How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Jackfruit
Thinking of planting some jackfruit trees in your backyard, or somewhere in your home garden, but aren't sure where to start? Jackfruit can be a unique tree to grow, but they do best in certain hardiness zones, and perform well with certain soil types. Find out how to plant, grow, and care for Jackfruit in your backyard or home garden.
Ever wonder what that giant melon-sized oblong fruit is when you pass by a local Asian produce section? That’s jackfruit. This spiny behemoth fruit is native to tropical parts of Southeast Asia. It’s susceptible to frost, can’t survive in drought, and only grows in humid tropical areas.
Jackfruit is one of the most well-known fruit trees globally because it bears the most prominent and heaviest edible fruit that can weigh up to 50 kg. Aside from food, businesses can use the leaves, trunk, roots, and fruits commercially.
Growing jackfruit is not tricky, but you need fresh seeds to get started. If you have ample space in your yard, you can grow this fruit crop quickly and reap its many benefits. Here’s everything you need to know about planting, growing, and caring for a jackfruit tree.
Plant Name Artocarpus Heterophyllus
Plant Family Moraceae
Plant Genus Artocarpus
Hardiness Zone 10-12 USDA
Maturity Rate 3-4 Years
Plant Maintenance Moderate
Growth Rate Moderate
Plant Height 2-4 Feet Tall
Sun Exposure Full
Companion Plants Moisture Friendly Plants
Don’t Plant With Arid Plant Types
Soil Type Sandy, Sandy Loam
Plant Spacing 25-30 Feet
Watering Needs Daily
Bloom Time Seasonal
Flower Color Green
Pests Aphids, Fruit Borers
Diseases Fruit Rot, Leaf Spots
Artocarpus Heterophyllus Basics
Jackfruit also has outstanding nutritional value, and it doesn’t have any cholesterol or saturated fat. Jackfruit has more than enough fiber, potassium, and low calorie and sodium count for a healthy diet. Additionally, the fruit has vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, copper, and magnesium.
The fruit has been propagated traditionally from seeds. There are many variations in its shape, size, fruiting season, and quality.
Many cultivars and species of jackfruit are available across Asia, Africa, United States, and the Pacific. Since jackfruit is relatively new to the United States market, the optimal cultivars are still unknown for this region.
In general, this fruit is available in two types: NangkaBelulang (firm) or NangkaBubur (soft), and it has several varieties, including:
- Black Gold – This cultivar is vigorous, having a dense canopy. It produces medium-sized fruits, weighing 6.7 kg on average.
- Golden Nugget – This variety is fast-growing, having unique dark green leaves and a dense canopy. It produces small-sized and rounded fruits that weigh around 3.2 kg on average.
- Golden Pillow – Its high quality and distinctive beauty characterize this variety. This small tree is highly manageable, and it produces small-sized fruits weighing 3.6-5.5 kg on average.
- Cochin – This variety is relatively tiny, forming an upright and sparse canopy. It produces small-sized fruits that are smoother than the other varieties.
- Dang Rasimi – This cultivar is open and fast-growing, and it needs annual pruning to maintain its height and spread. This tree is highly productive, bearing uniformly shaped fruits that come in varying colors from pale yellow to bright green. The Dang Rasimi needs more maintenance than other varieties of jackfruit.
- NS1 – This medium-sized tree has a dense and upright canopy. It produces dark green blocky fruits weighing around 4.2 kg. This cultivar also requires moderate yearly pruning.
In the United States, the recommended varieties include the Golden Nugget, Black Gold, Dang Rasimi, and NS1. Developers came up with most of these cultivars in Malaysia or Australia.
Generally, the outer skin of the jackfruit is composed of conical and hexagonal apices that turn from greenish to brownish-yellow when it matures. The pulp color also ranges from amber to orange to dark yellow.
Each fruit contains 100 to 500 seeds with varying sizes from ¾ to 1.5 inches in diameter. You can cook and eat the seeds. Jackfruit seeds taste a little bit like chestnuts.
When the tree or fruit is damaged, it produces a sticky, rubbery white latex, which you can use as paste or glue in various applications.
Can I Grow Jackfruit From Seed?
