Planting, caring for and harvesting the Japanese plum

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In your gardening journey, you come across plants that catch your eye. For me, loquats are one of those plants. They are tropical-looking ornamental plants that produce delicious fruit. New to medlar cultivation? You will enjoy.

Adding loquats to your orchard, backyard, or farm gives you hard-to-find, yet oh-so-delicious fruit, and plenty of possibilities for canning, jams, jellies, and preserves.

If you’re looking for a lesser-known fruit that isn’t finicky about growing conditions, loquat is for you. It is a joy to grow, to watch and to eat.


What is the medlar?

Medlar (Eriobotrya japonica) is sometimes known as the Japanese plum. It is an evergreen tree native to China and Japan. The thick, showy leaves add shape and texture to landscape gardens, while the fruit is unique in taste and appearance.

The flowers add fragrance to the garden, before forming light orange fruits ranging from two to four inches in diameter. The flesh is slightly acidic and tastes like a mixture of plum, apricot and cherry.

The fruits can be eaten raw or made into jellies, jams or added to savory dishes and desserts. You can even make wine.

Part of the Rosaceae family, loquats join apples, pears, raspberries and quinces in providing us with delicious and nutritious fruits.

Loquat grows very well in USDA growing zones 8 through 10, with zone 9 being best suited for it. The trees reach about 25 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide, so they won’t take up too much space in your garden.

Not all loquats are self-fertile, which means you need to have more than one tree at a time. There are also late, standard or early varieties.

Best Loquat Cultivars

Although many vendors sell loquats as a plant species, some cultivars are better than others. Here is my pick of the best:

Gold nugget

It is a self-fertile variety that produces fairly large pear-shaped fruits. It is sometimes called ‘Placentia’ or ‘Thales.’ It is a late variety.


It is often the variety that commercial growers choose because it is reliable and generally sweeter than other cultivars. It is self-fertile and produced from mid to late season.


This is the option when you want to plant loquat as an ornamental plant, but also want lots of fruit. The foliage of this variety is white with hints of green. It can tolerate less sun than other cultivars.


It is a mid-season variety with a thin skin and a slightly tart flavor that is good for the taste.


A very sweet variety, ready from mid to late season. The skin is thicker than most other varieties.


Wolfe combines sweet, tart and spicy all in one fruit. It is a mid to late season producer with large fruit and thin skin.

Loquat spread

The most important thing to remember when growing a loquat tree is that it grows quickly. You need to make sure the space is ready for a tree that grows 3 feet per year and a tree that can grow up to 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide at the tallest.

The best way to ensure you get a healthy loquat tree that bears fruit is to plant a store-bought grafted seedling or take a cutting.

To grow from a cutting, use the air layering method, rather than the simpler method of taking a cutting and planting it in growing medium. The chosen stem should be part of the mother tree until the roots form. Read our article on air layering here.


You can grow a loquat from seed, but it is unlikely to grow true to the mother tree and not bear fruit for six to ten years, if at all. It can be fun to grow a tree from a seed taken from your fruit, especially for children. So based on that, give it a try.

All loquats have up to three seeds. Remove them from a fresh, healthy fruit and wash the flesh. You need to plant them immediately before they dry out.

Plant in good quality seed soil. Plant about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Water well with a spray bottle and place in a warm place, preferably at a constant temperature of 70°F. Water as needed.

Let the germinated seed grow to about four to six inches before repotting it into a larger container.

How to Plant Loquat

Loquats will withstand temperatures as low as 10°F, but flowers and fruit will die at 27°F. No flowers means no fruit.

Plant in full sun. Loquat will tolerate low levels of partial shade, especially variegated varieties.

The main rule for the soil you plant loquat in is that it should be well-drained. The pH is not important. Loquat will grow in acidic or alkaline conditions. Only saline soil is not tolerated.

When you first plant your loquat, loosen the soil about four feet around where you plant the tree. Dig in and loosen about 15 inches. Next, work in plenty of well-rotted compost to improve drainage and water retention. This is especially important if you have clay soil.

