Many warm-climate species are now more compact or have improved cold tolerance. If you're looking for a feature plant that's out of the ordinary, or are yearning for delicious fruit, consider these tasty varieties. Click here for the zone map.
Grumichama (Eugenia brasiliensis)
Fruit: Small, cherry-sized stone fruit. Dark red to glossy black and yellowy-white form. Sweet white flesh.
Size and habit: Beautiful evergreen ornamental tree to 5m with stunning flowers.
Star apple (Chrysophyllum cainito)
Fruit: Round, with shiny purple or green skin. Flesh is white and purple. When cut in half, a distinctive white star can be seen. Juicy, with a taste between a passionfruit and a plum. Must be peeled before eating.
Size and habit: Very handsome evergreen tree to 18m.
Black sapote or Chocolate pudding fruit (Diospyros digyna)
Fruit: Light-green skin with flesh that is dark brown when ripe. Flavour is described as chocolate-like. Contains four times the vitamin C of an orange.
Size and habit: Evergreen tree to 6m. Weeping forms available.
Babaco or Champagne fruit (Carica pentagona)
Fruit: Bright yellow with elongated shape and white flesh. Tangy lemony flavour, zingy on the tongue like Champagne bubbles.
Size and habit: Large attractive leaves. Grows to 2-5m. Main stem is cut back after fruiting.
Papaya or pawpaw (Carica papaya)
Fruit: Large and orange-yellow. Very sweet and luscious with a musky taste. Black seeds have a peppery taste when crushed and shouldn't be eaten if you are pregnant. TIP: Buy a self-pollinating bisexual variety.
Size and habit: Very attractive large leaves, with palm-like shape. Grows to 5m.
White sapote (Casimiroa edulis)
Fruit: Green to yellowish, depending on variety. Flesh is creamy-yellow to orange. Flavour is said to be like vanilla custard, depending on variety. Very sweet, being nearly one-third sugar.
Size and habit: Evergreen with spreading canopy. Good specimen tree. Grafted forms to 8m, seed-grown forms to 15m.
Yellow sapote or canistel (Pouteria campechiana)
Fruit: Yellow skin and flesh. Texture is pear-like with a sweet passionfruit or pawpaw flavour. Said to be the second-most nutritious fruit in the world with 15 times the vitamin C of an orange.
Size and habit: Evergreen, to 15m.
Exotic growing tips
* Many of these plants will grow productively in temperate zones.
* Take care to grow in the right soil or grow select species in pots.
* Many need to be kept moist and well mulched during fruiting.
* A walled area can create a perfect microclimate. Walls retain heat to radiate during the night.
* Protect new trees during the first winter or if frosts are expected.