Guava Trees

Joyce Starr
Guava fruit on tree
Guava fruit on tree

Thought to be native to southern regions of Mexico into Central America, guava (Psidium guajava) is a small tropical fruit tree or large shrub, depending on the cultivar and climate, producing an abundance of tasty fruits prized by wildlife and humans. They make attractive landscape additions used as small shade trees, hedges and screens.

Portrait of Guavas

In frost-free climates, guavas grow into lush, densely branched trees covered with stiff, evergreen green leaves that grow up to 6 inches long. With its spreading habit and because the branches grow from the bottom of the trunk to the top, the fruit tree can resemble a giant shrub more than it does a tree, especially when left unpruned to expose its distinctive shedding trunk. Its tendency is to grow as wide as tall and in locations where winters are typically warm; it can obtain a height and width of 30-feet, though smaller sizes are more common. Therefore, consider it requires space to spread, when selecting its permanent location in the landscape.

Guavas reward growers with a bounty of flowers and fruit almost year-round, especially during spring. In fact, it can produce so much fruit you might be at a loss of what to do with it all, though the local wildlife will be more than willing to help eat the succulent delights. The amount of fruit the tree produces increases as the guava matures, with harvests of multiple bushels common.

Flower Description and Habit

Guava flower

When in bloom, guavas are attractive trees covered in small white flowers that have a faint fragrance resembling the smell of the ripe fruits. Each flower center contains a wealth of upright stamens that stand out once the petals drop and it's common to find blooming plants visited by numerous beneficial pollinators. Because the vast majority of guava flowers are self-pollinating, it's unnecessary to have two plants for fruit-production. However, having several trees in the landscape or in a nearby vicinity guarantees larger fruits.

Fruit Description and Habit

Guava Fruit

Guava fruits are ready for harvest several months after flowering, and come in a variety of shapes, depending on the particular cultivar and are pear-shaped, oval, or round. Fruits can be as small as a golf ball or as large as a tennis ball and have a pungent sweet aroma. Taste, skin and flesh color are as varied as the fruit's shape and size and depending on the cultivar can be sweet or have a sharp taste that is almost sour. Before the fruit ripens, the outer skin is green and hard, though as it reaches maturity it softens to the touch and ranges in colors of greenish-yellow to more of a red. The seedy flesh can be pink to red and yellow or white, depending on the type.

Preferred Growing Conditions

Guavas are hardy and vigorous growing trees that are very adaptable grown in tropical and subtropical climates in USDA zones 9 through 11. It requires little care to flourish, making it a suitable choice for brown-thumb gardeners who desire a low-maintenance tropical fruit tree. In fact, it is so hardy it can have invasive tendencies with seedlings sprouting throughout the landscape from seeds dispersed by local wildlife.

Optimal Soil Conditions

The fruit tree tolerates an array of soil conditions that aren't salty though it performs best grown in well-drained soils that are fertile. If your soil conditions are sandy and poor (lacking organic matter), amend the area with compost or well-rotted manure before planting. Spread the organic material over the planting area and work into the soil to a depth of approximately 8 to 12 inches.

Light Needs

Guavas flower and produce the most fruit grown in locations that receive full-sun. However, in areas that are hot year-round, the tree performs better grown in a partially sunny location where it receives some shade throughout the day.

Planting Considerations

Planting a guava tree is basic, and as long as the soil is rich or amended with organic matter, it shouldn't be long before you have a flourishing fruit tree. By following some simple planting guidelines, the tree will be a healthy landscape addition for years to come.

  1. Consider the mature height and width of the guava when selecting a planting site. Allow enough space for the tree to reach its mature width without being crowded so it receives proper circulation of air, which cuts down on potential disease and pest problems.
  2. Situate the guava in a southern location close to a structure, if your environment experiences periodic winter frosts, as this is the warmest area in the landscape. The area helps keep the tree warm and protected from the cold since guavas are sensitive to frost and freezes.

  3. Clear the planting site of all grass and weed growth and keep the site weed-free. The unwanted vegetative growth robs the guava of necessary nutrients and moisture

  4. Gently pull clumped or wrapping roots apart and plant the guava at the same depth it is growing in its nursery container. Wrapping roots have a harder time establishing themselves in the planting site.

  5. Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch over the planting site, making sure not to butt the mulch against the guava's trunk or rot can occur. The mulch helps the site retain moisture, reduces unwanted weed and grass growth, and adds additional soil nutrients as it break down.

  6. To help the site retain moisture and keep the water in place while the root system establishes itself, create a water ring around the guava. Mound up several inches of soil around the base of the guava and saturate the area with water.

Basic Care Guidelines

Guavas' continued care is relatively basic and if properly maintained, leads to an abundance of fruits and minimal health problems.

Water Requirements

While newly planted trees are establishing themselves, which typically takes several months, water the tree weekly. Once the guava's root system has established itself into the planting site, the tree is relatively tolerant to drought, though regular water leads to the best flowering and production of fruits. Water established trees every several weeks. Guavas will not tolerate growing in soggy sites that retain too much water, which can lead to root rot.