Now is the time to add a good quality balanced fertilizer. Work all of this amended soil into the hole and create a new hole large enough to accommodate the root ball.

Remove the plant from its growing container and wash the soil away from the roots. Place the root ball in the hole you made and spread the roots out as much as possible. Fill around with fresh soil. Water well.

Spacing should be at least 15 feet. Like most plants, loquats will pick up disease in areas with high humidity if the canopy is too dense and airflow is restricted.

growing container

Loquat will grow well in pots, but the size will be small and when crowded like that sometimes refuses to fruit. Be sure to use a container at least 24 inches wide and at least 10 gallons.

The container should have drainage holes so that water does not accumulate.

Fill the container with potting soil that retains water.

Maintenance and care

Loquats love slow-release fertilizers, especially those designed for apple and pear trees. Avoid anything high in nitrogen. Something like Jobe’s Organics Fruit and Nut Fertilizer is perfect.

Wait until the tree is well established and the roots penetrate the ground before your next fertilizer after planting.

After a few years, fertilize three times a year at regular intervals. A few good handfuls of fertilizer should suffice.

Medlars need up to 40 inches of water per year, with a minimum of 25 inches. If your annual rainfall is sufficient, you will not need to provide additional water. If your annual rainfall is less than this total, provide enough to compensate.

Pruning should only be done once a year to maintain shape, remove dead or diseased branches, and ensure good air circulation.

Companionship for the cultivation of Loquat

Plant the loquat with:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Quince
  • Lavender
  • Comfrey
  • Nasturtium
  • Chive

Do not plant with:

Problems and solutions for the cultivation of loquats

Medlars are quite tough and only suffer from a few problems.

leaf tip blight

Even though loquats are heat-loving, they will suffer from leaf tip burn when temperatures exceed 95°F. This problem sounds like what you’re probably imagining – the tips turn brown and crispy. There’s not much you can do to prevent this problem, but make sure your loquat has enough water, especially when it’s very hot.

Eventually the dead leaves will fall off and be replaced by new ones when the temperature cools down a bit.

fire blight

This is a fairly common bacterial infection and you often see it when you have apple and pear trees in moist areas.

Cankers form on the branches and ooze a secretion in the spring. The tips of the shoots gradually blacken and die. The fruit turns black and shriveled and hangs on the tree for the season.

Remove infected parts of the tree and burn them or remove them from the property. Remove any foliage on the ground around the infected tree.

Use copper spray when the tree is in bloom. Repeat in the winter when the tree is dormant.


This sapsucker will damage the tree to some degree, but unless the infestation is huge, you shouldn’t see too much happening to the loquat tree.

Read our article on how to identify and treat aphids here.

leaf spot

Sometimes common in times of high humidity, leaf spot causes foliage to appear mottled with patches of dead and dying leaves. The disease begins as small spots, which eventually grow, causing leaf death.

Humid conditions and lack of air circulation often increase your chances of the loquat tree contracting this disease.

Be sure to water the base of the tree, not the foliage. Use a broad-spectrum fungicide to treat. Prune the tree well to make sure there is good air circulation.

Medlar harvest

Once your loquat is established, you should get a bumper crop. The only negative thing about it is that all the fruits seem to ripen at the same time.

To tell if a loquat is ripe, it looks slightly bigger than an unripe one and its color is brighter. It should be slightly soft to the touch and give a little when pressed gently. It’s a fairly fine balance between unripe fruit and overripe fruit. Over time you will know when it is ready to be picked.

Because loquats are prolific fruit trees, some people find it easier to cut off the branch tip than the individual fruit. This means that you remove large clumps of fruit all at once, rather than one at a time.

Storage and preservation of loquats

Medlars are beautiful and sweet when eaten fresh from the tree. They have a fairly short period when they’re perfect and before they get soft and mushy.

If you can’t devour them in time, save them and use them in jams. jellies, pies and syrups.

You can also freeze the fruit whole on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Place the washed fruit in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the freezer. Once the fruit is frozen, transfer it to a plastic bag or freezer-safe container.

Once the fruit is thawed, it becomes a bit soft and mushy, but it is perfect for jams and jellies.

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