There are many reasons you should grow jackfruit. One of the most popular reasons is the delectable taste of its flesh. The fruit is enormous and can weigh up to 16 kg. When cooked, the meat has a similar texture to pork, making it an excellent alternative for vegetarians and vegans in just about any dish.
The most common propagation method is growing from seeds. While growing from seeds is relatively easy, there are still several factors you must consider, such as their viability. Let’s take a look at some of the critical factors in successfully growing jackfruit.
Here are all the details you need to know about growing jackfruit.
Even though jackfruit is a thorny tree, it can’t tolerate drought and frost. When it reaches maturity, it can withstand up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit heat and 32 degrees Fahrenheit cold, but only for a short time. Many varieties can grow up to 100 feet high. However, some types of jackfruit are known as dwarf varieties and only grow up to 20 feet tall.
This tree has an average lifespan of more than 100 years, bearing fruit that weighs up to 50 kg.
This tree is typically grown from seeds. When produced from seeds, you must pick the big, healthy seeds from the mother trees.
Another method is asexual propagation. This method involves grafting and enriching the seeds. Cleft grafting is the most effective method because it can counter the adverse effects of a typhoon that can otherwise destroy giant trees.
When you already found a place for planting jackfruit, clear the area first from old tree roots and stumps to prevent root disease and termites. Plough the soil first when necessary, then make rows to create planting intervals.
On an acre of land, you can plant up to 48 jackfruit trees. If it’s a new area, you can reduce the interval to 25 feet x 25 feet so you can plant up to 69 trees.
Usually, you can leave the planting holes open for two weeks before filling them up again. Only then must you plant the jackfruit. Remember that when propagating, you should not cover the bud patch with soil. Otherwise, it might cause the bud patch to die.
You can also minimize the amount of sunlight by making a shade out of coconut fronds. After two weeks, if the weather is fine, you can remove the shading. If not, leave it as is and wait for another week before exposing your tree to the sun.
When propagating a jackfruit tree, the soil must be loam, fertile, well-drained, and contain a pH value of 6.0- 7.5. The tree can’t tolerate waterlogging, so there must be good drainage.
Giving the soil extra nutrition through organic fertilizers can help in growing the tree. Lands near river beds are perfect for cultivating jackfruit.
Propagating seeds requires plenty of nitrogen fertilizer while bearing jackfruit trees need the application of potash and phosphorous.
- If there is no soil analysis available for your land, apply compost or manure at the rate of 3 kgs per plant. After a month of planting the seeds, use 150 g of ammonium sulfate per plant. After six months, use the same amount of ammonium sulfate until the rainy season ends.
- Experts recommend using organic fertilizer around the plants. When the tree starts to bear fruits during the rainy season, apply 0.5 to 2 kg complete fertilizer and 300 g of potash per plant. Repeat after six months at the rate of 1.5 kg to 3 kg per plant.
You don’t have to worry so much about the water requirement during jackfruit propagation. Only irrigate your farm if extreme drought occurs.
Start pruning the tree when it reaches two years old. Cut the topmost part of the main trunk to regulate the height, leaving three meters from the ground. Then, apply some fungicide to the cut area.
When you prune trees, you need to remove the unproductive, diseased, and insect-damaged branches. The removal of these branches results in healthier fruits.
Thai people follow a uniform pruning system – pruning the main stem above the bud union to induce branches close to the ground. They allow the main trunk to carry the fruits rather than distributing them on all the branches.
This system allows the tree center to penetrate more light, and it promotes better air movement. It also encourages a more lateral growth instead of vertical growth. However, never remove a third of all the branches. Prune only the tree after harvesting the fruit.
You must keep the tree to a single trunk and remove the early side branches to allow a uniform and smooth trunk to develop up to a height of two meters. Then, when it reaches this height requirement, the side branches are now allowed to grow.
It is also essential to keep the flower buds appearing on the main trunk free from vegetative growth.
Caring for jackfruit trees is relatively easy as long as the climate is suitable. These trees need ample warmth and sunlight. When you plant a tree initially, pick a young one without any sign of disease.
Look for a nursery tree wherein the roots have not yet outgrown its container. Otherwise, the tree won’t grow normally, even if you transfer it to the ground. As a result, it impedes the growth of the tree throughout its lifespan.
Make sure that the planting site has enough space. Don’t plant near the other trees or structures because the jackfruit tree can grow quite huge. And moving your jackfruit tree poses many problems for both you and the health of the tree.