Nutrition

Guavas produce the best growth and most flowers and fruit when fertilized on a regular monthly basis. After planting, wait until the plant produces new growth before feeding. Use a blend, such as a 21-0-0, and follow label instructions concerning amounts. Spread the fertilizer evenly over the planting site and to the outer edge of the tree's canopy, making sure not to butt the fertilizer against the guava's trunk. After applying, water the fertilizer into the soil.

Refreshing the soil around the planting site annually with a fresh layer of compost or well-rotted manure also helps give the guava nutrients. Spread the organic matter over the soil and water in well.

Pruning Needs

Heavy pruning is not required and is only necessary for shaping or controlling the guava's size. To create more of a tree form, prune away the bottom branches lining the trunk, trimming flush to the trunk, as well as suckers, trimming them off at ground level. The only pruning required is to remove dead, damaged or branches that are crossing. If the tree suffers damage in winter, always wait until springtime to prune off the damaged branches. To prevent the transfer of disease from your pruning tools, always disinfect the blades by wiping them off with a cloth saturated in alcohol.

Winter Protection

Guavas are susceptible to damage due to frost and freezes and require protection, especially while young. Bring container-grown trees into a protected location during the cold-snap. For in-ground trees, water the planting site well before the cold weather hits to keep the root system warm. To protect the foliage and increase warmth, hang Christmas lights over the tree, wrap the foliage with a sheet or canvas and be sure to remove the covering when conditions are sunny or foliage burns can occur.

Dealing With Problems

Although relatively problem-free, in tropical climates that are humid, several pests and diseases can plague the tree making pest and disease control necessary.

Guava Diseases

Several fungal diseases such as anthracnose and leaf spots can be problematic to guava trees and cause branch dieback, spotted foliage, and affect the fruits. Fungal problems are more common when conditions are wet and warm, but are controllable by using a copper fungicide. Copper fungicides treat a wide range of disease and fungal problems. Follow label instructions on mixing and application rates and make sure to cover the entire guava tree with the fungicide. To help prevent fungal problems before they occur and when a long period of wet conditions are in the forecast, treat the guava with the copper fungicide and reapply every seven days to two weeks.

Reduce disease problems by growing the guava in preferred conditions, keeping it properly fed, but not overfertilized, removing dead debris from the planting site and keeping the area free of weeds. Inspect the tree regularly for signs of a fungal problem and treat as soon as possible.

Guava Pests

Pests can be problems for guava trees, especially those grown in humid climates. Providing the tree proper cultural conditions can reduce problems, however, when pest populations are large, gardeners may have to reach for chemical help for control. Many times nature will take care of pest problems through biological controls such as predatory wasps. Inspect the plant regularly for signs of pests so control is possible and before they lead to problems such as leaf drop and destruction of fruits.

Common Pests

Common pests affecting guavas include sap-sucking thrips, scales, mealybugs, and whiteflies, which can also create the fungal problem sooty mold through their secretions of honeydew. Sooty mold leaves a black covering over the plant, but generally isn't life-threatening. Gardeners can wash the black mold off the plant by spraying the foliage with water or wiping the leaves off with a damp, soapy cloth. Other common guava pests include guava fruit flies and moths, with both pests' larvae dining on the fruit.

Treatment

It isn't necessary to use strong chemical products to control guava pests, as other products that are friendlier to the environment and beneficial pollinators work. Products such as insecticidal soaps and oils, or Bt control pest problems. Follow product instructions for mixing and applying. To prevent foliage damage, don't apply insecticidal soaps or oils when conditions are sunny or in temperatures above 90°F.

Cultivar Selections

Gardeners have a vast selection of guava cultivars to grow to suit desired taste, fruit color, or habit of growth. Selections are almost endless; just a few options include:

Yellow Flesh

  • 'Weber' - Sweet flavor with larger fruits
  • 'Detwiler' - Abundant fruit-producer with larger relatively sweet fruits
    Example of yellow flesh
    Example of yellow flesh

Red and Pinkish Flesh

  • 'Red Indian' - Sweet flavor, small seeds, larger fruits good to eat fresh
  • 'Ruby X' - Sweet small fruits, bushy habit
    Example of red/pinkish fleshed fruit
    Example of red/pinkish fleshed fruit

White Flesh

  • 'Apple Colour' - Sweet flavor, medium-sized fruits good for storing, and heavy fruit producer
  • 'Mexican Cream' - Sweet small- to medium-sized fruits, low quantity of soft seeds, upright habit
    Example of white fleshed guava fruit
    Example of white fleshed guava fruit

Taste of the Tropics

Adding a guava tree to your landscape won't disappoint with its vigorous growth and continuous offerings of fruits. For the best flavor, allow the fruits to remain on the tree until ripe and carefully handpick, as the fruit easily bruises, though unripe fruits will ripen if stored at room temperature. Guava fruits are delicious used fresh, in desserts and jams, or as a way to add tropical flavor to your favorite drink.

Guava Trees