Lychee - Litchi chinensis Sonn.

'Sweethart' lychee Credit: Bill Mee & Krystal Folino - Lychees Online

Lychee Growing in the Home Landscape from the University of Florida  pdf 13 pages

Litchi chinensis: Lychee from the University of Florida pdf

Lychee from Julia Morton's book Fruits of Warm Climates

Lychee Information from the Cafornia Rare Fruit Growers

Lychee from the Farmer's Bookshelf, University of Hawaii, CTAHR

Lychee, Litchi chinensis from the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Virtual Herbarium

Pruning a Lychee Tree Video by Dr. Jonathan Crane of UF/TREC ext. link

Lychee from Florida from the University of Florida pdf







Fig. 1


Other Information


Common names: widely known as litchi and regionally as lichi, lichee, laichi, leechee or lychee; Spanish and Portuguese-speaking people call the fruit lechia; the French, litchi, or, in French-speaking Haiti, quenepe chinois, distinguishing it from the quenepe, genip or mamoncillo of the West Indies, Melicoccus bijugatus, q.v. The German word is litschi. 5

Synonyms: Dimocarpus lichi Lour., Nephelium chinense (Sonn.) Druce., Nephelium litchi Camb., Scytalia chinensis (Sonn.) Gaertn.

Family: Sapindaceae
Origin: Southern China and southeastern Asia
USDA hardiness zones: 10a-11
Height: 20-30'
Spread: 20-30'
Plant habit: beautiful, dense, rounded, symmetrical canopy extending nearly to the ground
Growth rate: slow/moderate
Longevity: 40-100 years
Trunk/bark/branches: droop as the tree grows; typically multi-trunked; no thorns
Leaf: evergreen; compound with 2-8 leaflets; reddish when young, bright green as they mature
Flower: small, yellow, and are borne on a large thyrse
Fruit: drupe; loose clusters 3-50 fruits; round/oval; pulp whitish, translucent; glossy brown seed: freezes well
Season: mid-May to early July in Florida, depending upon variety
USDA Nutrient Content pdf
Light requirement: sun
Soil tolerances: clay; loam; sand; slightly alkaline; acidic; occasionally wet; well-drained
PH preference: 5.5.-7.0
Drought tolerance: moderate
Cold tolerance: 24-28F
Flood tolerance: occasionally wet
Salt tolerance: none
Plant spacing: 35'
Salt tolerance: poor
Plant spacing: 25-30'
Roots: surface roots are usually not a problem
Invasive potential: considered not a problem species and may be used in Florida
Pest/Disease resistance: susceptible to scales and mushroom root rot can be a problem on soils where oaks were grown
Known hazards: none

Origin: The lychee (Litchi chinensis) is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the soapberry family, Sapindaceae. It is a tropical and subtropical fruit tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China, and now cultivated in many parts of the world. China is the main producer of lychees, followed by India, with production occurring among other countries in Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and South Africa. 5

Lychee, its Origin, Distribution and Production Around the World from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia


Upper and lower surfaces of the compound lychee leaf. Credit: Ian Maguire IFAS/TREC Leaves Credit: W. Mark and J. Reimer, Leaves Credit: W. Mark and J. Reimer,

Fig. 2

Upper and lower surfaces of the compound lychee leaf.

Fig. 3 Fig. 4



Male flower Credit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC Flower Credit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC Inflorescense Credit: G.M. Garg, Lychee flowers are pollinated by bees and wind. Credit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC

Fig. 5

Male flower

Fig. 6

Female flower

Fig. 7

Lychee inflorescence in full bloom.

Fig. 8

Lychee flowers are pollinated by bees and wind



Litchi chinensis Credit: Max Antheunisse, Madagascar, Litchi chinensis Credit: Max Antheunisse, Madagascar, Lychee fruit, peeled and seed Credit: ©Oscar Jaitt,

Fig. 9

Fig. 10 Fig. 11
Fruits, some opened to reveal the white flesh and brown seed Credit: Luc Viatour, Leaves and unripe fruits Credit: Thaumaturgist, Fruiting branches Credit: Thaumaturgist,
Fig. 12

Fig. 13

Leaves and unripe fruits

Fig. 14

Fruiting branches

Litchi , Litchi chinensis Sonn, Family: Spindaceae Credit: Parshotam Lal Tandon, Lychees for sale at a Malaysian fruit stallCredit: Tu7uh, Litchi chinensis Sonn. Credit: Max Antheunisse, Madagascar,
Fig. 15

Fig. 16

Lychees for sale at a Malaysian fruit stall

Fig. 17



Leaf: leaves that bear two to eight pairs of leaflets. Lychee leaves are reddish upon initial flush, but become shiny and green as they mature.

