Marianne CannonGrowing a longan tree

A longan or dragon eye tree is perfect if you like lychees and rambutans but your climate isn’t quite tropical enough, as they will tolerate much cooler temperatures. Longan trees are Dimocarpus longan, an attractive small to medium sized tree with lots of lovely reddish new growth through spring and summer and a heavy canopy of shiny, green leaves, although you may want to keep them smaller or thin the canopy to make harvesting the fruit easier.

Longan tree. Photo by Pouletic

Longan tree. Photo by Pouletic

 

Slow growing to only about 6-7 metres, they will fit in many smaller gardens too, and will grow from tropical to subtropical zones, or also in less humid climates like California, or South and Western Australia, if they have plenty of protection from hot, dry winds in summer, which will probably cause the fruit to drop. Their preferred climate is a warm, humid summer followed by a cooler, dry winter. Some evidence suggests that areas with a number of days with minimum temperatures under 12 degrees C (54F) will produce better longan crops.

If you’re in a cooler district, create a warm microclimate for them in winter as cold, windy and rainy weather can interfere with pollination. As longans grow naturally as understory trees in the elevated rainforests of southern Asia, you will also need to protect your tree from direct sun, especially in its early years by growing it under shadecloth or in the dappled shade of another tree’s canopy. If you grow it unprotected, the leaves will inevitably burn, even in cooler climates. Longan trees are slightly more tolerant of frost than lychee.

Dimocarpus longan flowers Photo Duy Thuong Ngo

Dimocarpus longan flowers Photo Duy Thuong Ngo

 

Soil doesn’t need to be particularly rich but should be slightly acidic (pH of 5.5-6) and also well-drained, as longan trees will not tolerate ‘wet feet’ at all. A light, sandy loam is ideal. Although you could start them off in a large pot, they will eventually need to be grown in the ground to produce any quantity of fruit.

Dimocarpus longan tree fruit Photo Duy Thuong Ngo

Dimocarpus longan tree fruit Photo Duy Thuong Ngo

 

Flowers are scented, creamy-yellow and held in panicles and although there are both male and female flowers, the tree is self-fertile. Longan fruit appears in drooping clusters, ripening in mid to late summer. Each fruit is small and round, with a dull-yellow, thin outer ‘shell’ covering a white, translucent membrane (which is the fruit) and shiny black seed inside. Cut off the entire cluster but make sure you don’t harvest under-ripe fruit as it will not ripen after picking.

Frutos_Exóticos-LONGANLongans are not quite as juicy as a lychee and they’re often described as slightly ‘musky’ by comparison but they are still tasty and good in cooking.

Growing them in Australia is easy along most of the east coast, with the added bonus that they are not attacked by fruit fly. There are people growing longans successfully in Perth and Victoria by creating the right microclimate. They also grow well in northern New Zealand.

In the USA they can be grown throughout the Zones 8-10 and also thrive in many parts of southern California.

Longan trees can be grown from fresh seed but, as seeds are very short lived, they are usually reproduced by cuttings or aerial layering (marcottage). New trees can take several years to become fruit-bearing.

Varieties include:

– Kohala from Hawaii which is a more vigorous grower, and heavy fruiting, with soft and juicy fruit ripening early in the season. The tree often benefits from removing up to half of the flowers and fruit so that it produces larger, better quality fruit.

– Biew Kiew from Thailand which produce firmer, crispier fruit later in the season.

– Haew has larger firm-fleshed fruit with a thicker skin. It tends to crop better in alternate years.

– Chompoo, slow growing, with crisp fruit with a pinkish tinge.

This video from Daley’s Fruit in northern NSW shows why pruning your longan tree is a good idea:

Where to buy:

Australia – Daleys Fruit Nursery (NSW)

USA – California – California Tropical Fruit Trees; Champa Nursery; Ong Nursery

– Florida – Lychees Online

New Zealand – Subtropica, Waipu, Northland

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Marianne Cannon

About Marianne Cannon

Marianne Cannon has been broadcasting as Real World Gardener on radio 2RRR 88.5fm in Sydney, since September 2009, and the program is now syndicated to radio stations around Australia. It's about growing your own, the abc of plants, and how to create sustainable gardens to fit into today's environment. Not just a show about plants; it has a strong green and ecological bent, with co-presenters addressing issues such as native animals and plants, water conservation, composting, reducing waste, protecting native species and more.

19 thoughts on “Growing a longan tree

  1. helen on said:

    I have to admit I’ve pushed the envelope a bit and bought a lychee, which as you say is touchier than a longan. But hey, on rare occasions we beat the odds, eh? I’ve got it in a large pot so I could move it if necessary but it survived the summer just fine in its sunny but very sheltered position. Then last week a rare fruit expert suggested that even if it did fruit here, it would be ripening in winter, and rot. Sigh. When do longans ripen, do you know, Marianne? (Adelaide Hills is a bit colder than Melbourne).

