The lychee, a subtropical fruit tree native to southern China, is grown in Hawaii and in very limited parts of Florida and California. The tree blooms and bears fruit in clusters. Flowering occurs most commonly in February or March, with the fruit setting in clusters of up to 50. Commonly, the fruit is around an inch in diameter and can be pink or red in color. The maturity level of the tree necessary for bearing fruit varies with the propagation method.
Starting lychee trees from seed is one of two methods used for propagation. The tree does grow readily from seed, but matures slowly. Trees need to mature about 10 years from seed planting before harvestable fruit production occurs. The tree produced by the seed may not be identical to the tree that served as a source for the seed. Growers commonly use seed-grown lychee trees for rootstock in grafting programs.
The air layering process involves cutting the bark around a selected branch, and then packing mud, straw or peat moss around this wound. Keep the mixture wet, and the plant develops new roots into this moist soil mixture. Cut the branch from the tree after sufficient roots develop, and transplant it to grow a new tree. Lychee trees started in this manner bear fruit in five years or less.
Lychee trees require warm weather for survival. Young trees die if exposed to temperatures at or just below freezing, while mature trees could succumb to harder freezes of about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Lychee trees require sunlight on all sides, and are commonly spaced about 40 feet apart in commercial growing operations.
The trees produce three types of blooms during the flowering season. Hermaphrodite flowers, with both male and female flower portions, join male flowers that produce pollen and female flowers that form the fruit. The hermaphrodite flowers can act as either a male or a female flower. Bees and wasps transport the pollen from flower to flower.