Sweetheart Lychee Grow Guide

4 Freshly Harvested Sweetheart Lychees with one cut upon to show the fruit's white flesh
Image Credit: Sulcata Grove

If you are looking for an exceptionally delicious lychee to grow, look no further than Sweetheart.

In fact, Sweetheart is easily my favorite lychee cultivar when judged solely on flavor. However, despite being a total flavor bomb, the cultivar does have its fair share of flaws that may make it unsuitable for some.

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

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Table of Contents

Sweetheart Lychee Tree Growth Habit & Fruit Production

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

Similar to Hak Ip, Sweetheart Lychees have a moderately vigorous, upright and spreading growth habit that produces a very lanky and spaced out canopy.

A Sweetheart Lychee Tree In a 25 Gallon Container
Image Credit: D’s Fruit Trees

As a result, Sweetheart Lychee Trees can realistically be kept between 15 – 25 feet with annual pruning. Unlike slower growing varieties like Emperor, Sweetheart cannot be grown in a container over the long-term.

In fact, it should be noted that Sweetheart is one of the largest cultivars of lychee trees.

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.

Sweetheart Lychee’s fruit production consistently ranges from irregular to very irregular. In other words, one can expect a Sweetheart Lychee Tree to produce reasonably well (have a ‘good year’) every 2 – 3 years

Honestly, when judged strictly from a production perspective, Sweetheart is notorious for being one of the worst lychee cultivars to grow in Florida. Therefore, if consistent production is extremely important to you, I would recommend instead looking at cultivars with proven consistent production such as Mauritius or Brewster.

Sweetheart Lychee Flower Panicles
Image Credit: Alex Curtis-Slep

Side Note: I usually refer to Sweetheart as the ‘Heart-Breaker’ because no matter how much love you give the tree, it won’t give you the same amount of love back! 😛

Although, if you’ve been fortunate enough to taste a perfectly ripened Sweetheart Lychee, you may be determined anyway to grow this amazing fruit. #SpoilerAlert 👀

A cluster of immature and unripe Sweetheart Lychees
Image Credit: Sow Exotic

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

In a nutshell, ‘Mountain Type’ lychee trees have:

  • Improved cold tolerance
  • Improved drought resistance
  • Smaller canopies (more dwarfish)
  • Fruit with a rougher skin texture
Several clusters of mature Sweetheart Lychees hanging off a tree
Image Credit: Yard 2 Plate

Sweetheart Lychee Flavor Profile

Sweetheart Lychees generally weigh between 30 – 40 grams per fruit.

And while Sweetheart is not quite as large as Emperor, the heart-shaped fruit’s size is still above average relative to other lychee cultivars, which tend to average around 15 – 25 grams per fruit.

A cluster of mature and ripe Sweetheart Lychees
Image Credit: D’s Fruit Trees

Between the fruit’s large size and high probability of developing chicken tongue seeds, Sweetheart Lychees have a very desirable 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.

A ripe Sweetheart Lychee next to a Sweetheart Lychee Chicken Tongue Seed
Image Credit: Barbara Sadowsky

Upon cracking open the bumpy red skin, one will find the incredibly juicy, white pulp inside.

The texture is notably soft, especially when compared to firmer varieties like Kaimana and Brewster. If you prefer a firmer bite, Sweetheart might feel a bit too tender. However, I am a huge fan of Sweetheart’s exceptionally juicy and succulent texture, although it does make for a somewhat messy treat 😊

A plate of mature and ripe Sweetheart Lychees with a few cut open to show the inside of the fruit
Image Credit: Serendib Farms

From a flavor perspective, Sweetheart is a top-notch lychee that is extremely sweet. If you like your lychees (or fruit in general) on the sweeter side, you’ll fall in love with Sweetheart.

In fact, Sweetheart is 100% the sweetest lychee cultivar that I’ve tasted, even surpassing Hak Ip in sweetness. The Sweetheart Lychees that I have sampled have had brix levels consistently between 18 – 20%, which is quite high.

The flesh of a ripe Sweetheart Lychee
Image Credit: Shamus O’ Leary

Aside from sweetness, Sweetheart is also highly aromatic, with very low tartness and a robust floral, honey, and rosy flavor. The fruit genuinely smells and tastes of honey, offering a big burst of flavor with each bite. The delicate, whitish pulp has a floral aroma and a fragrant, sweet taste, devoid of the herbal or medicinal notes often found in other lychee cultivars.

Relative to other lychees I’ve tried, I would say that Sweetheart’s flavor is most similar to Hak Ip, though I find Sweetheart’s flavor deeper and more complex. Additionally, I’ve found that Sweetheart also lacks the distinct subacid component prevalent in Mauritius.

The flesh of a Sweetheart Lychee
Image Credit: Alex Curtis-Slep

Furthermore, I would say that a perfect Emperor Lychee might rival a good Sweetheart.

However, based purely on flavor, Sweetheart is my favorite lychee cultivar. There’s no doubt in my mind that Sweetheart is a top-shelf lychee, joining the ranks of other delicious cultivars like Kaimana, Hak Ip, and No Mai Tsze.

Sweetheart Lychee Season (And When To Pick)

Sweetheart Lychees are considered an early season fruit, typically harvested from Mid-May to Mid-June.

In central Florida, Sweetheart is among the first to ripen, followed closely by Hak Ip and Mauritius.

After these early varieties, Kaimana and Brewster begin to ripen. Emperor Lychees are the last to mature, rounding out the season. This ripening sequence is consistent in both central and south Florida.

Many clusters of mature and ripe Sweetheart Lychees hanging on the tree
Image Credit: Naga Gardens

In terms of what to look for to determine whether the fruit is ready to be picked, Sweetheart Lychees are best picked when they still have some green on them.

And while the fruit can even be harvested when they are about half red and half green, I usually let like to wait until the fruit ripens up a bit more, waiting until there’s less green left on the fruit before picking them all.

A bowl full of mature and ripe Sweetheart Lychees
Image Credit: Barbara Sadowsky

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 bowl full of mature and ripe Sweetheart Lychees
Image Credit: Barbara Sadowsky

Sweetheart Lychee Disease Resistance

The main disease that impacts lychee fruit production is anthracnose.

Fortunately, Sweetheart Lychee Trees have been shown to have increased resistance to Anthracnose.

That being said, I would generally avoid planting lychees 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.

Sweetheart Lychee Tree For Sale

If you are unable to find a Sweetheart Lychee Tree at a local nursery, they are available for sale on FastGrowingTrees.com, an online nursery that provides a wide selection of tropical trees, shrubs and plants. 

Not only does FastGrowingTrees ship quickly, but they also offer an optional 1 Year Warranty (which is always nice).

Conclusion

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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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