How to Grow Pineapple Guava (Feijoa): Cold-Hardy Tropical Fruit
Pineapple guava is one of our top favorite fruits to grow! So much so, we now have three of them in our garden. Even if you’ve never tried the fruit itself, I highly suggest giving the plant a grow! Pineapple guava are low-maintenance, pest-resistant, and easy to train either as a shrub or tree. The beautiful silver-green foliage is full and evergreen, making it an excellent privacy screen as well. Last but not least, you’ll be blessed with delicious feijoa fruit to enjoy. What’s not to love?
Read along to learn how to grow pineapple guava, also known as feijoa (fey-oh-uh). This article will cover the ideal conditions and hardiness zones to grow feijoa, along with general characteristics, tips for planting, pollination, ongoing care, harvest time, and more! Finally, we’ll talk about a few different pineapple guava varieties to choose from.
What is Pineapple Guava (Feijoa)?
Pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana) are native to South America, namely southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and parts of Argentina. Despite the name and tropical-toned flavor, pineapple guava isn’t actually a true guava at all! Both are members of the Myrtle plant family, but feijoa is a mere distant cousin of tropical guava – and prefers subtropical conditions to thrive. In fact, pineapple guava is arguably one of the most cold-hardy types of guavas you can grow – surviving regular temperatures down to 15°F! It is now regularly cultivated in many areas of the United States, Mexico, Europe, and is exceedingly popular in New Zealand and Australia.
What do pineapple guava taste like?
You’ll have to grow them to find out! Just kidding. Feijoa has a unique flavor that is both exceedingly sweet and slightly tart. It is reminiscent of pineapple, banana, kiwi, and guava all at once – perhaps with a hint of piney mango or mint. Basically, they’re really, really tasty! Even better, pineapple guava fruits are rich in vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, and B-vitamins.
PINEAPPLE GUAVA GROWTH HABITS & CHARACTERISTICS
Size & Growth Rate
Pineapple guava can grow upwards of 12 to 15 feet tall and wide as a large shrub. When pruned into a tree-like structure (one or few main trunks with the understory pruned), feijoa can become upwards of 20 feet or taller over time! Yet pineapple guava takes kindly to just about any kind of pruning, so you can easily keep them more compact, slender, or short as needed.
While they can eventually get quite large, pineapple guava are generally slow-growing. We have one feijoa bush that has been in the ground for over 5 years and is just now reaching 6 feet tall. This can be seen as a pro or a con, depending on what your goal is.
Pineapple guava shrubs are evergreen, with silvery gray-green, oval, thick leaves. Combined with their handsome structure, appearance, and easygoing nature, they’re a popular plant for ornamental landscaping and privacy – fruit aside! Untamed, they grow with several branching stems from the base.
Can you grow pineapple guava in a container?
Yes! Their slow-growing nature and leniency for pruning also makes pineapple guava very container-friendly. As with all potted plants, the size of the container will dictate the size and vigor of the plant. Choose a large container with ample drainage holes and high-quality potting soil to promote healthy growth. Truthfully, our feijoa shrubs growing directly in the ground produce better quality fruit – though we probably don’t fertilize the one in the half wine barrel as much as we should either! We’ll talk more about fertilizing feijoa below.
Pineapple guava plants flower prolifically in the spring, dotting the green shrubs with spectacular sweet-smelling flowers. The flowers are white and pink with red firework-like centers, and the white petals (sepals) around the outside of the flower are edible and delicious! They melt in your mouth much like cotton candy and marshmallows combined. Birds and bees are highly attracted to the flowers, and help to pollinate as they visit. The wild birds in our yard love to eat the edible flower petals too.
Do pineapple guava need a second plant for cross-pollination?
The answer is: it depends. While the majority of pineapple guava varieties are considered ‘self-fruitful’, they don’t readily pollinate themselves. Cross-pollination from a partner plant will greatly increase fruit development. So if ample fruit is what you’re after, plant at least two shrubs near one another (close by is best, but in the same general yard space should do the trick). That is, unless you opt for a known self-fertile variety. Coolidge, Pineapple Gem, and Apollo are three grafted self-fertile pineapple guava varieties that can easily bear fruit without a partner plant.
