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Growing Lychees from Seed in Australia

If you have the patience and like experimenting in your garden, you can try to grow a lychee tree from seed.

When I look at lychees, I’m reminded of warm summer days and that delicious, juicy taste of the sweet white flesh. There’s nothing quite like digging into a bowl of fresh lychees and if you live in the sub-tropical regions of the country, you can grow them yourself.

Lychees grow on trees that can easily reach a height of 15 metres. However, these can be pruned to keep them more manageable and make it easier to harvest the fruit.

Lychee trees are self-pollinating. This means that they produce both male and female flowers so you only need one tree for a successful harvest.

Lychee tree 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

However, you do need the right climate to grow these delicious fruits. Lychees need a sub-tropical climate that is frost-free. They also need free-draining soil that has been enriched with lots of organic matter.

If you have the patience and like experimenting in your garden, you can try to grow a lychee tree from seed. Bear in mind, that it can take around 5 years before your tree will start producing fruits.

Here’s what you need to do.

Collect some seeds and soak them

You first want to collect some seeds that you can propagate. You can save seeds from fruits that you’ve purchased but they don’t remain viable for very long, so propagate them as soon as possible.

Make sure that the seeds you collect are smooth, plump and round. Any seeds that are oblong and look shrivelled will not be viable.

Lychee seeds | Fruit & Vegetables

Once you have a handful of seeds, wash them and remove any flesh that remains. 

You then need to soak the seeds in water immediately for around 3 to 4 days, until you see them starting to split. Remember to change the water daily to keep it fresh.

Plant your seeds

Gather some small pots and fill them with a good quality seed-raising mix.

It’s important that you only plant one seed per pot because you want to avoid disturbing the roots too much once the seeds have germinated.

Lychee seed planting 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

You can even use jiffy pots to germinate your seeds as this definitely minimises root disturbance.

Seeds should be planted sideways in the pots as this gives them the best chance of germinating. If you plant them with the pointy end downwards, your seeds will most likely fail to sprout.

Care for your seeds until germination

Place your planted seeds in a warm, spot outside that gets lots of indirect sunlight. The ideal temperature range for germination is around 28 to 30 degrees Celsius.

Make sure that you keep the mix nice and moist but not overly wet. It can take around 4 to 6 weeks for the seeds to germinate.

Lychee seed watering | Fruit & Vegetables

Repot your seeds

Once germination has occurred, it’s time to repot the tiny seedlings into a larger pot. Choose a deep pot to allow the roots to develop. The pot should be around 30 cm deep.

Lychee sprouting | Fruit & Vegetables

The diameter of the pot can be a bit smaller, around 20 cm, as lychee trees tend to grow relatively slowly.

Fill the pot with premium potting mix and make sure that it has plenty of drainage holes.

Place your potted lychee tree in a sheltered spot that receives dappled sunlight. Ideally, morning sun is good but keep your young tree protected from the harsh afternoon sun.

It’s important to water your young lychee tree on a daily basis. The soil should always be relatively moist but never wet.

Keep your new lychee tree growing in a pot until it is at least 1.5 metres in height. You will need to continue to repot your tree into progressively larger pots as it grows.

Lychee seedling 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

You can start to control the shape and growth of your tree while it’s still in its pot. This involves removing any side shoots from the trunk up to one metre above the soil level.

Plant your lychee tree in the garden

Once your tree is around 1.5 metres tall, it can be planted in the garden. It’s important to note that lychees are quite sensitive to their environment so you need to acclimatise your tree before planting it in the sun.

You can do this by exposing your potted tree to periods of full sun in a successive manner on a daily basis. For example, extend the amount of time that the tree is exposed to full sun by one hour each day. 

Once the tree has been fully acclimatised to withstanding a full day of direct sunlight, you can safely plant it in the garden.

Make sure that you plant it in a spot that is protected from strong winds. The soil needs to be rich in organic matter and free-draining.

When you’re planting your tree in the garden, try not to disturb the roots in any way. This means that you don’t want to tease them out like you would with many other plants.

FAQ

How long does it take to grow lychee from seed?

It can take up to 5 years for a lychee tree to produce fruit when it has been grown from seed.

What season does lychee grow in Australia?

Lychees produce their fruit in spring in Australia. However, the weather needs to be relatively dry as rain and overhead watering can easily damage the delicate flowers and reduce the amount of fruits you can harvest.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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