Cultivation of litchis

Temperature and humidity


Water supply



Litchis were originally imported from China, India, Taiwan and Florida, USA. Cultivars grown in South Africa are divided into the following groups:

Mauritius group

This group is usually planted locally as well as abroad and produces satisfactory yields and fruit of good quality, e.g. H.L.H., Mauritius, Muzaffarpur, Late Large Red, Hazipur, Saharanpur and Rose-Scented.

Chinese group

These trees produce very poor yields, but the fruit is of excellent quality and has a high percentage of chicken-tongue seeds. Cultivars include Haak Yip, Shang Shou Huai, Kontand, Glutinous Rice and Three Months Red.

Madras group

These trees bear colourful red fruit, but fruit quality is poor. Cultivars include Kafri, Shorts Seedless, Johnstone's Favourite, Emmerson, Durbhanga, Maries, Mooragusha, Madras 19, Hazipur/Saharanpur, Red McLean, Brewster and Bedana.

Tree quality

Aftercare of grafted trees

Trees can also be propagated by means of grafting.

Soil sampling

A representative soil sample should be taken for analysis. A soil sample must represent a homogeneous area where there are no visible soil differences. If there are colour or texture differences the land should be subdivided and separate samples of the different parts should be taken. Use a spade to take the samples.

How deep?

How many?


The samples must be taken evenly over the entire area.

Mixing and packing

        - Your name

        - The number of the land

        - The depth at which the sample was taken.


The results will provide valuable information on the type and quantity of fertilisation that should be applied before planting. Remember to incorporate the required quantity of lime about 6 to 12 months before planting if a large quantity is required and phosphate about 3 months before planting.

Soil preparation


Remember that litchi trees have a long life and become large.

Planting distance

A 25-year-old tree can reach a crown diameter of 12 m. If trees are widely spaced and later become uncontrollably big an economic yield will not be possible. If the trees are to be spaced closely together, size must be controlled from the start by pruning. Try to plant as many controllable trees as possible per hectare. The ideal planting distance is 9 x 6 m.

Planting the trees

Leaf analysis

Leaf analysis is the only technique according to which sensible fertilisation can be applied to a specific planting. The following aspects are important:

- Select about 20 healthy trees, well distributed throughout the planting.

- The trees must be of homogeneous appearance and representative of the average trees in the planting.

- Sample 4 leaves per tree.

- Do not take samples from obviously good or weak trees.

Sample either of the 2 leaves coloured in the illustration


Do not fertilise newly-transplanted trees too soon. Fertiliser should only be applied about 1 year after transplanting. The applications must be very light and broadcast evenly, but not against the stems of the trees. Irrigate after applying fertiliser.

Application and quantities

Time of application

Quantity of fertiliser per tree per year according to age (g)

Age years

 LAN 28 % N Superphosphate



2 - 3

4 - 5

6 - 7

8 - 9

10 - 11

12 - 13

14 - 15

15 and older



1 000

1 500

2 000

2 500

3 000

3 500 

4 000








1 000

1 000








1 000

1 000



This is only a guideline; correct fertilisation can only be applied according to the soil analysis for young trees and soil and leaf analyses for fruit-bearing trees.

Nitrogen (N)

First year

- divide the nitrogen fertiliser into 8 equal monthly applications of 25 g each and apply during summer (September to April).

Second to fifth year

- divide the nitrogen fertiliser into 5 equal applications and apply during summer (September to April).

Sixth year and older

- half of the nitrogen fertiliser is applied immediately before flowering and the remainder just after harvesting.

Phosphate (P)

All the phosphate is applied immediately after harvesting.

Potassium (K)

Half of the potassium fertiliser is applied just before flowering and the remainder after harvesting.

Zinc (Zn) and boron (B)

Zinc must be applied at least 4 times a year. The following substances and concentrations are recommended per 100 l of water:

Spray the trees from soon after planting with 100 g borax or 75 g Solubor/100 l water every 2 years.

Organic fertiliser

Kraal or chicken manure can be used as additional fertiliser at 2 or 1 kg respectively per mature (10 years) tree, spread evenly in the drip area. However, if no other fertiliser is available, kraal manure can be applied as follows:
Tree age
 Kraal manure
Time of application



± 1 kg every 6 weeks from September to April

2 - 3

4 - 5



Give 5 equal dressings between

September and April

6 - 7

8 - 9

10 - 11

12 - 13







Give 1/2 the quantity before blossoming and the remainder after harvesting


Water requirements

Covering litchi fruit clusters

Insect pests   


When are litchis ripe?

Ripe fruit has an average mass of between 21 and 25 g. Fruit with a mass of at least 21 g is therefore ready for harvesting during a normal season.


Litchis are packed as loose fruit and all unnecessary twigs or stems must be removed to ensure neat packing.

For further information contact the
ARC-Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Crops
Private Bag X11208, Nelspruit 1200
Tel (013) 753 2071
Fax (013) 752 3854

This publication is also available on the website of the

National Department of Agriculture at:

ISBN 1-86871-074-2


Compiled by Directorate Communication,
National Department of Agriculture in cooperation with
ARC-Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Crops

Printed and published by National Department of Agriculture
and obtainable from Resource Centre, Directorate Communication,
Private Bag X144, Pretoria 0001, South Africa