Birds and bees are the chief natural pollinators of feijoa, but you can also get involved too! Hand-pollination can be the most guaranteed way to get a good harvest of guava. We get plenty of fruit without hand-pollinating our plants, yet it is really easy to do if needed! Simply use a small brush (e.g. paintbrush or makeup brush) to collect pollen from the flowers on one plant, and then go brush it onto the flowers of the other plant. Continue this back and forth between the two plants (or more).
Following the spring bloom, pineapple guava fruit develop over the summer and ripen in the fall. On average, feijoa fruit are about the size of a medium to large egg, or 1 to 4 inches oblong. Immature pineapple guava plants usually take several years to bear a decent crop of fruit for the first time, though that can vary depending on the climate, cultivar, and type (e.g. started from seed, grafted shrub, etc). All things considered, I think they’re well worth the wait!
IDEAL GROWING CONDITIONS
Cultivation & Propagation
You can grow pineapple guava from seed, a cutting, or a small shrub from a nursery or online retailer. Starting from seed will clearly take the longest to mature. I have also heard some seed may not bear fruit ‘true to seed’.
To propagate pineapple guava, take an approximately 12-inch long wide cutting from young softwood branches near the bottom of the shrub. The chosen cutting should be no thicker than 1/4-inch in diameter, be fairly pliable, have at least 3 nodes, and a few leaves at the top of the stem. Dip the freshly cut end in rooting hormone solution, and then plant it in a light fluffy soil mixture – such as seed starting mix, or peat moss mixed with sand and sawdust.
The most surefire way to successfully grow pineapple guava is from a young grafted nursery plant. If you read the rest of this article and decide to grow feijoa at home (great choice!), I suggest giving your local nursery a call to see if they carry them. If not, ask if they’re able to bring one (or two) in on special order for you! They should also (hopefully) provide insight on what varieties do best in you area.
Feijoa Growing Zones
Pineapple guava thrive in temperate subtropical areas or warm, dry Mediterranean climates. However, they’re quite adaptable and can deal with both extreme heat and cold in the right conditions.
Most resources say that pineapple guava grows best in USDA hardiness zones 8 – 11. However, my friend has a thriving feijoa growing in Tennessee’s zone 7! (Edit: Since posting this, I’ve heard from another Insta-friend who grows Nazemetz pineapple guava in Kentucky zone 6b. Read more about how she pulls it off in the ‘planting location’ section below). Feijoa does exceedingly well in California, the Pacific Northwest, Florida, Texas, and more. Pineapple guava is also an excellent choice for coastal zones because it tolerates salty spray and mildly saline soils.
Different varieties of pineapple guava are more or less tolerant to high heat or freezing conditions, so choose one that is known to grow well in your climate. Check out the list of varieties near the end of this article!
Temperature & Sun Exposure
In general, feijoa will be most happy in full sun, in areas where average summer temperatures are below 90°F and winter temperatures are above 15°F.
Prolonged periods below 15°F can kill them, but otherwise this is an impressively cold-tolerant guava! While the plants themselves are quite hardy, sudden fall frosts can damage ripening fruit. A late spring frost may destroy flower blossoms, and therefore the fruit they were destined to produce. Excessive heat can also cause stress and impact fruit production, such as loss of flowers or developing fruit. Expert cultivators say that the best-flavored fruits come from areas with only moderately warm summers.
Planting Location & Protection
In hotter climates (regular summer temperatures over 90 degrees), choose a location with afternoon summer shade or overall filtered sunlight to protect from excessive heat. Even in our more moderate climate, all of our plants are growing quite well in part-sun, part-shade! Note that a minimum of 6 hours of daylight is suggested for the most fruit prolific production.
Pineapple guava are not big fans of high winds, so also keep that in mind when selecting their spot. Planting a feijoa shrub near a wall or fence can help provide protection from the wind, along with reflected heat and added frost protection in areas with harsh cold winters. In a sudden extreme cold snap, you could also drape your pineapple guava shrub with a bed sheet or frost blanket to shield it.
Our friend that is successfully growing pineapple guava in Kentucky zone 6b (Nazemetz variety) says she created a sheltered microclimate for it, by planting it near a south-facing wall and mulching generously. When it snows heavily, she wraps it in burlap and/or plastic to keep the snow off – similar to what I suggested just above.
