Thinking about a fruit tree for your Kauai landscape? Adding an edible to the plant palette is beneficial for your property because fruit trees add color and interest—and they produce a tasty harvest you can enjoy and share with guests.
Kauai’s warm, tropical climate is an ideal growing environment for a variety of fruit trees. But what’s best for your property?
That’s a tricky question because, as you know, choosing the right plant for the right place is critical to growing success.
A mango that thrives on the dry western side of Kauai could struggle to produce a bounty on the cooler, moist east side. Bananas like their space. And avocados are popular, but you can only harvest them once a year. Papayas, on the other hand, require continuous harvesting.
Fruit Trees Are Great, But…
Whatever you grow, every fruit must be picked and enjoyed—or given away—otherwise the leftovers will cause a rotten mess on your property. And, if you’ll only spend some months out of the year on Kauai, consider when fruit will need to be harvested.
The maintenance for fruit trees can be costly and time-consuming if you won’t be on the island to enjoy the bounty. We have plenty of other plant suggestions for you if you winter in Kauai when fruit is not in season.
Also keep in mind that fruit trees will require attention to prevent plant disease and insects. (They like to eat fruit, too.) A proper plant health care program is essential to ensure fruit trees thrive and create the produce you’re expecting. That means fertilization, and proper pruning.
Fruit trees require oversight, but their harvest makes care well worth the time. If you are looking for fresh edible landscaping ideas, here are five of the best fruit trees on Kauai.
Mangos love dry, warm growing conditions—too much moisture leaves black dots on the skin (that do not damage fruit). More than 500 different varieties of manako, or mango, grow on Hawaii. About 30 are ideal for growing on your Kauai property, including Haden and Rapoza varieties.
Mango trees begin flowering in early spring when plants produce cascading clusters of blooms. Mango trees can grow up to 100 feet tall, depending on the variety. They ripen beginning in April through October, depending on the weather.
The avocado is an evergreen that can grow up to 40, or even 80, feet tall with oval-shaped leaves that can be up to 10 inches long. Avocados prefer well-drained soil, and an environment that is protected from extreme winds. So depending on your microclimate, your property may be a prime spot for avocado—or not.
Avocado wood is brittle, and wind can damage the tree’s leaves and fruit. Also, plant avocados away from the shoreline, as they are sensitive to salt. (If you’re looking for some plants that tolerate salinity, try these.)
If you want a tree with a single harvest, avocado is a smart pick. Ideally, avocados should not be planted along with other fruit plants, and they do require quite a bit of space to mature. Plant them 25 to 35 feet apart.
If you have plenty of room to plant on your Kauai property, then a banana tree might suit you. This large, perennial herb (yes!) has leaf sheaths that form a trunk that is actually a stem.
Plants have 8 to 12 leaves, and each grows up to 9 feet tall and is about 2 feet wide. Banana roots like to sprawl out, taking up to 30 feet of space. Banana flowers bloom in clusters, and fruit is ready to pick about 60 to 90 days later.
Bananas prefer moist but well-drained soil, and they grow best in areas that get plenty of rainfall year-round. That’s why bananas do quite well on the east and north sides of Kauai, which get more precipitation.
Plant them no closer than 8 to 10 feet apart. You’ll know it’s harvest time when you see the banana “fingers” turn light green, and the corners of the banana are rounded. After removing a bunch, cut back the stem.
Lychee is an evergreen that bears fruit from May to August on Kauai, and it was originally imported from China. This popular fruit tree grows from sea-level elevation to 2,000 feet.
Lychee trees must be protected from strong winds, as they’ll lose their fruit and the tree will suffer damage. This can be a challenging prospect based on the location of your property. And, lychee thrives with plenty of precipitation. Lychee varieties ‘Kaimana’ and ‘Groff’ perform best in Hawaii. ‘Kaimana’ produces larger fruit that ripen earlier.
Lychee’s bright-green foliage grows in four- to eight-leaflet groups, and yellow flowers cluster on stalks. Lychee can grow up to 40 feet tall, if not trimmed.
Lychee fruit is covered in a red rind that protects a translucent, white fruit containing a single, large oval seed (similar to the size of an avocado).
This perennial has a herbaceous stem, lobed palm-shaped leaves and fragrant cream-white to yellow-orange flowers with petals that are 1- to 2-inches long. A papaya tree can grow up to 30 feet high.
Papaya varieties produce different shaped fruits. Some are round, while others are pear-shaped. The fruits contain seeds surrounded by smooth, yellow-to-orange sweet flesh. ‘Solo’ papaya is common in Hawaii.
If your property’s soil is well-drained and located at an elevation lower than 500 feet, papaya can grow strong. It will tolerate moderate winds, and planting on slopes can ensure that roots won’t get waterlogged.
Harvest as soon as papaya’s color “breaks”—you see yellow on the fruit, but before fully yellow. And be sure to harvest fruit frequently. Fruit flies and birds will eat ripe fruit left on trees. If you do not live on Kauai full-time, it’s best to purchase this favorite fruit from a local Kauai farmer.
Your Best Pick Depends On The Place
You’ve heard us say it before, and we’ll say it again—“right plant, right place” to ensure plant health and reduce maintenance. That’s our mantra at No Ka Oi, because we know that by selecting plants that are suited to your microclimate you’ll have greater success in the landscape.
Interested in creating an edible landscape on your Kauai property? Let’s talk more.
Contact us any time at 808.335.5887, or fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.