12 of the Best Types of Fruit Trees to Plant in Central Florida
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 that can grow in Florida, we’ve selected the very best for the home gardener. We have included some popular varieties, 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 Trees
A citrus tree is a fruit-bearing tree or shrub in the Rutaceae family and produces fruit that is juicy and tasty. To be healthy and have good fruit production, these trees require a warm, sunny climate and well-draining soil. They are sensitive to cold weather and need protection from frost and freezing temperatures, as well as regular watering and fertilization. Citrus fruits are a rich source of Vitamin C and are used in many culinary dishes and drinks.
Oranges and Mandarins
Who doesn’t adore the tangy and juicy flavor of a perfectly ripe orange or mandarin? Citrus fruits are a wonderful addition to any orchard because they produce an endless supply of fruit that can be eaten raw or used to make juice. A standard mature tree will grow to a height of 25 feet, while dwarf trees reach heights of 6 to 10 feet.
We recommend the following for zone 9:
- Valencia oranges
- Navel oranges
- Temple oranges
- Satsuma mandarins
- Sugar Belles (a cross between Honeybell orange and clementine)
- Murcotts (also called Honey Tangerines and Delite Mandarins)
Tangelos are the product of a hybrid between a tangerine and a grapefruit, so the fruit tastes both sweet and sour. The trees are of moderate size and can often reach a height of up to 12 feet. Both the Orlando and the Minneola species are popular to grow in Florida and can be easily found in any nursery.
Planting tangelos near other citrus trees greatly boosts their ability to pollinate and set fruit. If you are new to growing fruit trees, the Tangelo Barberry is a vigorous deciduous shrub that will grow in Florida and reach heights of 3 to 4 feet tall in just a few years. It has a smooth to the slightly bumpy rind and an easily removable peel. The fruit is known for its extremely juicy flesh that is both acidic and sweet with a delicious aroma.
It doesn’t matter if you like to make your mouth pucker by eating this sweet and sour fruit straight from the tree or if you enjoy making your kumquat marmalade jam; this is a terrific fruit to cultivate at home either way. This tree can be simply planted in the ground or maintained in pots due to its small size and adaptability.
Kumquats are more resistant to cold and frost than other types of citrus, so they are an excellent choice for fruit trees to grow in Central and Northern Florida. “Meiwa” and “Nagami” are the names of the two primary types of kumquats.
Lemons and Limes
Because they are susceptible to damage from frost, particularly in their younger years, the vast majority of lemons and limes should only be grown in zones 9 and higher. On the other hand, there are several techniques to get around this. Many orchards spray them during the winter to produce a protective barrier. Another technique is to wrap them in a thick cloth.
Dwarf trees can be easily moved if they are housed in containers that have wheels underneath them. They will be protected from the frost damage that can occur if you bring them inside during the chilly evenings. 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 room to cultivate your avocado tree, you might be on your way to the holy land of guacamole and avocado toast! Avocado trees can grow anywhere from 30 to 60 feet tall, making them ideal for use as shade trees. Avocados require lots of water when bearing fruit, so consider installing a drip irrigation system.
Hass avocados from California have darker skin, richer flavor, and a more creamy texture than Florida avocados because of their higher fat content. Florida avocados, which have greener skin and a much milder taste, are an excellent source of fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins C, E, and K. Hardier varieties, like “Choquette” and “Booth 8,” grow quite well in Florida’s zone 9 — especially if they are given a little extra shelter from frost.
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. When starting with a seed of a cutting, remember it can take up to seven years for your avocado tree to bear fruit.
As one of the most popular types of tropical fruits, papaya trees are fast-growing and 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. However, the fast tree growth will also lead to a decline in fruit production after several years, so it is good to plant new trees every two or three years.
A tropical favorite, papaya plants are fast-growing and 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 many other tropical fruits, like full sun, heat, well-drained soil, and 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.
Guide To Growing The Perfect Tomatoes
Tomatoes are a classic vegetable to grow in a home garden and they are the most popular plant in the garden for a reason! With so many varieties, from rich red beefsteak types or tiny little orange cherry tomatoes, there is a tomato out there for everyone, not to mention thousands of delicious recipes for you to enjoy.
There are several varieties of guava, and its close relative feijoa, that will grow well in the humid subtropical climate of Central and South Florida. Some guava fruits contain seeds small enough to eat, while others will need to be scooped out of the center before the fruit is enjoyed. Like many subtropical fruits, guava is extremely high in vitamin C and is very tasty.
Guava trees have pretty, fragrant flowers and are known for their ability to bloom and produce fruit year-round in the right conditions. 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 require 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 of Florida.
These are the best varieties for our region:
- Bestonia Hardy White guava trees
- Strawberry guava (also called Cattley guava, Purple guava, or Chinese guava)
- Pineapple guava (Feijoa)
- Hong Kong pink guava
Since these trees do not have a set harvest season, you will need closely monitor the guava fruits as they grow. Mature guava can be between 2-4 inches in diameter and should have developed its characteristic color, which can range from green to yellow. When you press down gently on the fruit, there should be a slight give.
