Durban’s Mistletoe – Litchis!

Yes! It’s that time of year again where we can start enjoying this beautiful, juicy fruit. Do litchis not trigger thoughts of summer and Christmas for you? Or is it just me? 

Litchis, also called lychees (Litchi chinensis Sonn.) are subtropical fruit native to China. The fruit develops in clusters on sizable evergreen trees, requiring six to eight years to reach full production. Litchi trees thrive with ample moisture and well-drained soil.

Ideal litchi growing conditions include regions characterised by prolonged, warm summers with abundant rainfall and high humidity, given the substantial water needs of this fruit crop. Litchis thrive in short, dry, and cool winters (below 15-20ºC) and are intolerant to frost. Optimal litchi yields are attained in areas where summer temperatures range between 25-30°C, accompanied by a relative humidity exceeding 60%.” This is why Fairview Estates is the perfect place to grow them!

The most common method of propagating litchis is air-layering. 
Air layering involves inducing a section of a stem to develop roots while remaining connected to the parent plant, and it is subsequently separated to become an individual plant. An ideal air-layered tree features a solitary upright stem. The initial scaffold branches should extend horizontally, approximately 200mm above the ground. Steer clear of any abrupt forks that branch out lower than this height.

Litchis thrive in sandy soil in cooler regions but demonstrate equal productivity in warmer areas with clay soil. Poorly drained soil or soil with impenetrable layers is unsuitable for their growth. Irrigation practices should be adjusted based on the specific soil type.

Litchi trees flower for a period of 21 days in the spring. Ideally, bees facilitate the pollination of the flowers, as it enhances fruit set. Plant wild basil to attract more bees to your tree! The development of litchi fruit spans from 84 to 112 days, influenced by the cultivar and the production region.

Enhancing fruit set (retention) can be achieved through measures such as encouraging pollination, supplying micronutrients like zinc and boron (we applied Living Earth compost to our tree last year), implementing girdling, managing pests, and optimising irrigation.

There are a few pests to watch out for, some being the litchi moth, which has a similar life cycle to the macadamia nut borer, as well as the Natal fruit fly and codling moth. Then you get the usual “pests”, like the vervet monkey, bats, mousebirds, and a few others that enjoy the fruit as much as we do.

Now is an opportune moment to think about the rewards this tree will give you in the upcoming summers if you plant them soon. Imagine your children reaching for them from your trees on a scorching summer day. This is what your new site needs 😊