Lychee is a monotypic taxon and the sole member in the genus Litchi in the soapberry family, Sapindaceae. The scientific name of lychee is Litchi chinensis. It is a tropical tree native to the Guangdong, Fujian, and Yunnan provinces of Southeast and Southwest China, where cultivation is documented from the 11th century.
The tree bears small, dimpled, fleshy fruit with a light, perfumed flavor. The outside of the fruit has a rough, pink-red skin that is inedible and the inside flesh is clear to white and sweet. The fruit is usually eaten fresh or frozen.
Table of Contents
30 - 100 feet
30 - 100 feet
5 - 7
Growth Nutrition of Lychee Tree
Fertilizer mixtures containing 6 to 8% nitrogen, 2 to 4% available phosphorus, 6 to 8% potash, and 3 to 4% magnesium are satisfactory. Twenty to 50% of the nitrogen should be in organic form. In acid to neutral-pH soils, micronutrients such as manga- nese, zinc, and iron may be applied in dry applications to the soil.
Varieties of Lychee
Many different cultivars of lychee are used in different areas of the world. These are the most popular cultivars in the U.S.:
Litchi chinensis 'Mauritius' has excellent fleshy fruit with just one large seed. It is a good choice if fruit production is your main goal.
L. chinensis 'Brewster' is a vigorous growing tree with a spreading upright habit. It is well suited for areas that get a lot of moisture. It is also a good cultivar for fruit production.
L. chinensis 'Emperor' is considered one of the best container varieties, as it is a slow-growing tree with a compact growth habit. It requires less water than other varieties.
Planting Lychee Trees
Lychee trees are best planted at least 30 feet away from your home, other major structures, or other trees in your home landscape. Planting them too close can impact their growth and fruit harvest, particularly if they are shaded.
If you are in an area prone to flooding, planting the tree on a mound of soil can help to ensure water runoff.
Plant a lychee tree in a full sun location that is protected from wind, because this tree can be susceptible to wind damage. Spring planting, after any frosts have passed is best.
Growing Lychee Trees in Pots
Lychee can be maintained as small patio trees in warmer climes or grown into 35- or 40-foot trees in the ground.
In pots, the plants should be repotted every spring until they reach your maximum growing size. To help keep the plant smaller, aggressively prune the main growing trunks annually to encourage a smaller, bushier plant.
Lychee trees do not come true from seed, and seedling trees may take 10 or more years to bear fruit.
Lychee is typically propagated commercially by air-layering. This a sophisticated technique where growers make a cut into a thin branch and then surround it with a packet of moist moss or soil. Roots will form in the cut area, allowing the grower to cut off the whole branch and plant it as a small tree.
A home grower is more likely to start lychee from seed. To sprout seeds, cover them with potting soil, keep warm and moist, and wait for sprouts to emerge (which can take weeks). Once they've sprouted, move to a sunnier spot after a few weeks.
Lychee Tree Care
Lychee thrives in full sun, but be aware that the plants need to be acclimated. Young plants that are not used to full sun will suffer from sudden exposure to bright light, but once acclimated, they will definitely perform better.
Lychee does not like alkaline soils, so amending garden soil with pine bark or pine needles may be necessary. If you are trying to grow it as a potted plant, use slightly acidic potting soil.
These plants prefer ample and regular water throughout the year. Lychee does not have a natural winter resting period, so it will not benefit from a suspension of watering as do some other fruit trees.
Temperature and Humidity
Lychee is surprisingly tolerant of cold and can cope with short blasts of almost freezing weather, but is really prefers warmer temperatures. To be brought to bloom, lychee needs to be exposed to cold temperatures (32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 100 hours in the winter. They will then bloom early in the spring and bear fruit in the early summer. These trees love high humidity.
Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season. Cut fertilizer back to once a month or so in the winter.
Lychee trees do not need to be pruned. However, if any branches become too long, they can be trimmed back in March or April.
Lychee trees will take at least five years to mature before bearing any fruit. You must expose the tree to cold temperatures for at least 100 hours in the winter if you want it to bloom and then bear fruit, and the female flowers have to be pollinated. In an orchard, pollination is done by insects, but for indoor trees, you will have to hand-pollinate.
The fruits of the lychee grow in bunches. Allow them to ripen on the tree to a pink-red color. You can test one fruit in a bunch to see if it is sweet enough. Cut the entire bunch of fruit close to the branch to harvest.
