Native to tropical America, guavas (botanical name Psidium) are prized for their tasty fruit. They are resilient plants, easy to grow along the Gulf Coast and in South Texas and Florida; in fact, they have escaped cultivation and become invasive in some areas of Florida. (For pineapple guava, see Feijoa.)
Common or tropical guava. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Native to southern Mexico and Central America; known botanically as P. guajava. Grows into a small tree to 20 ft. tall, with branches close to the ground and a spreading crown to 20 ft. wide. Smooth, reddish brown or mottled green bark peels off in flakes. Dull green, leathery, prominently veined, oblong leaves are 37 in. long, 12 in. wide. Lightly fragrant white flowers to 1 in. across are borne singly or in clusters; heaviest bloom comes in spring, but flowers appear year-round in southern parts of Florida and Texas. Blossoms quickly shed petals, leaving tufts of white stamens tipped with pale yellow anthers.
Fruit generally ripens in sum- mer and fall, but some selections ripen fruit nearly year-round. Each guava weighs up to a pound and may be round, oval, or pear-shaped. Skin is usually yellow; flesh may be white, yellow, pink, or red and often contains small seeds (fully edible in most selections). Fruit is rich in potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin Cin fact, the fruit of some selections has five times the vitamin C of an orange. Trees are self-fruitful but bear more heavily if cross-pollinated with another selection. Fruit ripens better on the tree but can be picked green and ripened at room temperature; when ready to eat, it emits a sweet, pungent odor and is soft to the touch.
Recommended selections include these five:
'Patillo'. Medium to large, round fruit. Yellow skin and medium pink flesh with small seeds. Agreeable flavor good for cooking.
'Red Indian'. Large, round fruit. Yellow skin with pink blush; sweet red flesh, high in sugar and vitamin C.
'Ruby x Supreme'. 'Homestead'. Hybrid with small to medium-size, roundish fruit. Greenish yellow skin, pinkish orange flesh. Sweet, delicious flavor. Particularly high in vitamin C.
'Sweet White Indonesian'. Large, round fruit with pale yellow skin and juicy, sweet, delicious white flesh. Very productive.
'White Seedless'. Small to medium-size, roundish fruit. Seedless white flesh with excellent flavor.
Common guava tolerates most soils but grows best in those with a pH between 5 and 7. Withstands temporary flooding and seasonal drought, but not salt. Responds well to fertilizer: Feed monthly during the growing season with 8-4-8 fertilizer, following package directions. For good fruit production in areas with limestone soils, applications of iron chelate or iron sulfate may be necessary. Common pests in Florida include nematode, guava whitefly, Caribbean fruit fly, and guava moth. Consult your local Cooperative Extension Office for best methods of control. Young trees may be killed by frost, but older trees are hardy to about 29F; if frozen to the ground, they usually resprout and bear fruit within 2 years.
Strawberry guava. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. From Brazil; known botanically as P. cattleianum (P. littorale). Large shrub or small tree to 15 ft. tall and wide, with smooth, attractive reddish to golden brown bark. Oval, shiny, dark green leaves are 24 in. long and 12 in. wide. Solitary, sweetly fragrant white flowers to 1 in. across appear in spring; these are followed in summer by edible purple or yellow fruit about the size and shape of a golf ball. Flesh is white, with a sweet-tart, resinous flavor. Strawberry guava has become a serious pest in Florida because it reproduces freely by seeds and root suckers and tolerates a wide range of growing conditions. More cold hardy than common guava.