Although it is considered an unusual exotic plant in the United a states, breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a common fruiting tree on tropical islands all over the world. Native to New Guinea, Malayasia, Indonesia and the Philippines, breadfruit cultivation made its way to Australia, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, where it is considered a nutrition packed super fruit. In these tropical locations, providing winter protection for breadfruit is generally unnecessary. Gardens in cooler climates, however, may wonder can you grow breadfruit in winter? Continue reading to learn more about breadfruit cold tolerance and winter care.
About Breadfruit Cold Tolerance
Breadfruit trees are evergreen, fruiting trees of tropical islands. They thrive in hot, humid weather as understory trees in tropical forests with sandy, crushed coral based soils. Valued for the protein and carbohydrate rich fruit, which is actually cooked and eaten like a vegetable, in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, immature breadfruit plants were imported all over the world for cultivation. These imported plants were a great success in regions with tropical climates but most attempts to cultivate breadfruit trees in the United States failed from environmental issues.
Hardy in zones 10-12, very few locations of the United States are warm enough to accommodate breadfruit cold tolerance. Some have been successfully grown in the southern half of Florida and the Keys. They also grow well in Hawaii where breadfruit winter protection is usually unnecessary.
While plants are listed to be hardy down to 30 F. (-1 C.), breadfruit trees will begin to stress when temperatures dip below 60 F. (16 C.). In locations where temperatures can get low for several weeks or more in winter, gardeners may have to cover trees to provide breadfruit winter protection. Keep in mind that breadfruit trees can grow 40-80 feet (12-24 m.) and 20 feet (6 m.) wide, depending on the variety.
Care of Breadfruit in Winter
In tropical locations, breadfruit winter protection is not necessary. This is only done when temperatures remain below 55 F. (13 C.) for lengthy periods. In tropical climates, breadfruit trees can be fertilized in fall with a general purpose fertilizer and treated with horticultural dormant sprays in winter to protect against certain breadfruit pests and diseases. Annual pruning to shape breadfruit trees can also be done in winter.
Gardeners who wish to try growing breadfruit but want to play it safe may grow breadfruit trees in containers in temperate climates. Container grown breadfruit trees can be kept small with regular pruning. They will never produce high yields of fruit but they make excellent exotic looking, tropical patio plants.
When grown in containers, breadfruit winter care is as simple as taking the plant indoors. Humidity and consistently moist soil are essential for healthy container grown breadfruit trees.