What a beautiful day. It is raining. I can hardly write because I can't help but look out of the window to view the rain. Watching the rain fall has been a rare event this summer.
There are a few fruiting plants that we can grow in our area that you don't see very often. We are familiar with fruit trees such as apples, peaches, pears, and figs. But how familiar are you with loquat, jujube, paw-paw and pomegranate?
Some of these plants are used in our landscapes, but others of these like jujube and paw-paw are like the rain this summer -- very rare. All of these plants can add color and character, as well as give a fruit to eat.
The first plant on the list is the loquat, or Japanese plum. Loquats are small evergreen trees that can reach a height of 20 feet. They work well as a screen plant because they will keep their lower limbs intact. They like a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5, morning sun and afternoon shade, and have very few pest problems.
They are susceptible to fire blight, which has the same symptoms found in pear and apple trees. The leaves on the end of the limbs will turn black. To control the problem, prune the infected limbs out. When pruning, wipe the blades of the pruners with rubbing alcohol before making another cut.
The loquat does produce a fruit. The loquat fruit is around two to three inches long and around an inch in diameter. It is yellow and has a smell and taste similar to a banana. The loquat has attractive white flowers on the ends of the limbs in winter. The fruit will ripen in the spring. However, if the temperature falls below 27 degrees, the fruit will be lost. The tree itself will survive temperatures down to 12 degrees. So, if you want fruit, plant a loquat in a protected area.
The next tree is the Chinese jujube or Chinese date (Zizyphus jujube). I had never heard of this plant until I moved to this area. The jujube is very drought-hardy and will produce a graceful, open-growing ornamental tree up to 40 feet tall. The tree grows best in well-drained soil with pH of 5.5 to 6.5. The fruit of the jujube is the size of a plum and has a thin, edible skin with white flesh. The fruit is ripe when it turns brown and shrivels, and it tastes like a date. The tree is cold-hardy and blooms late in the spring after the last frost.
The paw-paw tree is native to our area, growing along stream and river banks in the piedmont and coastal plains area of Georgia. Paw-paws will grow in New York and Michigan, and some have been found in Canada. Most of the paw-paws grow to a height of 15 to 20 feet. Paw-paws can be spread by seed, but they will send up root suckers which result in the formation of thickets. I have seen thickets of paw-paws in the county that cover a quarter of an acre.
Paw-paws flower in the spring. They have inconspicuous, maroon colored flowers. There is one drawback to the flowers of paw-paws: they smell like a skunk. However, you have to be right on top of the flowers to smell them.
The fruit are borne in clusters of one to six, two to six inches long. When ripe, the fruit will turn yellowish-black like an over-ripe banana. The flesh has a consistency like custard, and taste something like a banana. Another good thing about paw-paws is that they are the food source for the larva of the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly.
The last plant is the pomegranate. It has been used for many years as a shrub in the landscape. When I was growing up, there were many pomegranate bushes in the area. Some years, they would have numerous fruit on them, and other years there would be few or none.
Most of the time in our area we lose the fruit due to weather. However, every year the bushes were covered with flowers, and most gardeners grow pomegranate for the flowers. Pomegranate can tolerate many soil types, but prefer a deep, heavy soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. If you have a pomegranate that sets fruit, the plant should be supplied with plenty of water so it won't drop its fruit.
There are many other plants that can be used as landscape plants that will provide fruit, but the loquat, jujube, paw-paw and pomegranate are four plants that will do well in your yard.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413, or by e-mail at email@example.com. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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