Pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana) is an evergreen shrub or small tree from southeastern Brazil, Uruguay, and northern Argentina. Mature plants reach 15-20’ with a similar spread and are found growing in arid or seasonally dry forests and grasslands at elevations between 500 and 1500 meters. The name pineapple guava refers to the one-three inch, egg-shaped fruit (technically a berry), which tastes like a combination of pineapple and spearmint.
Pineapple guava is grown for its fruit in sub-tropical regions throughout the world, but the fruit does not ship well and must be obtained locally. The attractive, two-inch diameter flowers emerge in May and June and feature showy red stamens against a backdrop of white subtending petals. The flower petals are actually pinkish-red internally but fold inwards as they open, and thus appear white at maturity. The petals are fleshy and edible and can be used in salads or as a garnish for an added splash of color.
Pineapple guava is a relatively carefree landscape plant; it prefers fertile, well-drained soils and is drought tolerant once established. Adaptable to full sun or part shade and cold hardy into the single digits (°F), pineapple guava does require cool winter weather to ensure good fruit development. In Central Florida and especially southern Florida, the lack of cool winter weather and hot, humid summers often results in sporadic or poor fruit set.
As a result, it is probably best to avoid using pineapple guava in edible gardens or as a dooryard fruit in this part of the state. For those determined to try, it is important to note the species is predominantly outcrossing, meaning more than one plant is required for pollination and fruit development. Some exceptions to this rule include the cultivars ‘Pineapple Gem’ and ‘Coolidge’, both of which are self-fertile and excellent selections for the space-limited gardener.
Despite the lack of reliable fruit production in central Florida, the species possesses a number of additional attributes that make it a worthwhile addition to the home landscape. A combination of drought tolerance, handsome dark green foliage, and ability to withstand heavy and repeated pruning make pineapple guava a great addition for hot, dry areas of the garden, or as a privacy screen or hedge. Prune after flowering for a compact, dense hedge or shrub. For those preferring a more hands-off approach, unpruned plants make nice, small specimen plantings and develop an open rounded habit that exposes attractive brownish-orange, gently exfoliating bark. This highly adaptable, pest-free, ornamental species deserves to be more widely planted; it is blooming right now near the Horseshoe Garden.
Blog posting was written by Patrick Lynch, Plant Records Curator, and photographed by Erica Smith, Director of Marketing.