The key is to keep the ground moist, especially for younger jackfruit trees because they are still growing. Additionally, weeding around the tree to avoid competition with other plants for moisture and nutrients in the soil is a good idea.
It also helps to mulch around the tree to retain soil moisture and suppress the weeds. Weeding and mulching help keep the roots warm, especially during colder temperatures.
There is good news associated with growing jackfruit trees. Jackfruit doesn’t have many serious issues with pests and diseases, even though many types of wildlife are attracted to this fruit. So it is a relatively low-maintenance tree to have on your property.
As mentioned, the jackfruit tree needs ample sunlight to grow well and bear fruits. On most days, the tree must be exposed directly to full sunlight for at least six hours. If it’s grown in a shady area, it might not bear much fruit or maybe none at all.
The soil must be rich in nutrients, and excellent drainage is also a must-have. While the tree isn’t overly picky about the soil pH, it grows best if the soil is slightly acidic.
Jackfruit, as a tropical plant, likes consistently moist soil all year round. So, when the ground starts to dry out because of extreme heat or lack of rainfall, you must water it frequently.
Ensure that the roots are not sitting in a water pool because it inhibits fruit production and eventually kills the tree.
The jackfruit tree loves a warm climate and is very tolerant of heat. However, it’s susceptible to frost and temperatures below 35 degrees F, especially younger trees. Low temperatures can weaken or kill the tree quickly.
Additionally, jackfruit prefers humid conditions and doesn’t grow in dry climates unless the soil is well-watered. This means you’ll likely be in USDA Hardiness Zone 10-12 if you plan to successfully grow these trees. Jackfruit is a popular tree in Florida, and other states with a wet climate.
It’s best to apply fertilizers during the rainy season. In the case of irrigated farming, apply fertilizers twice a year. It’s also beneficial to use mixed compost, manure, or fertilizers in a circular trench 50 cm away from the main trunk annually.
Since the commercial production of jackfruit in the United States is limited, there is still ongoing research on jackfruit pests and diseases. Some of the pests and conditions to look out for include the following:
Soft Rot or Fruit Rot
This disease happens when fungi attack the male inflorescences and young fruits of the jackfruit tree. As a result, only a tiny percentage of the fruits reach full maturity. Thankfully, the matured fruits and inflorescences are generally not attacked.
The soft rot disease causes a large number of fruits to fall off early. During the early stage, the fungus may appear as greyish growth. Then, it becomes denser and turns into a black growth.
The fungus continues to spread until the entire fruit or inflorescence falls off. This disease is usually common in humid, warm, and rainy conditions.
You know a jackfruit tree has a dieback disease when you see a few discolorations or darkening of the tree bark.
When the disease advances, the green twigs start to wither at the base and extend outwards along the leaf edges. The leaves then turn brown, and the margins start to roll upwards. During this stage, the twigs die, wither and fall.
There might also be gum exudation from the affected branches primarily caused by shoot borers. These infected twigs can cause the spread of dieback disease. It is common in rainy areas where the relative humidity is above 80%, and the temperature ranges between 77 degrees Fahrenheit and 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another disease affecting the jackfruit tree is the leaf spot which produces dark red spots on the surface of the leaves. It turns into dark greyish color upon maturity and infecting young expanding leaves.
This disease is common in areas with a relative humidity of 95% and temperatures of around 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rust usually develops during late summer, and when it affects the tree, it causes defoliation in just a few weeks. If not treated and continues to occur regularly, the tree’s growth reduces, affecting its yield.
Initial symptoms of fig rust include small and yellowish spots on the top surface of the leaves. When these lesions grow more prominent, the color turns reddish-brown, but the leaves remain smooth.
Heavily infected leaves mostly turn brown or yellow, especially along the edges, and they prematurely drop. Rust primarily survives through thick-walled and resting spores called teliospores on the leaves, and it spreads through wind-born uredospores coming from an infected tree.
Another widespread disease attacking the jackfruit tree is Pink Disease. This condition is prevalent in tropical and subtropical areas. It shows as a pink powdery coating on the parts of the stem.
