Lychee trees make attractive ornamental shade trees because they are evergreen. When they mature, they produce delicious lychee fruit, which are a soft, white, sweet fruit surrounded a leathery brown or red shell. Seeds are found inside the fruit and trees can be grown from these. Lychee trees are best suited to sub-tropical and tropical climates, but some gardeners have successfully grown lychee trees in greenhouses. If you love lychee fruit, you should be aware that it can take between five and twenty-five years for trees to bare fruit.
The first step of growing lychee is collecting seeds. Lychee seeds are a rich brown color with a glossy appearance. After eating fresh lychees, keep any seeds that are plump and ½ inch or longer. Rinse the seeds to remove all fruit from their surface.
After collecting the lychee seeds, soak them in water for three days; replace the water each day. During the soaking process, the seed shells will start to split; once this happens, the seeds are ready to germinate.
Fill seedling trays or small paper cups with potting soil. Make sure drainage is possible so the soil does not get soggy. Place one lychee seed into each cup, on its side, at a depth of 3-4 inches; then cover. Place the trays or cups in a warm, sunny place like a windowsill, a sun room or a greenhouse. Water regularly to keep the soil damp. After 3-4 weeks, the shoot will grow to 3-4 inches in size and develop dark green leaves. Four weeks is the average germination period for lychee seeds, but sometimes they take up to six weeks to be ready for replanting.
Once a good-sized seedling has developed in the small containers, the lychee plants are ready to be replanted in individual pots. Choose a 3-gallon pot so the root system will have room to develop. It is best to use a pot with drainage holes so that excess water can flow away from the plant. If this is not available, fill the bottom 3 inches of the pot with pebbles or broken terracotta. Fill the pot with potting soil and plant the seedlings at the depth they reached in their seedling containers. After about a year the lychee tree will need to be replanted into a 7 gallon pot so that it does not become root bound. The following year, move the tree to a 15-gallon container, and replant in a 25-gallon pot the year after that. By the tree's fifth year of life it is likely to be ready to be planted into the ground.
Caring for Young Lychee Plants
Lychee plants need to be protected from wind in their first year. They need to be exposed to full sun gradually. Water regularly to keep the plants hydrated. There is some dispute among growers about fertilization in the first year of life. Some growers do not fertilize plants at all in the first year because of the risk of root burn. Other gardeners give the young trees small amounts of water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks in the spring and summer. In the first year, these growers use the fertilizer at half-strength (watered down) before gradually increasing it to full strength over the next few years. When replanting young lychee trees, it is wise to prune away excess leaves to give the root system a break while it is adjusting to the new container; this will also encourage healthy new growth.
Planting in the Ground
Mature lychee trees require full sun, so plant the tree well away from buildings. Do not mound the tree because its root system is shallow and needs to spread in the ground. If possible, plant in an area that is shaded from wind, which tends to damage new growth on lychee trees. Fertilize your tree with organic fertilizers made with compost extracts or kelp. Using artificial fertilizers is risky, as the roots burn easily. Do not plant anything under your lychee tree, as other plants can damage the tree's root system or compete for vital nutrients.
How to Buy Materials to Grow Lychee Trees on eBay
eBay retailers sell items like seedling trays, plant containers and water-soluble fertilizers. Shop for these items by visiting the eBay home page and writing a description of your preferred product in the search box. Press search, then browse through the results to find the item you are interested in. Read the item description carefully to ensure that you buy the product you want. It is also a good idea to read item reviews and seller reviews before purchasing.