by Jane Callier
A couple of years ago, I was very pleased to receive a pineapple guava plant from another master gardener. I had admired the plant for quite a while with its beautiful blossoms in the spring and handsome foliage with a green color above and gray beneath. Being a flower lover, the idea that the plant produces fruit had not crossed my mind.
Pineapple guavas have beautiful blooms
One of the first things we learn in Master Gardener training (in Napa County) is our mediterranean climate. This plant is a “ringer” for plants typical of this summer-dry climate although the plant is said to be from a more central area of South America. Water-saving strategies include leathery oval foliage, its leaves are on the small side, even the oval shape are all aimed at saving water. Today, New Zealand is by far the major producer of commercial Feijoas. Since the early 20th century New Zealand has been developing new and improved varieties of Feijoas. Other countries with a mediterranean climate that grow Feijoas commercially are Chile, Turkey and Australia.
These plants were previously termed as Feijoa sellowiana, but botanical research has determined that it fits more accurately in a different genus. The scientific name has been updated to Acca sellowiana, but the fruits are still called Feijoas.
Pineapple guava is low-maintenance tree. It can grow up to 15' tall, but pruning will keep it smaller. Plan on pruning in early spring and later in summer to maintain small proportions. Birds and bees are attracted to nectar from its flowers. Deer have never touched my plant and it seems to be blissfully free of insect pests. As with any plant, regular watering is necessary until for the pineapple guava until it is established, and then it is drought tolerant. It will benefit from periodic watering to increase fruit production, and if winter temperatures drop as low as 10-15 degrees, it should be okay for short periods.
Pineapple guava showing different aspects of its oval leaves
It was only last year that my plant started to produce its little guavas. FYI, pineapple guava is neither a true guava nor a pineapple, but fruits do somewhat resemble a true guava or pineapple in taste. At first, I noticed a few of them on the ground and I gathered them up and took them in the house. A couple of days later I found several more, gathered them up and took them in the house. The next time I went out the fruits were everywhere, under nearby plants and under plants that were not so nearby. I thought it was curious that I hadn't noticed much fruit on the plant, but the ground was covered as if an over-eager Easter bunny had deployed his entire allotment of eggs/aka guavas under my plant. Some plants need another plant to be fruitful. Clearly, mine does not.
How many guavas are in this photo?
I find the fruit to taste okay, not delicious, but definitely worthy of keeping. To eat, cut them in half and scoop out the inside. Some sources say the skin is edible on the young fruit; I think it's too bitter.
Napa Master Gardeners are available to answer garden questions by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. or phone at 707-253-4143. Volunteers will get back to you after they research answers to your questions.
Visit our website: napamg.ucanr.edu to find answers to all of your horticultural questions.
Photo credits: Jane Callier