Florida is an immigrant state with people from all over the tropical world – Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Jamaicans, Brazilians, Vietnamese, Columbians, and so many others.
All of these new Floridians – including myself once upon a time – share a common nostalgia for the wide variety of tasty tropical fruits from their home countries. Fruits that are now considered “exotic” in their new land. Such is especially true for fruit trees like mango, star fruit, lychee, guava, and papaya – all of which are on the coming list.
The wonderful part of calling this state home is that the climate is mild enough to experiment with growing some of these tropical gems. The only problem with growing these trees in Florida is that from Central Florida northwards, frost and freezes are a risk each year. Such can destroy tropical fruit trees.
Putting this list together was difficult because there were hundreds of choices. As a selection criterion, I include fruit trees that are easy to find in Florida’s nurseries but exotic enough for you to be excited about growing them.
12 Exotic and Common Fruit Trees You Should Consider Planting in Florida
1. Avocado (Persea americana)
Avocados are native to tropical America. The tree is medium to large with lustrous evergreen foliage. Though they sometimes lose their leaves for a short period before flowering. Its leaves are leathery green and large, 3 to 16 inches long, and are dark green, leathery, and smooth at maturity.
The small flowers are yellowish-green and appear in clusters at the end of a shoot. Flowers appear in the winter or spring.
Fruits range in color – green, black, purple, or reddish – depending on the variety. They range in size from a few ounces to over 5 pounds. In most cases, the fruit remains unripe until it falls or you pick it from the tree. Fruits mature from late summer through fall.
Avocados are sensitive to cold weather; a frost or freeze can kill some varieties. For this reason, it is crucial that you know which variety suits your region. Fortunately, for those in South Florida, any variety is fine.
However, in North Florida, winter temperatures often fall below freezing. For that reason, varieties such as ‘Brogdon,’ ‘Choquette,’ ‘Day,’ ‘Winter,’ and ‘Mexicola’ are better for you if you are in the north.
Avocados prefer well-drained soil. Frequent flooding or wet conditions can lead to decreased growth, nutrient deficiency, dieback, or death.
It would help if you planted your avocado trees in full sun – this is the best way to ensure robust growth and good fruit production. Be careful not to plant it near a building, structures, other trees, or power lines because it can become enormous.
Other Common Names: Avocado, Avocado-pear
USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 11 (depending on variety)
Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 65 feet tall with a spread of 25 – 35 feet
Harvest Season: Late summer through fall
Best varieties for Florida: Bernicker, Brogdon, Choquette, Day, Hall, Lula, Marcu Pumpkin, Mexicola, Monroe, Pollack, Russel, Simmonds, Winter
2. Banana (Musa spp.) – Includes Dwarf Variety
In my experience, it is challenging to get bananas to set fruit. They need perfect warm and moist conditions and highly fertile soil to create fruit. Gardeners in South Florida can depend on their banana trees to produce fruit.
It is a beautiful plant, even if your banana tree doesn’t make fruit. Banana trees provide a lush tropical feeling to the landscape. They keep growing throughout the year in South and Central Florida but may die back in North Florida.
The best banana tree variety for North Florida is ‘Ice Cream.’ It has a creamy texture with a vanilla custard taste, typically sweeter than those you find in the grocery store. Also, it is hardy to zone 8.
For smaller gardens, you can grow ‘Dwarf Cavendish,’ one of Florida’s most common banana trees. The fruit has a taste similar to those in the supermarket.
Regardless of the variety you choose, all bananas enjoy full sun. Daily watering is excellent for bananas, but the soil should always drain well. In addition, fertile soil is essential. Since most of Florida has sandy and low fertility soil, the University of Florida recommends that you feed bananas 4 to 6 times during the year for high production.
USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 11 (depending on the variety)
Average Size at Maturity: 2 – 30 feet tall and 1 – 15 feet wide (depending on variety)
Harvest Season: Year-round(depending on variety)
Best varieties for Florida: Apple, Blue Java, Dwarf Cavendish, Dwarf Orinoco, Dwarf Red, Gold Finger, Ice Cream, Lady Finger, Mysore, William
3. Key Lime (Citrus x aurantifolia) – Dwarf Fruit Tree
Key lime pies are probably the first thing that crossed your mind as you read the subheading. Native to Southeast Asia, the source of the star ingredient of this classic American dessert is the small and bushy key lime tree.
