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 Litchi chinensis subsp. var.  Lychee, Litchi, Leechee, Lichee, Lichi
Fruit on tree
Habit: tree
Height: to
Width: to
Height: cm to 40 ft
Width: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.
Lifespan: perennial
Origin: S China
Exposure: sun
Water: moderate
Features: fruit
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: to
Sunset Zones: 21-25, 27
Flower features:
Sapindaceae > Litchi chinensis var. ,

Growth Habit: The lychee tree is handsome, dense, round-topped and slow-growing with smooth, gray, brittle trunk and limbs. Under ideal conditions they may reach 40 feet high, but they are usually much smaller The tree in full fruit is a stunning sight.

Foliage: The leathery, pinnate leaves are divided into four to eight leaflets. They are reddish when young, becoming shiny and bright green. Lychee trees have full foliage and branch to the ground.

Flowers: The tiny petalless, yellowish-green flowers are borne in in terminal clusters to 30 inches. Lychees are eye-catching in spring when the huge sprays of flowers adorn the tree. Flowering precedes fruit maturity by approximately 140 days.

Fruits: The fruit is covered by a leathery rind or pedicarp which is pink to strawberry-red in color and rough in texture. A greenish-yellow variety is not grown in California at present. Fruit shape is oval, heart-shaped or nearly round, 1 to 1-1/2 inches in length. The edible portion or aril is white, translucent, firm and juicy. The flavor is sweet, fragrant and delicious. Inside the aril is a seed that varies considerably in size. The most desirable varieties contain atrophied seeds which are called "chicken tongue". They are very small, up to 1/2 inch in length. Larger seeds vary between 1/2 to 1 inch in length and are plumper than the chicken tongues. There is also a distinction between the lychee that leaks juice when the skin is broken and the "dry and clean" varieties which are more desirable. In some areas lychees tend to be alternate bearers. Fruit splitting is usually caused by fluctuating soil moisture levels.

Adaptation: Lychees require seasonal temperature variations for best flowering and fruiting, Warm, humid summers are best for flowering and fruit development, and a certain amount of winter chilling is necessary for flower bud development. Most varieties need between 100 and 200 hours of standard chilling (32° - 45° F). Cool winters with low rainfall are ideal for lychees. The trees become more hardy as they age. Mature trees have survived temperatures as low as 25° F when fully hardened off. Young trees may be killed by a light frost. Lychees can be successfully grown in frost-free coastal areas of California. There are trees in San Diego, California that are over 90 years old with no sign of decline in sight. It first fruited in Santa Barbara in 1914. They can be grown for a short period in a large container.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Litchi chinensis, Sonn. (Scytalia chinensis, Gaertn. Dimocarpus Lichi, Lour. Nephelium Litchi Camb.). Litchi or Leechee. Fig. 2184. Lfts. 2-4 pairs, elliptic-oblong to lanceolate, glabrous, lustrous above, glaucescent beneath. China. A.G. 12:269.—Not to be confounded with the longyen (see Euphoria) or the rambutan (see Nephelium).

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Litchi (Chinese name). Sapindaceae. One species in China, and cultivated elsewhere for its edible fruit. By some botanists included in Nephelium, but the definition is probably clearer if Litchi and Euphoria are kept distinct, both of which differ from Nephelium in having the seed-covering or arillus free from the seed rather than grown to it.

Culture of the Litchi Of the numerous fruits cultivated in south China, the litchi (Litchi chinensis) is one of the most highly esteemed, both by natives and Europeans. It is considered indigenous to the region, but has been in cultivation since a remote day, and lends itself to a wider variety of uses than many other tropical fruits. As a dried fruit it is well known, and is shipped to the United States and other occidental countries, while a considerable quantity is preserved in syrup and exported. Like most other fruits, however, it is considered most delicious when fresh.

Its cultivation is not limited to South China and the adjoining regions. In parts of India it is very well known, especially in the section north of Calcutta, while it is also grown to a limited extent in northeastern Australia, Formosa, southern Japan. Hawaii, the West Indies, Brazil, and other regions. It is said to have been introduced to Florida in 1886, but so far as known, has not yet fruited in that state, although in certain sections the climate and soil seem well adapted to its culture. It bloomed at Tampa in 1914 and 1915, but the trees were young and failed to carry any of their fruit to maturity. In California it has been grown successfully only in the most protected locations. The first fruits ripened in that state were produced at Santa Barbara in 1914. The litchi is quite susceptible to frost when young, but mature trees will withstand several degrees of freezing without permanent injury.

