The exotic fruit of the longan tree (Dimocarpus longan Lour); also known as dragon eye, longana, and mamoncillo chino, has a sweet, musky flavor. Because longan fruit is difficult to find in the grocery store, some cooks and gardeners grow their own trees to assure a supply of the fragile tropical fruit. When growing longan trees, gardeners should consider the local climate, the trees' environmental needs, and the availability of seeds, cuttings, or grafted trees.
Longan fruit trees germinate from fresh seeds, although the seedling may not produce fruit true to the parent plant. Seedlings produce fruit in six years. Air layered or grafted trees begin producing fruit in two to three years. Young grafted trees are available at specialty nurseries or online.
Place fresh longan seeds on a damp paper towel. Roll the paper towel to encase the seeds. Seal it in a plastic bag and put it in a warm location for two weeks. After the seeds germinate, carefully place each one in a 1-gallon flowerpot and 1-inch deep in a mix of equal parts compost, peat moss, and perlite. Soak the peat moss and perlite overnight to hydrate the dry materials before combining them with the compost.
Alternately, place peat pots on a tray and fill them with moist seed starting mix, and then plant just one seed in each pot 1-inch deep. Cover the pots with plastic wrap and put the tray in a brightly lit, warm location or on a seed heat mat set at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the plastic wrap when the seedlings appear. After the seedlings have several true leaves, plant them in 1-gallon flowerpots.
Air layering produces new plants that are clones of the parent plant. Simply cut and remove a 1- to 2-inch section of bark from a small branch and cover it with a handful of damp peat moss. Wrap plastic around the branch and peat moss, and then seal it with electrical tape. When roots appear, cut the branch below the rooted area, remove the plastic without disturbing the peat moss, and plant the new cutting in a 1-gallon pot.
Caring for Longan Trees
Longan trees thrive in warm climates, but tolerate temperatures down to 22 degrees Fahrenheit for brief intervals. Plant the longan trees in the sunniest, highest, and driest part of the garden, as they require well-drained soil. Even a few days of waterlogged soil can kill longan trees. In a container garden, the trees grow 7 to 10 feet tall, while trees in the yard grow 15 to 25 feet tall.
Watering Longan Trees
Water potted plants when the soil is dry to a depth of 3 to 4 inches, adding water until it drains freely from the bottom of the flowerpots. Water trees in the garden weekly while they are producing blossoms and fruit, applying 10 gallons of water for every inch of a tree's diameter.
In extremely hot temperatures, water twice weekly. Add a 4-inch layer of mulch around each tree, raking it 12 inches away from the trunk. Cover the soil all the way out to the drip line. Mulch slows water evaporation from the soil, which helps maintain a consistent moisture level around a tree's roots. Reduce watering in October and while the trees are dormant in the winter.
Fertilizing Longan Trees
Fertilize longan trees with a balanced 5-5-5 fertilizer every two months, beginning with 1/4 pound fertilizer one month after planting. Spread the fertilizer over the soil from the trunk to the drip line and water thoroughly. In the second year, apply 1/2 pound of fertilizer every three months, and in the third year, apply 1 pound every three months. Mature trees require 3 to 5 pounds of fertilizer once in spring and again at harvest.
Pruning Longan Trees
Prune after harvesting the fruit to remove dead, dying, or crowded branches, or to reduce the size of the trees. Pruning in winter or early spring reduces the production of blossoms and fruit.
Harvesting the Fruit
Check one fruit in each cluster for ripeness, as the fruit does not ripen off the trees. Remove the fruit clusters by cutting the branch with loppers. Refrigerate the fruit immediately; longan fruit keeps for five to seven days in the refrigerator.
How to Buy Longan Seeds and Trees on eBay
Before starting a tropical fruit orchard, peruse the vast array of listings on eBay. The convenient search bar makes it easy to add keywords, such as "longan tree," "longan seeds," "dragon eye seeds," or "tropical fruit seeds." Clicking on the search button reveals a variety of listings for your review. After selecting seeds or trees, pause and review the seller's rating and feedback before finalizing your purchase. Get ready so you can plant your new orchard of exotic fruit as soon as your purchase arrives.