Key lime produces fragrant and small white flowers which turn into dark green fruit. On some trees, the flower buds have a delicate pink hue.
A great feature of this tree is its frequent blooming. The tree blooms multiple times throughout the year, which means growers have a steady supply of fruit. The fruit has an astringent and tart flavor.
Key lime does well in a variety of soils. The University of Florida says they thrive in deep, sandy soils but produce less fruit. This soil type is typical in lots of areas of Florida. Such conditions lead to larger and less juicy fruit with a thick peel.
Other Common Names: West Indian lime, Bartender’s lime, Omani lime, Mexican lime
USDA Growing Zones: 9 – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 6 – 13 feet tall with a similar spread
Harvest Season: Year-round(depending on variety)
Best varieties for Florida: Swingle
4. Guava (Psidium guajava L.)
Guava is one of those beloved tropical fruits that the lucky Floridians get to grow. The fruit has a sweet and tangy taste, with a dense and creamy texture.
Guavas come in two types – pink/red and white. The white ones are tarter, while the pink/red ones are sweeter and fragrant.
Native to the tropical Americas, guava grows well in Central and South Florida but will not survive the North Florida winter.
Guava adapts to a wide range of soils, but it must be well-draining. The tree’s roots cannot remain wet for long periods, or the entire plant will start to die. Since the rainy season (May through October) can sometimes have periods of a lot of wet weather, you should choose a site where the soil drains well. Also, it helps to provide the guava trees with lots of sunshine throughout the day.
Florida soils are not the most fertile in most cases, so it helps to feed guava trees. You can apply fertilizer every 1 to 2 months in the first year. The composition should 6% to 10% nitrogen, 6% to 10% phosphoric acid, 6% to 10% potash, and 4% to 6% magnesium.
Other Common Names: Guava, Guajava, Guayaba,
USDA Growing Zones: 9 – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 6 – 20 feet tall depending on variety
Harvest Season: Year-round (depending on variety)
Best varieties for Florida: Barbi Pink, Crystal, Hong Kong Pink, Lotus, Patillo, Homestead, Supreme, Webber
5. Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
Growing up in Central Florida, my neighbor had a loquat tree. Neither did the neighbors pay this East Asian native fruit any mind. But it was such an exotic treat because until then, I didn’t see it elsewhere. Yet even though she ignored it, the tree thrived. It grew vigorously and produced an abundance of fruit in early spring.
Loquats are an incredibly juicy fruit. They are round to oblong with a creamy yellowish-orange skin that is fuzzy. The fruits are sweet but can be on the tart side if not fully ripe.
The loquat tree is an attractive, evergreen tree growing to 25 feet. Due to its compact size, it is a good choice for miniature landscapes.
This tree typically grows in subtropical and warm temperate climates. It is not tropical fruit, though it can grow well in tropical regions. For this reason, it is an excellent choice for North Florida. Loquat trees can tolerate temperatures down to 8ºF.
Loquat trees do well in a wide range of soil types. Also, trees should get full sun for the best fruit and tree growth.
Other Common Names: Japanese plum, Japanese medlar, Luju, Lokwat, Chinese plum
USDA Growing Zones: 8A – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 30 feet tall with a spread of 30 to 35 feet
Harvest Season: Early spring
Best varieties for Florida: Advanced, Champagne, Emanuel, Golden Nugget, Goliath, Juda, Judith, Oliver, Wolfe
6. Lychee (Litchi chinensis)
Lychee is native to China and southeastern Asia. Though grown commercially, to a small extent, in Florida, it is not a popular fruit tree among home gardeners. But it shouldn’t be so since it is easy to grow and thrives in the Florida climate.
Lychee fruits are bright red with a round shape. They have thick, bumpy skin that you must peel off to get to the edible part. The part that you eat is sweet and clear with a firm texture. I think the fruits are syrupy sweet, with the darker fruits being much sweeter than, the lighter ones.
These trees thrive in Central and South Florida. But temperatures below 24ºF will severely damage or even kill them.
Lychee trees need full sun and well-draining soil. They will not tolerate prolonged wet roots and are moderately drought tolerant.