The litchi is a small to medium-sized tree, usually spreading in habit, with a dense head of bright green foliage. The leaves are compound, with two or three pairs of elliptical to lanceolate leaflets 2 to 3 inches in length. In India it is said to flower in February, in China during April, ripening its fruits about the first of May in the one case and during July in the other. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, but are produced in great abundance in terminal panicles.

The fruits, which are borne in loose clusters of two or three to twenty or even more, have been likened to large strawberries in appearance. In shape they are oval to ovate, in diameter 1½ inches in the better varieties, and in color deep rose when fully ripe, changing to dull brown as the fruit dries. The outer covering is hard and brittle, rough on the surface and divided into small scale-like areas, from which short conical protuberances usually arise. The seed is small and shrivelled in the grafted varieties, but in seedlings is as large as a good-sized castor bean; surrounding it, and separating from it readily, is the edible part, in reality the aril, which is translucent, whitish, juicy, and of firm texture. In flavor it is subacid, strongly suggestive of the Royal Ann cherry, especially when cooked. Firminger says it is "as delicious, perhaps, as that of any fruit in existence." The fruit is dried just as it comes from the tree, the aril shrinking away from the thin outer shell and remaining as a rather tough layer around the seed. In this form the litchi is occasionally seen on fruit- stands of American cities; the flavor bears little resemblance to that of the fresh fruit, having been likened to that of raisins.

In China the litchi is said to succeed best when planted on deep rich soil near the bank of an irrigating-canal. A soil rich in humus is by far the best, and there should be an abundance of water for irrigating purposes. From the fact that the tree does well in parts of northern India where the rainfall is not more than 40 inches per annum, it does not appear that a very humid atmosphere is necessary, provided there is ample water for irrigation. The trees should be set about 25 feet apart, and require very little pruning. It is sometimes necessary to thin the young fruits, leaving no more in a cluster than the tree can properly mature; this results in larger and finer fruit. Seedlings do not come into bearing until seven to nine years of age, but trees propagated by layering or grafting usually commence to bear at three to five years. Fertilizing is said to be extensively practised by the Chinese, an application of liquid manure being given once in every three or four months.

The gootee method of propagation, as it is known in the Orient, is the method most commonly employed by the Chinese, and is used in India as well. A healthy, well-matured branch is chosen, and a narrow ring of bark removed just below a leaf-bud or node. Around this is formed a ball of clay soil, with an outer covering of coconut fiber, tow, or moss, to hold it together. A little above the ball a good-sized flower-pot or earthen vessel is suspended, and a piece of soft rope is inserted through the small hole in the bottom. The rope should fit the hole snugly, and is knotted on the inside; it is then carried to the gootee, and wound around the ball several times. The water trickles from the pot, which should be filled every day or two, and after running slowly down the rope is distributed over the gootee, keeping it uniformly moist. The gootee is made in spring, from February to April, depending upon climatic conditions, and at least three or four months are required for roots to form. When the ball is filled with roots and they begin to show on the surface, the branch is severed from the tree and planted in its permanent location in the orchard.

In India, layering is often practised, the outer ends of branches being laid across flats of soil suspended upon a light framework of poles. After a notch is made in the under side of the branch, it is covered with soil for a distance of several inches, and kept moist by frequent waterings. Inarching is also practised, the method being the same as for the mango. Seedling litchis are generally used for stocks. The litchi can be grafted on its near relative the longan (Euphoria Longana), but it takes a longer time to effect a union, and it is believed that the tree grows more slowly than when on litchi stock.

The amount of variation among seedling litchis is considerable; hence the best varieties can be propagated only by some vegetative means, though seedlings are often grown. Grafting and layering have not only the advantage of reproducing a known variety, but trees so propagated come into bearing several years earlier than seedlings. Seeds should be sown as soon as possible after their removal from the fruit, as they do not long retain their vitality.

The Chinese cultivate several named varieties, and there are at least eight known in India, of which the best are said to be McLean's and Bedana ("seedless"), the latter having a very small stone which is usually sterile. Firminger mentions one variety in India which is green in color and of a distinct and very sweet flavor.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

More information about this species can be found on the genus page.