  2. Never heard of these Longan trees before, Marianne. Thank you. If they are fruit fly resistant, I’ll have me one, but our clay soil may be too heavy for them.

    • Hello Helen,
      In temperate districts, longans, lychees, mangoes fruit in February- March. Further south, these trees would more likely fruit in May June.
      Yes, Adelaide Hills does get cold in winter. I would move your lychee tree undercover but still in warm and sunny position. Even indoors.
      Hope you’ve got a spot like that!

      Good luck.
      Marianne

    • Hello Julie,

      As long as the soil is well drained, I think it should be a goer. Perhaps grow it in a pot for a couple of years first before transplanting, that way, you can prepare the ground with plenty of the good stuff before it gets moved.
      That’s what I’ll be doing with my tree which has re-sprouted, after surviving a bout with a non watering house sitter.

      Marianne

  3. I have four Kohala variety but the Flying Foxes get the fruit way before it becomes ripe.

    • Hello Ian,

      You could net your trees with fine netting so the flying foxes don’t get caught up in it. That is, the netting needs to pass the finger test. (www.wildlifefriendlynetting.com)
      Green harvest (www.greenharvest.com.au) sell that type of netting online.
      I saw some clever netting of fruit trees only the other day, using 3 standard pieces of conduit (2.4 metres)and anchored into the ground with 6 star pickets. Then the netting draped over the top. The overall diameter was 2 metres.
      Might be worth a try.

      Marianne

  4. faimi rahman on said:

    Helllo,,,
    I am from india, is longan tree can be cultivated in our country,,,Is the weather is suitable for its growth???

    • Hi Raimi – India has many different climate zones so I need to know your nearest city to be able to answer that for you.

      • Brian on said:

        I live in Toronto, do they grow here? It’s probably too cold, but I don’t know for sure if it’s too cold.

  5. Raymond on said:

    Can I grow longan tree in Melbourne type of weather?Thanks

  6. Hello Raymond,

    Yes, Longan trees can tolerate some frost, but in summer then need dappled shade because they natuarally grow as understorey trees. Perhaps start them off in a pot to work out where they’ll grow best in your garden?
    Either than or make a 3-sided shade-cloth tent for your tree for the first few years to protect it.

    Regards
    Marianne

  7. I brought Longan seeds from Florida last year back to Costa Rica and planted them and now have about 30 longan seedlings thriving in the greenhouse. We are at about 800 meters elevation up in the mountains. My question is do Longans need a certain amount of days with lower temperatures to fruit? Being at a higher elevation we do get night time temps into the low 60s F but not lower than that. Thanks Trey

  8. John L on said:

    Hi I have a longan tree here in northern ca for a few years already and every year it has many flowers but no fruit. Any idea of what’s wrong?

  9. Hello John,

    I’m not sure about the weather in California when the flowers are on the tree, but any rain can cause flower drop and will affect fruit set.
    Longans produce more reliably where temperatures are in the range 59°F; 15°C or less, and a dry period during autumn and winter.. Warm temperatures (70-85°F; 21-29°C) during spring, followed by high summer temperatures (80-95°F; 27-35°C) and plenty of soil moisture are best for fruit development.
    Trees grown from seed (seedling) will take 6 years to produce fruit, and you will not have fruit set every year after that.
    Grafted trees take a lot less time to fruit set.

    Hope that helps
    regards
    Marianne

  10. Hi Marianne, I just bought a grafted longan tree 4 months ago . It is just 2 feet tall but already flowering and can notice small fruits developing. Do I have to trim it or just leave it to fruit. Please advise. Thanks

    Anne

    • Hello Anne,

      It is perfectly fine to leave the fruit on. The tree will shed any excess fruit it can’t support.

  11. Rex on said:

    I live in Bali Indonesia. Any advice why my dragon eyes fruit tree do not producing any flowers yet? A year ago they were full of fruits but this year at the same month they are not. All the leaves have curled up and the tree looks like it’s in stress. These trees are 200 meter away from the beach. It was well last year so I’m curious that they are not producing anything this year.

  12. Huong M Pham on said:

    Hi can i grow longan tree in Massachusett ?Thank

    • Hi Huong – Although a longan tree is more cold tolerant than a lychee, unfortunately I think that the cold snowy winters of MA would be much too cold for a longan tree, unless you had somewhere warm to keep it during the winter. If you could grow it in a pot and bring it inside during the colder months it’s possible, although it may not fruit.

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