The scientific name of the guava plant is Psidium guajava. It is also commonly known as yellow guava, lemon guava, or apple guava. This is a fruit tree widely cultivated in tropical areas. However, it adapts well to Mediterranean climates too. Due to its small size, it can be grown in pots, making it perfect for a small family orchard or garden.
To succeed in guava cultivation, it’s important to understand its botanical characteristics, cold resistance threshold, soil requirements, and other cultural care needs. In this article, we’ll see how to cultivate it correctly.
Origins of the Guava Plant
The Psidium guajava belongs to the large botanical family Myrtaceae, which includes species more familiar to us, such as the myrtle. The guayaba’s origin is traced back to the South American continent, especially in the vast rainforest regions. Certainly, this plant has been cultivated by humans for ages, with even findings dating back to the Aztec civilization.
In South America, it’s a naturalized species that can also be found in the wild. Cultivation-wise, guava is widespread in all tropical regions of the world, including Asia, Australia, and Africa. In Europe, intensive cultivation is still limited. These are mostly found in the warmer areas of the Mediterranean, where the plant thrives effortlessly. Particularly in Italy, guayaba is grown comfortably in the coastal areas of Sicily, Calabria, Puglia, Tuscany, and Liguria.
The Guava Plant
The guava plant is, in fact, a small tree with a shrub-like appearance. Especially in our latitudes, it doesn’t reach excessive dimensions. In Italy, it can grow up to a maximum of 3-5 meters in height.
- The guava’s trunk can be single or multiple. In an adult plant, its diameter doesn’t exceed 30 cm. Over time, the trunk develops cracks and turns greenish-brown.
- The young branches are twisted and have a square section, with a reddish color. Guava exhibits rapid vegetative growth. This, during full fruiting, tends to make the branches hang downwards.
- The root system is shallow and expansive.
- The leaves are large, bright green, with short petioles. They are oval-shaped and have deep veins. They somewhat resemble those of the Japanese medlar. With autumn-winter temperatures, the leaves tend to turn reddish, with significant leaf fall, although botanically the guava plant is evergreen.
The flowers of the guava plant are small and white in color. They are found singly at the apex of new growth. They consist of 5 petals, a multitude of stamens, and yellow anthers. Being hermaphroditic, the plant is self-fertile. This means you can cultivate guava in single specimens. However, it’s worth noting that cross-pollination (with the presence of multiple plants of different varieties) enhances fruiting. Pollination is entomophilous, meaning it is carried out by bees and other pollinating insects. In the plant’s native tropical regions, flowering occurs throughout the year. With our climate, however, the plant blooms in late spring, between June and July. If the weather conditions are favorable, there may be a second flowering in September, but it’s unlikely to result in fruit production.
In our latitudes, guava fruiting occurs in autumn, with fruits ripening fully between October and December. The size and shape of the fruit vary depending on the variety. You can find small and round guava fruits, others larger and elongated, or oval and medium-sized. The external appearance is similar to an avocado, with a thick green skin that turns yellow when fully ripe. The guava’s inner pulp is soft and fleshy, and depending on the variety, it can be yellow, pink, or red. Medium-sized, yellow seeds are found inside the pulp. The taste of the pulp is sweet and pleasant, and the fruit is typically consumed by cutting it in half and eating it with a spoon. This exotic fruit is an antioxidant and also has excellent beneficial properties for humans. It is often used to prepare a delicious extract: guava juice.
How to Grow a Guava Plant
Let’s now explore how to cultivate guava. The decision to start cultivation should be based on evaluating the winter climate in our area. This applies to every plant, but it’s especially crucial for exotic fruit trees. So, let’s begin with the climate.
Guava behaves somewhat like a lemon tree, meaning it tolerates cold but not prolonged frost. Frequent temperatures below freezing endanger the plant’s survival. For this reason, we recommend cultivating guava in the central-southern regions, with a preference for coastal areas. Elsewhere, cultivation is only possible in pots, allowing you to move the plant into a small greenhouse or implement frost protection systems when temperatures become too cold. You can tell that guava is suffering when the leaves change color and fall significantly. For exposure, we recommend full sunlight. Psidium guajava is a heliophilic plant, benefiting from many hours of direct light.
Propagation and Sowing
Starting guava cultivation in your family orchard is simple because you can begin directly from the seed. The fruit seeds are very vital and have an excellent germination capacity, even after some time. Harvest the fruit in autumn, so you can collect, wash, and store the seeds in a glass jar. Remember to keep it in the dark. In spring, once the risk of returning cold weather is behind us, you can proceed with sowing. To facilitate germination, it’s recommended to soak the seeds overnight. The next day, you can bury them 1-2 cm deep. It’s advised to use universal potting soil, always keeping it well moist but not waterlogged. It’s convenient to sow them in small pots (20 cm in diameter) so you can grow individual trees that will later be transplanted into the ground or into a larger pot. Starting from the seed, the plant begins to bear fruit no earlier than the fourth year, with reference to our climate.
Reproducing guava from seed doesn’t guarantee that the new plant will retain the characteristics of the mother plant.
If you want to have stable clones, you can use the grafting technique, using the seedling stock as the rootstock.
If you decide to plant more than one guava plant, it’s advisable to leave at least 4 meters of distance between each specimen. This is not so much for the size of the shrub, as mentioned, but for the extensive root system.
Soil and pH
Guava is known to be a hardy plant, capable of adapting to different soil characteristics. It prefers loose and moist soils, but it also thrives in clayey or sandy soils or those with water stagnation. The ideal pH is neutral to slightly acidic, but it can also tolerate alkaline soil.
Tropical areas are known for their humid climate with abundant rainfall. In nature, the guava plant doesn’t need irrigation, but when cultivated in our arid southern regions, water assistance is necessary. The shallow root system doesn’t allow the plant to search for water in the deeper soil layers. Therefore, periodic irrigation is necessary, especially after long periods of drought.
Fertilization is also important as it promotes new vegetative growth. For good annual organic fertilization, you can use home compost or earthworm humus. Be cautious when amending the organic matter into the soil: the digging should be light to avoid damaging the roots. For base fertilization at planting time, you can opt for well-matured bovine manure.
The guava plant doesn’t reach large dimensions, which is why it doesn’t require excessive pruning. Pruning actions can be limited to removing the oldest or weather-damaged branches. At most, you can thin out branches that tend to intertwine, allowing more light and air into the canopy.
The best time to prune a guava plant is at the end of winter, before the spring vegetative growth resumes.
Guava cultivation in our latitudes doesn’t report a strong presence of pests, further demonstrating the hardiness of the Psidium guajava species. An insect commonly attacking orchards, including guava, is the scale insect. This can be effectively controlled by using soft potassium soap or mineral white oils.