Flowers: are small, greenish, and are borne on a large thyrse (a many-flowered inflorescence), which emerges anytime from late December to April. Consequently, the peak harvest for lychee fruit is from mid-May through early July. 2

Pollination: There are 3 types of flowers appearing in irregular sequence or, at times, simultaneously, in the lychee inflorescence:

a) male; b) hermaphrodite, fruiting as female (about 30% of the total); c) hermaphrodite fruiting as male. The latter tend to possess the most viable pollen. Many of the flowers have defective pollen and this fact probably is the main cause of the abortive seeds and also the common problem of shedding of young fruits. The flowers require transfer of pollen by insects. 5

Fruit: The fruit is a drupe and fruit are borne in loose clusters numbering from 3 to 50 fruits and are round to oval and 1.0 to 1.5 inches

(25 to 38 mm) in diameter (Figure 5). The skin (pericarp) ranges from yellow to pinkish or red and is leathery, with small, short, conical or rounded protuberances. The edible portion of the fruit (pulp) is called an aril that is succulent, whitish, translucent, with excellent subacid flavor. Fruits contain one shiny, dark brown seed, usually relatively large, but it may be small and shriveled (called chicken tongues) in some varieties. Fruit must be ripened on the tree for best flavor. 2

Because of the firmness of the shell of the dried fruits, they came to be nicknamed "lychee, or litchi, nuts" by the uninitiated and this erroneous name has led to much misunderstanding of the nature of this highly desirable fruit. It is definitely not a "nut", and the seed is inedible. 5


Propagating the plant by air layering - the young white roots are already showing in the plastic bag Credit: lacopo Lorenzini, Air layering on a lychee tree Credit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC

Fig. 18

Propagating the plant by air layering - the young white roots are already showing in the plastic bag

Fig. 19

Air layering on a lychee tree

Propagation: Lychee trees do not come true from seed, and seedling trees may take 10 or more years to bear fruit. Air layering is the most common method of propagation in Florida. In general, the larger the limb, the easier it is to air layer. Grafting (usually cleft or veneer) and budding onto lychee seedlings or air layers is possible but is not as common as air layering alone; this may change as superior rootstocks are identified. Top working is possible although not common and may become more common as superior cultivars are recommended. Air-layered or grafted trees begin to bear fruit in 3 to 5 years. 2

The Chinese method of air-layering has many variations. In fact, 92 modifications have been recorded and experimented with in Hawaii. Inarching is also an ancient custom, selected cultivars being joined to 'Mountain' lychee rootstock.
In order to make air-layering less labor-intensive, to eliminate the watering, and also to produce portable, shippable layers, Colonel Grove, after much experimentation, developed the technique of packing the girdle with wet sphagnum moss and soil, wrapping it in moisture-proof clear plastic that permits exchange of air and gasses, and tightly securing it above and below. In about 6 weeks, sufficient roots are formed to permit detaching of the layer, removal of the plastic wrap, and planting in soil in nursery containers. It is possible to air-layer branches up to 4 in (10 cm) thick, and to take 200 to 300 layers from a large tree. 5

Air Layering Technique

Air Layering Video: Part One and Part Two ext. link


Lychee Tree Credit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC Lychee Tree in Bloom Credit: © Ian Maguire UF/IFAS/TREC Large fruiting tree Credit: B. navez,

Fig. 20

Lychee Tree

Fig. 21

Lychee Tree in Bloom

Fig. 22

Large fruiting tree


Litchi chinensis subsp. chinensis (Litchi, lychee) Habit Credit: ©Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Bark Credit: W. Mark and J. Reimer, Trunks of Litchi chinensis (picture taken on Réunion island) Credit: B. navez,
Fig. 23 Fig. 24 Fig. 25


Varieties Note: One variety that will not grow well in lime rock is the Emperor. The Emperor is a unique lychee that produces an enormous, juicy fruit with a tiny seed. To grow an Emperor in limestone soils you must graft the tree and the end result is a dwarfed slow growing specimen. 3


Popular Varieties:



'Hak ip'

Climate: Lychee does not fruit satisfactorily at sea level in tropical climates and is best adapted to warm to cool subtropical areas. The best climates for lychee production have a dry, cold (but nonfreezing) winter period lasting 3 to 5 months; a warm spring during the flowering period; a hot and humid summer during fruit growth, development, and maturation; and moderately warm temperatures during the fall. Periodic rainfall during spring and summer is ideal. Young trees are damaged at temperatures of 28° to 32°F (-2° to 0°C), while temperatures down to 24° to 25°F (-3° to -4°C) cause extensive damage or death to large trees if exposed for several hours. Lychee trees do not acclimate to cold temperatures after exposure to cool, nonfreezing temperatures. Symptoms of cold damage include leaf death, leaf drop, stem and limb dieback, bark splitting, and tree death. 2

