well to pruning, so it can be kept compact, making it one of the most popular container fruit trees. It features beautiful white flowers and fruits 2-4 inches in size, with colors varying from greenish white to yellow and pink. Flavors range from sweet to tart, and the guava fruit can be eaten fresh, juiced, or as preserves.
Wondering how to get started?
- If you’re starting from seeds, be sure to start the plants outside during the summer when they receive optimal sunshine to effectively put down roots. If you bring a plant home from the garden center, be sure to cover it completely in transport, especially if the weather is cold.
- Use a pot only slightly larger than the root ball to avoid root rot. As the tree grows, move it to a slightly larger pot.
- Use a well-drained, loose potting soil. Fruit trees, by and large, don’t need a lot of fertilizer, though some species might require a more acidic soil mix.
- Don’t overwater. Too much water can stress these tropical plants. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry, but not so much that water pools in the tray beneath the pot.
- Move the fruit tree indoors before the threat of frost; tolerance to cold varies, so read the instructions that came with the tree. There is no need to acclimate when moving it indoors, but when you’re ready to bring it outside in the spring, acclimate your tree by bringing it out for a few hours at a time, so it can get used to temperature changes.
- Give the plant as much light as possible. A south-facing window with direct sunlight is best, but many species can get by with more indirect light. For better blooming and fruit production in winter, augment sunlight with special grow lights or fluorescent lighting for a few hours a day.
Jim Kneiszel is a freelance writer based in De Pere, Wisconsin. He edits a number of trade publications and runs The Word House with his wife, Judy. His article, Infuriating and Frightening Invasive Species appears in the 2021 Farmers' Almanac.