Soil Type & Mulch
Pineapple guava grows easily in average garden soil. For the best results, plant your feijoa in moderately rich, well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. The one thing they will not tolerate is constantly soggy soil, so be sure to plant them in a location where drainage is not an issue.
Poorly-draining soil should be amended with horticultural sand, small volcanic rock, pumice, or other aeration additives to promote drainage. Also work in some aged compost, worm castings, and/or quality bagged potting soil to improve nutrient content of the soil if needed. Finally, provide an inch or two of mulch around the base of the shrub to protect its shallow roots.
Related: Compost 101: What, Why & How to Compost at Home (6 Methods!)
Pineapple guava grow best when moderate water is provided. Aim for consistently damp, moist soil – but not soggy! Avoid overwatering (especially in winter months) as overly wet soil can lead to root rot or other related diseases. Feijoa are actually quite drought tolerant once established! However, a lack of adequate water can lead to poor fruit production. Under-watered pineapple guava fruit may be small, not as juicy as desired, or drop from the plant before they’re fully developed.
True to their slow-growing, easy-going nature, pineapple guavas grow willingly without heavy fertilizing. Once or twice per year, apply a slow-release, well-balanced fertilizer around the base of the shrub. (Twice per year is best for pineapple guava growing in pots, such as during the spring and fall). We like to use this organic all-purpose fertilizer, and replenish with a fresh layer of compost mulch as well. Routine feeding will encourage better flower and fruit production.
Pineapple guava are remarkably disease and pest-resistant, with little-to-no known issues. Despite dealing with our fair share of powdery mildew, aphids, cabbage worms, and other pesky critters in our garden, the feijoa goes unscathed. It is even deer-resistant! I have never experienced rodents, raccoons, or opossums going after the fallen fruit. If anything, the birds do like to eat the flower petals, but that is more of a perk than a problem since they’re helping to pollinate. In California, feijoa may occasionally have issues with black scale but can be treated with neem oil.
HARVESTING & EATING
How to harvest pineapple guava
Now, for the fun part. As if growing pineapple guava couldn’t get any easier… the fruit also self-harvests! As feijoa grow ripe in the fall, they naturally fall from the shrub on to the ground below. Thankfully they’re still a tad firm when they do this, so they shouldn’t get too bruised up. Then, you can simply scout around the ground under the shrubs and collect the fruit. To help the process along, or to harvest from a large fruit-laden plant, you could also set up a net, drop cloth, or tarp below the plant to catch falling fruit, and then give it a shake!
How to tell if pineapple guava is ripe
Pineapple guava do not change color (stay green) when they are ripe. Once they fall from the shrub or tree, your pineapple guava may still need a few days to fully ripen. Simply leave them out at room temperature until they reach your desired consistency and flavor. Ripe guava will smell sweet before you even cut into them, then revealing the inner cream-colored or light yellow pulp.
Pineapple guava can be enjoyed while still semi-firm, just barely compressing under your fingers when lightly squeezed (like a perfectly ripe avocado). Or, some folks like them super soft – almost overripe. I prefer them somewhere in between. Try a few at different stages to see what you like best!
Ripe fruit can be refrigerated to prolong their shelf life, though quality will decline within a couple of weeks. Pineapple guava are prone to bruising and ‘going downhill’ quickly, which is part of the reason they’re not commonly sold in grocery stores.
How to eat or preserve pineapple guava
To eat fresh feijoa, simply cut it in half and then scoop out the soft fleshy pulp from the skin with a spoon, as you would a passion fruit, kiwi or avocado. Some people eat the whole thing like an apple, skin and all! Though it is technically edible, I personally do not enjoy eating the thick skin. Pineapple guava can also be added to salads, yogurt and granola, baked goods, smoothies, or even blended cocktails. Piña-guava-coloda, anyone?
If you have more fruit than you can consume fresh, there are a number of ways to preserve pineapple guava. Making guava jam is one especially popular method! We love to blend the ripe fruit with coconut milk or coconut cream to create guava popsicles, using these stainless steel popsicle molds. Or, you can simply freeze the fruit whole to process or enjoy later (though the texture won’t be as wonderful to eat plain once they thaw back out).