It’s important to note that guavas do not continue to ripen after they are picked, so it’s important to wait until they are fully mature before harvesting. Also, be sure to harvest guavas promptly, since overripe fruit will quickly deteriorate.
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 a mango or a perfect peach with a hint of citrus. Loquat fruits have thin edible skin, so the only reason you wouldn’t pop the entire thing in your mouth is the inedible seeds at the center. However, you can easily propagate those seeds to grow more trees which will produce fruit three years after germination.
The loquat tree is a small to medium-sized tree that is often grown for its beautiful foliage and fragrant white blossoms, as well as its delicious fruit. For optimal growth and fruit production, plant your loquat tree in full sun. Make sure to purchase a variety of loquat selected for the sweetness of its fruit instead of landscaping purposes. Loquats are unusually high in minerals for 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 does taste like vanilla ice cream! The plentiful seeds will easily sprout into new tree seedlings, which commonly produce their fruit only three years later. These fast-growing trees thrive in sunny locations and appreciate when the soil stays moist, especially in their early years.
Being a legume, like beans and peas, and not technically a fruit tree, the ice cream bean tree has the unique ability to fix nitrogen into the soil. This makes it a valuable addition to the organic orchard. Not only does the tree require less fertilizer, but 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 for plants you wish to fertilize.
7. Fig Trees
Fig trees are known for their delicious, sweet fruit that is often used in cooking and baking. These trees have a wide-spreading, umbrella-like canopy and can grow up to 30 feet tall. and wide. They have large lobed leaves and are known for their distinctive, gnarled trunk and branches.
Figs do well in a warm, sunny climate and well-drained soil to grow. They are hardy in zones 7-10 and can be grown in containers in other zones. Figs are also known for their attractive foliage and can be used as ornamental plants. They are also known for their ability to attract wildlife and pollinators, like birds and bees, to the garden.
It’s important to note that figs are not frost-hardy, so it’s important to protect them during chillier weather. However, if your area of Florida experiences a cold snap periodically, there are varieties of figs that can tolerate lower temperatures. For example, the Brown turkey is one of the most cold-hardy fig varieties and can tolerate temperatures as low as 10°F.
Cold-hardy fig trees to grow in Florida:
- Brown Turkey
- Celeste (also known as Sugar Fig or Little Miss Figgy)
- Osborn Prolific
8. Star Fruit Trees
The star fruit tree, also known as carambola, is a tropical fruit that can be grown in Central Florida. Known for their unique, star-shaped fruit that is sweet, juicy, and rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, the trees can grow up to 30 feet tall. With glossy green leaves and attractive white flowers, star fruits are hardy in zones 9-11. Native to Southeast Asia, these trees thrive in Florida’s warm and humid climate. They require well-drained soil and do best in full sun.
Star fruits have a relatively short harvest season, usually a couple of months. The fruit is typically green and turns yellow when it is fully ripe. Reaching 2 to 6 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide, star fruits have thin, edible skin and firm white or yellow flesh. You can eat the fruit right off the tree or use it in cooking and baking recipes. If you have a bumper crop of star fruit, use your harvest to make jams, jellies, and preserves.
9. Lychee Trees
The lychee tree is a tropical fruit tree that belongs to the soapberry family. Native to southern China, these trees are now grown in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide—including Central Florida. Prized for their dark-green glossy leaves and sweet fruits, these trees also have clusters of small, fragrant white flowers. In addition to a warm, humid climate and well-draining soil, lychees are evergreen trees that can grow up to 40 feet tall and are hardy in zones 10-12. If you are closer to North Florida, lychees can be grown in containers and brought inside when it gets cooler out.
The tree produces a delicious, juicy, and sweet fruit that is round or oval-shaped and 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Covered by thin, red, and bumpy skin the fruit has white, translucent flesh with a large seed in the center. Lychees are an excellent source of Vitamin C, antioxidants, and other essential vitamins and minerals. The fruit is typically eaten fresh, but it can also be canned, dried, or made into preserves or juice. Harvest season is usually from June to August, depending on the variety and the climate.
10. Jackfruit Trees
The jackfruit tree is a tropical evergreen fruit tree that is part of the mulberry family and can reach heights of 80 feet when fully mature. The tree produces one of the largest fruits in the world, which can weigh up to 100 pounds! They have large, glossy leaves and bear clusters of small, greenish-yellow flowers. Native to South Asia, these trees are now grown in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. They require a warm, humid climate, well-draining soil, and regular watering to thrive. Jackfruits are often grown as container trees outside of zones 10-12.
On the outside, Jackfruits are covered with spiky green skin. Inside, you’ll find yellow or orange flesh that is sweet and juicy. Rich in Vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, and dietary fibers, jackfruits can be eaten fresh, canned, or dried. The seeds, which are also edible, can be roasted, ground, and used as flour. Jackfruits are also used in many culinary dishes, particularly in Southeast Asian, Indian, and Caribbean cuisines. Jackfruit harvest season is usually from June to August.
