Breadfruit Winter Protection: Can You Grow Breadfruit In Winter


By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

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.

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Winter Gardening

Fall is officially upon us but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop growing. If you visited the Heritage Harvest Festival this past weekend you may have gotten a chance to see SESE’s Ira Wallace and Pam Dawling of the Twin Oaks Community give a talk on winter gardening. They talked crops, season extension, and how they keep growing through the winter. In case you missed it here’s a few tips to get you started with a winter garden of your own.

There’s a surprising number of crops that can be grown in a winter garden. Selecting plants and varieties that have been bred for fall and winter gardens will increase your success.

One of the largest categories is hardy greens. Many greens are quick growing and tolerate low temperatures making them ideal for overwintering in the Southeast. Consider planting mustard greens, lettuce, spinach, collards, kale, cress, arugula, and Swiss Chard.

Many root crops are also quite cold hardy. Try beets, radishes, turnips, carrots, and kohlrabi. Even when they’re not growing they can be heavily mulched and left in the ground for fresh use throughout the winter.

Along with the brassicas that are typically considered cooking greens like collards and kale broccoli and cabbage are also quite cold tolerant. However, these typically need to be seeded or transplanted well in advance. Depending on your zone you may need to plant these in the middle of summer for an early winter harvest. Alternatively, fall planted crops may be overwintered to produce an extra early spring harvest.

Here in Virginia, we start bulb onions in the fall and overwinter them in cold frames. We’ve found the helps us grow large bulbs. This method may not work for those in the deep south or northeast.

Additionally, crops like garlic and perennial onions should always be planted in the fall for a harvest the following summer. For more information on these visit our previous post, The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Great Garlic, Perennial Onions, & Shallots.

Exactly when you plant is largely dependent on your plant hardiness zone. If you don’t know what that means, check out our post, Everything You Need to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones.

You can also find a planting calendar for zone 7 here or get personalized planting reminders when you use our garden planner.

It’s also important to realize that even if you have a greenhouse, plants’ growth slows down when they get less than 10 hours of sunlight per day. Planting on time is crucial if you want to harvest during the fall and winter.

Even the simplest protection from cold, wind, and frost can greatly extend your harvest season.

Cold frames can be as simple or as fancy as you want. At SESE we’ve made many quick cold frames using straw square bales and corrugated plastic sheets. They work wonderfully and the straw can be used as mulch when the bale begins to break down and no longer makes an effective cold frame. If you want a permanent structure that looks nice many people build wooden frames and use old windows on hinges for lids.

Cold frames are ideal for starting cold tolerant crops in the fall and spring and perfect for small salad greens. It’s important to remember to vent them on sunny days because they can heat up quickly.

Much like cold frames, you can create low tunnels on nearly any budget. All you need is hoops and clear plastic or a row cover type fabric. Hoops can be made from PVC pipes and stakes, conduit, other tubing, or even flexible saplings that have had their rough spots sanded down. Putting row cover over hoops is much more effective at preventing frost damage than just laying fabric over the plants.

When you’re purchasing row cover it’s important to look at what weight it is. During the fall lighter weight options are a good choice. They provide some protection from the chill and keep out pests but still let light through. At SESE we’ve used tulle fabric (like the kind tutus are made from) as a cheap alternative. During the winter, when plants aren’t growing much anyways you should select heavier row cover even though it blocks more light. It will provide more protection from wind and cold.

Clear plastic is also an option. However, unlike row cover it isn’t breathable. Clear plastic will quickly heat up on a sunny day so it needs to be vented. Row cover is often a better option for those with hectic schedules.

High Tunnels/Greenhouses

High tunnels and greenhouses are ideal for winter production as well as seed starting during the spring. During the workshop mentioned above, Pam Dawling discussed how they use a hoop house with two layers of plastic to grow year round at Twin Oaks Community. They’ve found that their hoop house keeps the inside air 7°F warmer than outside! They also found that plants in the hoop house tolerate temperatures 14°F colder than they would if they were field grown.

Pam Dawling has great information about hoop house growing on her website, Sustainable Market Farming, and on SlideShare.

Like other methods that use plastic, hoop houses can heat up on sunny days and sometimes need to be vented. You can add further protection by using row covers within your hoop house.

Having a greenhouse or high tunnel is a dream for many small grower and gardeners but it can be quite the investment. During the workshop, Pam Dawling also discussed one way small market growers can get financial assistance when building a high tunnel. Look at grants through the Natural Resources Conservation Service High Tunnel System Initiative.

You can also build your own greenhouse. We mention some ideas in this post or you can find others DIYs.









Originally posted 2019-09-28 12:27:10.


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Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, part 1

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The last garden I visited during our Maui vacation was Maui Nui Botanical Gardens (MNBG)located in Kahului, Maui’s largest town.

The previous gardens I’d explored (Garden of Eden Arboretum, Tropical Gardens of Maui, and Kula Botanical Garden) were privately owned and focused on creating idealized slices of tropical flora. In contrast, MNBG is a non-profit organization “dedicated to the protection of Maui Nui’s rich native plants and cultural heritage.” (In prehistory, Maui Nui was a larger island that 200,000 years ago split off into modern-day Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe.)

