A picture of a Lychee

Lychee

Litchi chinensis

Also known as

Leechee, Litchi, Lychee Tree, Litchee

Twin lychees (Litchi chinensis) by B.navez (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Full Sun
Moderate care
Moderate watering
Tender

H2

RHS hardiness

1°C

Minimum temperature

Expected size

Height
Spread

15m

Max

7m

3m

Min

5m

10 years to reach maturity

Fruiting

  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

Litchis are harvested during summer with the season peaking during midsummer. Litchis are ripe when the fruit attains a weight of about 20 - 25g. It is picked by hand.

More images of Lychee

A bunch of red Litchi chinensis fruit hanging from a tree
A Litchi chinensis tree

Lychee Overview

Litchi chinensis is a slow-growing, evergreen tree species from the Sapindaceae family. It is commonly known by the name Lychee or Lychee Tree. They are tall, attractive specimens with dark glossy leaves. Flowers are cream-yellow and starry in appearance from multiple stamens. The Litchi 'Mauritius' is a popular cultivar and a must for every edible landscape. It forms a handsome, dark green, rounded canopy of evergreen leaves, as well as producing small brown-red fruits with a rough textured, bumpy skin and aromatic white flesh. This fruit, which is enjoyed by many, is easily peeled to reveal a sweet and juicy interior surrounding a large, glossy, brown seed. Litchi 'Mauritius' is the most dominant variety grown in South Africa. This plant is used mainly in culinary applications but also makes a spectacular ornamental specimen plant for large spaces.

Common problems with Lychee

Fruitflies are a pest which causes the fruit to crack after being stung or to be attacked by fungi, which will cause the fruit to rot on the tree or after harvesting. Another pest is the litchi moth which lays its eggs on the skin of the fruit during the development phase. Leaf spots are caused by Botryodiplodia theobromae and Colletotrichum gloeosporioides and lichens and algae frequently grow on the trunks and branches.

How to propagate Lychee

Seed

Seed does not store well. Sow as soon as possible and take note that seedling trees may take 10 or more years to bear fruit!

Layering

Air-layering is the preferred way of propagation and applied during Spring-time. Rooted cuttings cut off in mid to late Summer. Optimum root growth of the air-layer is obtained in the summer months.

Special features of Lychee

Attracts useful insects

Attracts bees while in flower.

Pot plant

Trees grow very well in containers as long as you provide an adequate size pot for root development. Select a pot 55cm in diameter and 50cm inches in height, with adequate drain holes.

Attracts birds

The delicious fruit also attracts monkeys and fruit-loving bats.

Other uses of Lychee

Fruit, food, culinary

Edible

The fruits are eaten raw, processed into fruit juice & may be added to fruit salads. They are also canned, dried whole (litchi nuts), added to various dishes or used to make a scented liqueur.

ZA crops pollinated by bees

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