Pests and Diseases
Mites (leaf curl mites, red spider mites, etc.): You can normally spray mites with Neem oil or insecticidal soap to eradicate them.
Citrus aphid: Spray citrus and other aphids with Neem oil or insecticidal soap if they become a problem. A blast of water on the tree can help knock them off too.
Caterpillars: Spray caterpillars with dormant oil in late winter to smother eggs before they hatch. You can also spray affected lychee trees with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a naturally occurring bacteria.
Fruit-piercing moth: The best way to combat fruit-piercing moths is to harvest lychee fruit as early as possible. Pick up rotten and fallen fruit. If the tree is small, cover it with netting.
Leaf eating beetles (Japanese beetles, green beetles, etc.): Spray beetles with a permethrin-based insecticide.
Diseases of lychee tree include anthracnose, root rot, and red algae. Most are the result of improper watering (either too much or too little) or excessive use of fertilizer.
Benefits of Lychee
Fights Free Radical Damage
Lichi is rich in Vitamin C and other phenolic compounds called flavonoids. These prevent the damage of cells due to free radicals, pollutants and toxic chemicals which lead to health ailments such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Free radicals are developed in the body when the body gets exposed to the radiation, tobacco or smoke and during the process of breaking down of food. The antioxidant property of lychees effectively combats toxins in the body.
Bolsters Immune Functions
Bestowed with vitamin C, lichi bolsters immunity against seasonal infections and chronic diseases. Vitamin C enhances the white blood cells production and also assists in the functioning. As vitamin C is an antioxidant, it eliminates the oxidative damage and enhances the smooth functioning. Vitamin C effectively boosts the immune system to counteract the colds.
Reduced Risk Of Stroke
The negligible amounts of sodium and cholesterol in the lychee lowers the chances of stroke and health ailments such as inflammation, oxidative damage, cardiac health, atherosclerosis, blood pressure and endothelial health. The development of plaque in the body results in the stroke or heart attack which could be reduced with the Vitamin C.
Boosts Good HDL Cholesterol
Lychees are a good source of niacin i.e. vitamin B3 which regulates cholesterol synthesis in the system. Niacin enhances the good HDL cholesterol levels and reduces the amounts of harmful triglycerides and bad LDL cholesterol in blood.
Consuming lichis in routine diet helps to speed up the assimilation of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in food, by acting as a catalyst to enzymes in biochemical processes. This in turn promotes proper appetite and metabolism and helps maintain optimal body weight.
Dietary fiber in lychee supports the digestive system in the material movement and adds bulk to the stool which is helpful for those having the irregular bowel function or constipation. It supports in healthy weight and reduces the chances of heart disease and diabetes.
Heals Muscle Cramps
Litchi fruits possess adequate amounts of potassium and water. It enhances the strength of muscles and reduces the muscle cramps often caused due to the low levels of potassium, sodium and dehydration.
Hydrates The Body
The abundant water content in lichis makes them a perfect way to quench thirst and cool the body during peak summer, when people are often dehydrated. The fruit can be consumed as such or squeezed into a juice, chilled and sipped, to ensure adequate water supply and for electrolyte replenishment in the body cells.
Cures Liver Damage
Liver damage leads to the various ailments which are caused due to the excessive consumption of alcohol, anemia, malnutrition, infection and hepatotoxic drugs. Litchi contains hepatoprotective agents that help in effectively treating liver ailments.
Help Remove Blemishes
Blemishes are the bane of anyone who seeks flawless skin. Applying litchi juice can help fade away the blemishes and marks, leaving you with clear skin.
The fruit is eaten as a food and used for medicine.
Dried lychees can be stored for up to a year and are then used as a snack or chopped into fruit or green salads.
Many Chinese use dried lychee instead of sugar to sweeten their tea.
They are often used in desserts, layered with pistachio ice cream and whipped cream or used in mousses or even added to cakes.
lychees may be spiced or pickled or made into sauces, preserves or even wine.
They make a refreshing and nutritious smoothie by combining yogurt, honey, chopped lychees, fresh lime, powdered cardamom and ice cubes.
The seeds are ground in India to treat stomach ailments.
Lychee fruit can be processed into wine.
Lychee wood is used for production of furniture.
The aroma of lychee is used in perfumery.