It is easy to grow guava trees in Hawaii, our climate is perfect for these evergreen fruit trees. They are best to grow from cuttings or by air layering, as they are a very slow-growing tree and growing from seed will take a long time.
Guava trees are easy to grow on your homestead and they are pretty trees, but they do require some pruning. If you’re patient, you’ll be rewarded with plenty of fruit, year after year. In this post, I’ll share everything you need to start growing a healthy guava tree.
But, heads up – the variety of tree known as the strawberry guava is actually considered an invasive species in Hawai’i (that’s how easy it is to grow guavas in Hawaii). So, you should take care to keep your guava trees under control.
The guava trees you will find growing in Hawaii probably came from Central or South America. They are a pretty tree with shiny, evergreen leaves with a tree trunk that would look nice in your garden or lining your property.
The common yellow guava tends to have an umbrella like shape to it. It was at one time a very popular commercial fruit here in Hawaii, only to have been passed on by cheaper imports.
The invasive “Strawberry guava” is similar to the common yellow guava tree, but the fruit is pink in color, and it tends to grow more upright, closer together. I prefer it’s tart taste over the common guava fruit.
Unfortunately, these trees are taking over in some areas of Hawaii and even taking territory of native plants.
What to do about it:
Strawberry Guavas are such a problem in Hawaii because they emit a chemical in the soil that prevents other plants from growing around it. It’s a pretty good offensive approach for this foreign plant, but terrible for native plants.
If it was just one or two trees, it wouldn’t be a problem. But wild animals (like wild pigs) that love to eat the fallen fruits then go and spread it to other areas in their droppings, hence, planting new strawberry guava trees all over.
They, in turn, continue the destruction process by emitting this chemical in the soil around them, preventing other plantlife from growing.
See the problem?
Thankfully, there is something you can do about it!
- Please don’t plant strawberry guava trees. Plant common yellow guava trees, instead.
- If you already have a strawberry guava tree on your property, be responsible. And, in this case, being responsible is pretty delicious: eat the fruit before it falls to the ground and wild animals get to it.
That’s right, harvesting the fruits and making sure they don’t get eaten up by animals and scattered in other locations is the best way to prevent the spread of the invasive, dominant strawberry guava tree.
You can grow a guava tree from seed, but you should be patient because it can take over 5 years before you get a mature tree.
If you want to get a headstart, grow a guava from a seedling or a cutting (more on that below).
How to Grow a Guava Tree From Seed
I don’t actually recommend growing guavas from seed, because they are such a slow-growing tree and it takes months for them to even germinate!
They aren’t true to seed, either, so you might get a parent tree that’s different from your original guava fruit.
But if you’re dead-set on growing guavas from seed, here’s how:
- Get your guava seeds.
Guava fruits are full of seeds, you’ll have no problem finding seeds from a fresh guava fruit; just pick one up from a farmer’s market and cut it in half, then spoon out big chunks of the flesh, with the seeds included, of course.
- The seeds have a strong covering, which you can remove by submerging in water for two weeks (yes, that’s right – 14 days). You can do this by placing the seeds, still in the guava flesh, in shallow water, in a small bowl and leave at room temperature for two weeks.
Or you can boil the seeds for a few minutes (3 minutes or less should do the trick – but don’t over-boil the seeds.
- You’ll plant the seeds still in the fruit flesh, don’t worry about separating it, especially if you’ve boiled the seeds for a few minutes and then place directly in soil.
- Remember these guys are ‘slow-growing’, so germination can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks after planting in soil. That’s why some folks use ‘seed starter mix’ to help their seeds in any way possible.
I haven’t found that seed starter works so much better than ‘black gold’ vermicompost, but it doesn’t hurt, either.
- Plant your seeds in a small pot where it can get plenty of sunlight.
Start with a small pot, and every year re-pot into a larger container. Don’t start with a large container, because you want to give the seedling tree new, fresh compost each time your re-pot it.
- You will need to wait 5 or more years to see your guava tree grow to maturity, but you might get lucky and have a few fruits as soon as 4 years.
How to Grow a Guava Tree From A Cutting
Growing guava from a cutting is pretty direct, take a cutting, encourage it with some rooting hormone and plant it.
Do this when the weather is around 28-30 C degrees every day, and with enough humidity (or rain) on a regular basis.
If you’re in East Hawaii, this is just about anytime of year, but in other locations you may need to wait till your rainy season begins.
Step-by-step how to grow a guava tree from a cutting:
- Take a stem of the tree which is approximately 6 months to 1 year old and 6-18 inches long that has 2-3 healthy leaves on it and cut it from the tree at an angle.
- Dip the cut portion in rooting hormone and plant in moist, warm soil (ideally a greenhouse, if you have one).
- Wait 6-8 weeks for roots to form, lightly watering or spraying the soil every day during those weeks. Soil should be continually moist, but not soggy.
