Kaimana Lychee Grow Guide

A Cluster of Kaimana Lychee Hanging On The Tree
Image Credit: Hula Brothers

Originally developed by the University of Hawaii, the Kaimana Lychee has gained a reputation for its superior flavor.

In fact, the name ‘Kaimana’ in Hawaii literally translates to ‘diamond,’ reflecting the gem-like quality of the fruit.

So if you’re searching for one of the most delicious lychees on Earth, I highly recommend trying Kaimana. I promise you won’t be disappointed. 🤤

That said, this grow guide will cover everything that you need to know about Kaimana Lychee:

Table of Contents

Kaimana Lychee Tree Growth Habit & Fruit Production

The Kaimana Lychee is considered a medium to large-sized fruit tree

Kaimana Lychees have a highly vigorous and spreading growth habit that produces a dense and well-rounded canopy. As a result, Kaimana Lychee Trees can realistically be kept between 15 – 25 feet with annual pruning. 

For reference, Kaimana has a similar growth habit and canopy structure to that of Mauritius.

Additionally, due to the tree’s natural vigor, Kaimana cannot be grown in a container over the long-term.

Several young Kaimana Lychee Trees in containers
Image Credit: Ili Kupono Gardens

Let’s now talk fruit production. 

For those new to growing lychees, lychee tree’s fruit production can vary wildly from year to year (that’s partially why they are so expensive!). So while it’s true that one can reasonably expect fruit every year, the overall yield is very cyclical i.e. good year, bad year, good year, bad year.

In Florida, Kaimana Lychee’s fruit production consistently ranges from irregular to very irregular. In other words, one can expect a Kaimana Lychee Tree to produce decently (have a ‘good year’) every 2 – 3 years. For this reason, Kaimana is rarely grown in Florida.

Several young Kaimana Lychee Trees in containers
Image Credit: Paradise Plants

To really put things in perspective, relative to more commonly grown lychee cultivars in Florida, Kaimana has even lighter production than Sweetheart! As a result, I would generally advise Florida homeowners with limited space to avoid growing Kaimana.

However, Kaimana has been shown to have much more consistent levels of production when grown in Australia and Hawaii. In fact, Kaimana is one of the seven major commercial lychee cultivars in Australia.

Several large clusters of mature and ripe Kaimana Lychees hanging off the tree
Image Credit: Hula Brothers

Finally, similar to EmperorSweetheart, Mauritius and Hak Ip, Kaimana is considered a ‘Mountain Type’ lychee.

Generally speaking, ‘Mountain Type’ lychee trees have:

  • Fruit with a rougher skin texture
  • Improved cold tolerance
  • Improved drought resistance
  • Relatively smaller canopies
A large cluster of mature and ripe Kaimana Lychees hanging off the tree
Image Credit: Hula Brothers

Kaimana Lychee Flavor Profile

Kaimana Lychees generally weigh between 20 – 25 grams per fruit.

Between the fruit’s larger size, slightly smaller seed and high probability of developing chicken tongue seeds, Kaimana Lychees have an excellent flesh-to-seed ratio. 

Side Note: A “chicken tongue” seed in lychees refers to an underdeveloped or partially formed seed that is small, thin, and often shriveled, resembling a chicken’s tongue, which leaves more edible fruit flesh.

Freshly harvested clusters of ripe and mature Kaimana Lychees
Image Credit: Hula Brothers

Upon cracking open the red, heart-shaped fruit, one will be greeted with an aroma containing hints of roses. While the rose fragrance is not as pronounced as one might expect from a Brewster or Bengal, it is nevertheless pleasant.

The texture of Kaimana is also somewhat reminiscent of Brewster, although it doesn’t quite reach the velvety smoothness of Sweetheart. It is still incredibly juicy and will melt effortlessly in your mouth.

Holding a batch of freshly harvested Kaimana Lychees
Image Credit: Hula Brothers

From a flavor perspective, Kaimana is definitely a ‘top shelf’ lychee and joins the ranks of other exceptionally delicious cultivars like Sweetheart and Brewster.

