Growing tropical fruit in New Zealand’s cooler climate

As climate change continues to impact New Zealand’s weather patterns, the conversation around the country’s resilience has grown. In particular, there is increasing interest in growing exotic fruits, which thrive in warm and humid conditions that are becoming more prevalent.

Take bananas as an example. New Zealand imports these from tropical regions where rainforests are cut down for banana and palm oil plantations. The leaves from these banana plants are then used to feed cattle in those regions, while we import Palm Kernel Extract as a cattle feed supplement.

By growing our own bananas, we not only get a staple food crop for less CO2 emissions, but we also provide farmers with an alternative source of cattle feed, reducing the demand for imports of products like Palm Kernel Extract that contribute to deforestation in other countries.

Growing tropical fruit in a cooler climate like New Zealand can be challenging due to the lower temperatures and shorter growing seasons. However, there are strategies that can increase the likelihood of tropical plants thriving in the warmer areas of NZ.

  1. Choose the right variety: Select varieties of tropical fruits that are better suited to cooler climates. For example, some varieties of mango, papaya and banana are more tolerant of cooler temperatures. More on this in a later post.
  2. Plant in a warm microclimate: Plant tropical fruit trees in warm microclimates such as against a north-facing wall or in a sheltered spot. This will provide the plants with additional warmth and protection from cool winds.
  3. Provide windbreaks: Protect the plants from cool winds with windbreaks such as fences, hedges or buildings.
  4. Use protective coverings: Use protective coverings like frost cloths or plastic covers to protect the plants from cold temperatures and frost.
  5. Use mulch: Mulch around the base of the plant to insulate the roots and retain moisture in the soil.
  6. Provide additional heat: Use heat sources like heat lamps to provide additional warmth to small plants during colder periods.
  7. Provide adequate water: Water the plants regularly to ensure that the soil remains moist but not waterlogged. Adequate water is crucial for tropical fruit plants to thrive.
  8. Fertilize regularly: Apply a balanced fertiliser regularly during the growing season to provide the plants with the necessary nutrients for growth and fruit production.
  9. Keep plants in pots for longer than their hardier cousins. This allows you to move the plant around, keep it under cover or bring inside during very cold nights.

Naturally, you’ll have the best chance in our warmest areas, so if you’re in the Far North you stand the best chance of success. Mangos and jackfruit are successfully fruiting in Kerikeri and Kaitaia now. But many in the warmer areas of NZ can still have a good chance of growing your own tropical fruit, so don’t be put off.






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