- Allow your plant to continue growing in the same pot for another 6 months or so before transplanting in another container (or taking outdoors, directly).
Planting from a cutting might take some time, but it will give you a head-start later on.
When it comes to when you can expect to get fruits from your new guava tree you can expect to see guava fruits in 2-3 years from a tree grown from a cutting, compared to 5 or more, from a tree planted from a seed.
Other ways to Grow a Guava Tree
Although it’s a slow growing tree, there are other ways to propagate a new guava tree, like growing from root shoots, or by air layering
Growing from Roots
If you find a guava tree growing in shallow soil or a large container, you may see some exposed roots. Guavas are a tree that you can grow from root shoots, which is pretty easy to do.
- Simply find a strong, healthy root tip (make sure it’s the tip, not a middle chunk of the tree’s roots), and cut off the tip at a length of approximately 3 inches.
- Cover the root with about and inch or so of very rich soil, and keep it very moist.
It’s important you don’t ‘plant’ the root deeply in the soil, because it needs to get lots of air, in order to send out new shoots.
- Keep the soil very moist, by spraying it regularly over the next weeks.
- After 2-3 weeks, look for new shoots or green growth coming off of the little root tip – that’s your new guava tree starting to grow.
- If you see several shoots growing off a root, they can each be individual trees, so separate them so they can thrive and not compete for nutrients by a shared root.
Growing From Air Layering
Air layering is another way to start a new guava tree that doesn’t take as long as growing from seed.
With air layering, you remove a strip of bark about an inch long and completely around a branch, essentially exposing the inner part of a healthy branch. Make sure to use a new branch, one that is about a year old with active growth of leaves or nodes on it.
Then, wrap up the cut with damp sphagnum moss and give it some rooting hormone, if you want. Then, cover it all up in plastic (regular kitchen plastic wrap works just fine) and seal it with aluminum foil.
Keep the moss inside moist – spray it every few days if you need to, but don’t make it soaked – and wait about a month to see new roots forming.
When the roots have started to poke the plastic (usually around 2-3 months) you can fully separate the branch from the parent guava tree and plant on its own in rich, moist soil. You’ve got a new guava seedling!
You can expect to see fruits in 3 years or so, instead of 5-8, as with a guava tree grown from seed.
Caring For Your Guava Tree
Guava trees do require some regular care if you want to get plenty of fruit. You should give them lots of fertilizer and prune them on a regular basis.
Guava trees can tolerate full sun in places like Hawaii or Florida, that have high humidity, but give them some shade if you’re in more dry climates, like Texas.
I recommend giving plenty of compost and fertilizer to young guava trees. For the first two years, I suggest fertilizing the tree every 3-4 months.
These trees prefer soil with high nitrogen and magnesium content, so look for that if you are buying fertilizer or just add some epsom salts to your mix of soil and compost, if you’re making your own.
Guava trees want well-draining soil, if you find your soil has a high clay content, add some sand (or loamy soil) to help balance it out.
The roots of a growing guava tree will spread out if they can’t go down deeply (that’s how folks can get root tips for propagating new growth, after all).
Remember, if you are growing your young guava tree in a container, re-pot it every 9 months or a year and add plenty of fertilizer or compost each time you move it.
With guava trees, think moist, not overly wet. You can probably spray or mist the soil of seedlings in containers, and water every few days with trees grown outdoors.
It’s recommended to prune your guava tree at least once a year, after it finishes fruiting. This is to help control its size (they can grow 20 feet tall, if you let them, but 8-12 feet in height is ideal for harvesting guavas by hand), and to encourage fruits.
These trees will naturally grow plenty of fruits, but it’s a good idea to limit 4 fruits to a branch, so that they can get enough water and be sweet and full and delicious. If you allow any number of fruits to grow on a given branch, you’ll find the fruits smaller and not as sweet, come harvest time.
When the tree starts budding, check the branches and trim off some buds from branches that seem overloaded. You’ll get fewer, but better fruits this way.
Guavas are self-pollinating, so you only require one tree to get fruit. However, I’ve found that growing two or three trees near one another increases the growth of all trees, so they do better with cross-pollination.
Because you’re probably going to prune your guava trees to keep their size limited you can plant them closer together. 12 – 15 feet is generally enough space between two guava trees, or between a tree and a shed or your own front porch.
How To Harvest Guavas
You need to harvest guava fruits by hand. That’s precisely why it’s a good idea to prune your tree to maintain its size to be a reasonable height.
You’ll know your common guavas are ready to harvest when the skins turn from hard and green to yellow and slightly firm, but not rock hard anymore. You don’t need to wait until they are soft to harvest them, you can bring them inside and allow them to finish ripening/softening in your pantry.
Strawberry guavas turn entirely red, or a deep pink color when they are ready to harvest.
When is guava season in Hawaii?
There are two harvest seasons for common yellow guava in Hawaii, the first from January through to early April and another from August all the way until around December.