Lychee (Litchi chinensis) is a tropical tree, which belongs to soapberry family (Sapindaceae). It is native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of Southeastern China. Therefore, China is the major producer of lychees followed by India, Southeast Asia and South Africa. It is cultivated in these countries from the 11th century.
Lychee plants are evergreen trees. They bears small fleshy fruits. Their fruits are pinkish red from outside and have rough texture. Their sweet flesh is edible and used in many dessert dishes.
How large Lychee Trees can grow
Lychee plants can grow frequently up to 15 m (49 ft.) tall but sometimes they can reach a height of 28 m (92 ft.). Their leaves are pinnate, 12-20 cm long and elliptic, oblong or lanceolate in shape. Their bark is grey-black and branches are brownish red in colour.
Lychee Trees shows resemblance with other plants
Lychee plants foliage shows similarities with the plants of Lauraceae family.
Types or Cultivars of Lychee Trees
Lychees plants have about 200 cultivars. But some cultivars have commercial importance and widely cultivated in China. These cultivars have different synonyms in various parts of world. Some of the cultivars of lychee plants that grows in China are Sanyuehong, Baitangying, Baila, Shuidong, Feizixiao, Dazou, Heiye, Nuomici, Guiwei, Huaizhi, Lanzhu, and Chenzi. “Mauritius” grows mainly in South Africa and has excellent fleshy fruit with just one large seed. Brewster and Hak Ip grows in US. Dozens of cultivars are produced in India including Shahi, Dehra Dun, Early Large Red, Kalkattia and Rose Scented.
How to grow Lychee Plants in Nurseries
Lychee plants can propagated in nurseries by seeds and a special method known as air layering or marcotting. Air-layers are made by cutting a branch of a mature tree and cover it with a rooting medium such as sphagnum moss or peat. Then this medium is wrapped with polyethylene film. This process allow the cut branch to produce roots. Once it start rooting, it is separated from tree and potted.
How to grow Lychee Plants in Containers or Indoors
Lychee plants can also grow indoors for ornamental purposes. Several seeds are collected from lychee fruits. These seeds soon lose their viability and dries out. Therefore, they should be planted as soon as possible. A pot is filled with 15 cm moist rich soil and a seed is placed on it at a depth of 2.5 cm. then the pot is placed at a temperature within 24-32˚C. Seeds usually germinates within 1-4 weeks. Once the seedlings emerges, they move to a spot where they get partial sun. After, they become 20 cm in height, they are transplanted to larger pots. These containers can be place inside houses or in home gardens.
How Lychee Trees Produces Flowers
Lychee plants produce flowers on a terminal inflorescence with many panicles on the current season’s growth. These panicles grows in the clusters of ten or more. They holds hundreds of small, white, green or yellow flowers that have distinctive fragrance.
When do Lychee Plants produce Fruits
Lychee plants produces fruits as they matures. The estimated time period in the production of fruits ranges from 80-120 days, depending on climate, cultivar and location. Fruits vary in size, shape, and colour. The fruit shape varies from round-ovoid to heart-shaped while it can reach a size of 5 cm long and 4 cm wide. The skin of fruit is usually thin, green when young but becomes pinkish-red when ripen. They are covered with small sharp protuberances roughly textured. This skin can be removed easily from the fruit and becomes brown when dry out. The flesh of fruit is white fleshy and has a sweet flavor. Each fruit has a dark brown seed which in inedible and about 1-3.3 cm long and 0.6-1.2 cm wide.
Some cultivars produce high yield of fruits and have more edible flesh. These cultivars have high market value due to good quality fruits. The fruits are sold in market both in fresh and in canning form.
How much time Lychee Trees take to mature.
Lychee plants will take at least 5 years to mature. Their flowers blooms when the plant is exposed to cold temperatures for at least 100 hours in the winter. Then the female flowers are pollinated. In an orchard, pollination is done by insects but for indoor plants, pollution is done by artificial means. The fruits develops in bunches.
How to care of Lychee Plants
Lychee plants needs a tropical climate which is frost free. It cannot survive below -4˚C temperature. They prefers high summer heat, humidity and rainfall. Mature trees need full sun but it is better to provide shade to young plants. It grows best on well-drained and slightly acidic soil which is rich in organic matter. They prefer ample and regular watering throughout the year. Their flowers blooms in early spring and fruits ripens in summer. They are susceptible to wind damage. They are also susceptible to insect infestation including, aphids, mites and mealybugs. A product like Pyrethrum is made to control pests attacked that damage the fruits. They need a liquid fertilizer throughout their growing season. Pruning should be done to control the shape and size of the trees.