This pink-colored coating is the profuse conidial fungus production. Typically, it attacks the young woody branches, and the tree eventually loses its leaves, showing dieback symptoms. You can generally find the encrustation on the lower shaded part.
Jackfruit Insect Pests
The jackfruit tree is not only attacked by certain diseases but also by insect pests. Below are some of the insect pests commonly found in jackfruit trees.
- Shoot and fruit borer – The shoot and fruit borer is one of the most common insect pests attacking jackfruit trees. The female borers lay eggs, and they develop very quickly, especially during the fruiting and flowering period of the tree.
- Spittlebugs – Pine spittlebugs lie dormant as eggs insert into dead branches. These eggs hatch, and the young nymphs slowly migrate to the other parts of the tree. The larvae feed on the branches of the tree.
- Mealybug – The female mealybugs lay their eggs in a fluted ovisac attached directly to their body on the host tree. These bugs have white-colored powder coating their body, and they colonize on barks of the main trunk, panicles, and young shoots. They produce a sticky substance, honeydew, which is responsible for sooty mold development.
- Bud weevil – The smooth, pearly white, oval eggs of a bud weevil measure 0.42 mm in length and 0.28 mm in width. This small whitish insect pest bore into fruits and tender flower buds, causing them to drop prematurely. The brownish-grey adult bud weevil can be customarily found nibbling the leaves of the jackfruit tree.
- Bark-eating caterpillars – These bark-eating caterpillars have dirty dark-browned heads and bodies and grow up to 60 mm long. When the eggs hatch, the larvae nibble the tree’s bark, disturbing the continuous flow of sap. As a result, the tree has less fruiting and poor overall growth.
- Aphid – Another common pest attacking the jackfruit trees is the aphid. Adult aphids lay their white eggs along the veins of the leaves. The nymphs and adult aphids both suck the sap coming from the leaves, pods, and buds.
Infected leaves curl up, and at the advanced stage, the tree can start to wither and eventually die. The plant remains stunted, and the insects continue to excrete honey due to where sooty molds grow.
- Leaf Webber – The minute eggs of a leaf Webber only measure about 0.8 mm in length and 0.6 mm in width. They have varying shapes from sphere to flat, and color from white to yellow, which only changes after one day.
The adult webbers lay their eggs on the flower, buds, and other parts of the plant that are actively growing. You can usually find the eggs in small clusters, with two to seven eggs per cluster.
The Webbers grow very quickly – they hatch eggs in about four days, and each production has around four hundred eggs per female Webber. They cause interruption of the transport of water and nutrients on the plants, which causes drying of the terminal shoot during the early stage of development.
- Stem borer – The female stem borers slit the tree’s bark, and they lay up to two hundred eggs directly into these cuts. The brownish white cylindrical eggs have narrow and rounded ends.
When these eggs hatch, the larvae tunnel into the branches and sapwood of the trunk. Sap oozes out from several points, causing the wilting of the stems and, eventually, the death of the tree.
- Castor capsule borer – The female capsule borer lays eggs on the tender portions of the tree. The caterpillars bore into planting material capsules, causing severe damage to the tree.
Now that you know of the most common Jackfruit pests, you can be on the lookout and prevent these common problems.
To properly care for the jackfruit, integrated pest management must cover all of the tree development stages. Here are some of the best practices of pest management for the jackfruit tree:
Here are the best practices for the pre-planting stage:
- Conduct deep orchard plowing right after harvesting to expose the pupae and eggs of the mealy bugs.
- There is a need for heavy irrigation to help destroy the eggs of the mealy bugs.
- Once the webs of bark-eating caterpillars no longer exist, adopt the following measures:
- Plug all the borer holes, except for the fresh ones, with mud plastering.
- Next, dig pits with the dimensions of 1 x 1 x 1 m3 and fill up these pits with a mixture of topsoil, neem cake, and farmyard manure per pit.
You may feel like skipping these steps, but remember, pre-planting care is vital for the survival of your Jackfruit.
Here are the best practices for the planting stage:
- Check frequently to see if there are new emerging sprouts from the rootstock and remove them.
- Constantly shift the grafts from one point to another to avoid the striking of roots into the ground.
- Do the transplanting of the saplings into pits that are already full of farmyard manure.
Additionally, make sure to remove weeds from the area before transplanting.
