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.

31 thoughts on “Growing a longan tree

  1. 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).

    • 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

    • 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

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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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?

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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.

    • 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.

  9. We have followed your suggestions to prune our longan three but we end up with no fruit at all for this year, also we have problems with all young leaves curly any idea why?? Thanks

  10. Hi Marianne – I’m really glad I found this article, so thank you for writing it! I live in Hermosa Beach California and I’ve been growing a single longan tree for seven years. Its never provided fruit. Its about 6 feet tall. Every year around this time of year it gets very small flowers and buds around the pinnacles, but they never turn to fruit. They just dry and fall off. After reading your article, I realize that it may be getting too much sun: its in direct sunlight through the morning for 6 hours a day or so, and the leaves do curl and burn a bit. Too much direct sun, I suspect. Does that also explain the fruit issue? I uploaded a couple photos so you can see what the current flowering situation is. I water twice a week for the most part. What do you think the problem is? Why am I seeing no fruit? Thanks for you advice!
    https://goo.gl/photos/iJit5BEm5HfB3rRp7
    https://goo.gl/photos/RuQWAjDi2LZYYkWLA

    • Hello Pete,

      the tree looks healthy enough. A couple of things come tom ind. Firstly if you get frosts the flowers will certainly be affected, and secondly poor pollination will result in the flower not progressing into fruits.Warm and rainy winters will see your tree put on a lot of vegetative growth at the expense of flowering and fruit production. Excessive rains during flowering cause flower drop and may reduce pollination and fruit set as well.

      Marianne

      • Hello Marianne,
        I am so glad to find this article, I am having exactly the same problem and the attached photo bear similarity to mine. Right at this moment, I can see lots of flowers, but in about a month’s time, the fruit will become dry and just fall off. This has been happening to me for the last 6 years. My tree is now 15 years old, having grown from a seed. I am very disappointed. I am in Sydney North Shore, winter is not too cold and summer is not too hot either.

        Regards,
        Sherman

  11. I have two long an trees in pots aged 2-3 years old. Does it grow well in a big pots since I don’t have space to plant my long an trees?

  12. I have a longan tree growing for 12 years or even more and not one fruit has been produced. Do you know why? Please reply.

  13. Hi Marianne,

    Love your article. So detailed! 🙂 However, I have two questions:

    1. I live in Warragul, West Gippsland. We are building a 9-foot tall greenhouse in our little backyard and wondering if we can grow a longan tree (pruned to be a low bush) here.

    2. I bought some longan from Springvale fresh market and the taste was so disappointing — simply tasteless. I wonder why?

    Thank you,
    Tira

  14. Hello Tira,
    you should be able to grow a Longan tree in your greenhouse. The problem will be the pollination. If you could move the tree outdoors during flowering, then nature could take its course. Otherwise you may need to earn how to hand pollinate.

    regards
    Marianne

  15. I have a cutting grown Kohala Longan (purchased at Exotica Nursery in Vista, CA), I believe it may be 3 years old, its 12″ tall. I am in Vista, California ( San Diego county ). I put it in the ground a few months ago and it even sent up a flower stalk. But I dug it up today and repotted it because it was looking terrible and losing leaves, the leaves were turning yellow and tips were brown. I thought I had burned the roots from too much fertilizer & peat moss that I mixed into the ground, but after seeing this article I realized it was sunburned and scorched by the wind. I planted it in full sun and on a windy hilltop and now it is summertime here, which all makes for an unhappy Longan. So I’ll put it in the shade to recooperate and then look for a shady and sheltered location for it’s permanent planting site.
    Thanks for the good article 🙂

  16. I love reading your article.

    I grow a longan tree for about 10 years but we don’t have that much fruits. What kind of fertilizer should I use for longan tree? I live in Orange County, California.

    Thanks,

    Kelly

  17. Hello Kelly,
    The longan tree requires equal ratio N:P:K fertilizer (i.e. 6:6:6 or 15:15:15, etc.).
    You may have fertilisers that are specific for fruiting trees; these are good too. Spread the fertilizer on the soil, away from the trunk, and a little beyond the drip-line. Needs to be done in Spring.

    regards
    Marianne

  18. Hello Marianne

    My big mature longan trees are currently full of flowers in Perth spring weather. However one of the most heavily flowering tree drops its leaves all the sudden over the last 2-3 weeks. The foliage is thinner by 30% by far. I am a bit concerned why the leaves turned yellow and drop.

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