Central Florida is a great place to grow fruit trees. The warm winters and hot summers of this USDA zone 9 tropical climate mean year-round growing for gardeners. While there are many wonderful fruits we can grow in this region, we’ve tried to pick out the very best for the home gardener. We have included some popular favorites as well as a few special delicacies you may never have heard of!
7 of the Best Types of Fruit Trees to Plant in Central Florida
1. Citrus Fruits
Citrus trees need lots of sun and heat to thrive. They want well-draining soil and protection from frost and icy winds. Give them a good spot and some organic fertilizer, and you will be rewarded with jasmine-like aromatic flowers and bushels of delicious Vitamin C bombs. Here are a few of the best for our region:
Oranges and Mandarins
Who doesn’t love a sweet orange or mandarin? These are a great addition to any orchard, producing all the snacking and juicing fruit you could ever want. Dwarf trees often reach 6 to 10 feet, while standards can grow to 25 feet.
We recommend the following for zone 9:
- ‘Sugar Belle’
A tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and grapefruit and produces a sweet and tangy fruit. The trees are of medium size, usually growing up to 12 feet tall. ‘Orlando’ and ‘Minneola’ are popular and readily available varieties. Plant tangelos with other compatible citrus trees to greatly improve pollination and fruit-set.
This is a great fruit to grow at home whether you love to make your face pucker eating this sweet and sour fruit straight from the tree, or enjoy making your own kumquat marmalade jam. Small and versatile, you can easily plant this tree in the ground or keep it in pots. Kumquats are less susceptible to cold and frost than most citrus, making this a great choice for central and north Florida. The two main varieties are ‘Meiwa’ and ‘Nagami’.
Lemons and Limes
Most lemons and limes are frost-sensitive, especially in their early years, and are therefore not appropriate for a zone 9 area. However, there are several ways around this. Dwarf trees may be kept in pots with wheels underneath for easy movement. Bringing them indoors during cold nights will protect them from frost damage.
Alternatively, you could try planting some more cold-tolerant varieties. We recommend:
- Yuzu Lemon
- Tiwanica Lemon
- Rangpur Lime
- Red Lime (similar to Key Lime)
If you have the space to grow your own avocado tree, you could well be on your way to guacamole and avocado toast heaven. Avocados make beautiful shade trees, growing from 30 to 60 feet tall. Florida avocados are green-skinned and have a lower fat content and more flavor than the California Hass varieties. Hardier varieties such as ‘Choquette’ or ‘Booth 8’ do well in zone 9 with a little frost protection.
Purchase avocado seeds or seedlings from registered nurseries to ensure the fruit will be true to type and the plant less susceptible to disease. Laurel wilt is a fungal disease currently spreading through Florida’s commercial avocado crops. If you are not living in an area near these orchards, you are less likely to come up against this problem.
A tropical favorite, papaya is a fast-growing tree easily propagated from seed. Amazingly, you can expect to harvest your first papaya fruits within a year of planting the seeds! That is almost unheard of for tree production. The flip side to this fast growth is that the trees will decline in production after several years, so it is good to plant new trees every two or three years.
Papaya like full sun, heat, well-drained soil, and some protection from wind and cold. They do not like their roots to be too wet, but they don’t want to dry out either. Having well-drained, fertile soil for these hungry plants is the best way to keep them happy and fruiting all year long. Fertilize often with a complete fertilizer and be liberal with the compost. Plant them straight into your garden as they do not enjoy being transplanted.
There are several varieties of guava and its close relative feijoa that will grow well in humid subtropical climates. Some contain seeds small enough to eat, while others will be scooped out of the center before the fruit is enjoyed. All are extremely high in vitamin C and are very tasty.
These are handsome trees with pretty, fragrant flowers. Since these are small trees, usually growing from 6 to 20 feet tall, they also fit well into most yards. They don’t mind a little shade but do need well-draining soil and plenty of organic fertilizing for optimum production. They will also need some protection against cold winds if you live in a frost-prone area.
These are the best varieties for our region:
- Bestonia Hardy White Guava Tree
- Strawberry Guava
- Pineapple Guava (Feijoa)
Loquat fruit is small, about the size of a large kumquat. Its bright yellow-orange flesh is smooth and sweet with a slight tang, like mango or a perfect peach with a hint of citrus. Its skin is thin and edible so the only things stopping you from popping the whole thing in your mouth are several inedible seeds in the center. Those seeds easily propagate new trees which will produce fruit a short three years after germination.
These small to medium-sized trees are commonly grown for their handsome foliage and aromatic white blossoms, as well as their delicious fruit. Make sure to purchase a variety of loquat selected for the sweetness of its fruit instead of for landscaping purposes. Loquats are unusually high in minerals for a fruit and contain carotenoids and phenolic compounds which may have anti-cancer properties.
6. Ice Cream Bean Tree
Foot-long bean pods hang from this towering 60 to 80-foot-high tree. Inside, seeds are covered with a moist, cottony pulp that really does taste like vanilla ice cream! The plentiful seeds will easily sprout into new tree seedlings, which commonly produce their own fruit only three years later. These fast-growing trees like a sunny location with evenly moist soil and will appreciate more water in their early years.
Being a legume like beans and peas, and not technically a fruit tree, gives this tree the ability to fix nitrogen into the soil. This makes it a valuable addition to the organic orchard. This tree will require less fertilizer for itself and it will also increase the health of nearby plants by making nitrogen more available to them. To spread the love, use any trimmings from the tree in your compost or as a direct mulch to plants you wish to fertilize.
Last, but not least, is the banana. Though not technically a tree but an herbaceous plant, we had to include this well-loved and versatile plant. Growing your own bananas and allowing them to ripen naturally makes for a sweeter, more flavorful fruit than any banana in the grocery store. They do not like frost, so it’s a good idea to plant them in a sheltered spot such as the southern side of a building. They are also heavy feeders, so give them plenty of good plant food!
Aside from improved flavor, growing your own banana “trees” allows you to take advantage of all parts of the plant. Banana flowers can be prepared similarly to artichokes, and young “tree trunk” shoots are eaten much like bamboo shoots. Further, banana leaves can be used as compostable plates, and are traditionally used to wrap sticky rice for steaming, or marinated fish and meat for grilling.
There are plenty of options when it comes to growing fruit trees in beautiful central Florida. We hope you’ve been inspired by the mouth-watering possibilities!