5 Fastest Growing Fruit Trees for the Tropics


Planting a fruit tree can provide abundance for decades.  But how soon will that abundance actually begin?  Some fruit trees take decades to start fruiting.  Plant a mangosteen tree and you may be a grandpa before you get any fruit from it.

Lucky for us though, there are a handful of fruit trees in the tropics that can provide fruit fast!!  Sometimes in less than a year!

When you are just starting to build out your food forest, it can be motivating to have trees produce fruit fast.  I just had a coconut tree I planted 18 years ago produce nuts for the first time, but I’ve been getting papayas and bananas since year one.


Five of the fastest growing fruit trees that you can plant in the tropics include the following: 

  • Papaya
  • Bananas
  • Fig
  • Mulberry
  • Guava

Related: Planting trees is only as easy as the tools that you have to work with. My favorite tool, especially in rocky soil is the digging bar, or in Hawai’i we call it an o’o bar. Gets through rocky ground like no other tool can. Guarantee you will love it too!

Bon Riverworks Digging BarOpens in a new tab.


Papaya

Papayas are probably the easiest fruits to grow. They are also sweet with loads of nutritional benefits. Papayas set fruit quickly and continue fruiting throughout the year.

Beyond the abundance of fruits that they produce, papayas are a great tree to sprinkle into the edge of any food forest or as an overstory tree to an annual veggie garden.

Unlike most of the other fruit trees, papayas grow easily from seeds. In fact, growing your papayas from seeds is the most successful way to establish these beneficial fruits, a far cry from the other fruit trees that only do well from grafted cultivars.

Papayas are cheap and easy to grow. You can simply purchase your papaya seeds from the store or scoop out seeds from one you eat to begin growing your own papaya trees.

Papayas are a fast-maturing fruit tree. If well taken care of, they will begin flowering within four months after you plant them. They will begin fruiting within 7 to 11 months from the planting date, making them one of the fastest growing fruit trees for the tropics.

The amount and size of fruit that papaya produces will vary depending on a number of factors including the type of cultivar, weather conditions, climate and plant husbandry but over 12-month duration, you can expect anywhere between 60 to 80 lbs of fruit; enough fruit to last you a lifetime!

Banana

The near-ubiquitous banana also happens to be one of the fastest growing fruit trees. Initially, they will need quite some work.

Bananas are grown from a large rhizome or stem and are very hungry when young, needing lots of fertilizers and mulch. They grow vigorously, so be sure to meet their nutrient and moisture requirements.

With bananas, however, your efforts will be rewarded pretty quickly as bananas fruit very fast. They take about 10 and 15 months after planting to begin producing fruits. The exact duration before fruiting hinges on a number of factors including the environmental conditions, weather, planting conditions and husbandry.

Some banana plantings may never fruit but if you procure good quality planting material and do everything right, you should expect the first fruit in as little as 10 months.

Related: 12 Best (Uncommon) Fruit Trees To Grow In The TropicsOpens in a new tab.

Mulberry

Many of us fondly remember playing on mulberry trees in our childhood. Growing mulberry trees often means 100 years of shade, providing shelter and fruits that will span generations. There is no better symbolic way of planting your roots in a community than by planting mulberry tree.

The white mulberry trees have the longest lifespans and will live for over a century. The red mulberry trees have a lifespan spanning over 75 years. However, most of the mulberry trees that you will encounter, the ones most commonly used in landscaping, have a lifespan of between 25 to 50 years.

In spite of their extended lifespan, mulberry trees are actually a fast-growing fruit tree suited for tropical conditions. These trees will begin to fruit from as early as two or three years after planting. They start by producing small and unimpressive blooms that quickly bloom into an abundance of berries that are loved by both humans and birds.

The fruits look like slender blackberries. The mulberry fruits ripen in phases and as they mature, they begin dropping from the trees.

Fig

Fig trees fall in the same fruit family as mulberry and therefore have a very long lifespan. These trees have been known to grow for up to 200 years, covering multiple generations.

Fig trees are not just beneficial for their shade. They produce delicious fruits and growing your own fig trees frees you from spending money buying expensive packed fig fruits from the supermarket. You will not only save money but can control the quality and have your own supply of fresh fig fruits.

The best varieties of Fig to grow in the tropics include Brown turkey, Kadota and Excel.  Sticking with these varieties will help ensure success.

Given their very long lifespan, growers and homesteaders would automatically assume that these trees take too long to begin their fruitification. This is actually not the case. 

Depending on the variety and other production, environmental and husbandry factors, fig trees will begin fruiting in as little as 2 to 3 years. The fruiting cycle lasts from between 120 to 150 days. Many of the fig tree varieties will even give you a crop twice a year!

Guava

Guava fruits can be round or pear-shaped and grow from a small tree or evergreen shrub that does very well in tropical and subtropical climes. Guava trees are extremely sensitive to frost, particularly at a young age. 

The fruits they produce are small with sizes ranging from 2-3 inches long. The colors are also varied and can be anything from white to yellow, red or coral.

When ripe, guavas have a tarty and sweet taste but tend to be filled with very hard seeds, but lucky for us you can eat those too.

You can easily grow guava trees in your backyard or as potted plants in containers.  Care must be taken however because they can be invasive.

Guavas are fast-growing and fast-maturing fruit trees and will begin producing fruits in just a few years.

When planted from the seeds, the guavas will germinate within two weeks although some may take up to 8 weeks to germinate. You can also grow guavas from the root cuttings. The seedlings are fast growing and will set out in the orchard within one or two years.

The trees will grow quickly after you transplant them and can start bearing fruits within two to four years after transplanting.

The guava trees have good a staying power and long lifespan once fully established. Some have been known to live for up to 40 years although the vigor begins to decline markedly after 15 years. However, you can still rejuvenate old guava trees and get them to fruit through some aggressive pruning.

After the flowering and pollination, the guava trees can begin producing ready-to-harvest fruits in 20-28 weeks.

Related: 12 Herbs And Spices To Grow In The TropicsOpens in a new tab.

BONUS: Moringa

Moringa trees are widely grown in tropical and subtropical regions such as Africa, Latin America and Asia. The tree has its provenance in northern India.

You can easily grow them from either cuttings or seeds. They are fast-growing trees and will bloom in as little as 8 months after planting, even in less optimal planting conditions.

If you grow your moringa trees from cuttings, you can harvest in as little is 6 to 8 months after the planting. They will not produce fruits in the first year and you will generally get a lower yield during the first few years. By the second year, the moringa tree will produce almost 300 pods. By the third year, they will be averaging 400 to 500 pods.

The seed pods are not the only part of the Moringa tree that is edible though.  The leaves of a moringa tree are highly nutritious and can begin to be harvested in as little as a month, making it a great tree to plant when you need food fast!

Sean Jennings

Sean has been living simply Off-Grid in Hawai'i for over 18 years. He lives debt free on Hawai'i Island with his family and over 40 chickens. When he's not tinkering around the homestead, he's off exploring the shorelines for fish & surf.

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