Kaimana’s flavor is unique and complex, featuring a delightful mix of sweet and tangy with subtle tart notes, though definitely not as tart as Mauritius. When harvested at the right time, Kaimana also features lovely honey undertones.

A bowl of freshly harvested Kaimana Lychees
Image Credit: Hula Brothers

What I find particularly interesting is that Kaimana is a seedling of Hak Ip.

However, Kaimana lacks the typical ‘medicinal aftertaste’ often associated with Hak Ip, while still boasting the intense sweetness that fans of Hak Ip really appreciate. In fact, Kaimana’s sweetness is no joke; the fruit I’ve had the pleasure of tasting have had brix levels averaging between 20 – 24%.

There’s honestly nothing not to love about Kaimana. If only this cultivar didn’t have such poor production in Florida, I would 100% plant a tree in my yard!

A bowl of Kaimana Lychees with the outer skin of fruit stripped away
Image Credit: Alicia’s Market

Kaimana Lychee Season (And When To Pick)

In Hawaii, Kaimana is considered an early season fruit, typically harvested from Mid-May to Mid-June. In Florida, Kaimana Lychees are considered a mid-season fruit, typically harvested from Mid-June to Early-July.

In both central and south Florida, Kaimana tends to ripen alongside Brewster.

If you are looking for an earlier season lychee, I suggest looking into MauritiusSweetheart and Hak Ip. On the other hand, Emperor is usually the last to mature, rounding out the season. This ripening sequence is consistent in both central and south Florida.

Several clusters of perfectly ripe Kaimana Lychees hanging on the tree waiting to be harvested
Image Credit: Hula Brothers

In terms of what to look for to determine whether the fruit is ready to be picked, Kaimana Lychees are best picked when the majority of the fruit is a brightly colored red with some green towards the top of the fruit (to avoid overripeness). This will give you the sweetest fruit! 

Additionally, do not harvest the fruit when they are half red and half green. This will make the fruit taste very tangy/sour!

A cluster of mature and ripe Kaimana Lychees on the tree
Image Credit: Hula Brothers

Similar to avocados, I like to harvest one or two small clusters at a time and taste the fruit. If the fruit doesn’t taste as it should, then I’ll give the rest of the fruit some more time to ripen properly on the tree.

When harvesting, cut the main stem bearing the fruit clusters several inches behind the clusters. You can either detach the fruit from the clusters before storage or leave them on.

A pile of mature and ripe Kaimana Lychees
Image Credit: Hula Brothers

Kaimana Lychee Disease Resistance

The main disease that impacts lychee fruit production is anthracnose. According to the University of Florida, Kaimana Lychee’s susceptibility rating to anthracnose is ‘Resistant’.

Holding a small pile of freshly harvested Kaimana Lychees
Image Credit: Alicia’s Market

That said, I would still generally avoid planting Kaimana in areas with very humid conditions. 

Additionally, practices such as ensuring good air circulation around the tree via proper pruning and avoiding overhead watering can reduce the risk of an anthracnose infection.

Freshly harvested Kaimana Lychees that are at the perfect ripeness
Image Credit: Alicia’s Market

Kaimana Lychee Tree For Sale

Due to Kaimana’s poor performance in Florida, you likely won’t find one for sale at most local garden nurseries.

However, if you still want to try your hand at growing Kaimana, your best option is checking out Lara Farms Miami (not sponsored). They are one of the only legit places online where you are getting exactly what you are paying for. 

Lara Farms has 8 varieties of lychees available. They do ship!

On the other hand, if you live in Hawaii, you are much more likely to find a Kaimana Lychee Tree 😃

Conclusion

If you found this grow guide helpful, please consider sharing. It helps support the website 🙂

If you have any questions regarding anything mentioned in this grow guide, please comment them below! This way, others can also benefit from the answer to the same question. For any other questions or growing tips that you think may be helpful, feel free to use the contact form and drop me a line.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

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Matthew Rowlings

I have an Associates Degree in Biology from the University of Florida and am also an active Florida Master Gardener. I am located in Central Florida (Zone 10A) and have 6+ years of experience with growing 20+ types of tropical trees. You can learn more about me and why I started Tropical Tree Guide on my about page.

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