Pineapple GuavaFeijoa sellowiana
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The Pineapple Guava is a remarkable large shrub or small tree that is gorgeous however you look it at. As a foliage bush? – lovely gray felted leaves. For flowers? – amazing and unique red and white blooms with edible petals. For fruit? – a special fruit that tastes of pineapple or banana with a tropical perfume. However you grow it – outdoors in warmer zones or in a pot in cooler ones – you will love this unique plant for all its remarkable features.
Full sun will give the best results with the Pineapple Guava, but it will tolerate a little partial shade. Any well-drained soil is suitable, and it is drought resistant once established, although regular watering is best for a good crop of fruit. It normally has no particular pests or diseases and grows well in coastal areas, with good salt tolerance. Prune in spring to encourage the new stems that carry the blossoms and fruit.
It is always great when you can combine ‘good looking’ and ‘tasty’ in the same plant. You sure get that when you grow a Pineapple Guava, a unique subtropical fruit that is easy to grow, attractive in flower, and with fascinating edible flowers and fruits. It’s not a true guava, but it is really tasty. It enjoys much drier conditions than most other tropical fruit trees, so it will grow well both in the southeast and the southwest, as well as in areas that fall to 10 degrees in winter. Plus, it can be grown in a pot for years, so you can bring it inside for the winter months and grow it anywhere at all, right across the country. It’s very salt tolerant, and drought tolerant too, so it’s terrific for the beach cottage. Because the fruits are tricky to transport you hardly ever see it in stores, so you truly get to grow something you can’t run out and buy. The striking flowers are so beautiful this plant is worth growing just for them, so overall you can’t go wrong with a unique tree like this one.
The Pineapple Guava is a small evergreen tree or large shrub, growing steadily to become 10 to 15 feet tall and wide, with the potential for an old plant to pass 20 feet tall. It naturally tends to grow as a shrub, but if you want a more tree-like form – which is ideal for pot growing – then some simple pruning will soon develop a single trunk. The trunk and stems have attractive smooth gray bark. The leaves are up to 3 inches long, and half as wide, formed as smooth ovals. When young both sides of the leaf have a soft gray felty texture, and as they mature this stays on the underside, while the top becomes greener and smoother. The overall look is a slightly grayed-out green, with a distinctly ‘Mediterranean’ look.
As the new spring shoots begin to mature in early summer, flower buds form at the base of the lower leaves. These open into large, striking flowers of red and white. These are almost 2 inches wide on a 1½ inch stalk. They have what looks like 8 white petals that curve backwards, with 4 of them having a red patch in their center. The most striking feature is the bright red bush of stamens, each one topped with bright yellow pollen. These are indeed unique and beautiful blooms. As they mature a round berry forms at the end of the stalk, becoming the size and shape of an egg. These ripen by fall, becoming yellowish green, and it is best to wait for them to drop naturally – at that point they are at their peak ripeness and flavor. Once you get to know this tree you will be able to judge when a fruit is about to drop and then pick it, that way avoiding it bruising. Ripe fruit can be stored in the fridge for a few days, and in the freezer for a year, but it is best eaten as fresh as possible, straight from the tree.
You can see the ornamental potential of this bush. Keep it as a bushy shrub or train it up into a single or multi-stem tree. Grow it on a short stem in a pot – ideal for bringing inside. Use it as a windbreak in an area exposed to salt. Plant it where the unique flowers can be enjoyed. The flower petals can be eaten – they taste like marshmallows! Some people scatter them on salads. The fruit has creamy-white flesh and tastes a little like banana, or pineapple, or minty apple, depending on your taste, and with a tropical perfume and flavor. Use it in desserts or make it into jam. It is very high in vitamin C and some people believe it boosts the immune system.
The Pineapple Guava is more cold resistant than other subtropical fruits, and can tolerate winter lows of 10 degrees. As such, it is hardy from zone 8 to zone 10. It does need about 50 chilling hours a year (with temperatures below 45 degrees), so it won’t grow well in fully-tropical places from zone 11 upwards. It does best in places with hot summers, which produces more blooms and better fruiting.
Full sun is very much best for your Pineapple Guava, but it will tolerate a little partial shade if it must. It grows well in any well-drained soil, and once established it is perfectly drought tolerant. It is tolerant of salt-spray and also of some salt in the soil, making it ideal for coastal areas.
Flowers are carried at the base of new shoots, so prune early in the year to encourage plenty of new stems – and therefore flowers. To develop good fruit regular watering over the summer months is best, although the bush itself is very drought resistant. Otherwise it needs very little attention and it’s rarely bothered by pests or diseases.
The Pineapple Guava, Feijoa sellowiana, is a relative of the true guava (Psidium guajava) – they are in the same plant family, the Myrtaceae, which contains several tropical fruits. Botanists have now re-named it as Acca sellowiana, but we like the sound of ‘Feijoa’ so much we are sticking with it. It is named after a Portuguese naturalist called João da Silva Barbosa, who changed his name to Feijó to honor the 18th century Spanish philosopher, Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro. It is native to southern Brazil (a country once controlled by Portugal) and Uruguay, but today widely grown in South America, Spain, India and Australia.
We love offering exotic and delicious treats like the Pineapple Guava. It is worth growing just for the fabulous blooms, and it’s a unique potted plant for cooler areas. But order right away, and plants like this never stay on the farm for long.