Contrary to what many outsiders (and even many Floridians) believe, Florida has greatly varying climate zones, which mean that drastically different fruits can grow in different regions of the state.
North Florida: In you’re in the northern part of the state (as well as similar-climate areas along coastal Georgia and South Carolina), warm-temperate zone fruits and nuts thrive. Growers in this area can delight in home-grown persimmons, muscadine grapes, pecans, mulberries, pears, blueberries, blackberries, figs, and chestnuts.
But the tropical types are difficult here — colder winters that get into the low twenties and even the teens every winter mean mean most tropical fruits need a greenhouse to survive in North Florida.
Central Florida: The middle portion of the peninsula is an intermediate zone, where some tropicals and some temperate zone fruits can grow side-by-side, with microclimate and recent weather determining which types are doing best at any particular time and place. After one or two mild winters, the tropical fruits can bear heavily in central Florida. In years with colder winters, the tropicals take a hit, but the winter chill can make temperate zone fruits produce abundantly. Citrus fruits are particularly well-suited to the central portion of Florida, showering their delicious bounty on all passers-by.
South Florida: If approximately the southern third of the peninsula, winter low temperatures rarely dip more than a degree or two below freezing, and consequently a huge selection of luscious tropical fruits thrive in this area. Mango, canistel, avocado, macadamia, jackfruit, bananas, mamey, atemoya, lichi, canistel, jaboticaba and casimiroa are just a sampling of the potential bounty. But temperate-zone fruits and nuts can be challenging in this area.
On the Florida Fruit Geek website, we’ll talk about the suitability of various fruits to North, Central, and South Florida. Note that the boundaries between these zones push northward along the coasts, where the buffering effect of the ocean water keeps winter lows from dipping as far down as at the same latitude further inland.
If you’re in the Central or Northern parts of the state and you want to grow some of the wonderful tropical fruits of South Florida, take heart. I will have lots of information on this site about how to protect tropical fruit trees from cold, everything from simple temporary covers, to growing your trees in a full greenhouse, a little piece of the tropics in your yard!