Florida is one of the leading commercial producers of guava in the United States, along with Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Guava was first produced in the Sunshine State in 1912 and continues to be high in demand on the commercial market. If you were raised in the South, you have probably tasted guava jelly at least once in your lifetime. It was a staple on our Sunday table, right along with my grandma's cathead biscuits.
Many home gardeners do not realize that guava is fairly easy to grow and it thrives here in Central Florida. With proper timing and a little care, you can grow your own guava tree in your backyard.
While there are many different guava varieties, two basic types are grown here. Trees producing fruit with pink pulp are easiest to find in local nurseries. Homestead, Hong Kong Pink, Barbi Pink and Patillo are some of the varieties that produce this type of fruit. Other varieties such as Lotus, Crystal and Supreme produce fruit with white pulp that is eaten in the green stage before the fruit is fully ripe.
Guava trees can have a small single trunk or be multi-trunked. Most varieties reach 20 feet in height at maturity and are covered in an attractive light brown bark. Small white flowers can appear in clusters or singly and are scattered with glossy green leaves. The guava also produces round or ovoid-shaped fruit that can weigh up to 48 ounces. The flavor of the fruit ranges from sweet to acidic, depending on which cultivar you choose.
Guava grows well in our warm, tropical climate but there are a few things to keep in mind before you plant.
Since guava grows best in temperatures ranging from 73 to 82 degrees, it does not tolerate cold well. Michael Yale, owner of K&K Nursery in North Lakeland suggests planting your guava in the spring to prevent trees from becoming stressed by cold weather.
"Spring planting ensures your guava are well-established before cold weather arrives," Yale said. Immature guavas can be killed when temperatures hit the 20s during winter.
When planting, try to find a location with well-drained soil. While guava trees are tolerant of wet soil, some problems can occur when the soil is continuously saturated. Leaf drop, chlorosis, dieback, fruit drop and death are common indicators the soil is too wet. However, drought can cause trees to stop producing fruit altogether, so be sure you have adequate irrigation in place to provide the proper moisture to your trees when rains are infrequent.
Guava trees require full sun and should not be placed in close proximity to buildings or power lines. Experts suggest pruning your fruit bearing guava trees to keep them around 12 feet in height.
You should monitor your guava trees frequently for signs of damaging pests and diseases, which are all too common in central Florida. The Caribbean fruit fly is the most devastating pest of guava in Florida. Once this fly has invaded the fruit of the tree, it is no longer edible.
Covering your guava fruit with a paper bag during development will prevent fruit fly infestation. The Guava moth is another pest that damages developing fruit. Although the adult moth does not cause damage, the larvae it produces will tunnel into the fruit to feed. The larvae also will feed on the leaves, causing a ragged appearance that is not especially attractive.
Many central Florida trees are susceptible to whitefly damage and guava is no exception. The guava whitefly is a tiny greenish-yellow insect that appears to be dusted in a white-powdery wax. Some of the most common diseases of guava are leaf spots, which cause dark rings on leaves and premature leaf drop.
The primary fungal disease of guava is anthracnose, which can attack developing fruit and leaves. Spraying your trees with foliar copper twice in the summer will help prevent the onset of anthracnose. Since trunk wounds provide disease causing fungi with an entry point, be careful when mowing or weed eating around your guavas. Trunk injuries can also weaken your tree and cause it to die, as well.
Planting guava during the spring and selecting the proper planting site are the most important aspects of guava growing success. Be sure you keep your tree well hydrated and place mulch or pine bark around the trunk to help hold in the moisture. Once your guava tree begins bearing fruit, it is best to harvest when the skin is a light green or yellow color. Guava is loaded with vitamin C and is delicious raw or when cooked into pies and jams.