Learn how to grow sugar apple tree in this complete article. Growing sugar apple is easy but getting high yield is moderately difficult. With the sugar apple tree care tips and requirements given below you can grow this sweetest and creamy tropical fruit in your yard.
USDA Zones— 9 – 11
Other Names— anón, anón de azucar, anona blanca, fruta do conde, cachiman, saramuyo, grenadilla, qishta, ishta, shta, seureuba, fruta-do-conde, fruta-pinha, fruta-de-conde, condessa, pinha, ata, anona, aajaa thee, plae teib, Zimtapfel, Gishta, γλυκόμηλο, kachiman, foreign lychee (番鬼荔枝), hvaðerþetta, (शरीफ़ा/सीताफल), sitaphala, seethappazham, sitaphal, sitappalam, sita phalamu, Sita’s fruit, srikaya, sweetsop, sweet-sop, matomoko, conicony, buah nona, hairico, pomme cannelle, aati, saripha, fasadabur, Sharifa (شريفا), atis, Anoda, Katu Atha, sakya, pinyin, sek-khia, sek-kia, matopetope, noi-na (น้อยหน่า), ekistaferi, mãng cầu ta, Khirmish (خرمش).
The sugar apple (Annona squamosa) belongs to the Annonaceae family. Its exact place of origin is unknown. Although previously it was believed that it is a native of the India, but recently found historical and philological data makes this ambiguous and it is believed that it is of either Indian or Central American origin. The cultivation is most common in Brazil and India and there it is one of the most important fruit crops. In Australia and India, it is also known as custard apple.
It is a low-growing semi-deciduous tree or large shrub that grows between 3-7 m high, with spreading or open crown, formed by branches growing in the irregular form. Young shoots grow zigzag and are grayish-waxy, odorous when crushed.
The leaves are simple, alternate, elliptical and 5-11 cm long with 2-5 cm width. They are dark green on the top and light blue-green on the underside with smooth edges.
The flowers are pendulous, axillary, hermaphrodite (bisexual) and usually solitary but can grow in groups of two to four. Sugar apple flowers are fragrant and have a green tint in outside and cream on the inside. These flowers are 1 to 1/2 inch long and have six petals.
The fruits are oval shaped, from 5 to 12 cm in diameter of green-yellowish color. Externally the union of the carpels is lax. The pulp is white or yellowish between binding carpels with many seeds. It is sweet, aromatic, buttery, edible, of pleasant and creamy flavor.
The seeds are oblong, black and shiny, 1.25 cm in length. The seed kernels contain between 14 to 49% oil that is used as a substitute for peanut oil in the manufacture of soap.
How to Grow Sugar Apple Tree
Growing Sugar Apple from Seeds
Seed propagation is the traditional method through which the sugar apple tree is grown. It is the most used propagation method. However, this method has several disadvantages such as low germination rate, high genetic variability, late start of the harvest and the plants are taller and rather difficult to handle.
Collect seeds from fully ripe fruit from a tree that has excellent production, great taste, and good health. The seeds quickly lose their viability (approximately 6 months) therefore, they should be planted as soon as possible.
Seed should be planted horizontally, 2 – 3 cm deep at a distance of 1.5 cm in a good quality seed mix. Generally, the germination occurs within 30 days. Although, its germination rate is low and time is slow due to the tough seed coating.
Also Read: Seed Germination Tips
To speed up the germination and success rate, scarify the seeds with sandpaper. After scarification soak them in warm water for 24 hours. You can directly sow the seeds on the planting site or sow them in a small pot. The transplanting is done when seedlings have outgrown their existing pot.
Buy a Grafted Tree
The other type of propagation is vegetative propagation using grafts. This method is the most recommended because it ensures plants with the same genetic identity, with a better production, healthy tree and quality fruits. If possible, buy a grafted tree from a nursery.
Planting Sugar Apple Tree
Plants should be planted 4 x 4 or 5 x 5 m apart. The size of the planting hole depends on the size of the plant and its root ball, but generally, the planting hole should be twice wide and of the same depth of the root ball.
It is possible to grow sugar apple tree in a pot. It is similar to other tropical fruit trees like guava or pomegranate. Regular pruning will be required. Besides this, all the growing requirements, which are given below are similar to the sugar apple tree planted on the ground.
The ‘Seedless Cuban’ is one of the most important cultivars. Its fruits are slightly malformed and medium-sized with traces of undeveloped seeds. The flavor is less attractive than normal fruit but it is more productive.
Indian horticulturists recognized ten types of sugar apple cultivars, which are given below:
- ‘Red’ (A. squamosa var. Sangareddyiz)
- British Guiana
Requirements for Growing Sugar Apple Tree
Ideal Climate and Temperature
The most optimum temperature for growing sugar apple tree is around 50 F – 85 F (10 – 30 C). Despite being a tropical tree, sugar apple has some resistance to the cold. However, when the temperature falls below 32 F (0 C) emerging seedlings and young plants die. Mature trees show some frost tolerance to some degrees below the freezing point. Furthermore, the temperatures above or below optimum temperature affect pollination, can cause fruit or bud drop and reduce post-harvest life.
The plant easily handles extended periods of drought. However, excessive drought can cause leaf and fruit drop. For optimum growth, it requires an annual rainfall between 750 and 1,200 mm. In rainy watering must be stopped. Generally, you should water a mature tree in every 12 to 15 days (more on this below).
