Learn how to grow black sapote in this article. Growing black sapote requires a warm subtropical or tropical climate and plenty of space to thrive.
USDA Zones— 10, 11
Other names: Diospyros Digyna, Diospyros Nigra, Black Persimmon, Chocolate-Fruit, Chocolate Pudding Fruit, Zapote Negro, Schwarze Sapote, Zapote Prieto, Chocolate Persimmon.
Black Sapote Tree Information
The black sapote is an evergreen subtropical fruit tree, which is native to Central America and Mexico and cultivated for its tasty fruit. It belongs to the persimmon genus. It’s a stately tree with large foliage. It can reach 20 m in height. The trunk is grooved, about 70 cm in diameter with dark bark.
Its leaves are simple, leathery, elliptic to oblong, tapered at the edges, bright and dark green in color. The flowers appear in the leaf axils, solitary or in small clusters. They are tubular and small. Black sapote flowers may have male and female organs at the same time, or only male. The fruits are about 2-6 inches in diameter. The pulp of the unripe fruit is initially white, astringent and irritating, but the maturation makes it brown and even black and it becomes sweet and juicy, though slightly mild in flavor.
Black sapote fruits are also called chocolate pudding fruit due to their taste. When ripe, the fruits are left with the shell slightly “wrinkled”, of green-brown color, they look withered. They are harvested just before the full maturity.
It can be eaten fresh, or with milk. Interestingly, it is also served as a dessert, accompanied by ice cream, milk, whipped cream, lemon juice, and orange juice.
How to Grow Black Sapote
Growing black sapote is possible from seeds, air layering, and grafting. Seeds must be sown when the temperature is warm. Either buy seeds from quality source or pick some from fully ripe fruit. Clean and wash them with water before sowing. You can also soak seeds in water for 24 hours for better germination rate.
Sow seeds in a seed tray or small pot in seed starting mix about 2 cm deep. The period of germination is approximately 3 – 4 weeks. The location where seeds are kept must be bright and warm 68 F (around 20 C).
A black sapote tree that is grown from seed sometimes does not come true from seed and sometimes male trees are germinated too. Therefore, it is better to grow a grafted tree.
How to grow Black Sapote in Pots
Growing black sapote tree in a pot is possible. Usually, commercial growers plant seedlings in the pot until they become 1-2 feet tall before planting them on the ground.
You can continue growing it in the container. For this, choose a pot with sufficient drainage holes in the bottom. Use High-quality organic potting mix that is light and fluffy.
Repot the plant to one size bigger pot when the plant has outgrown existing pot or every two years or so. All the other growing requirements given below are similar.
Requirements for Growing Black Sapote
Growing black sapote needs a sunny and warm location that is sheltered from the wind and cold drafts. It is not suitable for urban areas since the falling of fruits can cause a lot of dirt on the sidewalks and streets. However, it is quite possible to plant it in the home orchard or yard.
It grows in all soil types, preferably in light and well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.
Unlike most other species of the same genus, the black sapote does not tolerate prolonged drought. Nevertheless, it is resistant to moist soils. It is better to keep the soil slightly moist and the plant must be watered regularly and deeply, especially when it is young and establishing. Once the tree matures (5 years or more) frequent watering is not required and the tree must be watered only in dry periods.
Black sapote trees must be spaced 25 feet apart from each other.
Optimum temperature is like other tropical fruit trees. Also, remember the plant tolerates mild cold and a mature tree can bear temperature down to 28 F (2-3 C below zero).
Black Sapote Tree Care
Black sapote tree doesn’t require much fertilizer. Application of organic fertilizer is sufficient.
Before planting and when the tree is young, weed the site regularly as much as possible, especially the grasses growing near it, to avoid the competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
The crowns grow naturally well-branched and do not need regular cutting. However, it can be pruned to control the shape and size and for the better penetration of sunlight across the branches.
Pests and Diseases
In general, the healthy black sapote tree remains pest free. Although, in rare cases it can be infected by scales; by cochineals in winter or with spider mites in the summer. Diseases are also uncommon but can occur in cold places or due to overwatering.
Most of the varieties are self-fertile but those varieties that are not bisexual require cross pollination.
Harvesting Black Sapote and Uses
A tree grown from seeds may take 5 to 6 years to flower. Harvest time for black sapote fruits varies through December to February and June to August.
Black sapote fruits are usually harvested unripe at the time when they are fully grown (2 – 6 inches in diameter) and their skin color changes from shiny green to dull green.
To know about black sapote fruits uses and harvesting, read this article.