Feijoa (Acca sellowiana)

Feijoa, Guava, Guavasteen, Pineapple Guava

Acca sellowiana, commonly known in the USA as feijoa or pineapple guava, is a perennial shrub or small tree that belongs to the Myrtaceae family. It is native to the highlands of southern Brazil, parts of Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, and northern Argentina. This plant is highly valued for both its ornamental and edible qualities. The fruit it bears is appreciated for its unique flavor, which is reminiscent of pineapple, apple, and mint. Feijoa is also cultivated for its attractive flowers and as a landscaping plant due to its hardiness and aesthetic appeal.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Feijoa sellowiana also known as Acca sellowiana (O.Berg) Burret, is a species of flowering plant in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. It is native to the highlands of southern Brazil, eastern Paraguay, Uruguay, and northern Argentina. Feijoa are also common in gardens of New Zealand. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental tree and for its fruit. Common names include feijoa (, , or ), pineapple guava and guavasteen, although it is not a true guava. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree, 1–7 meters (3.3–23.0 ft) in height.

The fruit matures in autumn and is green, ellipsoid, and about the size of a chicken egg. It has a sweet, aromatic flavor. The flesh is juicy and is divided into a clear, gelatinous seed pulp and a firmer, slightly granular, opaque flesh nearer the skin. The fruit falls to the ground when ripe and at its fullest flavor, but it may be picked from the tree prior to falling to prevent bruising.

The plant is a warm-temperate, subtropical plant that also will grow in the tropics, but requires at least 50 hours of winter chilling to fruit, and is frost-tolerant. When grown from seed, feijoas are noted for slow growth during their first year or two, and young plants, though cold tolerant, can be sensitive to high wind.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the species has been cultivated in the United Kingdom and as far north as western Scotland, but under such conditions it does not fruit every year, as winter temperatures below approximately −9 °C (16 °F) kill the flower buds. Summer temperatures above 32 °C (90 °F) may also have an adverse effect upon fruit set. Feijoas are somewhat tolerant of drought and salt in soils, though fruit production can be adversely affected. Tolerant to partial shade, regular watering is essential while the fruit is maturing.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

Native to the subtropics and hardy in USDA growing zones 8 to 10, the pineapple guava tree prefers abundant sunshine. Plant these trees in an area with full sunlight for the best results. However, in areas with very hot summers, the pineapple guava will benefit from some afternoon shade.

Temperature and Humidity

Despite its tropical appearance, pineapple guava is actually very hardy. This tree can withstand temperatures down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Subtropical climates are more ideal than tropical climates, since temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit can become detrimental. The pineapple guava thrives in moderate temperatures and moderate-to-low humidity levels.

Watering

Pineapple guava trees enjoy consistently moist soil, so a regular watering schedule is recommended. However, you need to beware of overwatering, as this can lead to root rot.

These trees are considered drought tolerant once established, but a consistent lack of water will affect the yield and quality of the fruit produced. Water the tree just enough to keep the soil moist to the touch—no more and no less.

Soil

Rich, well-draining soil is preferred with pH levels from neutral to slightly acidic. They can tolerate salty soil and air, which makes them great choices for coastal areas. One thing they do not tolerate is soggy soil. If soil conditions are less than ideal, be sure to amend the soil before planting to ensure that it drains properly. 

Fertilizing

Pineapple guava trees appreciate a well-balanced fertilizer given once or twice a year. When potted, these trees do best when fertilized twice a year. Adding a fresh layer of compost annually will also help provide needed nutrients.

Pruning

These easy-going plants can be pruned regularly or irregularly, depending on your desired shape. Pineapple guava can be kept as a shrub or small tree and thrives in both scenarios. Their slow-growing nature means they do not need a lot of attention when it comes to pruning.

Propagation

Propagation can be done through cuttings, and it is best to do this in the fall. To propagate, you will need a sharp pair of garden snips, light soil, a small pot, and rooting hormone. Then follow these instructions:

  • Using the snips, cut a small softwood cutting from the bottom of the shrub. A cutting around 10-12 inches is ideal. Be sure the cutting has some healthy leaves and a few nodes on it. 
  • Remove any leaves on the lower section of the cutting. 
  • Dip the cut end into a rooting hormone. Shake away the excess powder. 
  • Gently plant the cutting into a light soil mix, such as those used for seed starting. A mix of peat, sand, or sawdust is also a good choice. Keep the cutting moist and in bright sunlight.
  • Roots should form in about two months and can be transplanted to the garden at this point.