Other Common Names: Litchi, Leechee, Mamoncillo chino (Spanish), Lichi
USDA Growing Zones: 9B – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 40 feet tall with a similar spread
Harvest Season: Summer
Best varieties for Florida: Brewster, Mauritius
7. Mango (Mangifera indica)
In my experience, many landscapers try to grow mango trees throughout Florida. Especially those from the world’s tropical regions where mangoes are abundant and revered.
Mango trees bloom in the winter through spring. Early blooming is a problem in Central Florida. I have seen years when mango trees send out a lot of blooms—leading anyone to think that the harvest will be great. Only for frosts or freezes to destroy any hopes of a decent harvest by burning off the flowers.
You probably already know how mangoes look and taste. The sizes, tastes, and textures vary widely based on the variety, but in most cases, the fruit becomes sweeter as it ripens.
Mango trees grow in a wide range of soil types. They can be productive even in Florida’s sandy and limestone soils. Mango trees are tolerant of occasional flooding or wet soil conditions. But will not perform in a spot where the soil does not drain well.
In all instances, you should provide mango trees with full sun to ensure growth and fruit production. Since the trees can get large, it is a good idea to plant them away from other trees, buildings, and power lines.
Other Common Names: Manga
USDA Growing Zones: 9B – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 100 feet with a similar spread (depends on variety)
Harvest Season: Late spring through fall (depending on variety)
Best varieties for Florida: Carrie Atkins, Dunkin, Edward, Keitt, Parvin, Floridian, and Van Dyke
8. Papaya (Carica papaya)
Papaya trees are an exciting addition to the landscape because few other trees look like them. They are tall and slender and have a slight resemblance to palm trees. The significant difference is that they have broad and veiny leaves.
Despite their tropical look and feel, this is one of the easiest, if not the easiest trees on this list to grow. Once you give them plenty of water and sun exposure, they will quickly grow and produce lots of fruit.
Papayas have a texture and flavor that is remotely similar to cantaloupes. But like its appearance, the taste is one of a kind.
Papaya trees can grow multiple feet per year, reaching about 10 to 15 feet tall. Some plants are male, female, or both. For this reason, it is better to plant multiple slender trees to ensure pollination. But planting multiple trees is not a problem because they are slim and don’t take up much space.
The fruiting lasts for about four years before it begins to decline. But that’s fine because it starts to produce fruit in less than one year of planting from seed! Because they are so easy to grow from seed, it is an excellent project for kids.
As with the other trees on this list – papaya trees are at their best with full sun and well-draining soil. Also, make sure to give them plenty of water and occasional fertilizing.
Other Common Names: Pawpaw
USDA Growing Zones: 9B – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 10 – 15 feet tall
Harvest Season: Year-round
Best varieties for Florida: Maradol, Red Lady, Solo
9. Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowianai)
You can easily mistake pineapple guava for the common guava, the taste and appearance are similar. Both are members of the Myrtaceae family. The benefit of growing the pineapple guava is that they are much hardier and can provide North Florida landscapers with a “tropical-like” fruit.
Pineapple guava is a multi-stemmed small tree. With its silver-green evergreen foliage and showy white and pink spring flower it makes a remarkable ornamental tree as well. The flowers are sweet-smelling and attract lots of birds.
The flowers are edible, tasting like minty guava. The 2- to 3-inch-long fruits are egg-shaped and green. Some describe the fruit’s taste as a combination of banana, guava, kiwi, and pineapple. Sine the tree is a slow grower, it makes time several years for fruit development to begin.
Pineapple guava tree prefers rich, moist, and well-draining soil. They do not tolerate wet soils at all. For best results, the trees should get at least six hours of direct and unfiltered sunlight each day. Though a bit of afternoon shade isn’t too bad in locations with oppressively hot summers.
Other Common Names: Feijoa
USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 20 feet tall with a similar spread
Harvest Season: Fall
Best varieties for Florida: Apollo, Nikita
10. Kumquat (Fortunella spp.) – Dwarf Fruit Tree
Kumquat is Chinese for “gold tangerine.” The name comes from the color of the fruit. Kumquat is native to Southeast Asia and tropical Malaysia.
This tiny evergreen citrus tree is excellent in the garden or a container. Kumquat doesn’t take up much space and is a heavy producer. But if you opt for a container, ensure it is extra-large because kumquats do not like being root-bound. Also, trees are self-fertile, which means you only need one. The trees are attractive and make an excellent ornamental dwarf tree.
