Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana) hedge. Photo courtesy of the author.

One of the most common questions I’ve gotten across the Panhandle over the last several years is “What can I plant to screen my house and property?”  I surmise this has a lot to do with Hurricane Michael wiping properties clean and an explosion of new construction, but whatever the reason, people want privacy, they want it quickly, and they often want something a little more natural looking and aesthetically pleasing than a fence.  Like everything else, the answer to the question is nuanced depending on the site situation.   However, if the situation is right, I almost always recommend that clientele at least consider a woefully underutilized plant in the Panhandle, Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana).

Named a Florida Garden Select Plant by the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) in 2009, Pineapple Guava is a standout screening and specimen plant, passing all the usual tests homeowners demand from shrubs.  Growing 15’x15’ or so if never pruned or sheared, these quick-growing evergreen shrubs sport pretty, leathery green leaves with gray to white undersides.  This leaf underside coloring causes the plants to emit a striking silvery blue hue from a distance, a very unusual feature in the screening shrub world.

Pineapple Guava (Acca sellowiana) silvery blue leaf undersides. Photo courtesy of the author.

Look past the leaves and you’ll notice that Pineapple Guava also possesses attractive brownish, orange bark when young that fades to a pretty, peely gray with age. To complete the aesthetic trifecta, in late spring/early summer (generally May in the Panhandle), the plants, if not heavily sheared, develop gorgeous edible, pollinator-friendly flowers.  These flowers, comprised of white petals with bright red to burgundy stamens in the center, then develop over the summer into tasty fruit that may be harvested in the fall.

In addition to being a superbly attractive species, Pineapple Guava is extremely easy to grow.  They like full, all-day, blazing sunshine but will tolerate some shading if they receive at least six hours of direct sun.  Well-drained soil is also a must.  Pineapple Guava, like many of us, is not a fan of wet feet!  Site them where excessive water from rain will drain relatively quickly.  Adding to its merits, the species is not plagued by any serious pests or diseases and is also drought-tolerant, needing no supplemental irrigation once plants are established.  A once a year application of a general-purpose fertilizer, if indicated by a soil test, may be useful in getting plants going in their first couple of years following planting, but is rarely necessary in subsequent years.  To maintain Pineapple Guava as a formal hedge or screen, a simple shear or two each growing season is normally enough. The species also makes an outstanding small specimen tree when allowed to grow to its mature height and “limbed-up” to expose the interesting bark and limb structure.

Close up of pineapple guava in bloom

Edible, pollinator-friendly Pineapple Guava flowers in bloom. Photo credit: Larry Williams

If you’ve been looking for a quick-growing, low-maintenance screen or a specimen plant for a large landscape bed, you could do a lot worse than the Florida-Friendly Pineapple Guava!  As always, if you have any questions about Pineapple Guava or any other horticulture, agriculture or natural resource related issue, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office!

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