Florida is known for its citrus industry, particularly orange trees and orange juice. In my early career, I owned a landscaping company with my dad, a company he still runs today. Maintaining large retirement communities was a large part of our business.
Our employees used to laugh because as soon as a new retiree moved to Florida from up north, the first thing they did was buy a 6-inch-tall orange tree sapling and place it right in the middle of their yard — not knowing that the grass grows 6 inches tall in a single summer week in Florida. Our crew would not even know the tree was there and would mow right over it, causing a lot of awkward follow-up conversations.
Citrus trees are still popular, although diseases have made it more difficult to maintain a healthy tree. In addition to citrus, you do have a few more edible tree options that make great additions to your landscape.
Here are a few that do well in the Tampa Bay area.
The avocado craze of the 2010s does not look like it is going to end, as they are a healthy and delicious fruit. The green-skin variety grows best in Florida, but the dark green “Florida Hass” avocado grown mostly in California does well on the west coast of Florida. The disease known as “laurel wilt” fungus spread by beetles has become a problem in Florida, but scientists are working on solutions. And the risk/reward of growing your own avocados is probably worth it because the disease is most prevalent where they are commercially grown. Avocado trees require full sun and well-drained soil.
Mango trees also prefer well-drained soil in full sun for maximum fruit production. Unpruned, they can grow over 30 feet, so do not plant them close to your home or other structures. To promote more fruit, trim trees when they are young for a better branch pattern. Fertilize every two to three months for young trees.
03. CHINESE LOQUAT
The Chinese loquat bears fruit in early spring and prefers full sun and well-drained soil. The fruit and tree can be damaged by freezing temperatures, so take appropriate care when severe cold fronts arrive.
04. OLIVE TREE
There are several varieties of olive trees that grow in Florida, but if you want edible olives, make sure to purchase the European olive tree. The Arbequina olive tree from Spain is the most popular variety grown in Florida. They prefer sandy, well-drained soil in a sunny part of your property.