Phil DudmanMust-have fruit trees for the subtropics

For a guy who is passionate about growing his own food, I have surprisingly few fruit trees. My vegetable and herb garden is extensive… and I couldn’t live without that, and I do have a highly productive lemon tree, along with an espaliered hedge of other citrus, an overgrown mango tree, a grape vine, a fig, a mulberry and a few paw paws. But the more I take the quality of the food I eat more seriously, the hungrier I get for more of my own fresh homegrown organic fruit.


I really should have planted more fruit trees when I first planned my garden… my wife will be the first to say ‘I told you so’… but I insisted on creating a garden that expressed a full range of my gardening interests. Out the back beside my vegie patch is the tropical style garden, inspired by my time working in north Queenland. In the front is a low maintenance dryland native garden full of grevillieas, callistemon and such, with a handful of African leptospermum and aloes for added interest. Linking the front and back is a native rainforest theme, something that says a bit about northern NSW where I live. All in all, I’ve been quite happy about the way it has worked… but after five years… well, my views have changed. To put it simply, I’m over it loves!


Change is a good thing right? Well yes… but it also means lots of work! I’ve got a lot of established bamboos, heliconias, palms, and native shrubs to remove to make way for my new dream garden… that’ll take some time. When I consider the number of unfinished house renovation jobs staring at me from every angle… I can’t imagine my announcement of ‘seeing the light of more fruit trees’ going down so well… even when I’m openly admitting that my wife was right in the first place. Oh well, I’ll have to deal with that when I come to it… but in the meantime, I better get on with some planning


Well to start with… I don’t want to go ripping everything up to create some kind of a traditional orchard with rows of fruit trees. Much of the original themes will remain I think. What I hope to do is simply craft a few sunny gaps where I can slot in a handful of selected fruit trees that will visually tie in with existing planting themes. I’ve been to gardens where this has been done with great success so I’m confident it will work here.

Jabotica fruit

In the tropical garden, I’m thinking the glossy foliage of lychee, avocado, jackfruit should tie in well. In the native garden, I’m hoping the colours of pomegranate and persimmon will fit the bill. At the side of the house, I’m looking to jaboticaba, feijoa and cherry guava to blend with the native rainforest … and since they share a fairly upright form, they shouldn’t take up too much space. If you’d like to offer me some of your ideas… please do comment below, they will be very welcome.


In the meantime, I’m fired up and ready to get on with my edible garden upgrade… once I’ve finished the painting in the lounge room, put up the shelf in the bathroom, finish the tiles in the loo… repaired the lock on the front door…

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7 thoughts on “Must-have fruit trees for the subtropics

  1. Hi Phil
    My white sapote (Casimiroa edulis) is a lovely evergreen, in a tough spot between two huge eucalypts, but growing slowly nonetheless. No fruit yet. An my native finger lime is a scrappy bush, but it fruits well in semi-shade. My jabotoica has been in a pot for years and is now in the new garden. It will be a while before it gets big enough to fruit but it’s a lovely specimen, a good choice for up your way I imagine! At my place, I have to be a bit careful because if it gets too much hot sun, it drops its leaves.
    I love it when fruit trees flower – it’s that promise of things to come!

  2. Thanks for your words of encouragement Helen. I do love Jaboticaba fruit – they are delicious – and can’t wait to get it in the ground. There will be some semi-established plantings around it so it should be well protected from heat extremes. I hadn’t considered fingerlime… but now I most definitely will… it’s going straight to the dryland native garden! Sounds like your eucalyts are winning the battle for supremacy! Can you find another spot for your white sapote? Phil

    • Another spot for my white sapote? Now with the new garden, I have one! These trees are surprisingly tough and it should transplant easily, but I’ve been impressed by its tenacity so far. If anything’s going to fruit in this spot, it’s this plant! So I’ll give it another two seasons and, if it hasn’t fruited by then, will transplant it!
      Another AMAZINGLY delicious fruit I have, on a narrow, small, upright tree with unusual deciduous branches, is the Chinese jujube, a wonderful fruit if you can find it (from Chris Perry at Perry’s fruit & nut nursery here in SA; he’s experimenting with different varieties but they’re notoriously difficult to propagate reliably). It’s the “apple” of China, with as many cultivars of it over there as we have cultivars of apple. Not sure how it would go up your way?

  3. Thanks Helen. Chinese jujube sounds like a good option for my garden – I think it will do well here. It’s now on my list! Have you had any issues with suckering?

    • No, issues whatsoever with that notorious suckering in my ‘Lang’ plants, because that’s the very thing Chris Perry has worked darn hard to eradicate. I’m not sure if it’s the cultivar or whether they’re on a particular rootstock, though, you’d have to check with him. Certainly his orchard shows no sign of suckering either.

  4. Gooday, I’m trying to grow a white sapote here in Adelaide. Its not bad having good growth but some leaves burning (brown color)on the tips and some yellowing behind it about 40 percent of the leaf surface. Average 4 leaves dropping a week,but getting new leaf growth and flowering also. I suspect tap water quality not good high in salt and calcium combined with fertliser use, getting a sodium build up. I’m using rainwater now backed off fertliser entirely. I think alot of the subtropicals inc mango have issues with salt tolerance. I’d be investing in a rainwater tank if growing these plants and bit of caution on the fertiliser/watering regime. This will not going to stop me growing them.

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