Also Read: How to Grow Pineapple Guava
There must be adequate moisture in the soil to encourage vegetative growth and blooms that occur on the new branches. The tree should be watered in every 2 – 4 weeks during the period of low growth and every 3 to 5 days while it is flowering and setting fruits. The water stress must be prevented and soil must be kept moist at this time as the fruit is more sensitive than the leaves to lack of water.
It is undemanding when it comes to soil type. *Sitaphal cultivation (*common name in the Indian subcontinent) can be done in poor, stony soil of pH level 7-8. Though it grows in a wide range of soils, from sandy, clay to loam, but the healthiest and the productive tree is grown in fertile, loose, deep and neutral or slightly alkaline soil that is not sandy with good drainage and aeration. Furthermore, the drainage is essential to prevent diseases. The growth is directly related to the content of organic matter in the soil.
Relative humidity is one of the climatic factors that is highly responsible in the formation of flowers and pollination. Therefore, if you want to increase productivity, humidity should be maintained above 60% especially during the flowering period.
Application of complete fertilizer in the initial years of planting is recommended. Once the tree matures enough and able to set fruits the use of 3: 10: 10 fertilizer significantly increases the flowering, fruit setting, and harvest.
As for organic fertilization, sugar apple responds well to the application of organic matter from its earliest period of growth. The application of organic fertilizer improves the texture of soil and its condition and facilitates root development. It is recommended to apply 60 to 80 kg of aged manure or compost annually.
One of the main problems affecting the yield and fruit quality of sugar apple tree is its low rate of pollination of flowers and the consequent production of fruit.
Sugar apple has complete flowers (bisexual), however, the male and female flower parts are functional at different times of the day (called *protandry, a condition in which an organism begins life as a male or female and changes the sex later). Sugar apple flowers first open during the day as a female flower. If female flower isn’t pollinated, early in the next morning the flowers open wider and shed pollen (male stage). It is recommended to attract pollinating insects or hand pollinate the flowers for best yield. To find out how to hand pollinate flowers, read this.
This cycle is shortened when temperatures are high and lengthened when they are low.
Pruning Sugar Apple Tree
Pruning must be done only in the spring if you are in a cold climate. Sugar apple trees tend to form many branches, so pruning is recommended to train the tree into required shape and regulating a number of main branches.
Maintenance pruning serves to preserve the balance of the tree structure by removing suckers or shoots and branches that are growing in the wrong direction or directed towards the ground.
Likewise, you should do a sanitary pruning after each harvest, a sanitary pruning is the removal of branches and fruits that are damaged or have pest or disease problem.
Renewal pruning is done after around 10 years when the tree has gone old and have less vigor and production. In renewal pruning, the tree must be trimmed strongly but in several stages so that it will start its growth once again.
Like all the other softwood trees, the sugar apple is susceptible to wind damage. Breakage and tearing of branches is possible. Plus, the sugar apple fruits get easily damaged due to rubbing of branches. Furthermore, the strong, dry winds accelerate the drying of stigma, thus reduced pollination. Therefore, it should be planted in a location that is sheltered from the wind.
Growing sugar apple tree requires weed management. It causes the biggest drawbacks during young stages. The control can be manual, mechanical, or inert, with the use of herbicides or by doing a combination of methods. You can also do mulching to stop weeds. The best way is to weed regularly and prevent the growth of other plants near the base of the tree.
Also Read: Effective Weeding Tips
Sugar Apple Pests and Diseases
The sugar apple is very vulnerable to pests, this reduces its production.
Usually, the pests and insects infest the fruits and cause destruction. Best practice is to protect the fruits using fruit covers. Plastic bag, paper or polyethylene can be used to wrap the fruits since the initial stage of development. The bags must cover the fruit throughout their development but must be open at the base and have micro perforations to allow gaseous water leakage because the excess moisture causes fruit rot.
Chemical control measures are difficult so it is better to prevent the pests by keeping the tree healthy also remember the use of insecticides destroys the friendly insects and pollinators. Some of the most common and major pests you need to look for are the moths, aphids, mealybugs and scales.
Among the most common diseases are anthracnose and leaf spot. These diseases occur with severity in times of rain, high and stable temperature and relative humidity.
Harvesting Sugar Apples
The sugar apple tree begins to produce fruits at the age of 3-4 years and declines after 12-15 years. An average adult tree produces between 100-180 fruits a year.
The decision of the optimal harvest time is something critical. In addition, all fruits do not ripen at the same time and the time of the collection varies depending on the variety and conditions of weather where they are grown.
Visual methods based on the discoloration of the skin and shape of the fruit are the most commonly used today to decide when to harvest.
Another indication of ripening is the change in color of seeds, which pass from light brown color to almost black at ripened stage.
These criteria are generally unreliable to indicate proper maturity and fruits are sometimes harvested before ripening. That’s why commercial producers use chemicals to ripen the fruit post harvest.
Fruits must be harvested by cutting the stem using a pruning shears. Also, it should be harvested in the morning. The sugar apple fruit is very delicate and should be harvested with extra care.
Sugar Apple Uses
The fruits are consumed mainly fresh, as they have a rich creamy, sweet flavor. They are very delicious, nutritious, rich in sugar, protein, and phosphorus, with a highly digestible pulp.
They are also used in desserts and in the recipes of juices, sorbets, desserts, wine and ice cream.
The dried unripe fruits, seeds and leaves powder are used as insecticides. The leaves, stems and seeds contain fibers, oils, and various alkaloids.