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens entrance on Kanaloa Avenue

As such, MNGB focuses more on ethnobotany than on ornamental horticulture. This became obvious to me as soon as I stepped through the gate. While the garden is certainly attractive in its own way, it lacks the easy wow moments the other gardens had. On the other hand, this is the place to visit if you want to learn more about plants endemic to Maui and its neighboring islands and those brought by Polynesian settlers in their canoes, many of them vital to their survival.

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens interpretive sign

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens interpretive sign

Right near the entrance I spotted this pot of Colocasia esculenta ‘Elepaio’, my favorite elephant ear. I think the mottling is just beautiful. I had one that made it through several winters but this year it didn’t come back. Time to look for another specimen!

Variegated taro (Colocasia esculenta ‘Elepaio’)

Hala, or Hawaiian screwpine (Pandanus tectorius), is a tree that had multiple uses. The leaves were made into floor mats and sails for canoes the male flowers were used as an aphrodisiac. I think it’s a striking tree with strappy leaves, pineapple-like fruit, and tell-tale prop roots.

Hawaiian screwpine (Pandanus tectorius)

Hawaiian screwpine (Pandanus tectorius)

The most beautiful tree at MNBG was the breadfruit tree (Artocarpus altilis). I was so enamored that I took tons of photos so please bear with me. The leaves are so unique, I simply couldn’t get enough.

Called ‘ulu in Hawaiian, the breadfruit tree was a staple in the ancient Hawaiian culture. The trunk was made into drums and surfboards, and the starchy fruit was cooked and eaten as porridge (very similar to the poi made of taro roots).

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

Another important plant was the banana, called mai’a in Hawaiian. It not only served as a food source but its leaves were used for a number of different purposes, including cooking and religious ceremonies. Many different varieties of bananas exist I was thrilled that MNBG had one of the most beautiful of them all, the variegated ‘Ae Ae’. This variety is very rare and much sought after by collectors.

Variegated banana (Musa × paradisiaca 'Ae Ae’)

Variegated banana (Musa × paradisiaca 'Ae Ae’)

Variegated banana (Musa × paradisiaca 'Ae Ae’)

Whenever I happen to find myself in the vitamin and supplement section of Costco, I see bottles of noni juice. Apparently it’s a controversial nutraceutical that some claim shrinks tumors. Be that as it may, I’d never seen noni (Morinda citrifolia) before this trip and I’m pleased to report that it’s quite an attractive tree. The ancient Hawaiians used noni to kill head lice, among other things. The fruit smells and tastes unpleasant when ripe but it was eaten when times were tough.

Haua or sea hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum) has delicate flowers which only last a day. They are a delicate yellow when they first open in the morning and turn to a dull pink orange before they close in the afternoon. The petals fall off that same evening or overnight.

Sea hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum)

Sea hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum)

Here are some other plants of interest:

Pua ʻala (Brighamia rockii), endemic to the island of Molokaʻi. It’s a close relative of the critically endangered Brighamia insignis.

Pua ʻala (Brighamia rockii)

Pua kala or Hawaiian prickly poppy (Argemone glauca)

Pua kala or Hawaiian prickly poppy (Argemone glauca)

Adjacent to MNBG I came across what must be their nursery. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anybody I could have asked about it. (Aside from a woman with a small child I was the only visitor.)

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens nursery

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens nursery

In part 2 (coming soon) I will show you lots of taro (elephant ears), sugar cane, and a traditional Hawaiian hale.

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    Comments

    I'm glad you visited, as it's nice to see what's native -- I tend to think that everything tropical is from Hawaii. :)

    Love the breadfruit trees! Also, those tattered banana leaves are what prevented me from growing them until just a few years ago. So ugly!

    The contrast between the other (private) botanical gardens and Maui Nui Botanical Gardens was almost shocking. It became clear to me that the majority of the colorful or flowering exotic plants we associate with Hawaii are actually from elsewhere. The native vegetation isn't very colorful or exotic looking.

    I'm with you re the tattered looks of bananas. I think that's why many landscapers appear to prefer giant bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) or heliconias their leaves are thicker and don't shred as easily.

    Thank you for not skimping on photos of the Artocarpus altilis. WOW! If only I could grow them here in Portland.

    I'd love to grow one, too. Alas, it's strictly a zone 11 (!) plant. No temps below 40°F. Needs humidity, too.

    Just to echo what Loree has just said, such a stunning plant. If only.

    We got hold of an Ae Ae once and found it far too tender for our location even when overwintered indoors (which we did and it still perished, and similar experience with a few others). A stunning banana nevertheless.

    That Ae Ae wasn't a great specimen because of the tattered and partially burned leaves but it was the first one I'd ever seen in person. And the potential is definitely there. In a conservatory, protected from the wind, it would be a stunner.


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