The vegetative stage is during the first to the fifth year of the plant. Here are some of the best practices during the vegetative stage:
- Continuously collect and remove tree debris.
- You must also collect and remove insect-damaged and disease-infected parts of the tree.
- When you find one or two larval parasitoids, avoid chemical spray to enhance parasitic activity.
- Provide fertilizer with the recommended dose, organic manure, timely irrigation, mulching, intercultural operation, and weeding.
- Prune the affected leaves, twigs, and young shoots. They must be killed together with the disease and pests. It helps in reducing the damage to the plant by bringing down their population.
- It’s important to prune and burn down the affected twigs and leaves to control the mealybug population and scales. Fix the sticky band on the main trunk to avoid ant movement.
- Ensure the pits and other surrounding areas are weed-free. You can use hand tool weeding.
- Manage the weeds by using plastic mulch or straw. This step is essential in conserving the soil moisture in the basins.
- Farmers suggest growing annual intercrops between the rows, such as vegetables, corn, banana, pineapple, citrus, or cover crops. If not adopted, you can slash and mow weeds alternatively.
Practice the removal of the affected fruits so as not to spread to other parts of the tree.
Conduct hot water treatment for about five minutes at 126 degrees Fahrenheit. This approach is excellent in managing any post-harvest decay of the jackfruit.
Additionally, apply bioinoculant to the fruits. Bioinoculants are growth-promoting microbes containing beneficial bacteria and fungi.
- If you are growing in a cooler climate, heavy mulching around the tree is essential for insulating the roots from the cold temperature.
- Regular pruning is necessary to maintain the height of the jackfruit tree below twenty feet. If the main trunk reaches twelve feet tall, cut it to encourage denser branches and improved growth.
- The tree can be established after four years. If it bears flowers during this time, remove them to continue promoting growth.
- Weeding around the tree must be done every month to clear out unwanted weeds that compete for water and essential nutrients from the soil.
- During summer, do mulching to prevent the growth of unwanted weeds and save moisture.
- It can help to have some ground cover planted, to help ensure that the soil around the tree soaks up as much moisture as possible.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be sure to have a great harvest.
The large fruit of this tree ripens during summer and fall, but there are some cases where the fruit may ripen during other months. However, it rarely happens that ripening occurs during winter and early spring.
Check the fruit for ripening around three to eight months after the flowering stage of the tree.
You’ll know the fruit reaches maturity when you hear a dull and hollow noise when you tap it. The green jackfruit always has a solid sound, but when it matures, the sound becomes hollow.
Additionally, the spines of jackfruit become well-spaced, slightly soft, and well developed. It emits an aromatic smell when it ripens.
The colors of some cultivars turn into brownish yellow or light green when they ripen, but the color of the fruit is never a reliable indicator of its maturity.
When the tree matures, all parts of the jackfruit tree excrete sticky latex. When the fruits ripen, the production of sticky latex lessens. So, the lesser the latex, the riper the fruit. It’s a good practice to make several shallow cuts in the jackfruit days before you harvest it.
This practice helps the majority of the sticky latex to come out, which makes it easier to enjoy your jackfruit.
When harvesting, use loppers or clippers to get the fruit. If you pick high-up fruits, you can use a sickle. Remember that the cut stem produces sticky latex, which can stain your clothes. So, make sure you wear protection such as gloves or wear grungy garments when picking your mature jackfruit.
After cutting, wrap the end of the jackfruit in a newspaper or paper towel. Exercise care when harvesting to prevent the fruit from dropping to the ground. Otherwise, it will be damaged. You can just lay it in a shaded area until the sticky latex stops oozing out.
Once the jackfruit is already ripe, it degrades very rapidly. So, make sure to refrigerate it to slow it down from spoiling. Cooling your jackfruit can allow the jackfruit to stay fresh for up to six weeks.
Before consuming the fruit, it has to be separated first from the rag. To clean the jackfruit, cut it first in half and then remove the core. Afterward, divide the seed, flesh, and rag.
Now you know how to plant, grow, and care for jackfruit. Jackfruit is very rich in nutritional value, and its wood is high quality. The growth rate is relatively fast, and new trees can produce fruit within four years.
You now know all it takes to grow this tree successfully. So, what are you waiting for? Roll up your sleeves, and it’s time to get planting this fantastic tree.