Did you know that Kumquat is the only citrus fruit you can eat on the skin? The peel is sweet, and the pulp is tart which lends to the fruits’ sweet and sour flavor. For this reason, kumquats are great in chutneys, marinades, and salads.
It is easy to grow this tasty little citrus. They need full sun and can tolerate most soil types as long as it is well-draining. Also, as they have salt tolerance, kumquats are great for those near the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean.
Other Common Names: Cumquat, Comquot
USDA Growing Zones: 9 – 10
Average Size at Maturity: 8 – 15 tall with a similar spread
Harvest Season: Fall through winter
Best varieties for Florida: Nagami, Marumi, Meiwa, Nordmann, Fukushu, Calamondin
11. Brown Turkey Fig (Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’)
‘Brown Turkey’ is one of the most popular figs in the southeastern United States. The fruit is medium-large with brownish-purple skin and sweet, amber-colored pulp. In Florida, fruits ripen in early summer, with a more significant crop coming one month later.
Fig trees have been in Florida since the 16th century, when the Spanish explorers brought them there. Fig trees are deciduous and need less than 100 hours of temperatures below 45º degrees to promote vegetation and buds. This low chilling requirement makes them an excellent choice for North and Central Florida.
It would help if you planted your ‘Brown Turkey’ fig tree in a spot with full sun. Bare-rooted trees should be planted when dormant (December to February), but you can grow container-grown plants throughout the year. In many cases, they should get at least 10 gallons of water at least three times a week during the first year so the trees can establish themselves.
USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 9
Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 30 feet tall with a similar spread
Harvest Season: Summer
Best varieties for Florida: Celeste, Brown Turkey
12. Star Fruit (Averrhoa carambola)
Native to Southeast Asia, star fruit is one of the exotic fruits available for Florida gardeners. The fruits are fleshy and yellow, with an edible wax peel with an acidic sweetness. But some varieties are unpleasantly tart.
Fruits fully ripen on the tree for maximum sweetness. Being 90% water, start fruits are a refreshing treat during a hot Florida summer day.
Before the fruits appear, the tree features pink to lavender-colored attractive flowers. The leaves are evergreen, but some trees may lose their leaves during late winter or early spring after a cold winter.
It is better to plant star fruit in the southeastern and southwestern counties of Florida. But they should never be planted near the ocean because trees have low salt tolerance. Plants should get warm temperatures, wind protection, and well-drained soil.
Other Common Names: Carambola
USDA Growing Zones: 9 – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 30 feet tall with a similar spread
Harvest Season: June through February
Best varieties for Florida: Maha, Wheeler, Arkin, Golden Star, and Hoku
Pay Attention to your Local USDA Hardiness Zone
Florida residents can grow a wide range of tropical and subtropical fruits. Such is especially true for those in Central and South Florida who can plant trees that bring tasty fruit, such as mango, guava, key lime, kumquats, and much more!
The main challenge of growing the fruits on the list is the threat of frosts and freezes. In my experience in Central Florida, this issue is one of the most frustrating aspects of growing these tropical fruits. In Central Florida, some winters have frost while others do not.
I have seen mango and avocado trees with abundant fruits one year and nothing the following year due to winter freezes. For this reason, it is essential to pay close attention to your local USDA hardiness zone and which fruit trees can grow there.
North Florida landscapers cannot plant as many tropical fruits because of the region’s USDA hardiness zones. Falling in zones 8a and 8b, you can plant some more common temperate fruit trees like peaches and plums.
But you have exotic options such as pineapple guava, loquat and some hardy varieties of avocado and banana. There are several varieties of pear trees that also grow well in parts of Florida.
- 6 Purple Trees in Florida (not Just the Jacaranda)
- 30 Types of Florida Palm Trees (Includes Native & Small)
- 7 Best Varieties of Pear Trees to Grow in Florida
- 8 Best Types of Mango Trees to Grow in Florida
- 7 Best Types of Avocado Trees to Grow in Florida
Kenique grew up in Florida and currently lives in southern China. Before China, he spent many years in Portugal and the Caribbean. He studied economics and is a teacher, entrepreneur, and writer. Since he was knee-high, he has been gardening and was an active member of FFA (Future Farmers of America). He is his best self in a densely wooded forest or park. Depending on the day, you can find him reading, hiking, traveling, exercising, sipping lots of tea, or eating everything in sight.