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. 4

In China, great quantities of honey are harvested from hives near lychee trees. Honey from bee colonies in lychee groves in Florida is light amber, of the highest quality, with a rich, delicious flavor like that of the juice which leaks when the fruit is peeled, and the honey does not granulate. 5

Pruning: Generally training of young trees is not required. However, formative pruning during the first 2 years may be desirable to encourage lateral branching and growth. After several years of production it is desirable to cut back the tops of the trees to 10 to 15 feet (3.0 to 4.6 m). Selectively removing a few upper limbs back to their origin (crotches) each year will help prevent the loss of the lower tree canopy due to shading by the upper canopy. Pruning should be carried out immediately after harvest to allow regrowth and maturation of new shoots and leaves before the onset of cool/cold winter temperatures. 2


Disease Page

Pest Page

Pests note: Lychee pests are very specific to the locale of the tree. In our grove in South Florida we get weevils, webworms and fungus. While there are lots of noxious life forms to be found on the trees such as ants, scale, lichens and stink bugs the big troublemakers are aforementioned nasties.
Weevils and various types of beetles seem to cause the most damage to new leave growth, especially before the new growth has hardened off. These pests generally will not kill a tree although the weevils can severely retard the growth of a young tree by eating or damaging much of the new growth, thereby slowing development. The larval form of the weevils will eat the exterior covering of the roots and if they are in sufficient quantity can kill the tree. 1 More...


Further Reading


Flowering in Lychee Trees

Origin of the Lychee Tree

Lychee Tree Root System and Development

Grafting and Grafted Lychee Trees

Steps for Planting a Landscape Lychee Tree in Your Yard

8 Essential Factors for Growing Healthy Lychee Trees

Tips on Getting Your Lychee Tree to Produce Fruit

5 Easy Steps for Girdling a Tree to Make it Produce More Fruit

From the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia

Irregular Flowering in Lychees

Fruit Crack on Lychees

Drying Lychee Fruit

How I make my Lychees Flower and Fruit Every Year

Top-Working Lychees 1993

Top-Working Lychees - The Result 1995

A Maturity Standard for Lychee


Growing Lychees in Hawaii from the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension pdf 8 pages

Lychee Recipes from the Virtual Herbarium at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

New Options for Lychees and Longans Fans and Farmers from the USDA Agriculture Research Service

Florida Growers Like Lychees and Longans from the USDA Agriculture Research Service

The Lychee Crop in Asia and the Pacific from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations pdf 40 pages

Florida Food Fare from the University of Florida pdf

Lychee (Litchi chinensis) from the Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforesty pdf 13 pages

The Litchi and its Relatives from Wilson Popenoe's book Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits

Very Comprehensive Website: Lychees Online ext. link


List of Growers & Vendors




1 Folino, Krystal and Mee, Bill. "8 Essential Factors for Growing Healthy Lychee Trees". N.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.

2 Crane,Jonathan H., Balerdi, Carlos F. and Maguire, Ian. "Lychee Growing in the Florida Home Landscape." This document is Fact Sheet HS-6, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. First printed Oct. 1968. Revisions Oct. 2008 and Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.

3 Mee, William. "Grafting and Grafted Lychee Trees". N.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.

4 "Lychee, Litchi chinensis Sonn". 1996. Web. 11 June 2014.

5 Morton, J. "Lychee." Fruits of warm climates, p. 240-259. 1987. Web. 28 Mar. 2015.


Fig. 1 Mee, Bill and Folino, Krystal. A cluster of Emperor Lychee Fruit. N.d. Web. Cir. 2007.

Fig.2,5,6,8,19,20,21 Maguire, Ian. N.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2014.

Fig. 3,4,24 Mark, W.and Reimer, J. Lychee, Litchi chinensis. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 7 Garg, J.M. Inflorescense. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 9,10,17 Antheunisse, Max. Litchi chinensis. N.d. Madagascar. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 11 Jaitt, Oscar. Lychee. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 12 Viatour, Luc. Fruits, some opened to reveal the white flesh and brown seed. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 13 Thaumaturgist. Leaves and unripe fruits. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 14 Thaumaturgist. Fruiting branches. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 15 Tandon, Parshotam Lal. Litchi , Litchi chinensis Sonn, Family: Spindaceae. 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 16 Tu7uh."Lychees for sale at a Malaysian fruit stall. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 18 Lorenzini, Lacopo. Propagating the plant by air layering - the young white roots are already showing in the plastic bag. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 22,25 navez, B. "runks of Litchi chinensis. 2006. Picture taken on Réunion island. Web. 28 Mar. 2015.

Fig. 23 Starr, Forest and Kim. Litchi chinensis subsp. chinensis (Litchi, lychee) Habit. Garden of Eden Keanae, Maui.  Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Published 12 Oct. 2013 LR. Updated 5 Apr. 2015 LR

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