Another idea is to blend the ripe pulp into a smooth thick cream, spread it out very thin on solid dehydrator trays or liners, and dry the pulp to create feijoa fruit leather! If you do not have a food dehydrator, you could try this on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and the lowest heat setting in your oven (though I personally have not tried that).
Pineapple Guava (Feijoa) Varieties
As I was doing my homework for this article, I came across far more varieties of pineapple guava than I knew existed! Cultivars developed in South America, Australia, New Zealand, France, the United States, and more… Here is a list of the most common or popular ones, but know there are even more out there!
Pineapple Guava (straight) – Not all pineapple guava have fancy or unique names like the varieties listed below. Those are all “improved”, specially cultivated, or grafted varieties. We grow straight pineapple guava, which is what you see in the photos in this article. They are self-fruitful, but can bear more prolifically with another partner around.
Coolidge – Self-fertile. Originally from Australia, but is now one of the most common varieties grown in California. This variety reliably bears prolific semi-wrinkled fruit. May bear fruit earlier than other varieties. Grows well in cooler coastal climates, and is also one of the best-suited guavas for the Pacific Northwest (including ‘Edenvale Improved Coolidge‘)
Apollo – Self-fertile, and will pollinate other varieties. Provides a deep pineapple-flavored fruit that ripens mid to late season. These fruit are highly productive, but can be more prone to bruising. The pulp is described as well-developed but slightly gritty in texture.
Mammoth – Produces the largest guava of them all – up to half a pound or larger each! The fruit are said to be incredibly tasty, have a hint of strawberry, slightly gritty pulp, and ripen early to mid-season. It is technically ‘self-fruitful’, but will bear more when planted with another variety (or use a flowering seedling) to provide cross-pollination.
Pineapple Gem – Small, round fruit of good to very good quality. Mid to late season ripening. Tree self-fruitful but bears heavier crops if pollinated by a second plant of another variety. This variety is best for warmer climates, and it does poorly under cool, coastal conditions.
Nikita – Great for smaller spaces or tidy landscapes, with a more compact growth habit. Produces large tasty fruit, ripening earlier in the season than others. Like Mammoth, Nikita is partially self-fruitful but will bear fruit more prolifically with another variety nearby.
Nazemetz – Originated in San Diego, meaning it takes well to hot weather! Produces large, pear-shaped guava with excellent flavor and quality late in the season, October to December. Only partially self-fruitful. Plant with another variety for best crop.
Trask – A spin-off from Coolidge. Like Nazemetz, this is another variety that produces well in warmer climates. Those two together make a great pollinating pair for increased fruit production. Bears medium to large quality fruit early in the season, with thicker skin and more grainy textured pulp than Coolidge.
For a more extensive list of pineapple guava varieties, click here.
And that is how to grow pineapple guava!
Now can you see why this fruit is one of our absolute favorites? Beautiful, delicious, and fuss-free… I hope this article got you excited to go grow your own feijoa too! Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below, and spread the guava love by sharing or pinning this article. Thank you for tuning in!
You may also enjoy:
- How to Grow Purple Passion Fruit (or more cold- tolerant Maypops)
- How to Grow Avocados: Tree Varieties, Climate, Planting & Care
- Choosing the Best Fruit Tree Varieties for Your Climate
- How to Plant a Tree: Best Practices for Success
Excellent article. I’m in East Tennessee and have several feijoas and love them. One mail ordered, one purchased and brought in bare-root in luggage from Southern Calif, and three seedlings from a store-bought fruit, likely imported from overseas. The “polar vortex” at 3 – 4° F killed them to the ground, but they sprouted back vigorously. Unfortunately the next winter had some equally cold weather so the following year just had some tiny weak little sprouts from each one. Since then nothing catastrophic.
It is not good that the varieties people write about are generally unavailable. My purchased ones were likely landscaping varieties, and have slightly different growth forms. The seedlings give slightly better fruit, with a more elongated shape. I did find an article saying that the New Zealand orchards were being plagued by diseases, and most crucially, that the “newer varieties” were most susceptable.
FYI, They make absolutely delicious marmalade. Steam them after you have cut them up. I also tried drying, with somewhat dissapointing results. Hard, tough and blackish, they are good as a prepper novelty, but I wouldn’t really recommend them.