How to Grow from Seed

These plants grow well from seed, but take a considerable amount of time to mature enough to produce fruit. Fruiting may take four years. It is also important to know that this option of propagation does not often produce trees that are identical to their parent. To grow these trees from seed, you will need well-draining small pots, light soil, grow lights, and a heating mat.

  • Plant the seeds indoors in the early spring. Bury each seed around 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep. 
  • Keep the soil moist and place the pots on a heating mat under grow lights. Keep the heating mat on constantly. Turn the grow lights off overnight.
  • Germination should occur around three weeks. Wait until the seedlings are strong and all threat of frost is gone to transfer them to the garden. 
  • If you are starting the seeds outdoors, simply plant them in the late spring when all threat of frost has passed. Keep the soil moist and watch as a new tree comes to life. 

Potting and Repotting 

Because pineapple guava does well when pruned and grows quite slowly, they make perfect container shrubs. When choosing a pot, be sure it has adequate drainage holes. Choose a pot size that will accommodate the final desired size of the shrub.

Once planted, be sure to water the shrub regularly and fertilize twice a year. If the shrub must be repotted, tilt the container onto its side to loosen the roots. Gently slide the shrub out of the container and plant it in a slightly larger container. Fill it with well-draining, rich soil and place it in a protected yet sunny location.  

Overwintering

Owing to its hardy nature, pineapple guava trees do not require special care to survive the winter as long as temperatures stay above 15 degrees Fahrenheit. For unusually cold winters, it is best to provide some protection from the elements, such as wrapping the tree in burlap and adding a thick layer of mulch around the base.

Pests and Diseases

Pineapple guava is a very easy-going, low-maintenance fruit tree. Problems are rare but keeping an eye out for these signs can help you avoid any issues that may arise.

Yellow Leaves

If the leaves are turning yellow, this is a good indicator that the soil pH level is not balanced. Pineapple guava trees like neutral to slightly acidic soil, so yellowing leaves can mean that the soil is too alkaline. To fix this, amend the soil with compost or another acidifying agent.

Falling Leaves and Small, Unripe, and Falling Fruit

These are all signs that the pineapple guava is lacking water. Simply increase the amount and frequency of watering. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. 

III. Uses and Benefits 

  • Nutrition

100 grams (3.5 oz) of raw feijoa provides 55 calories and is 13% carbohydrates, 8% sugars, and 1% each of fat and protein. The raw fruit is a rich source of vitamin C, providing 40% of the Daily Value, but supplies no other micronutrients in significant amounts.

  • Culinary uses

Although the skin is edible, the fruit usually is eaten by cutting it in half, then scooping out the pulp with a spoon. The fruit has a juicy, sweet seed pulp and slightly gritty flesh nearer the skin. The flower petals are edible. The most common uses are eating raw, desserts such as sorbet, sweet pies, crumbles, or in salads. They are regularly consumed by birds.

  • Ornamental uses

Feijoa thrives in coastal fruit gardens. It can also be used ornamentally for accent colors, or pruned into a hedgerow. Gardeners like its hardy resistance, but make sure to mulch or plant ground cover species to protect the roots at the base of every tree.

  • Cosmetic uses

The fruit pulp resembles the closely related guava, having a gritty texture. The feijoa pulp is used in some natural cosmetic products as an exfoliant. Feijoa fruit has a distinctive, potent smell that resembles that of a fine perfume. The aroma is due to methyl benzoate and related compounds that exist in the fruit.

IV. How to Get Pineapple Guava to Bloom

Pineapple guava trees produce beautiful, showy blooms in the spring. Each bloom consists of soft, pink and white petals surrounding bright red, spiky stamens. These showy flowers are sweet-smelling and have edible petals. They reach up to 1 inch in size.

Pineapple guava trees flower abundantly in the spring. To help encourage this, add a fresh layer of compost or a slow-release, well-balanced fertilizer each spring. Be sure the tree receives enough sunlight and water. If any late spring frosts are coming, be sure to cover and protect the delicate blooms from frost damage.

Feijoa (Acca sellowiana) Details

Common name Feijoa, Guava, Guavasteen, Pineapple Guava
Botanical name Acca sellowiana
Plant type Edible
Hardiness zone 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b
Harvest time Summer
Height 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
Width 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Gold/Yellow
Leaf color Gray/Silver