11. Pomegranate Trees
The pomegranate tree is a deciduous tree that belongs to the Lythraceae family. The tree is a small to medium-sized tree that can grow up to 20 feet tall. They have glossy, dark green leaves and bear clusters of red, orange, or pink flowers. Native to the eastern Mediterranean, these trees are now grown in many warm, dry regions worldwide. They require a warm, sunny climate and well-draining soil to grow. They are hardy in zones 7-10 but can also be grown in containers in other zones.
Pomegranates are large, round fruits that are filled with juicy, red seeds called “arils.” The arils are surrounded by a bitter white membrane. Pomegranate fruits are rich in antioxidants, Vitamin C, and other nutrients. The fruit is typically eaten fresh but is often used to make juice or syrup.
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!
Last, but not least, is the banana tree. Technically not a tree, bananas are an herbaceous plant—but we had to include this well-loved and versatile plant on the list regardless. Growing your own bananas and allowing them to ripen naturally makes for a sweeter, more flavorful fruit than any banana you’ll buy 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!
While Florida’s subtropical climate is suitable for growing bananas, keep in mind that they are sensitive to cold weather. Temperatures below 30°F can damage or kill the plants. Banana varieties that can tolerate lower temperatures include the lady finger, blue java, gold finger, dwarf red, and dwarf cavendish.
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.
Why Plant Fruit Trees in Florida?
Florida is a major fruit production region in North America. With its hot summers and mild winters, subtropical fruit trees grow well in Florida’s climate. Similar to other regions of tropical America, Florida’s summer months are typically hot and humid, with temperatures averaging in the low to mid-90s (Fahrenheit). Cold weather is not frequent in Florida, but occasional cold fronts can bring cause the temperature to drop and threaten a frost. Rainfall is common in Florida, particularly in the summer, and thunderstorms can occur frequently.
Planting Fruit Trees in Central Florida
Counties in Central Florida include Orange, Osceola, Polk, Lake, Seminole, and parts of Volusia, Hillsborough, and Brevard. This region typically has a subtropical climate with relatively mild winters and hot summers and is home to many citrus groves.
The central region of Florida is a great place to have a fruit orchard. An ideal climate and rich soil types make Central Florida well-suited for growing a wide range of fruits—from dragon fruit and citrus to mango trees and avocados. In addition to providing your family with fresh and healthy fruit, your orchard can also serve as an income source.
Planting Fruit Trees in North Florida
Counties in North Florida include Duval, Baker, Nassau, St. Johns, Clay, Bradford, Union, Alachua, and parts of Putnam, Leon, and Columbia. This region typically has a subtropical climate with warm summers and mild winters and is home to many of Florida’s natural resources and agricultural lands.
Successfully growing tropical fruits in the northern parts of the state are possible, but you will be limited to specific species because of the cooler climate and North Florida winter. Examples of trees that can thrive in North Florida are apple, pear, and peach trees. These trees can tolerate the cooler temperatures and shorter growing seasons found in North Florida. However, some trees—such as citrus, mangoes, and avocado—require warm temperatures, so you might not be able to grow them in North Florida.
Planting Fruit Trees in South Florida
Counties in South Florida include Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Hendry, Glades, Monroe, Collier, and parts of Lee and Charlotte. This region typically has a tropical climate with hot and humid summers, and mild to warm winters. South Florida is known for its subtropical agriculture, particularly sugarcane, citrus, and vegetables.
A wide range of tropical fruits will thrive in South Florida, including citrus, mangoes, papayas, avocados, pineapples, guava, lychees, and carambola. However, some tropical fruits, such as mango, avocado, and the lychee tree, need protection from frost and freeze, should a cold spell briefly hit the region.
What if My Tree Doesn’t Produce Fruit?
There are several reasons why a tree is failing to produce fruit. One reason could be that the trees aren’t getting enough pollination in order to produce fruit. If your tree is not healthy—due to disease or pests—it will not fruit. Be careful not to over-prune or incorrectly prune your tree, as well.
Extreme weather conditions such as frost, freeze, or high winds can damage trees, making them unproductive. If your tree is struggling to set fruit, prolonged dry or wet soil, extreme temperatures, lack of sunlight, overuse of nitrogen fertilizers, and harsh winds could be the culprit.
Depending on the age of your tree, it might be too young to grow fruit. Some types of trees take several years to reach maturity and begin producing fruit. Finally, trees need specific nutrients to grow and produce more fruit. If it is planted in sandy soil that lacks essential nutrients, your tree won’t grow the tasty fruit you had been waiting for.
We know this list isn’t exhaustive but we hope you’ve enjoyed our list of favorite Florida fruit trees to grow. We know there are many varieties and options available when it comes to finding a great tree for your landscape, but we think these seven make up an excellent start!
Please subscribe to our newsletter if you want more information on how to care for any of these trees or need help choosing one that’s right for you. Thanks again and happy planting! Oh, and one more thing, if native plants are of interest then check out my blog on Florida native plants you might be interested in.