Location: Lychees need full sun, but young trees must be protected from heat, frost and high winds.

Soil: The tree needs a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. A soil pH between 5.5 and 7.5 is acceptable, but plants grow much better in soils with a pH at the low end of this range. Apply a thick layer of organic mulch to the soil after planting.

Irrigation: The lychee will not tolerate standing water, but requires very moist soil, so water the tree regularly when it is growing actively. The trees are very sensitive to damage from salts in the soil or in water. Leach the soil regularly in the Southwest.

Fertilization: Young trees tend to grow slowly, and many gardeners tend to give them too much fertilizer in an attempt to push them along. Young trees should receive only light applications of a complete fertilizer. Mature trees are heavier feeders and should be fertilized regularly from spring to late summer. Use fertilizers formulated for acid-loving plants. Chelated iron and soil sulfur may be necessary in areas with alkaline soils.

Pruning: Prune young trees to establish a strong, permanent structure for easy harvest. After that, removing crossing or damaged branches is all this is necessary, although he trees can be pruned more heavily to control size. V-shaped crotches should be avoided because of the wood's brittle nature.

Frost Protection: Lychees need warmth and a frost-free environment, but can often withstand light freezes with some kind of overhead protection. When they are young, this can be provided by building a frame around the plants and covering it with bedding, plastic sheeting, etc. when frost threatens. Electric light bulbs can also be used for added warmth.

Planting: When planting a Lychee, hole preparation is the same as for planting avocados. If planting marcots directly, most leaves should be removed. A round of hog wire covered with plastic gives excellent wind protection and also holds moisture in. In case of a freeze, one has only to throw a blanket over the top. The plastic should not touch the plant. This protection should be planned on and taken care of the day the plant goes into the ground.

Harvest: The Fruit must be allowed to ripen fully on the tree. Overly mature fruit darken in color and lose their luster. The flavor lacks the richness associated with a certain amount of acidity. To harvest, snip off entire fruit clusters, keeping a short piece of the stem attached. Lychees can be stored for up five weeks in the refrigerator. They can also be frozen or dried. Lychees will begin to deteriorate within three days at room temperature.


Air-layering is the most common method of propagating lychees because grafting is difficult and seedlings are not reliable producers of quality fruit. To grow a plant from seed it is important to remember that seeds remain viable for no more than a day or two under dry conditions. Young seedlings grow vigorously until they reach 7 or 8 inches in height. They will stay at this height for up to two years without further noticeable growth. Wedge and bud grafts are possible, but seldom used.

Pests and diseases

Mites, scale and aphids occasionally infest lychees. Birds are often attracted to lychees, eating both the immature and the ripe fruit. It may be necessary to cover the plants with a protective netting.


  • Amboina - Medium, bright red, borne in clusters of 6 to 20. Ripens April to May. Slow-growing tree. Bears regularly in warm climates.
  • Bengal - Introduced by USDA in 1929 from Calcutta. Fruits are similar to Brewster but more elongated with smaller seeds. Firm flesh. Dry and clean type. Large, very vigorous tree. Easy to grow.
  • Brewster - Large, conical or wedge-shaped red fruit with soft flesh. Slightly acid with fully formed large seeds. Commercial crop in Florida. Mid-season fruiting. Large, vigorous, upright tree.
  • Groff - Small, dull red, spiny, borne in clusters of 20 to 40. Small seed. Ripens August to September. Latest ripening variety. Upright tree.
  • Hak ip - Medium-red fruit sometimes with green tinges with soft skin. Flesh is crisp sweet and occasionally pinkish.
  • Kwa luk - Large, red fruit with green tip and typical green line. Exceptional flavor and fragrance. In the past was a fruit given to person of honor. Dry and clean type.
  • Mauritius (Kwai Mi) - Ripens early. Medium size, slightly oval, reddish-brown fruit. Firm, good-quality fruit. Tends to have chicken-tongue seeds.
  • No Mai Tsze - Large, red, dry and clean type. Leading variety in China. Small seeds. One of the best for drying.
  • Sweet Cliffsn -
  • Tai tsao - Fruit ripens early. Somewhat egg-shaped, bright red, rough skin. Crisp, sweet, firm flesh. Leaks juice when skin is broken.



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