You know you're in the Deep South when you start seeing loquats. Native to China, these handsome evergreens feature large, glossy, prominently veined foliage. Use them for tall screens or as large container subjects; beautiful when espaliered against a fence or wall. Both of the species listed here produce fruit enjoyed by birds, but only that of E. japonica is eaten by people. Loquats thrive in fertile, well-drained soil. They accept heavy pruning. Subject to fireblight, especially if given too much fertilizer. Not bothered by deer.
E. deexa. BRONZE LOQUAT. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Shrubby but easily trained into small tree form. Leaves are slightly smaller, shinier, and more pointed than those of E. japonica, but not as leathery or deeply veined. They emerge bright copper and hold that color for a long time before turning green. Attractive spring show of creamy white flowers in garlands to 45 in. long. Good for espaliers (not on hot wall), patio planting, or containers. Fast growing to 1520 ft. tall and 1015 ft. wide.
E. japonica. LOQUAT. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Tree is hardy to 7F, but fruit often injured by low temperatures. Grows 1530 ft. tall, equally broad in sun, slimmer in shade. Leathery, crisp leaves, stoutly veined and netted, 612 in. long, 24 in. wide; they are glossy deep green above and show rust-colored wool beneath. New branches are woolly; small, dull white owers, fragrant but not showy, in woolly, 3- to 6-in. clusters in fall. Orange-to-yellow, 1- to 2-in.-long fruit ripens in winter or spring. Sweet, aromatic, tangy esh; seeds (usually big) in center. The leaves of 'Variegata' have cream-colored margins.
Most trees sold are seedlings; they are good ornamental plants with unpredictable fruit quality. If you denitely want fruit, look for a grafted selection. 'Big Jim' bears large, midseason fruit with yellow flesh and rich, juicy texture. Early-ripening 'Champagne' has yellow-skinned, white-eshed, juicy, tart fruit. Midseason 'Gold Nugget' has sweeter, orange fruit. Early 'MacBeth' has exceptionally large fruit with yellow skin, creamy esh. 'Premiere' has fruit with yellow-orange skin, white flesh, and good flavor born midseason on a compact tree. 'Thales' is a late, yellow-eshed selection.
Plant in well-drained soil. In dry climates, it will thrive with no irrigation once established, but it does better in youth with regular moisture. Mulch over root zone. Prune to shape; if you like the fruit, thin branches somewhat to let light into tree's interior. If tree sets fruit heavily, remove some while it's small to increase the size of remaining fruit and to prevent limb breakage. Fireblight is a danger. If leaves and stems blacken from top downward, prune back 1 ft. or more into healthy wood. Use as lawn tree; train as espalier on fence or trellis but not in reected heat. Good in container for several years.