Back in 1969 I bought a book entitled The After-Dinner Gardening Book by Richard W. Langer. As you can figure out from the title it’s about growing houseplants from fruits and vegetables that you eat. That includes not only the usual suspects like avocados, sweet potatoes, oranges, and pineapples but also more exotic things like mangos, papayas, and kiwis. The most exotic, to me anyway, was the lychee possibly because I’d never eaten a fresh one and they weren’t something you found at a central Kentucky grocery store back then (or maybe even now).
I put the book on the shelf and forgot about it until this summer. On my last trip to New York Briar and I saw a display of lychees at a store on W. 14th St. so I bought some. (Like the Upper West Side, 14th St. is a foodie’s gourmet grocery-shopping heaven.) I ate a few at Briar’s apartment and brought the rest home with me. After eating those I planted three of the seeds in 6-inch pots filled with a standard houseplant potting mix. One of the seeds came from a fruit I ate in New York and the other two went straight into the pots after I ate the fruits in Charleston. Ten days later two of the seeds had germinated and the seedlings had emerged above the potting soil. One never germinated. It turns out that lychee seeds dehydrate and die quickly after you remove them from the fruit and the one that didn’t germinate was the one I’d removed in New York.
They are now about two-months old. Don’t they look cute?
In their natural habitat lychees grow to be 40- to 60-foot tall trees, which is obviously taller than my living room. From what I’ve read they make nice houseplants if you judiciously crown- and root-prune, water, and fertilize them. Think bonsai without the copper wires. If both survive I doubt if I’ll have room for two lychees so at some point I may let some responsible gardener adopt one (references required).